Aug 172011

Over the weekend, I saw a video on BoingBoing that drove me into a fit of childish envy. It was a recording of Shinji Saito, the 2011 Yo-Yo World Champion, performing his face-meltingly amazing routine, a double-fisted ballet of loops, tosses, and body tricks far beyond my limited yo-yo capabilities. Saito wielded his yo-yos like a cat might its claws, if a cat could break dance: not as foreign objects under his expert control, but as natural extensions of his own limbs. It was a bravura performance, and it pained me to know that I will never in my life be able to do anything even half as awesome with a yo-yo.

(Video after the break.)

Before I go on, go ahead and see for yourself what all the hype has been about.

Now, when I was around nine, I decided one afternoon that I was going to teach myself how to walk the dog. This was in the dark days before the Internet had bared its bosom of infinite knowledge to me, long before WikiHow and Google were there to provide me with the answer to any question I could possibly dream up in my lifetime. I had seen others perform the trick before, both on television and in person, and I was convinced that I, too, could master the precisely-timed wrist jerk that would set my yo-yo spinning at the end of its string and allow me to roll it gracefully across any convenient horizontal surface. I practiced for hours in the basement, struggling against my severe lack of coordination to nail the timing of that critical tug, and I met with moderate success. By the end of the afternoon, I had established a repertoire of a single yo-yo trick.

Sadly, that was the last trick I was able to master. I don’t know what it was that drove me to abandon my pursuit of yo-yo ninjutsu, but I suppose the greatest contributing factor was my hesitation to try any tricks that would send the yo-yo flying away from my body at high speeds — in other words, all of the cool ones. My lack of depth perception and physical coordination gave rise to a perfectly justified fear that if I tried such a thing, it would inevitably result in me hurting myself and probably anyone and anything that was too close to me. I put my yo-yo away in disappointment, ceding any place I might have had in the pantheon of great yo-yo tricksters to people like Shinji Saito, who are far more dedicated than I to the quest for yo-yo glory.

And though I may pique with jealousy at Saito’s badass moves, I can’t help but admire that dedication and its stunning payoff. I imagine what his childhood must have been like: a thousand or more such afternoons of toil and frustration, of hurling the blasted toy away only to have the traitorous thing come back and slam him in the face, a seemingly endless parade of failures for every hard-earned success. Through it all, he somehow maintained his focus, and, in doing so, became a master.

TL;DR: In short, this man is a wizard casting spells in a language that I will never understand; however, it’s still magic to watch.

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