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.
Follow the tangent
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.
There are a few things to remember when practicing stalls:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!