AskDefine | Define diabolo

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A juggling aparatus consisting of a spool which is whirled and tossed on a string.
  2. Such a spool plus its accompanying string and handsticks.


Extensive Definition

The diabolo (commonly misspelled as diablo and mispronounced dia-BO-lo), formerly also known as "the devil on two sticks") is a juggling prop consisting of a spool which is whirled and tossed on a string tied to two sticks held one in each hand. A huge variety of tricks are possible using the sticks, string, and various body parts. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string.
Diabolos come in different shapes and materials. Diabolos with more weight tend to retain their momentum for longer, whereas small/light diabolos can be thrown higher and are easier to accelerate to high speeds. Rubber diabolos are less prone to breakage. One-sided diabolos are also available but are more difficult to use.


Diabolos evolved from the Chinese yo-yo, which was originally standardized in the 12th century. Chinese yo-yos have a long thin axle, with disc-shaped wheels, while the western diabolo is more cone-shaped.
The diabolo was a favorite toy of physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who was said to be quite good at performing with it. This toy is not to be confused with Maxwell's demon, which is a thought experiment.
Contrary to some opinions, the term "diabolo" was not taken from the Italian word for "devil" - "diavolo" - but was coined by French engineer Gustave Phillipart, who developed the modern diabolo in the early twentieth century, and derived the name from the Greek dia bolo, roughly meaning 'across throw'. Confusion about the provenance of the name may have arisen from the earlier "devil on two sticks", although nowadays this often also refers to another circus-based skill toy, the devil stick.

Basic principles

The most basic act of diabolo manipulation is to cause the spool to spin whilst suspended from the string. This is commonly achieved by dragging the string across the axle in such a way that the friction causes the spool to roll. By repeatedly lifting one of the handsticks (for right handed people, the driving hand is typically the right), the speed can be increased. This method is known as acceleration.
Further increases in speed are obtained by a variety of techniques including:
  • Power whips,
  • Accelerations: Chinese Acceleration, Loop Acceleration......
  • Power Burners,
  • Orbit tricks,
Once speed is built up, the diaboloist then typically performs a routine based on the tricks outlined below. The best diaboloists can work these tricks smoothly into one another and keep the diabolo in a constant motion without having to pause to speed up the spin again. The diabolo will stay balanced as long there is speed.

Fundamental tricks

  • Toss - the first trick everybody learns is to throw the diabolo up and catch it.
  • High Toss - throwing high in the air and catching it.
  • Trapeze (A.K.A Stopover) - Swing diabolo around stick and catch on string.
  • Backside - catching the diabolo using the "bottom" of the string (also known as the darkside).
  • Suicide (Stick release) - To temporarily let go of either stick and then catch it again.
  • Grind - To balance the diabolo on a stick
  • Sun - The diabolo is swung round in a large circle, and will finish with a twist of string above the axle. An anti-sun is done in the opposite direction to undo this twist. There are many different types of sun. This is the most basic kind.
  • Around the leg-The diabolo spins then you put you leg over the string and you send the diabolo in a circle making it go 'around the leg'.
  • Cradle - The line is tangled to form a shape and the diabolo itself is tossed on or in the shape.
  • Orbit - Diabolo is tossed and caught repeatedly to make it go round,
  • Over (bodypart) Orbits (also known as satellites)- Advanced orbits to go around the neck, shoulders or body. Primary arm and leg orbits are considered the easiest.
  • Magic Knot/Knot - The line is tangled in a way it creates an illusion that the Diabolo is jammed. It can be released usually with an upwards toss motion.
  • Elevator (String climb) - The diabolo "climbs" the string, this is done by wrapping the string around the spool and pulling tight so the friction allows the speed of the diabolo to roll it upwards.
  • Coffee Grinder - The diabolo is put on the "backside", then the string looped over the stick so the diabolo appears to be in open string. From there, the diabolo is tossed multiple times over the stick.
  • Umbrella - the diabolo is swung and jerked side to side forming the outline of an umbrella.
  • Spaghetti- A wrap of the string on the left side of the stick and under the diabolo and then a wrap of the string on the right side of the stick and under the diabolo. Essentially, a magic knot.
  • Files- Putting both sticks in the left hand, swinging the diabolo over the finger and back on the string so there is a trapeze-like tangle, and throw the sticks under the finger and catch them again.

Advanced diabolo

There are hundreds of tricks with thousands of variations which fall outside these categories, these are often more difficult and form the "cutting edge" of diabolo modern routines. Some examples are:
  • Genocide - This refers to tricks in which the diabolo leaves the string and is subsequently caught with the string in a suicide.
  • Whip Catch - Diabolo is tossed into air and caught with a whipping motion of the line towards the diabolo.
  • Finger Grind - The diabolo is caught on a finger rather than on a stick.
  • Infinite suicides - A popular trick in which the diabolo appears to be suspended whilst one handstick orbits it, the diabolo can be either wrapped or unwrapped.
  • Slack Whips - The stick/sticks are flicked in such a way that a loop of slack in the string is made, this then passes around the diabolo and/or sticks to attain a range of different string mounts.

Multiple diabolos

Perhaps the most active area of development for diabolo involves tricks with more than one diabolo on a single string. When manipulating multiple diabolos "low", the diabolos orbit continuously on the string in a "shuffle". Shuffles are either synchronous (commonly referred to as "sync"), asynchronous ("async"), or only using the diaboloist's dominant hand, depending on whether the diaboloists hands' movements occur simultaneously or not. Juggling multiple diabolos "high" involves continuously catching and throwing a number of diabolos, with never more than one diabolo on the string at any one time. Diabolists have pushed the number of diabolos juggled at once up to 6 high (although there is some controversy as to whether this counts as the number of catches achieved is so small) and 4 low. Most diabolists, however, stick to using only two or three diabolos at once. The introduction of multiple diabolos on a single string allows for many new moves. Many are applications of one diabolo moves to multiple diabolos.
  • Accelerations - The diabolos are accelerated while they wrapped and the diaboloist dominant hand is pulled up in order to gain speed. 2 other ways of accelerating diabolos are either doing Chinese acceleration or the diabolos are shuffled very fast.
  • Hyperloop/Sprinkler - The diabolos orbit each other inside a closed loop of string.
  • Columns/Mini-columns - Two diabolos are bounced up and down on the string.
  • Siteswap - A notation borrowed from toss juggling in which the diabolos are thrown in different rhythms based on a numeric description.
  • Fan - Two diabolos are spun between the arms in a way which mimics the blades of a fan.
  • Sun - The diabolos are swung in a circle
  • Suicide - Similar to the one diabolo suicides but some tricks are not possible
  • Knots - Similar to one diabolo knots, but both diabolos are wrapped up
  • Stalls - This is where both diabolos are still spinning but not in shuffle. This allows a diaboloist to do a trick with the other.


Another advanced diabolo style, that has been developed in the more recent years and particularly explored further in the last few months is Vertax (Vertical Axis, more commonly known as Excalibur). This is where the diabolo is 'tipped vertical' by means of 'whipping' and is continually spun in this upright state. The person spinning it needs to rotate their body to keep up with the constant whipping action due to the momentum and centrifugal motion at which the diabolo spins. Although the number of tricks seems limited, people are finding more ways to perform with this style, including Vertax genocides, infinite suicides, and many suns, orbits, and satellites. It is also possible to have two diabolos in 1 string in vertax, this feat has been achieved by diabolo duo Tr'espace, and has also been done in the form of a fan, which up to date, can only be seen on YouTube Most of these tricks are accomplished by street performers in competitions, notably the GEDC and the Taipei PEC. Some cut-edge skilled vertax jugglers include the prestigious William (Wei-Liang) Lin (as of 2006, #1 in the world), Hsu (Lin's co-performer), Ryo Yabe (multiple diabolos), Tetsunori Saito, and Higami (a Japanese juggling group), and Jonathan Chen; these jugglers being former (and multiple) winners of these cups. The Sharpe Brothers, Nate and Jacob Sharpe are the first team to pass diabolos while in vertax form. This was first seen during the Circus Smirkus performance and can also be seen on on the 2007 collaboration video.

Contact Diabolo

A rather new style of diabolo that is on the rise lately which is gaining new popularity. It utilizes the diabolo so that it has little or no spin at all. Then it can be caught and passed and manipulated with different parts of the body instead of just the sticks and string. It has new possibilities and new ideas are arising from this.

Loop Diabolo

Instead of having 2 sticks connected by a string the diabolo is manipulated on a loop of string held around the hands, this opens up a variety of new tricks such as suicides, suns, whips, stopovers, trapezes, 2 diabolo's and vertax. Yo-Yo type slack tricks can also be performed in loop.
This link shows a video of a loop diaboloist.


Cirque du Soleil combines diabolos with acrobatics during feature acts in three shows, Quidam, La Nouba, and Saltimbanco.
Circus Smirkus in 2006 presented a duo diabolo act starring Jacob and Nate Sharpe with many advanced tricks including the first double sprinkler pass in a performance as well as some fine 5-diabolo passing.
The diabolo programs of many Chinese schools also provide performances, during the Chinese New Year or towards the end of the school year.


External links

  • Diabolo Primer Created in 1996 by Elia Berteletti, one of the first sites about the diabolo, teaches you the very basic tricks and mechanisms.
  • A revamed website containing user and professional tutorials, integrated forum, user-friendly, with a great design
  • Website hosting hundreds of world class videos, both modern and historical.
  • A forum used by diabolo users from all over the globe, even Donald Grant has made an appearance on it.
  • An xcellent user friendly site with a wide variety of tricks to try
  • A site that shows Chinese yoyo start up tips and video tutorials
diabolo in Bulgarian: Диаболо
diabolo in Catalan: Diàbolo
diabolo in Czech: Diabolo
diabolo in Danish: Djævlespil
diabolo in German: Diabolo (Spielgerät)
diabolo in Spanish: Diábolo
diabolo in French: Diabolo (jonglerie)
diabolo in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Diabolo (joco)
diabolo in Italian: Diablo (attrezzo)
diabolo in Hebrew: דיאבולו
diabolo in Dutch: Diabolo
diabolo in Japanese: ディアボロ
diabolo in Norwegian: Diabolo
diabolo in Polish: Diabolo
diabolo in Portuguese: Diabolo
diabolo in Finnish: Diabolo
diabolo in Swedish: Diabolo
diabolo in Turkish: Diabolo
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