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Playing or competing with a Yo-Yo

The yo-yo is a toy consisting of two equally-sized discs of plastic, wood, or metal, connected with an axle, around which string is wound. There is a slip knot at the free end of the string, and, on a properly strung yo-yo, an uncut loop around the axle end which allows it to spin freely, or "sleep" upon reaching the string's end.

It is played by tying the string's free end around the middle finger, grasping the yo-yo, and then throwing it downwards with a smooth motion. As the axle spins within the loop, a gyroscopic effect occurs, permitting time to perform a number of movements. By flicking the wrist, the yo-yo can be made to return to the player's hand, with the cord again completely wound into the groove. Any movement, or combination of movements, which result in the return of the yo-yo to the player's hand in this fashion is considered a "trick".

Yo-yoing is a popular pastime around the world. Although generally associated with children, it is not uncommon for people who gain a level of proficiency at the sport in youth to continue playing into adulthood. A yo-yo player is referred to as a "yo-yoer".

History of the yo-yo
Contrary to popular myth, there is not evidence that the yo-yo is derived from, nor even existed in any form intended for use as a weapon. While the impact generated by a yo-yo could indeed be rendered deadly with the addition of sharpened edges, the difficulty of safely retrieving it would render such a device somewhat impractical.

Ancient origins

The yo-yo is a truly ancient form of amusement with as many names as cultures which have assimilated it. Archaeologically, it is the second oldest toy known (after dolls). Although it is thought to have originated in China, evidence of yo-yo-like toys first appears in the historical record around 500 B.C. in ancient Greece. A terra cotta yo-yo, as well as a vase depicting play, are on display in the National Museum of Athens.

The toy is likely to have spread throughout Asia and Europe via trade routes, and is known to have enjoyed periods of popularity in Scotland, England, India, and even Egypt. The "emigrette" gained particular notoriety in the western world during the French revolution; it was seen as a welcome source of relief from stress, likely epidemic during that period of French history.

Yo-yos would develop for a time in the South China Sea near their supposed point of origin before leaping across the Pacific and exploding commercially in the New World to become an international phenomenon.

The yo-yo in modern times

As mentioned previously, the modern incarnation of the device was refined in the Philippines, where tradition maintains that use of the folk toy dates back at least a number of centuries. The name "yo-yo" is believed to have derived from Tagalog and translates as "come-come". In reality, however, "yo-yo" is not a Tagalog word (the word for "come" is "halika"). It is possible that the term came from another Philippine language. The term was first published in a dictionary of Filipino words printed in 1860.

The principal distinction between the Filipino design and previous, more primitive "back-and-forth" models is in the way the yo-yo is strung. One continuous piece of string, double the desired length, is twisted around itself to produce a loop at one end (as shown at left) which is fitted around the axle. Also termed a "looped slip-string", this seemingly minor modification allows for a far greater variety and sophistication of motion. Thanks to increased stability and suspension of movement during free spin. It is, without a doubt, the most important development in the evolution of the yo-yo.

The first United States patent on the toy was issued to James L. Haven and Charles Hettrich in 1866 under the name "whirligig". However, the yo-yo would remain in relative anonymity until 1928 when a Filipino American named Pedro Flores opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California. The business started with a dozen handmade toys; by November of 1929, Flores was operating two additional factories in Los Angeles and Hollywood, which altogether employed 600 workers and produced 300,000 units "daily".

Shortly thereafter ("ca." 1930), an entrepreneur named Donald Duncan recognized the potential of this new fad and purchased the Flores Yo-yo Corporation and all its assets, including the Flores name, which was transferred to the new company in 1932. He is reputed to have paid more than $250,000, a fortune by depression era standards. It turned out to be a sound investment, making many, many times this amount in the years to follow.

Commercial success

A chart of the yo-yo's commercial history would mimic the path of the toy itself, finding peaks and lows many times over the course of the 20th century. In 1946, Duncan opened a yo-yo factory in Luck, Wisconsin, prompting the town to dub itself 'Yo-yo Capital of the World'.

Declining sales after the second World War prompted Duncan to launch a comeback campaign for his trademarked "Yo-Yo" in 1962 with a series of television advertisements. The media blitz met with unprecedented success, thanks in great part to the introduction of the Duncan Butterfly, which was effectively an inverse version of the classic Imperial design that made landing the yo-yo on its string (in tricks such as "trapeze") much more accessible to the beginner.

This success would be short-lived, however, and in a landmark intellectual property case in 1965, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Royal Tops Company, determining that "yo-yo" had become a part of common speech and that Duncan no longer had exclusive rights to the term. As a result of the expenses incurred by this legal battle as well as other financial pressures, the Duncan family sold the company name and associated trademarks in 1968 to Flambeau Plastics, who had manufactured Duncan's plastic models since 1955. They continue to run the company today.

The rise of the ball bearing

In the 1970s there was a yo-yo fad when SKF made yo-yos with ball bearings. It was probably started as a marketing gimmick, but it caught on. Ball bearings significantly reduce friction when the yo-yo is spinning, enabling longer and more complex tricks. The first ball bearing yo-yos where considered 'cheating' by the yo-yo community until yo-yoers started creating new and innovative tricks that had not been possible before.

Contemporary yo-yo culture

The 1990s saw a resurgence of the popularity of the Yo-Yo and Yo-Yo culture. Contributing to this fad was the introduction of the Yomega Brain auto-return Yo-Yo, the Playmaxx (later Duncan) Pro-yo and various imitations of these. The Brain yo-yo contained a centripetal clutch mechanism which, as the spin of the yoyo slows to a predertermined RPM, engages, freezing the spinning axle and causing the yoyo to automatically return to its user's hand. The Pro-yo was a take-apart fixed axle yoyo.

Yo-yo contests

Yo-yo competitions are held every year at the world level in Florida, USA during August. Countries such as the United States, Japan and the UK also hold competitions at the national and regional levels.

A yo-yo competition normally consists of two parts, a set of "compulsory tricks" and a "freestyle", where points are scored for each, and the winner is the yo-yoer who scores the most points. Compulsory tricks are a set of tricks that have been chosen before the contest. The competitor must successfully complete each trick on their first or second attempt to score points. The freestyle is when the yo-yoer performs a routine to their choice of music in front of a panel of judges, and is judged based on difficulty of the tricks, synchronization with the music and artistic performance. Currently there are five yo-yo divisions to compete in:

*1A The player uses a long spinning yo-yo to perform tricks that typically require manipulation of the string.

*2A The player uses two yo-yos simultaneously to perform reciprocating or looping maneuvers. This tends to be the most visually entertaining style with some players incorporating acrobatics into their routines.

*3A The player uses two long spinning yo-yos and performs tricks with both simultaneously.

*4A The player uses an "offstring" yo-yo, often releasing the yo-yo into the air and attempting to catch it on the string.
*5A The player uses a yo-yo with a counterweight on the other end of the string rather than having it attached to a finger.

*AP This is Artistic Performance where the yo-yoer uses any type of yo-yo or other prop in order to perform a freestyle.

Competitors usually bring a number of yo-yos to the performance stage with them to allow for mid-routine replacements in the case of tangling (common with string tricks), string breakage (common with looping tricks), or drops (common with offstring tricks).

Yo-yo club (sport)
A yo yo club is a sporting side (typically in soccer / association football) that is regularly promoted and relegated between a higher and lower league and division.

Source: Wikipedia

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