Modern Yo-Yo Play

“WOW! I remember these! The Coca-Cola yo-yos back in the day were really popular!”

This is one of the most common reactions I receive during my yo-yo practices, performances and competitions. Apart from the fun of yo-yoing itself, I also really enjoy the surprised and amazed looks from people as I demonstrate modern yo-yoing. The more incredulous reactions, give me the most motivation to continue with playing yo-yos.


The reason it is considered ‘modern’ is that the yo-yoing techniques nowadays are something people couldn’t even imagine when the Coca-Cola yo-yo hype was on several decades ago. Tricks have been evolving at an exponential rate, so that an experienced player today could easily beat the World Yo-Yo Champion of 10 years ago. Not only are the skills far more advanced, but also different divisions have been created, some with yo-yos detached from the string (which look like diablos in a way), and others have two yo-yos involved at the same time and some are tied with a weight instead of on your finger. If you are interested to see some modern yo-yoing in action simply search ‘World Yo-Yo Contest’ and be ready for some moves you never expected.


I played a little bit of yo-yo when I was in Junior High School back in China due to the famous TV series ‘Blazing Teens’. I was able to do the old-school tricks such as rock the baby and the sleeper, and nothing further than that.

The day that I really started getting into ‘Modern Yo-Yoing’ was 4 September 2010, after watching the World Yo-Yo Contest. I was really amazed and inspired by the world-class players. I began my journey when I got my first competition-level yo-yo.

Due to the traditional Chinese way of thinking, most people in China consider yo-yos as just kids’ toy (especially if no professional-level skills are demonstrated). Luckily here in Australia, applause and encouragement are far more common than teasing and misunderstanding. The first time I tried to yo-yo in the school corridor, more than 20 classmates were collected within two minutes. I was ready for some harsh words (trust me, I’ve experienced that, and was ready for dealing with it), but instead I heard “Wow, that was amazing!” “I didn’t know a yo-yo can do that!” The encouragement is one of the major reasons to keep me going.


My answer is yes – well… if you put in the correct effort. Controlling yo-yos not to hit other people or objects is much easier than it looks, and the non-metal yo-yos are quite harmless. With metal throws, it can occasionally hurt the players themselves if advanced tricks are played, but many of us just learned to ‘get used to it’ since they hardly ever cause an injury or anything beyond pain.

However, if the yo-yos have knots inside, the injury can get serious with a hard throw (because all the power is hitting back straight after you throw the yo-yo). The only time I really hurt myself, which left me with stitches above my left eye, was when I didn’t check if the yo-yo was winded properly. One important lesson you can hear from any professional player is: check your yo-yos by throwing gently at the beginning of each session. Safety first.


The minor hand extreme sport (yes, ‘sport’ I’d like to call it) of yo-yoing builds self-confidence – since, even some of the simple tricks can be astonishing if demonstrated to an unfamiliar audience with the right approach. Yo- yoing has made me a more outgoing person and has strengthened my communication skills, I went to my first yo-yo meet one month after I got my hands on a yo-yo, and with around a year’s experience speaking English. I have been welcomed into the Australian yo-yo community- it’s where I get the encouragement I need when faced with unfamiliar situations in a new country.

Yo-yoing also really helps to develop hand-eye co- ordination, since one centimetre or one second can make a huge difference in advanced yo-yo tricks and determine if you will be successful. It also helps to relax my eyes: as an actuarial studies student, I do most of my work online; majority of my hobbies involves a computer as well, so I generally use computers more than 10 hours per day; playing yo-yos requires my eyes to change focus a lot and whether it’s thanks to yo-yoing or not, my eyesight is still perfect!

Another positive I didn’t expect when I began yo-yoing has been from becoming an online forum administrator for more than three years. This forum (namely 91yoyo) has been the largest Chinese yo-yo community and has 1000-4000 new posts per day. Managing the daily activities of the forum and organising yo-yo related competitions and events really helps to develop my leadership and teamwork skills. As well, organising big events and gaining sponsorships from yo-yo companies worldwide has proved invaluable experience for my life and future career.


Yo-yo players perform ‘freestyle’ to compete. A ‘freestyle’ performance is a fixed length of time (usually two or three minutes), filled with yo-yo tricks chosen by players. During the contest, the players must not only successfully execute the tricks, but do so with passion, synchronisation to the music, interactivity with the audience and so on.

Competitions are usually divided in five different contest divisions, some big contests can also have another division (Artistry Performance) where the players are judged only on the performance aspect of their routine. There is one World Yo-Yo Contest and many national/multinational contests. The Japanese and American ones are the largest nationals, yet the Australian contests are stepping up the game as well!


In one word: excited; two words: excited but nervous… sorry, that’s three!

At my second time ever attending a yo-yo competition I started planning my freestyle only one week before the contest date (which is really late, with many players planning weeks or even months in advance), and saw many crazy tricks from other players the day before the contest.

Australian yo-yo players are definitely one of the friendliest groups of people i’ve ever known.

When I stepped on stage, I was nervous and overwhelmed by excitement. Although I remembered all tricks clearly in my head before the contest, my mind went blank after the music started, and I can hardly remember what happened on stage… until the applause brought me back. I ended up doing exceptionally well (compared to my practices) and was lucky enough to be granted the National title. The moment when I was announced as the Australian Yo-Yo Champion was definitely one of, if not the, best moment in my life.


With Actuarial Studies I now have a much heavier workload than when I was in high school!) Right now I concentrate more on how to invent some really nice, fresh tricks, as well as focusing on the performance aspect. One of my other plans is to one day do an artistic yo-yo freestyle with my own composition. It’s a long way off, but I’ll do my best towards it!


Australian yo-yo players are definitely one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve ever known. There are regular meetings in Sydney and Adelaide. If you don’t live near a local yo-yoing club, just join the Facebook group and there will be more than enough tips if you throw in a question. Go ahead and get a yo-yo off the internet, and let’s begin!

For some cool yo-yoing – See ‘Yo-Yo Baby’:

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.