Pen spinning

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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. [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 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".


The 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. Words that define direction/how the move is performed are usually shortened. The 3 words that get shortened are "reverse" to "rev", "inverse" to "inv" and "fingerless" to "fl", the shortened versions are sometimes followed by a period/".". (E.g. reverse sonic is changed to rev. sonic and inverse shadow is changed to inv. shadow.)

Names of tricks are sometimes shortened or abbreviated. For example, the modifier "Fingerless" is often abbreviated to "FL" while the tricks "Thumbaround" and "Indexaround" are often abbreviated to "TA" and "IA".


Breakdowns are annotations of links (a mix of a few tricks) and combos (combinations of links) which are used to define how a link or combo is performed. When moves are defined on where it is performed, spinners use the finger slots to help them; they write the trick first, the slot it starts at and a "-" after, and the slot the trick ends at (exempli gratia Sonic 23-12). When writing breakdowns, spinners usually follow two standard structures. The 1st structure is normally Direction (Rev) then "how" (Inv, FL), the trick name, and the slots it is in (exempli gratia Rev Inv Sonic 12-23). The 2nd structure is similar to the 1st one however, the "how" is written first, then the trick name is written, then the abbreviated notations and then the slots (exempli gratia Inv Sonic Rev 12-23). While many spinners write their breakdowns in these formats, they are not strictly necessary and are often deviated from.

Fundamental tricks[edit]

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


Photograph of a Thumbaround.

The "ThumbAround" (previously known as "360 Degrees Normal") is performed by pushing a pen by one's middle finger (the index finger is also used to make it look smoother in a combination of moves) so to initiate the pen to spin around one's thumb a single time, then catching it in between the thumb and index finger. There are many variations, but one used most often for combinations uses just momentum and only a rotation around the thumb with a jerk of the hand or a push with the middle finger. To do this the 1st finger is put on the eraser, the 3rd finger near the middle, and the thumb in between. Pressure is then added on the pencil/pen with the thumb.[4] This is most easily done with pens and pencils with a center of mass nearer to the writing tip, such as mechanical pencils and cheap disposable pens. This trick is most popular with debators.

FingerPass/ passing[edit]

The "Pass" involves spinning the pen through the fingers. A combination of Passes are called FingerPasses. 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.[5]


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 this trick, the pen is normally held between the middle and ring fingers (but could be performed with other fingers using mapping) and is moved so that it ends up between the middle and index. The move is done by revolving the pen in a conic-like motion behind a finger (or fingers). As this trick can be executed in a very short amount of time, its name means a supersonic movement.[6]


The Charge does not involve spinning the pen around any fingers or any body parts, rather, the pen is manipulated in such a way with two fingers, that it seems to spin in a very fast motion, in a conic-shaped path. Its conic path and its speed thus create an illusion of the charging motion of the pen. This trick is often performed by drummers using drumsticks rather than pens. It looks like the pen is spinning in the two fingers.[7] Right-handed people performing this trick would mean that the pen is revolving clockwise. If it is going the opposite direction, it is called Charge Reverse.

Advanced Tricks[edit]

In addition to the 4 fundamental tricks, more have been invented and used successfully in combos by numerous people.[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.

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).

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. ^ "ThumbAround Normal". Retrieved January 2010. 
  5. ^ "FingerPass Normal". Retrieved January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sonic Normal". Retrieved January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Charge Normal". Retrieved January 2009. 

External links[edit]