Where did modern yoyoing start?

By modern yo-yoing I mean unresponsive play and string tricks. Also where and when were the other primary styles (2a though 5a) made? Just kinda curious

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The period around 2000-2001 started the move into more modern styles of 1A. tricks left the responsive looping based tricks and combos and more into the technical realm of yoyoing. While yoyos remained responsive for the most part, certain tricks started to be developed that largely were dependent on having a yoyo that was not a thin gap responsive yoyo.
1A and 2A were around for for quite some time obviously, with the “A” in the names meaning “arm”, thus 1 arm tricks, and 2 arm tricks. 3A 4A and 5A came about later, with term 3A initially being a joke name coined by Mark McBride. It stuck, and soon 4A and 5A came about. 2003 was the first year that contest started to have the alternate 3 4 and 5A divisions instead of the “X” divisions of the past.


No, A never meant arm in 1A and 2A. The 1A and 2A designations were created by Alan Nagao for 1999 Worlds. At the time two handed play was seen as “better” than one handed so the divisions were labeled 1A and 2A similar to designations for minor league baseball or high school sports. It also mapped well to the number of yo-yos. When two yo-yo string tricks were created it was named 3A both since it was a combination of 1A and 2A and also kind of a joke because 3A would be “better” than 1A or 2A. When offstring and counterweight became contest divisions at Worlds in 2003 they were arbitrarily named 4A and 5A for no good reason. The A designations in general are confusing to the general public and really need to go away.

For the OP’s questions:
Basic string tricks have been around for a long time. The development of modern string tricks started in the late '90s with the rise of ball bearing yo-yos. The first time US Nationals awarded a National Title for one yo-yo play was 1997. Unresponsive play started in the early '00s. It started with natural response system wear on Renegades (and other yo-yos) making the yo-yo unresponsive which then made it easier to do some tricks so people started intentionally making their yo-yos unresponsive.

2A has been around for a long time.

3A traces back to Mark McBride’s velvet rolls in 1998. There were some basic 3A type tricks that are much older (ie, trapeze with one yo-yo and sleeper with the other) but I think most people would go with velvet rolls.

4A also dates back a long way in basic form as Duncan demonstrators could do a throw and catch. This is widely considered to be a ploy to get kids to try to mimic it which would result in a broken yo-yo and the kid needed to buy a new one. Modern 4A was made possible by the offstring bind/return which is credited to Jon Gates. I’m not sure on the year but it had to be before 1999 since Hironori Mii was doing full offstring freestyles by then.

5A was created by Steve Brown and first debuted to a wide audience at the 1999 Bay Area Classic.


Jon Gates was doing offstring throws, binds, and some basic somersault/barrel rolls on wooden Hummingbird Trixter Butterfly yoyos at the 1996 World YoYo Contest in Rapid City, SD the year I met him.


I just want to say this is a good, interesting discussion.


On a hard drive somewhere I have scans of promo photos of 1950s demonstrators doing what appear to be rudimentary 3A tricks, in support of what Nathan was saying. It’s all Sleeper/Trapeze type stuff, but considering what they had to work with I doubt they could have done much more.

Is the video of Steve’s BAC Freehand introduction still online? I looked for it a few weeks ago to show a co-worker but couldn’t find it. I remember it being bad quality and hard to see what was going on, but it’s still a real piece of history. I really should put an article about the birth of each style on the Museum at some point.

Aerial, 360, freegen, counterweight slides, hand-switching…I even went for a horizontal braintwister towards the end but didn’t make it. Crazy to look back at that and realize how much new stuff I jammed in that one routine.


I think there was a picture in World on a String though it’s been years since I looked at it so I might be remembering it wrong.

Speaking of old pictures I found a first issue of Fiend magazine last week still in the postal envelope. Can’t be many of those around…

The old timers called that trick “Suspension Bridge”. I remember Dale Oliver telling me about it in 96/97, although he couldn’t do it with the yoyos spinning.

So, just to clarify, for the “where” and “when” part of the discussion. Are you guys saying that modern yo-yoing definitely started in the United States of America, in the late 1990s? :-\

Does anyone else see the yoyoexpert logo here?

And @totalartist, I don’t think the are saying anything is set in stone, if anything they’re saying it is vague. That is just the jist I got anyways. I’m going to assume it was a long time coming and that ball bearing yoyos really allowed people to expand on it.

Yes, it appears that it’s not really something that can be stated as a “fact” in yo-yo history. I was fishing through the posts for a clear answer, but I understand that it’s not that easy. :slight_smile:

I would say the late 1990s primarily in the United States and Japan (though there were definitely players in other countries). A big driver the was the Yomega/Bandai/THP alliance which was primarily in the USA and Japan.

I agree, I think that the arrival of the transaxle (both the sleeve-type and bearing) to the masses is what kicked off the modern era along with the Internet explosion.

Harvey Lowe (the first World YoYo Champion) has talked about doing 2A when he was a demonstrator back in the 1930s. He said something like they would do it on their own while they were practicing, but that they weren’t supposed to do it in their public demonstrations since the point was to get kids interesting in buying yoyos and learning the tricks they saw the pros doing, not to do stuff that looked impossible.

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man, this is a lot of interesting stuff in this thread that I never even knew…and I first started yoyoing in the late 90’s. I’m glad to see that there’s some of you that remember this history and are able to share it all here with us. I think something should be mocked up with the history of yoyoing kind of thing made as a sticky for other people that may be interested in learning about it.

great stuff guys! :slight_smile:

Hope this helps.