Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Planning a Freestyle

So, you’ve been yo-yoing for quite some time now, and have become pretty good with your yo-yo skills. For the past few months, you’ve been toying with idea of creating your own freestyle. YES, it’s time to take it up with the big boys!

So how does one create an awesome freestyle? Freestyles aren’t just a combination of good music and a bunch of yo-yo tricks. A good freestyle takes time, planning, and of course, LOTS of practice.

World/AP/Japan Champion Hiroyuki Suzuki laying out his award winning freestyle.

Generally there are two types of freestyles: Performance & Competition.

We can go on all day about how a Performance and Competition freestyle can be worlds apart from each other, as well as how they can be the exact same thing, but it’s just too complicated a topic to discuss.

Instead, today we shall take a look at the basic building blocks of a Competition freestyle, and hopefully from there, you will be able to get started with planning and creating your perfect freestyle.


One important aspect of most freestyles is selecting the right music.
Normally when we start creating our very own freestyle, we first look into the choice of music we’d pick.

When choosing the right song, it is important to pick one that you are comfortable with, NOT what’s the “hit of the week” on your playlist.

Often at times, we make the mistake of choosing a song we really like over a song which is “practical”. As a new-comer, sometimes playing along to a song’s rhythm can be rather challenging, especially if you pick a really fast tune and cannot keep up with it.

Note that picking a really fast and catchy song can become quite annoying when you start making mistakes and try to keep up with the music by picking up where you left off.

That said, it is very important to pick a track which you are comfortable with. If a song with too much lyrics distracts you, get an instrumental version, if a fast song is too hard for you to keep up with, pick something slower etc.

Once you get the right song, ensure that you know where it cuts off at the 3 minute mark, or just edit your music to 3 minutes, and from there you can begin planning your freestyle!

Getting Technical

The next step in your freestyle planning is pretty straight forward - planning your tricks! Generally, the harder your tricks, the more points you should get. So, hard tricks = more points.

The harder the trick, the more points you get, simple? NOT REALLY!
Simple? Not exactly! Stitching tricks one after another takes lots of planning. In a time frame of 10 seconds, a properly sequenced set of tricks can earn as much as double that of a poorly sequenced set. Remember that “Time yo-yo spends NOT landing on string” are points wasted. Always ensure that your trick takes the fastest possible “route” to the next trick, and that will allow you to earn more points, which is exactly what you want in a freestyle.

Also, understand that just because the latest and hardest tricks gives you more points, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the simpler tricks. Tricks like “White Buddha” and “Skin the Gerbil” may not be as technical as they use to be, but they are fast and easy to pull off, so much so that it's easy to score points in a matter of seconds when pulling these tricks off.

To better understand how the pros do it, check out contest videos, and watch the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place freestyles, then compare them to the bottom few and see the difference between a regular freestyle and a contest-winning one.

Adding That Personal Touch

Of course, it is important to remember that performance also plays a part in every competition freestyle. This is where it gets tricky.

Performance is something that isn’t easy to teach, rather, it comes with experience, trial and error, observation etc.

Add that unique flair that will make you stand out from the rest!
Adding that extra “flair” to a simple trick can earn you both technical and performance points at the same time. Having good showmanship is important, and players often miss this part out in their freestyle.

Understand that sometimes placing the right tricks at the right part of a freestyle song also adds to performance scores. The climatic portion of a song could easily be ruined with a set of boring tricks. You’d still earn technical points if you pull the tricks off really well, but don’t expect judges to give you much performance scores. A good example of a good performance inside a technical freestyle routine would be Yuuki Spencer’s 2007 World Yo-Yo Contest freestyle! Go check it out on Youtube if you must, to get a better understanding of how performance could greatly enhance one’s freestyle.

Note though, that ultimately, you are planning for a competition freestyle, and although putting on a good show is important, it shouldn’t overshadow technical tricks.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you get everything planned out, it is time for the thing we dread the most - PRACTICE!

There are many ways you can do this, one common way is to break the freestyle down into parts, six sections of 30-second parts or three sections of 1-minute parts. Take your time with each section, running through the parts over and over until you know it at the back of your head.

Put on your sweat pants, head gear, knee pads, etc and get on with some hardcore practice!
Only once you are pretty confident with the first section of your freestyle do you then continue to work on the second section. When you’re comfortable with the first 2-3 sections of your freestyle, try doing them together in one longer sequence. You may choose to do so with or without music, it’s more of an individual preference.

Once you are done with all the sections of the freestyle, start practicing it as a whole until you are comfortable. Try performing it in front of friends to get a second opinion. If you’ve got a camera lying around, record your freestyle so you can look back and review it after each practice run.

Once you’ve completed all these and pretty much know the freestyle like the back of your hand, you have two options:
  1. Stick to it and keep practicing till competition day
  2. If there’s time, improve on it!
With regards to the second option, be sure that you really do have the time to make changes, adding parts you think could score you more points, or removing parts which you are uncomfortable with and replacing them with something else.


Now that you are well prepared for your first ever on-stage freestyle, remember to keep calm at all times (TRY your best to, at least), remind yourself that you’re probably not the only first timer up on stage, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose, so why panic!

Once you're done with practicing, it's time to show off!
Last of all, remember to ENJOY yourself on stage. If you’re not having a good time, you really shouldn’t be competing in the first place. With this in mind, get started with your freestyle planning and hopefully, we’ll see you tearing it up on stage real soon!

Practice hard and keep spinning!

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