Pen spinning

From Academic Kids

Pen spinning is the recreational activity of using one's fingers to manipulate a pen in aesthetically pleasing ways. This is done through the (hopefully seamless) combination of various tricks.

Sometimes pen spinning is classified as a sub-discipline of the contact juggling field. However, pen spinning may also include actions that are outside of the scope of contact juggling, such as toss of the pen. Although this discipline is still a growing field in the juggling world, its fast-growth popularity can be attributed to the fact that Pen Spinning can be conveniently performed in virtually any location, as long as a pen is available. What used to be thought as a 'shameful' activity enjoyed by students is now a global phenomenon and an amazing past time. It is particularly popular amoung American high-school and college students involved in forensic activities such as debate or speech.

A single trick in pen spinning might be balancing the pen on one's thumb as it spins several times, or weaving it between one's fingers in a circular motion. A combination of tricks is generally defined to be the linkage of 2 or more tricks in any sequence. Currently, pen spinning tricks number no fewer than 100. Single tricks are usually short in length. The easiest tricks can usually be learned within several hours, but it's not abnormal to hear that some of the most advanced tricks require several months to learn. The linkage of various individual tricks into longer sequences is considered to be more aesthetically pleasing, and its mastery is something what most Pen Spinners would strive for.

This pastime is also supposedly referred to as "rounin mawashi" in Japan, allegedly because pen spinning is more prevalent among "rounins", or high-school graduates who take a year off in order to study by him/herself in preparation for university exams.


The Four Fundamental Tricks

A seasoned pen spinner usually has mastery/significant competence in what are considered the 4 fundamental pen tricks - by no coincidence, these are probably also the most well-known tricks.


As the name suggests, the ThumbAround is performed by pushing a pen by one's forefinger so to initiate the pen to spin around one's thumb a single time, then catching it in the same position as the opening position, which is between the thumb and forefinger. This one is popular due to how simply it can be performed.


The FingerPass involves rotating the pen through the four fingers of the hand, ideally without the use of the thumb for balancing. When executed properly, the pen should move in a single direction, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, without stoppage in between. This trick is probably the flashiest of the four fundamentals when performed at high speed..

To see an example of the FingerPass, one can watch 007: Goldeneye to see Boris FingerPass the pen.


The Sonic is a very common trick. The idea behind this trick 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. The trick starts when the pen is moved in the same fashion as the Charge (as described below). When about one-half of a revolution of the Charge is performed, the middle finger bends so that the pen travels on the back of the hand for a moment. Finally the index finger is stretched so to avoid the pen from falling away during the catching of the pen. As this trick can be executed in very short time, its name is derived from the famous video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog, which is known for its speed.


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. Drummers commonly perform this trick, except with drumsticks.

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