Introduction: Beginner's Guide to POI

No, not the food... sorry.

I was invited to a small get-together with some friends of mine and it soon turned into a mini-techno-rave. (and by that I mean about 5 of us in a dark screened-in porch blasting DDR and other techno muzac) Then, somebody pulled out the glowsticks... Long story short, I got stuck with the glow-necklaces, which, while still cool, aren't really that exciting just hanging on your neck, I start swinging them around and made cool-looking designs. After the party I researched a bit because (circles get old really fast and) I wanted to be ready for next time.

Poi originated with the Maori People of New Zealand. While methods and materials have changed, the prinicipal is basically the same: swing something around fast enough so that the blur makes a pretty pattern.
Modern variances are: Performance/Ribbon Poi, Glow Poi, and Fire Poi (as well as Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire... no, not really)

Techniques learned in one easily transfer to another, so Practice Poi are used when... well... Practicing. They are usually made with something soft, but must be dense/massive enough to swing well. Popular ones are bean-filled gym socks and tennis-balls on the ends of strings.
There are quite a few instructables on how to make them already, so I won't cover that here.
Other Poi Instructables

I will attempt to teach you some VERY basic moves. They should be enough to either 1) spark your interest and lead you to pursue greater learning ... Or 2) convince you that this really isn't your thing and that you can serve humanity better in other ways.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

Step 1: Holding the Poi

Basically, we need grip that is both secure and easy to release. Remember too that depending on the rope you're using, friction between your fingers and the rope can cause pain/blisters.

Another alternative is to not hold the rope itself, but to have either a strap or a handle. Leather strips are popular as straps because of their durability. Handles can be as simple as a wooden toggle (a small rod of wood with the rope attached to the middle) or even metal balls.

Step 2: Spinning Individually!

According to an ex-nun from austria, "Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start..."

The very beginning of poi is actually spinning the darn things. Believe it or not, this is one of the harder but most important parts to learn. Think about it, this will be the basis of all the weaves that you will do later, so being able to do this will need to be second nature. You must be able to do this without thinking about it, feel the strings, feel the poi... BE THE POI.

okay, that being said, it's actually fairly simple. If you've ever swung a dead rat on a string (and who hasn't?) you'll be able to do this in no time.

Tips:
1) Start with your dominant hand and just start swinging. Forwards or backwards, doesn't matter right now.
2) Technique
A)If you are swinging the ball forward (the ball moves forward when it's at the top of the swing), your palm should be facing down and it should look like you are pushing away or pawing at the air.
B)If you are swinging it backward ((the ball moves backward when it's at the top of the swing), your palm should be facing up, as though you are pulling the air towards you.
3) Tuck your thumbs in a little to keep them from snagging the rope.
4)Don't focus on swinging it quickly, focus on swinging evenly. It might help if you have a song or a beat in your head when you do this, try to have it at the peak or bottom on beat or something. Also, hitting yourself when it's spinning slowly hurts less than when it's moving fast.
5) When you got the swinging down pat, check to see that it's vertical. The path of the poi should not cross your center-line. If it does, adjust your hand until it's right.
A)The biggest cause of this is that if you're not holding your palm straight up-and-down, but tilting it one way or the other. Nothing too big.
B)Imagine that you are part of a line of people and you don't actually want to hit the person in front or behind you.

Okay, think you got it? Now, try the other hand. Same thing.

Step 3: Spinning Together!!!

The Last part of this step is to do both hands together:
1) Again, slow and steady. Your speed will probably be determined by your non-dominant hand. Work on it, until you can get it to the speed you want and have a controlled spin.
2) At the point, the poi should not even be close to crossing. If they are crossing, tangling up in front of your, and hitting your bum (probably hard), check the angle of your hands. Make sure that they really are face-up or face-down. If they are tilted, the axis of rotation of the poi will intersect and they will tangle.
A) Imagine Parallel railroad tracks on the ground. Basically, while you're spinning your poi, somebody should be able to walk between them, give you a kiss, and walk back without getting hit.

It may eventually be necessary to spin them in opposite directions. Not really sure, as I have not run into it yet, so I haven't included it.

To say that you mastered this First step, you must be able to:
-Spin both Poi, forwards AND backwards, continuously without hitting yourself, the ground, or others around you, without excessive adjustment of your core body (you shouldn't look like you have to go to the bathroom)
-Spin both poi in sync and then in split time while doing above.

Step 4: Infinity Cross...

Now, this will be the first semi-technical move. I haven't found a name for it, but it was the second technique I learned. Basically, it brings the swinging poi across your body to the other side, and back again.

I'd think people would call it a figure-eight, but since it's sideways, I'm opting for "infinity" instead... Plus, it's so simple, you should be able to just keep doing it continually without any problems. (infinitely)

Again, start with a swinging poi in your dominant hand. I found that swinging backwards initially was easiest, but that may just be personal preference. Now, when it's at the bottom of it's swing, cross it to the top of the other side, swing it to the bottom, and cross it back. (When you do it swinging forwards, reverse the top and bottom for this step)

-It helps to rotate your wrist as the poi travels to the opposite side, and back when it crosses over again. You'll see what I'm talking about when you do it.

Just do that a few times. Regular, Regular, Cross, Regular... etc.
You will hit yourself a few times, but that's all part of it.

Same thing, once you got it with one hand, do it with the other.... then together.
-One thing to point out, is that since your hands will be crossing, one hand will have to go over the other. Try it with the dominant over, then under. If you're really adventurous, try alternating it.

Step 5: Turns

Basically, all a turn does is to get the poi spinning in the opposite direction... right?
Not exactly. Your body turns 180 degrees, but the poi are still spinning in the same direction that they were. However, when you get into more advanced weaves and your coming from one that needs a forwards spin into one that needs a backwards spin... ah, now you see why... but how.

The easiest way to describe a turn is to keep the poi spinning while you do an about-face. Again, this will be an adventure in self-discovery... mostly because I find it hard describe.

Some tips though:
Turning away from a hand:
-The poi's motion here will be identical to that of crossing it. To prove it, cross the poi to the other side, but don't cross it back. Instead turn your body so that it's on the right(correct) side again.
Give yourself more time:
-If you extend your arm and pivot at the elbow instead of the wrist, you have effectively extended the lengthened the rope by a foot (your forearm's length). This gives you a bigger circle around which the poi will have to travel, which ultimately means it will take it a second or two longer to get around... that should be enough for you to turn.
OR, get it over with quick
-You could also pull the rope closer to reduce the chance of it snagging on something or hitting something. This works best if the poi is spinning fairly slowly.

Step 6: That's All Folks!

Well, at least for this Instructable it is. But a paltry 3 weaves does not poi make... There are tons of weaves that are just as easy, but I didn't have time to include here.

Here's a REALLY good site:
Home of Poi Lessons

Poi Joy

Just google for "Poi weaves how to" or something similar and you too can be the envy of somebody (who didn't read this instructable) at your next rave.

And most importantly, HAVE FUN!!!

I'll see if I can get some video for you guys... right now, I don't think my cam can handle it.
oh yeah, Obligatory noob comment: "First instructable, be gentle..."

Comments

author
KatieK15 made it!(author)2015-09-23

My favorite place to pick up LED poi is http://www.emazinglights.com/flow-arts/poi! Been shopping there for years and they haven't let me down yet. Great for beginners too. :)

author
Jamesthemetrixman made it!(author)2015-04-11

This seems a lot like jump roping to me, or at least the first few tricks in this instructable. Overall, quite interesting.

author
DevilishConcept made it!(author)2012-03-21

Nice Post, im actually looking for some content contributors, to posts tutorials and other articles on my website, i cover subjects such as poi, fire spinning, twirling , circus skills, flow lights and loads of other stuff that makes you jump in the night.
for any avid contributors i will be sharing the advertising income depending on what they have submitted, if any of you guys fancy it hit me up on my site, if your not but you still like poi and fire spinning etc head over and check it out an join the forums :) much love http://www.aboveandbelow.org

p.s we dont sell anything and its free to join!

author
firejunkie made it!(author)2012-03-03

I love spinning poi!
It's a creative art form that can be done by anyone at any time in the day or night!
Spinning poi can be a form of exercise, dance or even a hedonistic art display.

You can easily by them online all over the world but one manufacturer that i love and have been buying all my spinning toys for the last 4years is Flames N Games Juggling Store

There are many kinds of poi you can buy some of which are:
Daytime Fabric Poi, Fire Poi, LED Glow Poi, Sock Poi, Flag Poi.

author
NOODLE%21 made it!(author)2011-06-01

I really like poi, and i think that this is a very informative instructable.

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MisterHankie made it!(author)2010-08-01

mspaint FTW!!

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Candor made it!(author)2010-04-25

This move is called the cross over. It's not actually a move, but a transition for an infinite (hee) amount of other moves.

author
Candor made it!(author)2010-04-25

home of poi sells some fantastic handles, a lot less wear on your fingers over long periods. I'd recommend them.

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didibemi made it!(author)2009-09-04

I'll post pictures later. I've done one with the same things but I putted some kind of ribbon and it looks great! Hug's and good "poy's" to everyone!

author
boris_81 made it!(author)2007-11-29

you could visit www.homeofpoi.com they have a good beginners kit with an instructional video. or you can check there online tutorial, which have tons of animated gif's and videos.

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jongscx made it!(author)2007-11-29

Yep, actually that's where a lot/most of my information came from. It's actually linked on the last page. These were just the really simple techniques that I felt were the absolute basics, before moving on with advanced stuff.

author
boris_81 made it!(author)2009-07-24

oh yes. you did. sorry about that.

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iq_abyss made it!(author)2008-03-10

If thats where you got most of your information came from, why didn't you declare them as a source?

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mazeka.14 made it!(author)2008-12-09

I havn't lol

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Flumpkins made it!(author)2008-07-29

Can someone please tell me what poi is?

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Sandisk1duo made it!(author)2008-10-22

spinning fire, yo uknow like how ancient cultures did it? Spinning fire very fast and in many directions

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Flumpkins made it!(author)2008-10-23

Ohh!! Cool, thanks!

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Rishnai made it!(author)2008-06-21

I must admit, poi has always been like nunchuks for me: cool when I get it right for a little while, and then I whack myself in the face. Of course, I never even tried doing anything with poi until today. Advice: don't swing 'em like nunchucks, especially if you suck at handling nunchucks! In fact, all I did today was embarrass myself and reaffirm why I try to avoid raves and any gathering that involves techno: I can't work a glowstick, and I can't dance to techno. But at least I met many a pretty girl willing to teach me! All is not lost...

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lyndsi made it!(author)2008-04-14

that photo at the beginning is nick woolsley and it's from playpoi.com (a really good site, check out the scales of poi dvd)

author
Full+Frontal+Graphic made it!(author)2008-03-21

Nicely done and nice photos.

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Zega made it!(author)2008-01-23

Thanks a lot for your well-detailed tutorial. The diagrams you made yourself show you really take pride in your teaching too. Props to you for that. I'll be practicing whenever I can on this. Thanks again.

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GorillazMiko made it!(author)2007-11-28

looks dangerous. :-o

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jongscx made it!(author)2007-11-28

Well, it doesn't have to be. Glowsticks don't hurt too much, I've definitely been hit by a tennis ball in the face before and it hurt more than when I did it with my practice set. I guess it's like riding a bike. You could do it with training wheels, a helmet, pads, in a wide open field.... Or blindfolded on a tight-rope over alligators while on a unicycle.

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mspark400 made it!(author)2007-11-30

i am a glowstringer and i an testify that glowsticks do hurt for the record. Great instructable and pics.

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laernmoer made it!(author)2007-11-29

I'd recommend tape on the bottom of the glow sticks if you do use them. A buddy of mine got cut on his forehead by the bottom edge of one of them. I've been wary of it since.

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oliverjenks made it!(author)2007-11-28

Warning - very dangerous! I once lost a friend to poi, he became some new age other thing because of it.

http://www.spherculism.net/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=3167

Last I heard he moved to NZ, in order to consult the grand po pa's of poi

Very good introduction to the black art though.

Jenks

author
jongscx made it!(author)2007-11-28

Heh... yeah, it has that power on some people. I don't think it was the poi. I had a friend go to Okinawa to study Karate and an old classmate who is now in Oxford getting a PhD on European history. So I guess he just found something he loves and went for it. You'll never know til you try it. [great, now it sounds like I'm selling drugs]

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