Styles of Play, and Relative Difficulty/Complexity...


I don’t compete, so when I attend contests, I’m a spectator, and do a bit of networking, buying, throw a bit, catch up with yo-yo friends, or trade as time permits. I haven’t tried more than a few styles of play, and watch contests wondering this. What would be your perception of the difficulty and complexity of different styles of play? As in…one style, relative to the others.

I don’t do most of these styles, but from perception alone, I would put the level of difficulty/complexity, in this order, from easiest to most difficult.

  1. 1A, after all, only one yo-yo;
  2. 4A, offstring, but still one yo-yo, and a big one at that;
  3. 5A, manipulation of yo-yo and counterweight, which still seems easier than 2 throws to deal with.
  4. 2A, just seems it would involve more rhythm and two actual yo-yos are used, but responsive, so I put it second to last.
  5. 3A, two yo-yos like above, but unresponsive requiring the bind. Seems you have to throw super hard on tricks too.


  1. So, if you do all these styles, tell me how my perception compares to your actual experience. Is it accurate?

  2. If you do not do all of these styles, what order would you put them in, from your perception of the level of difficulty?

  3. Do you think a yo-yoer who is “good” at 3A has more or better skill, than a great 1A player?



I guess it depends on what level of play you are talking about. In terms of learning the basics and becoming somewhat proficient in a style, I think 2A/3A are definitely the hardest.

3A has some complications that can make it more complex/difficult to learn. For example, it can be difficult to throw/keep the two yoyos parallel, especially when throwing breakaways. It is easy to get the two strings tangled up, which can lead to more time spent untangling them than actually practicing. When both yoyos are mounted on the strings, movements in one hand or with one yoyo can jar the other yoyo around, so you have to learn to control that. On the other hand, 2A has to be learned from scratch. A lot of the skills from the other styles transfer well between styles (i.e. learning 1A will help a lot with 3A), but that doesn’t really work with 2A. Because of that, 2A can be the hardest style to learn for a lot of people.

Freehand vs offstring I think depends on personal skills. Offstring doesn’t have the level of multitasking that freehand does, but it has its own difficulties. Offstring is unique in that any missed string at all can completely kill the trick. Maneuvering the yoyo can also be more difficult with larger yoyos, which is why hardly anyone uses offstring size yoyos for anything else. The extra size helps with making offstring catches more consistent, but it hinders most other maneuvers (because of the tradeoff, some offstring players use smaller non-offstring yoyos–Kazuaki Sugimura used to use FHZs, for example). Offstring is also unique in how the yoyo interacts with the string, so you have to completely rethink how you maneuver the yoyo. I think most moves and concepts from 1A adapt more readily to freehand than offstring because of that.

So I think in terms of what is simplest to learn, the tiers would generally go:


with the styles on the same tier going either way depending on the person.

In terms of the top levels of play, I don’t think it works the same way. 1A is simplest to learn, but the top 1A players take advantage of that by pushing their tricks further. In some ways, I think it is kind of like comparing piano to other instruments. Because the piano is relatively simple to play, masters can play incredibly complex pieces of music that might be impossible on some other instruments. Likewise, 1A players create complexity within the style by doing things they could not do with the additional restraints of the other styles.

Because of that, I think a great 1A player has as much skill as a great 3A player. 1A has the deepest field of talent and is usually the marquee event of competitions, so you could probably say it takes the most skill to reach the apex of 1A play right now.

Another way you could look at the issue is how restricting are the restraints of a style on the tricks and performances of the top players. In terms of speed, style, flow, presentation, complexity, etc, I think 3A has always lagged a bit behind the other styles. That’s probably an indication that 3A is inherently more difficult/complex, because that difficulty has a greater effect on the performance elements and trick composition of top 3A players than other styles.

Of course, this sort of thing is also affected by how many players are devoting themselves to a style. 2A, for example, has always been at the forefront in terms of presentation elements even though it is very difficult/complex because it has a much longer history of advanced play than the other styles. It used to be that 2A was the top competition style and 1A was a secondary competition. By the time other styles were emerging, 2A had already been pushed pretty far by top players, so it’s hard to compare on that basis. Likewise, I think freehand has been pushed relatively quickly over the past several years as more people have gone into the style.


You are, pretty much, correct in your perceptions. :slight_smile:


Wow Yossarian…I thought about this a lot before I posted it. I rarely just ask a one line question, and have to set it up first, making sure the post is fully understood. I usually ask several questions at once, and this was one of those. Often times, I don’t ask the questions in my head, thinking most people might not give it the thought required to articulate me a great answer. You accomplished that, and I want to thank you for the thought that went into the post. That is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of you addressing the various questions I asked (I tend to ask several), and you seem really knowledgeable about the different styles. I will actually have to read your reply twice, because there is so much good information in there. I’m glad to know I was in the ballpark with your perception and experience with those styles.

Thank you Miami Buddha for also chiming in. I think Yossarian’s point about level of difficulty dependent upon the individual, and their various strengths and weaknesses going into attempting a style of play, is certainly important to consider. I think putting the Freehand/Offstring styles on a tier together, rather than one easier than the other, is probably much more accurate.

Thanks again, nice job with that.


Well, for me, I think, things are a little different. When I started throwing back in '97 or '98 the only things going on were 1a and 2a and, really, there wasn’t much going on in those two divisions anyway…

Back then, I was 13 or 14 years old, I worked with Doctor Popular at a yoyo kiosk in a local mall. He didn’t even know how to yoyo at all. Well, he took up yoyoing extremely quickly and began making up his own combos and whatnot… Well, not long after he started coming up with some crazy things where he would play with the yoyo not even attached to the string! I was in awe. (He basically was doing moebius and 4a). I followed suit and ended up doing pretty well with offstring. Sometime later, he started doing tricks with TWO YOYOS at the same time! I forget the first trick he came up with… Washing machine or roller coaster maybe…

Anyways, I never really considered these styles “hard” just because I kind of grew up WITH the styles themselves and it was just another way to do yoyo tricks. The last style I learned, which became my favorite for many years, was 5a. I didn’t know about it until 2007 and quickly fell in love…

Today, the only styles I do are 1a and 5a.

(Jei Cheetah) #6

I would put 2A above 3A in terms of difficulty, and here’s why.

Ask any 2A player, and they will tell you that 2A is a style that is largely based on pure muscle memory.
Getting a 2A trick “down” is completely by feel for the most part.

The best way I can describe this is as such.
When a player watches a 3A player do a trick, they can watch a tutorial video a few times perhaps, or watch a trick from many angles, and experiment with it, and pretty much get it down. It may be a bit sloppy, but over time, it gets smoother.

In 2A, Quite often, a tutorial isn’t needed, as what is happening is actually quite straight forward. Take fountain wraps for example, a very visually appealing trick, but relatively simple to grasp: one hand is doing a basic fountain, while the other does a basic wrist wrap that rises higher and higher with the fountain hand. The thing here, is that there really is no such thing as doing a “sloppy” fountain wrap. You either do it, or you don’t. In a 3A trick, you can take pauses to figure out a motion, a mount, a placement, and continue, making a choppy, but successful trick during the learning stages.
in 2A, you literally need to have learned the complete looping fundamentals, and even then, its a big trial and error as there is no place to stop and “figure something out” mid trick, you just do it, or don’t.

2A tricks are a frustrating thing for many, as they are often quite easy to grasp what is going on, but accomplishing it is a totally different story. The learning curve is absolutely insane, and just getting beyond the basics takes many many countless hours of practice.

Also, in 3A, you can take elements and understandings of things you would already know in 1A, and transfer that knowledge over.
In 2A, its basically a completely different style of yoyoing entirely, with a very different approach.

There are a few 2A players I know of who after learning the very basic fundamentals 1A wise, took to 2A and only stuck with it. I got to see a former Asia Pacific 2A title winner try 1A, and he could only do a basic eifel tower in terms of 1A, and could not bind, but his 2A obviously was incredibly amazing.
Very different worlds apart.

That’s how I see it. and myself being both an avid 3A and 2A player, I feel there is a clear distinction on which is more difficult for myself.




You forgot fixed :smiley:

(UmeNagisa) #8

For me its
Totally agreed Josh.
I still can’t do 2a. And I learned 3a pretty easily xD


same for me^^ haha recently I have started playing around with 3a substyles (doubles and the real 3a) and it’s a lot of work, but worth it

(UmeNagisa) #10

That stuff is seriously fun.
I’m terrible at it though haha!


personally I find 5A the easiest but that is because its all I do.
Then I find 2A the hardest.
Everything else seems about the same, I am naturally ambidextrous with a learned right hand dominance so maybe that is why I don’t find 3A all that hard to learn.


I’m getting better haha, we should have a 3a battle

(UmeNagisa) #13

Hopefully I can get a better pair soon haha.
After all my high end ones were sold. I used classics.
They’re good. But I need better xD


message me when you’re ready to battle haha :slight_smile:

(UmeNagisa) #15

Will do!
And also, good luck on the over 1 year battle.
Let’s see who beats out the other :wink:

  1. So, if you do all these styles, tell me how my perception compares to your actual experience. Is it accurate?
    Josh Yee would be a great guy to ask for this one. I can’t really do 2a-5a but I’ve tried to learn basic tricks from each style, like I can do inside, outside loops, milk the cow, etc. one handed(still cant do 2 handed), throw and catch, iron whip, etc. for 4a, pinwheel, 5a trapeze, etc. for 5a. Can’t do anything for 3a, which is the style that I think is the toughest. I’ve spent about the same amount of time practicing 2a-5a with the exception of 2a which I’ve practiced a bit more. Based on my progression I’d put 1a the easiest, then 5a, 4a, 2a, and 3a the hardest.
  2. If you do not do all of these styles, what order would you put them in, from your perception of the level of difficulty?

Same as above even before I tried anything but 1a :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. Do you think a yo-yoer who is “good” at 3A has more or better skill, than a great 1A player?



I can see how, some might find 5A easier than 4A…or 2A harder than 3A. They are basically on the same tier of how Yossarian had things set up. So, you pretty much agree with him, for the most part. Very interesting indeed. What do you think made 5A easier for you to do than 4A?

(UmeNagisa) #18

For me I think 5A is easier by far.
The fact that many tricks come from 1A
(Hold the beestrings and stuff like that)

But with 4A, even though I have been playing diabolo for 5 years it’s just more difficult. It was said before. 4A was sold short. It’s much much harder than it seems.
And the fact it goes off the string, the precision, must be impeccable.

2A. I simply can’t do whatsoever.
3A, hard. But I’m also ambidextrous. So it wasn’t too bad.


For me,


I find 5a hard, for me, it’s not my style…


Josh can you come help us out here? Your one of the few people good at pretty much every style so I bet you would have some good input.