This is a follow-up article to the Effective Practice article. All of the tips and tricks are geared toward making your practice time more effective, but I decided to split them up into more specific categories.
The first article focused on mentalities to keep and habits to form in the background of your practice. This one’s a step further: it’s a collection of strategies and methods to build your practice sessions around in order to get the most out of your time.
The average spinner probably won’t need to use a lot of what’s in this post. It’s geared toward people who might want to take their skills to a professional level, or simply people who want to be the best they can at their flow art.
This list is made almost entirely from research I’ve done pertaining to skill development, since I’m no expert on the subject. I found a lot of useful information coming from career musicians.
It’s one of the best areas of expertise to look at when talking about skill development because of how intensely competitive it is for the players. Everyone has to be at the absolute top of their game in order to compete, so people have been figuring out how to teach and learn the most efficient ways possible.
Most of you are not going to incorporate all of these strategies, and if you aren’t planning on being the best in the world then you really don’t need to. But try a couple out, see if it helps. Just don’t kill the fun for yourself, because that’s what poi is all about.
Recording yourself can be almost as much a passive thing as it can be an active one.
In the passive sense, I’ve found it’s always beneficial to see what you’re doing (which can also be achieved by having a mirror). If you do, you’ll probably find that you like some things you do and not others.
When your brain notices this, it tends to start gravitating toward better looking actions even without much conscious thought.
You can, of course, use your footage as a highly effective tool for improvement. Filming lets you analyze what went wrong, why, and what could help fix the problem. You can use this method in pretty much any situation, but I have found it particularly helpful when trying to smooth out a specific trick.
I’ll record around 5 attempts in one go to get a bit of an average between them. When looking back on the footage, I’m looking to see if my body looks how it feels which can often be very different. If I look stiff, awkward, or out of control I go back and practice until it feels like I have improved it a bit. Then I’ll repeat the process.
A word of advice while filming, more often than not I feel way cooler than I actually look. Take your ego out of it and accept that you probably aren’t going to love how your spinning looks. There’s always room for improvement, and everyone who doesn’t spin will think you look amazing anyway.
Write Stuff Down
It’s a tough habit to form (at least for me), but writing down notes and reminders does wonders. It can be applied in so many different ways.
Reminders of what you want to practice are great so you don’t get off track and start unproductively playing around. Writing down a practice schedule will also help you keep your focus and be effective.
If ever an idea pops in your head of a move to try, you can write down a description and try it later. It’s also helpful to draw out the poi positions, because it’s easier to visualize and you might not know all the jargon needed to properly describe it.
There is so much information out there about how to set up an effective practice routine. I encourage anyone to go find a system that works for them, but here are a few key points.
You’ll want to set a specific amount of time to workshop for which is tailored to your attention span. Anywhere from 10 – 45 minutes is about how long we can intently focus on something. Don’t make it too long, since you’ll be less likely to actually focus the whole time. 10 minutes of focus is far better than 20 minutes of absent minded practice.
That doesn’t mean don’t practice for longer. When I say “workshop” I mean repeating the same move over and over, but your overall practice can run as long as you wish.
Also make sure to have a mix of things you’re practicing in any given session. Don’t always workshop difficult moves; make time to put on a song and freely spin to it. Improv abilities are essential if you want to get a solid flow.
This is a great drill for cleaning up your plane control that I originally learned from Nick Woosley. Basically you impose a physical barrier that you have to spin next to without hitting.
For vertical spinning, sidle up next to a wall so that your poi will crash if they go where they shouldn’t. Horizontal spinning can be impeded similarly by a table.
Having straight, clean-looking planes is essential to display the poi in the most visually pleasing way possible. It’s an easy thing to overlook because unless you have a mirror or film yourself regularly, there’s no external feedback letting you know your planes are running wild.
This is huge, and makes the difference between sloppy and professional-looking spinning.
Unless you live in a warehouse or loft, odds are your ceilings are about 8 feet high and you have furniture and walls around. This is where I’ve done the lion’s share of my practicing, and it’s made me very aware of my poi’s footprint in my surroundings.
The limited spinning room has forced me to focus on keeping the poi close to me and in control. I started learning moves that can be done in limited space since I didn’t have the option to practice big flowers.
Body tracing, behind the back stuff, and generally just moving the poi close to you without hitting yourself are all useful skills to focus on when you have limited space to move through.
That being said, I found that since my indoor/outdoor practice was super unbalanced that my spinning was suffering as a whole. I formed some bad habits (eg. always bending my arms) that I now need to unlearn when I go outside. Try not to fall into the indoor practice trap.
I wrote a whole article on ways to do this, and it’s essential to be inspired to do what you love in order to improve at it. If you dread having to practice either poi isn’t for you, or your motivation has been lost along the way and it’s up to you to cultivate it back. Check my article on the subject out HERE for tips on how to do that.
So there you have it, some ways to help you boost your practice time into new and effective heights. Remember, this is NOT a guide of how to get the most enjoyment out of poi, as implementing some of these methods could likely kill the fun for a lot of spinners out there.
Do what you do to enjoy spinning those balls, and for anyone looking to up their game, try some of these tips out.