Eastern Vs Western play styles: A discussion

This year at worlds a group of guys and I had a discussion about the differences between Eastern and Western play styles. Many people can understand the difference between the two unique play styles, with terms like “generic Asian freestyle” or “generic American player” being tossed around, but we were having a difficult time pinning down the actual difference between the two. Was it simplicity vs. complexity? A difference of speed? Innovation vs. Imitation? Was it just personal bias, or the way the player conducted themselves on stage?

Eventually we came to a conclusion that seemed mostly correct. Eastern play styles focus more on the yoyo and Western play styles focus more on the string.

Let’s examine two different players at worlds this year that I think highlight this difference well. Zach Gormly and Hiroyuki Suzuki.

First, watch Zach Gormley’s video.


Watching his freestyle critically, you’ll notice that his complex string formations are the main focus of his tricks. Sure, the yoyo moves around a lot, but it really just seems like the yoyo is only there to serve as another way to move the string around. When he does a banger the string is the focus, rather than yoyo movement.

Now let’s take a look at my personal favorite yoyoist, Hiroyuki Suzuki


Here you’ll notice that the yoyo is more of the focus of the performance. The impressive parts of his tricks aren’t the complexity of the string formations, but rather the difficulty of the movements of the yoyo. Boing-e-boing-ing tricks through a chopsticks mount. Horizontal 3d eli hops. Even on his tech, it’s much more about the yoyo moving around his fingers than complex string formations.

Obviously there are some exceptions to this, but for the most part this appears to be true.

I feel like this discussion is important, as it helps us understand the differences in play styles, which can help everyone add variety to their trick repertoire.

Let me know your opinions on this. Which play style do you prefer? Do you have any other examples, or evidence that our idea was wrong?

Jake Elliott

Jake! I met you at worlds and dude, you are crazy at 5a! Lol anywho…

I enjoyed reading your analysis on the two different styles. I knew that there was a difference, but I couldn’t exactly put it into words the way you did. I feel that now, I can describe to non-yoyoers/new yoyoers these differences. I personally like a combination of both. I like the complex string placements of Zach, but also like the difficult/odd/fast yoyo movements of Mickey. I am curious to see if anyone else can add to your analysis.

I think I prefer western style better.

The Asian style seems more about speed, while the western style seems more conducive to flow. I can actually SEE what’s happening with the western stuff. The Asian stuff often makes my eyes cross.

There is a place for both.

Who were you at worlds? And thank you :slight_smile:

Personally, I prefer the eastern play style, at least in 1a and 5a. I enjoy the western 2a, 3a, and 4a play styles more.

I’d love to see someone add anything to this idea. Other examples… Anything. People talk about the difference very often but never actually discuss the true differences.

I think what you said is very true, but I think there’s more to it. I think Eastern play styles often do seem to be more similar and focused on speed, but I think there’s something even bigger to it: cleanliness. That’s not to say that Western players are sloppy, but is does seem that Eastern players perform tricks with a greater deal of control and neatness. I think this focus on cleanliness also contributes to what we think is a lack of creativity. I think that the Eastern players focus more on HOW a trick is done rather than the trick itself, if that makes any sense.

YES! Thank You! This is very informative and SPOT ON. You are totally righg about the 2 styles of play. I personally prefer the eastern asian style better, I’d rather play with the yoyo more then the string :wink: Just my preference, maybe it’s because I’m asian LOL

…btw, suzuki’s my fav too :smiley:

EDIT: I agree with stringking too :slight_smile:

I agree with this, mostly. There are some incredibly flowy and creative players that have a whole lot of string involvement in their tricks from Japan and all the wester countries, and there are some more yoyo oriented players from the east too. For most players, this is true, but it’s not always the case.

Interesting point on cleanliness. Perhaps there is a cultural difference for a “more perfect” performance? Or maybe it’s just because the tricks are more simple and there is less that can go wrong when something goes wrong.


1 Like

I am Christian. I was wearing a pineapple hat and had a GoPro with me most of the time. I hung with Mike Marshall most of the contest. And I recently added you on facebook lol.


Anyways Zach’s freestyle from World’s is probably my all time favorite its like every moment goes to the flow of the song. Some of his tricks are way beyond any one I’ve ever seen.(Except maybe Anthony and Janos) I really enjoy Zach, Charles and Chuck. All three have very Western styles. One of my favorites is also Harrison Lee, in my mind his style is vary different he seems to have a style thats like Eastern and Western combined. But I also enjoy someone Christopher Chia whos fast but I find it hard to watch Mickey his stuff is just too fast.

For 5a though it really depends. Currently my favorite 5a players are Takeshi, Chase Baxter(I’m telling you he could take nationals), Josh Yee and Samm Scott.

Thanks for the cookie (I think).

Charles and Chuck? :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Like

This is a perfect way of describing it… I couldn’t have said it better.

I think all the eastern yoyoing stuff is just rubbish.

Sorry I’m sleepy XD Ment to say Chase :slight_smile: His flow is amazing. He really got me hooked after the Yeti video.

Thank you. Seriously, so much. I’ve always been able to tell ‘Asian style’ from ‘American style’ but I never knew why. Really I think, in an ideal freestyle, there should be both. A lot of string hits (Asian style focus) but also slack type string emphasis (American…) I personally need to get some of the Asian style down, as it tends to score very highly. I think a perfect blend of these is unstoppable.

I don’t know why, but this may be an unpopular opinion when I say that I find the Eastern style more visual appealing than the Western style. Rather, I find Western style way too boring for my preferences.

I just remember how the old school players used to say. Somewhere similar to this: “Back in the day, we played with the yoyo and not the string”
So I think that got stuck with me and I prefer the yoyo-movement-oriented Eastern style more than the Western style that has more emphasis on string formation.

But to OP and other contributors, thanks for putting the reasoning to my head. I’ve been thinking of words on how to explain the differences of the two but I can’t find good words. So thank you.

I don’t feel like it’s constructive to sort yoyoing styles into geographic/racial buckets. If you want to talk about motion-based vs. string-based tricks, the player’s country of origin should be irrelevant.
Obviously, people in the same region are more likely to have similar styles, but only because they have more exposure to clubs/contests/videos from each other.

1 Like

People from different places do different things. some other thread was just talking about different regions in the US and how they do things differently. its OK to acknowledge these differences, and even share our preferences for styles. nobody should (or seems to) have a bad attitude about styles that are different then they prefer, so its just a self analysis of the community. Which is always constructive. Lets not be oversensitive, appreciate the diversity. I think were OK here.

1 Like

I agree with the op, and most other people who posted here. There is a definite difference between western and eastern styles. And I think Jake hit the nail on the head.

But where would you guys say european players fit? And what sets them apart?