# Poi Concept #2: Tangents (and stalling)

Don’t be afraid! Even though it comes from mathematics, the concept of tangents applies to poi in a very basic way. The challenge lies not so much in understanding this idea but in physically accomplishing what it tells us to do. Let’s start with a diagram:

The red circle represents the regular path of the red poi ball around a centerpoint—your hand—which is represented by the black dot in the middle of the circle. Arrows around the circle show the direction of the poi’s rotation.

Now for the concept: If at any point you release tension from the poi, it will follow a path which is tangent to the circle. Basically this means that if you let go, the poi will travel in a straight line away from the circle. This path is pictured in blue at just one possible point around the poi’s rotation.

Now you have several options. Here are two.

If after releasing tension from the center of the circle you immediately move your hand so that it is directly in line with the path of the tangent—directly behind the poi—and then follow the path of the poi, can you see what will happen?

You end up with a perfectly formed stall in the precise direction that the poi was spinning just before you released tension from inside the circle. This means that with some practice, you can stall in any direction, including upward, if you pay attention to the direction in which the poi travels.

Notice how an upward stall would thus require that you release inward tension when the poi is at the exact side of its rotation. Your hand must also move so that it is directly below the poi, and then follow it upward.

## Parallel the tangent

Can parallel be used as a verb? Here I’ll use it that way for the sake of simplicity. It means to move something, such as your hand, parallel to something else, such as the poi.

If, when you release inward tension, you parallel the path of the poi with your hand. you’ll end up with a completely different sort of stall. It’s one that I’ve only just begun to explore myself.

The result of a successful parallel stall is that the hand, chain/sock/string, and poi all move crosswise through space. Another way of putting this is that they move as one whole unit perpendicular to the direction of travel. If, for example, you parallel stall directly to your right, your hand and poi and will form a vertical line that moves sideways through space.

Whew! What a mouthful! The best thing here is to try it out on your own. You’ll quickly see exactly what I’ve described.

## Notes

There are a few things to remember when practicing stalls:

1. To get the best effect, your hand must at first move at the same speed as the poi. Too fast, and you’ll create slack in the chain/sock/string. Too slow, and you’ll create a new point of rotation and cause the stall to curve. Once you have a straight line of movement, you can then bring your hand to a halt.
2. I actually start to move my hand and slow the poi’s rotation before I initiate the stall. This gives me more control into the stall itself.
3. The movement of the hand is counterintuitive. If you want to stall straight downward, you might think you need only move your hand down. In fact, you must move your hand to the side so it is directly above the end of the poi, and only then move it down. As far as I can tell, it’s not possible to stall straight down directly beneath your hand. Your hand must travel sideways.
4. Of course, it is possible to do a parallel stall straight downward. Your chain/sock/string would thus be parallel to the ground between your hand and the end of the poi.
5. Some parallel stalls will make a bit more sense than others. A lateral parallel stall will still tend to swing if the hand doesn’t slow down at the exact same speed as the end of the poi, but since there’s less resistance again the poi, it will take longer to slow down than in, say, a vertical stall. This means lots of lateral arm movement is needed.

## There you have it!

And that’s the basic idea. Let us know if you have any questions about tangents or any other poi spinning topic! Happy spinning!

# Poi Concept #1: Ideomotor Effect

This is a short and sweet introduction to the concept of fine motor control. More specific than this, I’m referring to the type of control one initiates mentally rather than physically. Here initiation is the key focus.

## What did he just say?

In other words, you can give your poi spinning a tune-up by trying the following:

1. Get a weight on the end of a string or thin chain.
2. Hold it just above a table or countertop.
3. Keep your hand as still as you can, but don’t force it.
4. Now, in your mind, tell the weight to move in a circle.

Did anything happen?

## Fine Mental-Motor Control

As of yet, I haven’t found extensive information telling me exactly what’s going on. Apparently the movement is due to something called the ideomotor effect and this same practice is used in pendulum versions of dowsing (searching for water), and it also happens when playing Ouija.

What I really care about here is that if I tell the weight to move, my mind sends just enough of an impulse to my hand to cause that movement to happen. As far as my hand goes, its movement is nearly indiscernible.

Tell the weight to stop, to swing in a straight line, or to reverse directions, and focus on that thought long and hard enough, and it will happen without trying.

## How This Applies to Poi

Poi spinning involves a lot more movement than the pendulum-swinging exercise, but I’ve applied the concepts of ideomotor control to good effect.

It’s really as simple as telling the poi to alter its course. This is most useful for correcting planes.

Try, for example, spinning a single poi in the plane in front of you. Relax into the movement, allow yourself to feel what’s happening at all points of the rotation, especially the bottom. A mirror is especially helpful here. If you have one, stand so that you can see yourself sideways.

Now, while still spinning, you simply imagine the proper course of the poi and let your body make the right adjustments. The key is to be relaxed and to let it happen. With practice, you’ll notice an instant connection between your thought or mental image and the physical sensation of spinning. Eventually your planes will correct themselves.

## That’s all?

That is all. The focus here was the concept of the ideomotor effect. As long as you don’t try too hard and end up obstructing your own movement, you can use the power of your thoughts and nervous system to improve the way you spin poi. Good luck, and happy spinning!