The Sochi 2014 Olympics proceeds, to the attention of the world; but, in a small and unabashed corner of the internet, another global competition rages – the Pen Spinning World Cup 2014. With teams from 10 countries competing, the tournament is one of pen spinning community’s largest group events.
Yeah, this is a real thing.
Each of the five rounds of the tournament is comprised of three battles: two singles (1v1) and one double (2v2). The single matches are separated into two themes: artistic and technical. Videos of the pen spinning are uploaded, and judges evaluate them based on five criteria: execution, difficulty, creativity, presentation, and theme. The tournament will be completed at the end of May.
February 2014: Round 1, Group A, HAL from Team JEB wins against a battle in the “artistic” category
You’ve probably seen pen spinning in class, or have even done them yourself. Pen spinning, also known as “pen tricks”, is the art form of twirling and manipulating a pen, though its teenage practitioners almost exclusively spin custom “mods” with no writing utility, optimized for weight and balance.
Motivated by competition and artistic innovation, pen spinners carry their “sport” to skill levels ludicrous to the unpracticed eye. The pen passes, rolls, and spins across the hand and between the fingers. There exist “fingerless” tricks that exclusively use wrist and palm movements, and some pen spinners have even experimented doing tricks with their feet.
Do you think this would fall under the “summer” or “winter” Olympics?
While the precise origin and history of pen spinning is unknown, the first record of pen-spinning comes from a student in pre-World War II Japan. The activity became popular in the 1970s, and after the advent of the internet, blew up due to the ability for pen spinners to discuss their craft on forums and share videos. As a result, pen spinning clubs have formed in the Philippines, and live tournaments are conducted in Japan and South Korea. Businesses have attempted to capitalize on the custom-pen market.
Asia retains the largest communities of pen spinners; South Korea alone has over 300,000 spinners. On the forum UPSB (Ultimate Pen Spinning Board), one thread discusses the connection between Asian ethnicity and pen spinning. The obvious answer is that pen spinning originated in Asia; hence, most pen spinners and “pros” are Asian. But there may also be specific cultural reasons why pen spinning took place in Asia. Forum member Eso observed that when he spun in public, Asian youth expressed a particular curiosity. He argued that “most Westerners aren’t accepting toward activities that are seemingly useless,” assuming that Western culture privileges utility and pragmatism over aesthetics.
What do you mean by “double” in pen-spinning? Kay and ACT show how it’s done.
Tofu, a forum member from Hong Kong, attributes the strength of Asian pen spinners to their dexterity developed through playing instruments, a sentiment that has also been expressed in the context of Asians and urban dance. However, in the end, most all agree that the skill of Asians in the pen-spinning world has less to do with cultural heritages, and more to do with the fact that most pen spinners are Asian.
But who knows: with teams from Germany, Poland, and the United States competing for the Pen Spinning World Cup, perhaps it’s only a matter of months before non-Asians take home e-fame gold.