Pen spinning

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A combination of pen spinning tricks.

Pen spinning (also known as pen twirling, pen mawashi and pen tricks) is a form of object manipulation that involves the deft manipulation of a writing instrument with one's hands. Although it is often considered a form of self-entertainment (usually in a school/office setting), multinational competitions and meetings are sometimes held.[1] It is a form of contact juggling. It can also be classified as a sport. Pen spinning is known as "pen mawashi" (compare for example mawashi-geri, "round-kick") or, more disparagingly, "rōnin mawashi" ("college student spinning") in Japan where the pastime has been popular since at least the 1970s, and where the Pen Spinning Association Japan is now dedicated to promoting the aspiring art form. While its origins remain unclear, pen-spinning is quickly gaining international popularity through on-line video sharing and forums. According to Masaki Tsukada, chairman of the Japanese pen spinners, pen spinning now has dedicated movements in South Korea and the United States.[2][3]


There is no information on the origins of pen spinning. The earliest record of pen spinning comes from a student in pre-World War II in Japan (Asahi Shimbun January 31, 2008, 37th page). While some in Asian countries did pen spinning in the 1990s, these were basic tricks such as the ThumbAround, FingerPass, Charge, and Sonic. Today, there are more variations and types of tricks, for example the Shadow, the Korean BackAround (Bak), the Twisted Sonic Bust or the PalmSpin.

The number of pen spinning websites and forums have increased since 2006, opening up more regional boards from France, Germany, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Tournaments are organised on the Internet and live tournaments are held in China, Japan, and Korea.

Finger Slots, Notations and Breakdowns[edit]

Spinners use a variety of systems, symbols, abbreviations and short forms to help them express how the pen is spun.

Finger Slot System[edit]

Finger Slots

For convenience pen spinners have adopted a common numbering of fingers and the spaces between them ("Finger Slots"). The fingers are numbered sequentially from "1" the index finger, to "4" pinky. The thumb is the letter "T". Finger slots are represented by combining any two of these. For instance the space between the middle and ring fingers is "23". A pen held between index and pinky is in slot "14". Sometimes the space between the thumb and index fingers near the palm is called "TF" (thumbflap) and the slot of the tips of the thumb at the index finger is called "T1". The palm is sometimes notated as "P".


A notation system consists of a combination of abbreviations and short forms of tricks and their direction slot system to define the direction and position of a trick. Notation systems range from formal with high detail to informal with almost no detail. The following system is often used.[4]

  • Modifier: A modifier adds additional aspects to the base trick. Modifiers may not need to be added depending on what trick is performed. Modifiers are often abbreviated (e.g., Inverse to Inv.).
  • Trick Name: This is the base trick. While the Trick Name may not be omitted, it can be abbreviated for certain tricks (e.g., ThumbAround to TA).
  • Direction: This is the direction of rotation of the pen during a trick. If the direction is omitted, it is assumed to be "Normal." If the direction is "Reverse," it can be shortened to "Rev.".
  • number of spins: This is the total amount of revolutions of the pen throughout the entire trick. If omitted, it is assumed to be the default amount for the individual trick stated.
  • starting position: This is the finger slot, or other position on the hand/body, of the pen when the trick starts. If omitted, it is assumed to be the default position for the individual trick.
  • ending position: This is the finger slot, or other position on the hand/body, of the pen when the trick ends. If omitted, it is assumed to be the default position for the individual trick. When notating a trick, a "-" is placed between the starting and ending positions.


Breakdowns are annotations of hybrids (a mix of a few "interrupted" tricks) and combos (combinations of hybrids and/or other tricks) which are used to define how a hybrid or combo is performed.[5] The simplest breakdowns have only a ">" between tricks to show that they are connected. More formal breakdowns use other symbols to show different aspects of the connections between trciks.[6] No one format is used every time, and formats are often deviated from when certain pen spinners write out breakdowns.

Fundamental tricks[edit]

Pen Spinning

In Pen Spinning there are 4 main fundamental tricks spinners often learn first. They are as follows.


Photograph of a ThumbAround.

The ThumbAround Normal (previously known as "360 Degrees Normal") is performed by pushing a pen using any finger (usually the middle finger) except the thumb to initiate the pen to spin around one's thumb one time, then catching it in between the thumb and a finger.[7] There are multiple variations of the ThumbAround.


The Pass Normal involves rotating a pen 0.5 times from one finger slot to another. When performing a Pass on the palm side of hand, the pen goes downward. When performing a Pass on the other side of the hand, the pen goes upward. A small combination of Passes involving the pen rotating fully around the hand, starting and ending at the 12 slot, is called a FingerPass.[8] The FingerPass was used in the James Bond film GoldenEye by Boris Grishenko, in a variation using only three fingers instead of the usual four.[citation needed]


Photograph of a Sonic.

The idea behind the Sonic is to move the pen from one finger position to another finger position in as little time as possible. In the Sonic Normal, a pen is held in a finger slot not involving the thumb and is spun in a conic-like motion behind a finger (or fingers) to another finger slot further up the hand. The pen makes one revolution.[9]


The Charge Normal does not involve spinning the pen around any fingers or any body parts, rather, the pen is spun conically in a single finger slot.[10] In the right hand, the pen spins clockwise; in the left hand, counter-clockwise. This trick is often performed by drummers using drumsticks rather than pens.

Advanced tricks[edit]

In addition to the 4 fundamental tricks, more have been invented and used successfully in combos by numerous people.[citation needed] Almost all advanced tricks are miniature combos, called hybrids. A hybrid is a pen movement that can consist of one or more partial fundamental tricks (e.g. the Twisted Sonic Normal consists of a Charge 0.5 followed by a Pass Reverse).[11] A more complex hybrid can also involve another hybrid within itself (e.g. the Devil's Sonic Normal consists of a Twisted Sonic Normal followed by a Shadow Normal). As more hybrids have been invented over time, individual names for each one have become increasingly uncommon. This is because breakdowns of the hybrid showing the tricks out of which it is made are preferred over a unique name for the hybrid.[citation needed]


The pen should begin by being held in the writing position, near the tip of a pen. A wiper reverse is performed, where the pen pivots from the top of the thumb and index finger to the bottom of the thumb and index finger. A pass to the index/middle fingers is then performed. The pen pivots from the top of these fingers to the bottom. The pen is then swung back up to the writing position. When the pen is not passed to a different finger slot, the trick is called "Figure 8". When more passes are involved, the trick may be called other names such as "Double Infinity".


This is a trick where the palm is facing down. The pen starts at any finger slot (usually 12) and does 0.5 rotations in the charge position before traveling up to the top of the hand. The pen should revolve 0.5 times on top of your fingers. As it nears the end of the 0.5 revolutions on top, slowly lift any of your fingers to catch the pen (usually the index finger to catch it in the 12 slot). At the end, a final 0.5 revolutions of charge should end the trick. Doing a total of 1.5 revolutions, and usually the trick is followed by another trick. It is considered a very hard trick for beginners.

Inverse Shadow[edit]

If the Shadow is performed with the palm of the hand facing down, The Inverse Shadow is the opposite of that, Which makes it harder to master than the normal Shadow


The ThumbSpin is a variation of the ThumbAround, except it spins more than one revolution and spins on top of the thumb. The starting and ending positions are the same as the ThumbAround

Korean BackAround[edit]

The Korean BackAround, or simply "Bak", is a popular trick where the pen goes around any of the four fingers that are not the thumb. It is basically a Fingerless FingerAround Reverse, except follows a diagonal motion when spinning. A Bak that goes around the index finger would be called the Index Bak. A popular mini combo executed by pen spinners is called the BakFall (Korean BackAround Fall).

Pen Modifications[edit]

Pen spinners often modify pens, or make pen mods, to construct a more desirable spinning pen. Pen mods are usually made from more than one pen with different pieces from separate pens. While any pen that has been modified is technically a pen mod, mods are often longer, heavier, and more unique in appearance than non-modded pens. There are hundreds of pen mods, and some common ones include the BICtory, Comssa, RSVP MX, Waterfall, Dr. KT, and Buster CYL.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pen spinning world cup launched". 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  2. ^ Hongo, Jun (January 2008). "Finessing the pen-twirl becomes a fine science". The Japan Times. Retrieved January 2010. 
  3. ^ Novak, Asami (January 2008). "Mastering the Art of Pen Spinning". Retrieved January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Full Trick Name Convention". Universal Pen Spinning Board. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  5. ^ "Combo". Universal Pen Spinning Board. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  6. ^ "Interrupted Trick Notation". Universal Pen Spinning Board. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  7. ^ "ThumbAround Normal". Archived from the original on 2009-03-12. 
  8. ^ "FingerPass Normal". Archived from the original on 2009-12-09. 
  9. ^ "Sonic Normal". Archived from the original on 2010-01-23. 
  10. ^ "Charge Normal". Archived from the original on 2009-02-22. 
  11. ^ "Hybrid". Universal Pen Spinning Board. Retrieved 2014-12-09. 

External links[edit]