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. 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]


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. Hideaki Kondoh was considered the first pen spinning pioneer in Japan. Kondoh spent 13 years spinning a pen back in the late 1900s and was able to do 24 tricks. Many of those tricks were invented by himself. Today, most people can learn those 24 tricks in a couple months. Now there are more variations and types of tricks, for example the Shadow, the Korean BackAround (Bak), the Twisted Sonic Bust or the PalmSpin. In World Cup 2010, Spinnerpeem showed the world Pun Kan, a trick that he popularised. Today there are hundreds of tricks if you include variations. Many of these tricks are shown on YouTube, but there are still not enough tutorials covering. Spinners nowadays use YouTube's slow-mo feature to understand and learn the trick.

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. However some of these boards are no longer active. To solve this problem the UPSB (Universal Pen Spinning Board) has been created. The language of this pen spinning board is English and so it is accessible to everyone thus making it the largest pen spinning community. In America alone there are probably less than 50 spinners who spin competitively at any given time. Tournaments are organized on the Internet and live tournaments are held in China, Japan, and Korea. The biggest competition held are the World Tournament and World Cup. It is international and anyone associated with a board can request to join and spots are usually given to the most skillful spinner. In World Tournament 2015, many spinners were unsatisfied with the judging system. Some judges were outright biased and scoring between each judges ranged too much. Pen spinning is a subjective sport and there isn't much we can do to satisfy everyone.

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. With the rise of 1p2h, 2p2h, and more, Notation is a bit more complicated and have yet to be officialize. The system you are about to see only works for 1p1h. 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 tricks.[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. Hideaki Kondoh is generally credited with giving the Sonic its name, because of the way the pen would blur in his fingers.[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 following tricks are often considered basic tricks as Power tricks have taken over since they are much harder to perform.


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).

Sonic Hybrids[edit]

The sonic hybrids or sonic variations are just different ways of doing the sonic. The main goal of the sonic is to move the pen from one fingerslot to another and to do that the pen can pass in front or behind the fingers. The most known variations are: – the Twisted Sonic: consist in a charge motion and a pass, – Sonic Rise: the sonic rise consist of two sonic done in a single motion, the first one between 34 and 23, the second one between 23 and 12. – Sonic Fall: Reverse of the sonic rise. It starts from the 12 slot and consist of two reverse sonic executed one after the other.

Power Tricks[edit]

Power tricks are defined differently depending where you are. Power tricks are usually fingerless, ariel, and/or cont. However, French spinners define power tricks as many difficult tricks linked together. They are almost always insanely hard. Arguably, Spinnerpeem is the creator of the power trick style.

Spider Spin to FL TA[edit]

This trick can be started with a thumbaround and with your hand in a devil's horn, you make the pen spin on top of your ring and middle finger while keeping a devil's horn. To keep the trick going, you do a fingerless thumbaround and then back to spider spin. Doing this alone is very hard, however top expert spinners may bump it up into the air while doing this trick. There are also several different spider spin variations that you may do. Most spinner who use this trick are powertrickers. I believe Menowa* of JEB has set the record at 51 revolutions.

Hai Tua[edit]

Spinnerpeem and several other spinner (including Eriror of UPSB) invented this trick. A common trick seen with powertrickers. It is very hard to do continuously and link smoothly. Most spinners who use this trick are powertrickers.

Multiple Bust[edit]

This is another powertrick. It is a very common trick in which most spinners with different style can do even if they are not a powertricker. I believe A13x has set the world record at 600+ revolutions. Most likely, you learn this about 2 minutes

Cont. FL TA[edit]

Continuous FingerLess ThumbAround. This is another common powertrick that most spinners can do. The world record is set by MKSFT of TWPS. It is around 1000+ revolutions.

Pun Kan[edit]

Also known as the arm around. You release the pen into the air and make it go around your arm. This trick was invented by Pyralux, although many think it to be made by Spinnerpeem it was not, however Spinnerpeem largely popularized the trick and the name "Pun Kan". This powertrick is commonly seen cont. only with the best powertrickers as it is extremely hard to execute well.


This trick can be best described as palms up powerpass to air 1.0. Or palms up around to air 1.0. This is another powertrick.

Pun New[edit]

This trick is like a palm spin with arounds. Spinnerpeem also contributed to making this trick.

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. Usually lighter pens are recommended for beginners because they have more momentum while heavier mods such as Buster CYL gives more control but should be used only by advanced spinners that already know most of the tricks and combos.

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]