So! Cleaning up your spinning. The one thing every casual spinner who just wants to have some fun doesn’t want to hear about. If people blabbing at you how and why to get your spinning dialed is annoying then feel free to give this article a pass.
I couldn’t be more sympathetic, because more often than not when people come up and offer unprovoked advice it’s usually so they can show off their own skills through the veil of being helpful. Ironically, this usually has the opposite effect on the learner’s confidence.
This is why I’m saying that this is for anyone who wants to take their spinning seriously, and casual spinners are free to ignore as much of this article as they please. Keep spinning and having fun ;)
With that out of the way, let’s talk about cleaning up your spinning. There are loads of benefits, and the only “downside” is how meticulous you need to be (not really a downside if you enjoy the practice).
Plenty of people fall into sloppy spinning, however, so if it’s something you’d like to improve it’s useful to keep some key points in your head.
Your body doesn’t know the difference
Funny enough, unrefined spinning doesn’t necessarily feel all that bad, especially when you don’t know the difference. Let me give you an example.
If you’re learning a fountain, the easier way to learn it is to have slightly bent elbows. This helps because it allows you to make bigger corrections as you go around.
That’s great for learning, but it also brings the poi closer to your body and makes the fountain look smaller and less impressive, and is harder to tell the difference between it and similar moves.
If you’ve never objectively looked at it in a mirror or on film, though, you’ll likely never clean the move up because your body knows that it’s technically doing it properly.
This is a tough thing to teach yourself because you need to calibrate your muscle memory well enough that it can tell the difference between pretty and not-so-pretty spinning, which really can be splitting hairs. As I said, mirrors are an amazing tool to aid with this, or you can always set up your phone to film yourself.
Differentiate Your Moves
Let’s stick with the fountain example from earlier. The building blocks of a fountain are the weave and the windmill. All of these can be impressive moves if done well, but a fountain is most impressive when your arms are straight and the circles happen as far away from your body as possible.
This not only looks better, but it helps to display that it’s a different move than anything else you’ve been doing. This has much more “wow” factor with the audience because it shows that you have a larger trick repertoire.
The thing is, most people won’t notice the difference between tricks unless it’s made really obvious, which is understandable because you usually won’t be performing for fellow spinners.
The average person has no idea of the nuts and bolts that go into most of these moves, so it’s up to you to display them in such a way that they can be visually impressive. This usually means cleaning up the geometry and really accenting the main point of the moves.
One of the things that fascinates me most about poi are the transitions between moves. Your spinning skill really boils down to how clean your transitions are, because this is where flow comes from. If you have to stop between moves or pull a sloppy stall, it gives an unprofessional vibe and is visually unappealing.
Cleaning up your spinning is a way to gain access to different transition points and also become really comfortable pulling them off.
The clearest example I can think of is when spinning in 3D. You can do your own research into what that means exactly, but to sum up it basically means moving through all possible planes. Instead of just using wall and side plane, you’re moving through horizontal as well, therefore using 3 dimensions of movement.
There are two ways to get into an opposing plane: plane bending, and plane breaking.
Plane bending, to put it simply, is the easy and sloppy way. To switch from, say, a forward weave to a horizontal corkscrew you just maneuver (or bend) your circles until they get there.
Plane breaking, however, often uses stalls because it allows an immediate and clean switch in direction. This really diversifies your spinning, and looks much more professional since everything falls within a geometric framework.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to 3D spinning. Any time you want to go from one move to another, it will be easier and clearer how to do so if you’ve spent the time cleaning up your art as a whole.
I picked up an interesting perspective from a book I was reading. It said that when a skill is truly developed, all extra movement is gone. An example that was given was a professional hockey player’s wrist shot, where they can generate an amazing amount of power with a tiny movement.
This is a great concept for flow arts. Hop on YouTube and have a look at the very best spinners; you’ll notice how effortless it looks and how their mistakes are often confined to very minute corrections that most people won’t even notice.
Think back to when you were first learning a move, let’s say the three-beat weave. If you’re like me or anyone I’ve watched learn it your hands were far apart from each other, your planes were wide and wild, and it probably wacked you in the head if you weren’t fast enough to dodge it.
In short, it took up lots of room, both from the poi and your body.
But once you started getting the hang of it, the hands started moving closer together, the planes straightened out, and your body wasn’t bracing for impact. You got more comfortable with the poi swinging closer to your body.
This is the point where people start saying, “you make it look so easy!” And it is, but only because you’ve practiced enough. Once you make a large amount of tricks look easy, you’re an impressive spinner.
As per the disclaimer at the start, anyone who just wants to enjoy poi without a bunch of self-scrutiny probably won’t get much enjoyment out of this. But for anyone willing to put the work in, it does wind up feeling great when you’re spinning cleaner.
Moves feel more refined, you’ll be more confident transitioning between them, and if you have an audience you’ll get a kick out of wowing people more often.