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A form of fire-dancing in which fuel-soaked wicks on the end of chains or cables are set aflame, and swung in circles around the body. This sort of movement originated with Maori people in New Zealand, and is called poi there.

A very large variety of moves have been devised, with names like the full spider, half spider, butterfly, hula, sidewinder, open spider, etc. These are names used by fire spinners in Austin, Texas; performers as close as Dallas may have entirely different names for the same moves. Many of these moves come in both forwards and backwards versions.

Please also see fire spinning chains.

Learning how to spin fire:

If you want to learn to spin fire, the best thing (actually, really the only thing!) to do is to find someone who already knows how and work with them. Some things to keep in mind:

  • One never starts out working directly with fire. Always practice any new move without fire until you are absolutely steady and comfortable with it. Even accomplished fire spinners spend plenty of time practicing without fire. Many of us have a separate set of practice chains that are similar in length and weight to our fire chains, but are never soaked in fuel and lit. Instead of wicks on the ends of the chains, sometimes practice chains will use bean bags, beanie babies, koosh balls, or some other weighted, but non-painful object. After all, since you are going to be trying new tricks with these, you don't want them to hurt when they whack into your face. See fire spinning chains for instructions on how to make your own set of chains.
  • If you are ready to try it with fire, don't do it unless there is another person there who has fire spinning experience who can be your fire safety person. Make sure you are in an area free of tall or dry vegetation. Concrete or asphalt is nice. Your buddy will have a bucket of water close by, and one or more towels that have been water-soaked. If you catch your hair or clothes on fire, your friend will approach you with the towel and put you out.
  • Wear clothing which won't easily burn. Cotton or leather is nice in this regard -- you can brush a flaming wick against it an it won't catch on fire. Many synthetic fabrics will readily ignite or even melt onto your skin -- bad, bad, bad.
  • Spinning fire naked is not all that bad of an idea, but it's still a good idea to keep the hairy parts covered. If a flaming wick brushes skin that is not particularly hirsute, you will likely escape with only a soot mark. If you thwack yourself hard with it, you might get a little burn. If you accidentally wrap your chains around an appendage, you could get a nasty burn.
  • Don't use gasoline; it burns much too quickly and can explode. People have different fuel preferences: Some like lamp oil (burns slowly for a long time); some like white gas (camping fuel); some like to mix the two; others like kerosene. Non-volatile slow-burning fuels are good. Keep your fuel containers well away from the area where you have flame.
  • There is a web site that has some little QuickTime videos showing some spinning moves:

    There are other resources available there that might be helpful.

Enjoy, and be careful out there.

Performance/Practice Poi and how to make them

The most common type of performance poi are made in the following way;

Another type of performance poi are windsock poi.

You will need:


To make performance poi you need 3 seperate parts per poi, they are;

  • Finger loops, or some other comfortable way of holding the poi, split rings and metal hoops are common handles. Finger loops come in 3 main variations, single loop, double loop and triple loop. Single loops can be folded over to make self-tightening double loops.
  • The poi, which is a string and weight (in this case a tennis ball). The string and weight have fishing swivels attached to the length of he string to stop the string and streamer from tangling as easily.
  • The streamer. This is commonly made from ripstop nylon, although other materials such as Satin or Silk. Construction consists of attaching a length of material to the weight. The material should taper towards the end.

Finger Loops

In this section I will explain how to make a double loop, a single loop is pretty self explanatory and the triple loop is worth bothering with.

  • Take the 2cm by 50cm piece of material (for this example I will pretend that it is a Nylon strap, such as the ones I used to make these with).
  • Cut it in half so you have 2 pieces that are 25cm long.
  • Fold one of these in half and place a split ring against the mid-point fold.
  • Take both of the loose ends of the nylon strapping and fold them in towards each other. Keep pushing the ends towards the fold, until they are just above the split ring.
  • Now you need to use the electrical tape to hold this together whilst you sew it up.
  • At about 1cm to 2cm up from the fold where the split ring is, is where you should sew across to hold the 4 layers of material together. I recommend using too much thread.

  •  |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |    Fold the two side bits
     |     |    in towards each other.
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     |     |
     /-\ /-\
     | | | |
     | | | |
     | | | |   Fingers go in looped bits "/-\" signifies the top of a loop.
     | | | |   
    --------- The dotted line shows where to sew. 
     | | | |   
     \_____/   The split ring goes at the bottom, signified by "\_____/"
  • There you go, you've made one finger loop, now make the other.

Note: Some people count a triple loop as being 2 finger loops attached to a wrist brace, this is possibly the best way to use poi safely but isn't really necessary for anything other than fire-poi

The Poi

Note: All measurements are approximate and are totally down to individual preference. In fact that goes for this entire write-up.

Basically poi are just weights attached to strings, so lets do that. However because we can we'll add some extra bits. Oh and there are dozens of ways of doing this I'm just suggesting what I consider to be a simple one.

  • Take 1 tennis ball and punch a hole in it, I recommend a scaple as these are sharp and tennis balls are quite tough.
  • Now go to the opposite side of the ball from the hole and cut a slit into the ball, I'll let you work out how large. Try not to cut the ball in half though ;)
  • Now Take your length of string (or whatever) and hold one end in your hand. Hold your hand/arm out to the side of you and with your other arm measure a length of string to your armpit
  •     O
      O = Head
      A = Armpit
      H = Hand
  • Cut the string to that length. Do the same again for the other arm, or just use the bit you've just cut as a template.
  • Feed the string through the hole you have made in your tennis ball and pull it out through the slit.
  • Take one of your split rings and tie the end of the string that comes through the slit in the tennis ball around it.
  • Pull the string back through the tennis ball so that the split ring gets stuck against the inside of the tennis ball.
  • w00+ ball on a string.
  • If you are using Nylon string you can use a lighter or other flame/hot object to melt the end so that it does not fray. Handy ;)
  • Cut the string about 10cm up from the tennis ball and tie the two loose ends to one of your fishing swivels, this will reduce the effects of the string twisting upon itself.
  • Take another fishing swivel and attach that to the 1 remaining loose end (handle end, not ball end) of string for that poi.
  • Connect the finger loops split ring to the swivel at the end of the poi.
  • TA DA, you've made some poi!
  • Repeat process for second poi :p

The Streamer

As with every other stage of this process all aspects can be adjusted to suit individual, skill/patience/preferences/available materials.

  • Take 2 matching shapes of material which when sewn together (leaving 1 side un-sewn) will be able to fit a tennis ball.
  • Sew them together.
  • Cut a hole in the middle of 1 of them.
  • Feed the from the inside of the hole to the outside, leaving the tennis ball inside the material.
  • Sew the remaining side up.
  • Take a long piece of material and make one end the same width as the 'bag' around the tennis ball and make the other end thinner, this is called tapering.
  • Sew the long piece of material to the bag.
  • Repeat process.
  • Game Over

Note: Streamers can have multiple layers of material sewn next to or on top of one another, this makes it even prettier.


Disclaimer & Thanks: This information has been aquired by me(dub) and written up be me (dub) but has been learned from various different Poi and fire spinning websites, as well as people that I have met that also have an interest in playing with toys and fire.

So Thanks to the Home of Poi website (http://www.homeofpoi.com), Pete (aka Brashie), Max (aka Tennis) and my Mum for teaching me how to sew ;)

I feel this node should be expanded on.

Fire Spinning has evolved into more than just poi. There are fans, staff, sword, helio and dragon staffs, snakes, hoops, eating, breathing, and that is just a few.

It first should be said that fire spinning is dangerous and stupid. You should not do it. That being said, I do it and love it. Coincidentally, I also teach safety classes on it. That will be another node some day.

If you are going to do it, do not do it alone, and do it sober.

Fuel - The other write ups are correct - do NOT use gasoline. White gas, also known as camp fuel, is ideal. It evaporates quickly, burns relatively cleanly, and is not quite as volatile as gasoline. Relatively speaking. In some countries you can not get it, so kerosene is used. This is not the worst fuel, but it's oily, smoky, and very dirty. Sometimes lamp oil (paraffin) is mixed with the white gas to help props with smaller wicks burn longer.

Props - There is a huge variety of props out there - you name it, you can find it. Within the prop category is yet more variety. Size, design, and amount of wick varies dramatically. It seems that performers who prefer more tech heavy trick like smaller, lighter, easier to manipulate props, and folks like myself who may not excel at fancy tricks go for bigger, flashier props.

Movement - This is probably one of the hardest parts about spinning, if you are not a dancer to begin with. People who have studied martial arts also seem to translate the movement effectively to fire spinning. For those of us not blessed with grace, you have to practice. Not just the moving part, but also attempting to let go of being self conscious. One of the best classes I ever took was called "Dancing with your props" and spoke a lot about not relying on your feet and props alone, but allowing other body parts to "lead" and letting your flaming prop and feet follow. It made a huge difference in my comfort level with not just moving, but with my body in general.

Clothing - also mentioned in the other write-up, stick with natural fibers. Cotton, leather, wool, silk, and your own skin truly are the best options. Primarily because they do not melt and take some time to actually catch on fire, giving your safety time to put you out in the event of a significant fuel/flame transfer. Anything plastic based (polyester, nylon, etc) will melt into your flesh if there is a significant fire accident. That will result in a trip to the E.R. and a fair amount of horrific scrubbing as the clinicians remove the melted debris from your body.

Practice - This is actually the most important piece - short of NEVER SPIN ALONE. Practice with your props a LOT, long before you actually burn them. Get familiar with them, their parts, the space you need to safely maneuver them, and so on. This will go a long ways to ensuring your first burn is not just successful, but satisfying.

If you really want to learn to do this, find a local flow group or teacher. It really is something best learned with a hands on approach and with experienced people. This way not only with you (hopefully) learn to do it safely, but you will be with folks who stay calm if something does go wrong, who can handle it quickly before anyone gets hurt. You will, eventually, get burned sometimes. It happens, but do everything you can to prevent it.

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