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Poi spinning originated in New Zealand. The history is a little vague but it seems to come from the art of making soup (poi). Ingredients were spun on strings and pounded against rocks. Poi spinning extended out though Asia and polynesia slowly. The first fire poi may have happened in Hawaii shortly after the first fire knife act returned there in 1947. Certainly, fire poi was well established there by the time of the tourism boom in the early 60s. A trail of laws indicates that fire poi spread out from there, starting at the pacific rim, then to metro centers beyond.
The basic construction of poi involves handles, chains, and wicks. Poi handles have a dazzling array of options from wood balls, loop straps, leather palm mounts, handles, to rings. Chains vary from standard metal links to ball chain, so long as they’re fire proof, and preferably have spin relief. Fire poi wicks have come in a broad array of materials. Cotton or wool cloth was popular at first, but these wicks get destroyed in short order. Asbestos became popular for a while as it lasted much longer. Modern wicks tend to favor kevlar strapping, and some use other high heat materials.

The North American Fire Arts Association