I’ve researched into the game’s past and found something different from the experience of the ring that I know. The history on the web is missing chapters, it is certainly missing my story. At Sling True, I’m dedicated to putting the whole ring story together. For now, I’m at least here to share how my part of the tale.
A Wonder Ring Story | Part 1
Playing the ring outside on a sunny day with bare feet and music is one of my main loves in life. Take away the music and there is my meditation-thought time. Take away the sun and there is the ring itself shining it's resonance and sound into space. This game has become something beyond my dreams.
Over time, the game took me to greater levels of skill and enjoyment. Now, my dedication to the game has lead me to high peaks and ancient courts in a prime time in my life.
The game has brought me far. It has taken me through so many moments, experiences and thoughts. It’s been somewhat of a long road, it starts in dense unknown forests and comes out to sweeping views with clear understanding.
My story starts in the summer of 1999. I was young and little was the time past since this game experienced a mid to late 90's peak in Hawaii and Japan. I was at a summer camp when a counselor introduced me to a trick ring. I would not be able to put a name to this ring until nearly a decade later.
It was a day like any other, a sunny day as a youth on a forested island at camp Kooch-i-Ching on Rainy Lake.
We were outdoors in Northern Minnesota, surrounded by the smells of pine and northern air. Counselor Brian let me and a friend borrow his ring game. He showed us how to start the ring just outside cabin 12.
All he knew was the slap start, the crudest of methods, but it got the beads going. With ring in hand, the two of us went on our own to a midpoint between a few cabins, it was there that a new world opened before us. We could start this special ring, keep it going and toss it to one another. We took turns passing it and developed some consistency. Our playing advanced a level when tricks entered into the scene.
We could do a flip! I think I was the first to hit a double! Wow it was great right then and there. We could hold it sideways and keep it going. Round and round we worked on our ability to start it reliably. We held on to that ring the best we could, trying not to drop it. We did a flip pass and held it in reverse.
It was an exciting time! We didn't know it was called. I guess we knew all we needed to know, it was the ring and it was one of the coolest things that ever existed!
Later on that day we went on an evening canoe trip to have dinner on the far side of the island. We asked Counselor Brian if we could bring the ring on the excursion. He told us yes and that we were to take good care of it.
We were stoked and when we broke it out for the other kids, everyone was interested. It was late afternoon and we were standing on a glacier carved rock of the Canadian shield. We had a fire on the side and a nice flat place to play. I think everyone tried it. At that point I was hitting double flips consistently and came up with a turning roll on a vertical axis.
We also figured out how to turn the ring and reverse its direction. By the end of the evening we were passing reverse flips and we had gotten really far without training, but without training we hadn’t gotten past the slap start, which left us with rattled hands.
We learned from Counselor Brian that he didn't know what the ring was called. Someone gave it to him and he did not know more.
This was near the end of the camp season. And we only had a few days to play before everyone went home. So I left without a ring, but I left with the obvious goal of finding one when I got home. Thus began my search for the ring.
The search was long. The best I came across was a plastic bead version my Dad found in Australia, but it couldn’t do tricks. I checked toy stores for years and my search provided nothing.
It turns out, I had actually glimpsed a ring a couple years before in an airport. I recall it was two Japanese kids playing and it was awesome. I don't remember asking them if I could play but I enjoyed watching them' or something.
So after a while, I put this missing piece of my childhood on a back shelf in my mind. I stopped searching by the end of high school. I picked up a similar skill game, called footbag and began distance running.
Now let’s jump ahead, to college. The ring was still in my mind. It seemed a slim to impossible chance of finding one now.
I was studying at Indiana University at the Bloomington campus and I was stuck resting a sore back on a couch. It was truly a couch story, instead of a ring story. Too much running, too much footbag, too much bad posture. My back was so sore I could hardly walk to class.
I could not run or play footbag and I was desperate for a physical exercise. Something surged inside me. I decided to search the internet to see if I could dig up a trick ring just like the one I had played. I searched google… “ring with washers”, and I remembered “brass washers”. Yes, that was it!
That’s what I knew and I looked through the search results, page after page. I looked and looked. Page 3, page 8, page 12! About 25 minutes later I found the search term that would change my life, GYRO RING.
I found a site that was offering what looked like the exact ring I was playing with many years earlier. I called up the owner and negotiated for a bulk purchase of 10 rings.
That would be the last time I would see the classic Gyro Ring - Pro Edition available anywhere. It was essential that I ended up with a ring that could excel in performance as I continued practicing. The Gryo Ring Pros were noisy in the beginning but eventually settled out. The particular batch I had was particularly good because they stayed extremely round, with many drops over the years.
My excitement for this batch to arrive was immense! When the rings finally arrived, there they were, the (OG) Gyro Ring Pros, the knurl pattern of the beads glimmered! The welds were uniform and the stainless was curved into nice circles. This was a good batch of rings and lucky for me they offered the potential for high level tricks and the fast play that my style would evolve into. I gave them out to my friends and my brother, holding on to three for myself.
It was on! This is when I started playing and the atmosphere was great. I was so relieved that I found the rings I had been dreaming of and new tricks immediately came that first time I played.
I made my first trick video 5 days into the experience. I was throwing down Arm Overs and crazy tricks like Arm Through Flying Saucer. It was a hit in my college self world and many of my friends picked it up too.
I was off the couch, active again and feeling like I was actually recovering from what had been two months of soreness.
I began training the ring consistently from that spring into summer. This became a special summer of travel as I adventured to Alaska and left for a six month semester abroad in Australia.
I kept practicing in Australia and brought all three of my rings so I could share them with the people I met. I trained ring, wood staff and footbag simultaneously to give me a set of well rounded skills. The wood staff practice greatly evolved my style of tossing the ring over my shoulder and catching it behind my back (ArmOvers). Playing Footbag allowed me to experience the exhilaration of doing back to back tricks and completely influenced my leg and over the neck tricks (ducking and diving moves).
I didn’t record much footage in Australia because it seemed as if I was in a perpetual place of training and learning how to do tricks for the first time. It’s also important to mention that I didn’t have anyone guiding me, so I was always innovating and I wasn’t that talented at the ring back then. I was a novice without a guide and I didn’t spend as much time playing as I usually do now. Some footage has survived and the skills I learned in that time became the foundation for the next years to come, until I completely rethought the game some years later.
Most of the Australian people I played with knew of the game and called it Chatter Ring. It was a new term for me and frankly, I didn’t favor because it emphasized a polarizing issue, that of the sound of the game which can be pleasant or painful. The rings made in the 90’s era were especially loud and presented an almost horrifying level of sound, sharp to the ear. Back then, I often times played with earplugs before my rings broke in sufficiently.
From Australia I returned to Christmas in Ohio and it was that start of a new year. I made it back to school in Indiana, and I showed off new moves to friends who were amazed. I realized that my performance had a twofold result when viewed by others. On the one hand it was cool to get praise but on the other hand I noticed that the ease at which I played made it intimidating to try because once one person in a group tried, then everyone realized how hard it was.
A huge obstacle really started standing out like a sore thumb. The original Jitter, Gyro and Chatter Rings left tons of black dust on player’s hands. This was a ridiculous aspect of the game in that time.
I played ring and kept up with footbag. My skills began to take shape and I innovated what would be my first set of tricks, 50 possible tricks that I came up with for the game. Before leaving Indiana University I made a few ring videos to demonstrate my first set of tricks and how to start the ring. Those were part of a series that went up as my first public videos on YouTube. I put up Gyro Ring Tricks Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
I moved back to Cincinnati and got deep into video production and website design. I made short films about Australia and kept practicing the ring. Then, out of the blue, Fascinations of Washington, maker of the Gyro Ring Pro, contacts me to say they saw my youtube videos. They invited me to present the Gyro Ring at the 2008 New York Toy Fair.
I did the gig, but I was amazed how the quality of the product had gone down from the batch I had been playing with. People at the Toy Fair could start my rings, but couldn't start the ones being offered.
I discussed this with the owner of Fascinations and some of their top management and showed them my list of tricks and they kinda shrugged. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to get a sponsorship from them and their product quality wasn’t going to improve. It was a bummer.
I returned to Cincinnati with a mission that I was going to have to do this on my own.
That summer I made a pilgrimage back to camp Kooch-I-Ching and I inspired a whole new group of kids with the game. I was left energized, ready to take on the path of the ring. I was ready to get out of the Midwest. That place became Oregon. This is where the next chapter begins.
My story continues through a vital time in my life. Really I grew up with this game. In my childhood I dreamed of it, and in my 20’s I unfolded the dream and discovered a hidden potential, luckily coming at a time when my body was in it’s best form.
This is the environment that Sling True was born in. I was pushed to actualize the leading edge of the game I at first could only glimpse. It was a time brimming with epiphany and wonder. And there was the ring, one of several constants that kept me focused and passionate about doing good in life. It became clear that learning the game was worth spending time on and I started to see the impact I could make if I could teach the lessons I had encountered along the way.
One of the lessons I think we all learn in our 20’s is that living a good life isn’t so easy. With all that energy and so much newness, what are you going to do that will last? That was a question I asked myself. I spent this time learning about the ring and ended up with an exercise that my mind and body could thrive in. I’m unique in the way I’ve played the game and it was through all the training and efforts to expand it beyond my original ideas that really taught me important life lessons and self worth.
I found what I was looking for. There were crushing moments and I established myself anew every time. I battled many opposing factors. I came out alive. I came out better than ever. From 23 onwards I entered into the stewardship of the ring. This is the story that became my own legend.
The pursuit of the ring game has been a pursuit of my own artistic wave. Along the way Sling True took shape which clarified the impact I could make on this game. Now, I know that everyone should follow their own wave. This will bring you to unimaginable places. At the end of the day you have to be that artist and that ridden.
Sling True began on the principle of mapping out the game and making a creative space for the the wonder ring. It is a mission to unlock the potential of the ring by elaborating the aspects and disciplines that support it as a sport and a mindfulness activity.
My story continues as does yours. I’m here to play for Sling True and teach how to play the game. All of our rings are made to reach the highest levels of play. I hope you enjoy all the resources that are here for you to learn.
I'm here to make sure no one has to go through what I did. I'm here to make sure kids and adults have access to great rings to play with! It's important to have the opportunity to do something tangible that challenges you to grow new abilities. It’s a way to take a break from our phones, screens and internet. I’m here with this game that can open up your mind and body.