Holding two sticks attached with a string, spinning rapidly on the string transforming the lifeless diabolo bell into a “fairy” that flies in the air and walking on the string guided by the precise control of a player is eye-catching.
Khooney Tan, a Han Chiang University College of Communication (HCUC)’s broadcasting student who has nine years of experience playing diabolo discovered the activity when he was choosing an extra co-curricular club in Year Four of his primary school. During that time, he did not plan to join the Diabolo Club but was forced by his teacher as other clubs had full membership.
He gave the Diabolo Club a try and unexpectedly fell in love with the game that has continued until today. Diabolo is a part of his life now and he spends most of his spare time sharpening the skills of playing diabolo.
What is so magical about diabolo that could have grasped his interest? He explained, his first impression towards diabolo was it is an old-fashion traditional game. After playing it for a few times, he realised that diabolo can be performed in various ways which can be seen today.
Aside from the traditional approach, diabolo can be performed in a new way by playing different songs to create different atmospheres. Tan said the movement and performance of diabolo are diverse which makes the game more interesting and not boring as his earlier perception.
“Even if you have finished learning all the tricks taught by the coach, there is always room to learn new tricks from other players or creating your own tricks,” Tan said.
However, diabolo is not a game that can be easily mastered. Playing diabolo requires a lot of time and patience when the player is learning new tricks of the game as it becomes more challenging after learning the basics.
“The current trend of playing diabolo is the increasing amount of diabolo bells played at once. There are some overseas players that can play five diabolo bells at the same time which requires a few months or years of practice to be that skillful.
“Regardless of the amount of the diabolo bells, the player needs a lot of attention to control carefully every bell when they are playing the game,” he said
Moreover, allocating sufficient time to train oneself to master diabolo is yet another challenge for the players or performers. Tan relayed an unforgettable memory of him playing diabolo when he and his partner needed to film a video for a competition, since there were many mistakes made during the shooting, it caused them to finish shooting the video around 3 am.
“I have taken months of time to practice and be skillful in a diabolo game. During the process, I have failed thousands of times to the extent of feeling frustrated and wanting to give up.
“When I succeeded in learning the trick, the sense of accomplishment made me forget the frustrated feeling and appreciated the effort I had invested in the game worthwhile,” Tan said
After graduating from elementary school, Tan participated in the Penang MinYi Diabolo Team as his high school did not have a diabolo club. He and the team members had practised and went to various places to perform, helping the club members to gain new experiences from the many performances.
Khoon’s first international competition was the Diabolo Malaysia Open Competition 2018 and he successfully secured third place in the local individual performance category. He became more assured of himself and participated in the competition again in the following year. He managed to attain the sixth place in the international male individual performance category.
Tan has also become one of the assistant coaches in the Penang MinYi Diabolo Team and helps to coach elementary school and high school students in Penang to enable them to know more about the traditional game.
In addition, Tan emphasises persistency when playing diabolo. He said it is difficult to find other diabolo players to practice with.
“If I had practised by myself throughout my diabolo journey, I may have given up but I am grateful that I have a group of friends and team members to accompany me during the practices,” he said.
Tan wishes that in the future, whether he continues being a coach or performer, diabolo shall be with him. He wishes everyone would support the diabolo culture so that it can be developed and known widely across Malaysia.