Life is full of ups and downs. For yo-yo enthusiasts, life is full of downs and ups… and that’s exactly how they like it!
The yo-yo is a simple toy that’s been popular in America for almost 100 years. It’s been around a lot longer than that, though. The oldest yo-yo ever found is from 500 B.C.
Scholars believe either the ancient Chinese or Greeks probably invented the yo-yo 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. Those who believe the ancient Greeks invented the toy point to an ancient Greek vase painting that shows a boy playing with a yo-yo.
The name “yo-yo” comes from a Tagalog (the native language of the Philippines) word meaning “come back” or “return.” In the past, yo-yos were also called "bandalores," "twirlers" and "whirl-a-gigs."
The basic yo-yo consists of a length of string attached to a flat spool. It can be played simply by winding the string around the spool and throwing it downward, so that it unwinds the string as it falls and then rewinds the string after it reaches the end of its length and climbs back up.
Today, playing the yo-yo has gone way beyond simply throwing it downward and allowing it to return to your hand. Modern yo-yo enthusiasts can do a wide variety of challenging tricks.
Most yo-yo tricks start with a basic trick called a "sleeper." To throw a sleeper, you must throw a yo-yo with a special flick of your wrist, so that the yo-yo spins in place when it reaches the end of its string rather than rolling back up.
Once the yo-yo is “sleeping” at the end of its string, you can then do many other special tricks. To end the “sleeping” state, just flick your wrist to make the yo-yo catch the string and roll back up to your hand.
“Walk the dog” is perhaps the most famous yo-yo trick of all. To walk the dog, you must first throw a strong sleeper and then gently allow the yo-yo to make contact with the floor, where it will then roll forward like a dog on a leash!
Each year, the World Yo-Yo Contest brings together the winners from national competitions from around the world. Many of the best yo-yo players in the world have come from Japan, including 11-time world champion Shinji Saito.