Learning the Diabolo in 3 weeks

Devon Lee

My goal was simple: learn how to do five new tricks with the diabolo, or the Chinese yoyo,in three weeks. The diabolo is a small plastic hourglass, balanced on a string strung across two wooden sticks, by bobbing the sticks up and down, one can perform tricks and moves. This was going to be a challenge, since I had never played with one before. Additionally, as an introvert, I tend to stray away from new opportunities, such as trying out a new hobby. Nevertheless, I formulated a plan: I figured it would take me two days to learn how to juggle the diabolo, and then from then on I would learn one new trick per day. I was off by a longshot.

The first challenge was to obtain the toy. I eventually came to the conclusion that nobody on campus owns a diabolo, so I resorted to Amazon. The diabolo would be coming in one week, giving me enough time to prepare a strategy. Before learning any tricks, I had to learn how to spin the diabolo while maintaining speed and equilibrium. After almost a hundred tries, I still could not do it consistently. I needed help. So, I consulted the internet, but could not find a video that focused solely on the techniques for rolling a diabolo. I asked my brother for help since he was experienced, and he showed me how to sustain balance by moving the right stick forward or backward depending on which direction the diabolo was tilted. After that I could easily juggle the diabolo without stopping, a significant step in the right direction.

The first and easiest trick is the simple throw and catch. At first I completely failed. I underestimated how hard it was to launch the diabolo in the air, place the string directly parallel to the center of the spinning hourglass and stick the landing in only a matter of seconds. This gave me some doubts, but with some experimentation, I concluded that the easiest way is to catch it relatively high in the air, making sure it is perpendicular to my body at all times. Slowly and surely, I got the hang of it, which gave me a huge boost of confidence, since I had proved to myself that I could successfully complete a trick. Although most of my attempts were fails, I didn’t let it discourage me. Keeping a growth mindset, I saw the as chances for more improvement. Every time I got the diabolo to land, it was even more gratifying since my countless fails seemed to finally paid off. Over the course of the next week, I learned several new tricks and techniques: the elevator, circles, through the legs, and cattails.  

If you can keep the diabolo stable, build up speed and have correct body position, any trick can be pulled off with enough practice. For example, in order to perform circles, one must master the throw and catch, since it is a continuous motion. The move requires precise timing and skill; by catching the diabolo at the top of the string, rolling it across the string, and flinging it up in the air, and repeating this motion the diabolo can roll forever.

By the end of the three weeks, the diabolo taught me several lessons. Whenever you try something new, you must fail before you succeed. Also, approaching a challenge with a growth mindset teaches you that any obstacle can only be tackled through patience and dedication.

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