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.

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..."