Being able to juggle is one of those skills that seems to fascinate millions of people around the world. While most cultures will immediately think of juggling as the art of keeping objects in the air, there are many other forms of juggling. That most common one, however, is called toss juggling.
Ask around and just about everyone will tell a tale of how they attempted to juggle for the first time in his or her life. It was most likely little more than a comedy routine that didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. In all odds, the person probably dropped more of the objects to the ground than they were able to keep up for more than one toss.
The most common item that people juggle are balls. They can be tennis balls or smaller objects, such as the size of a hackey sack. And for most people who take up juggling in the beginning, three is usually the magic number.
If you can juggle three objects in the air at the same time, then you are well on your way to becoming a bona-fide juggler. If you haven’t quite mastered this art of juggling, however, the tricks of the trade are really not all that complicated. It just takes some coordination, timing, and practice. Oh, yes, and a little bit of patience will go a long way toward successfully juggling.
Learning To Juggle
Here’s what beginners need to know to master a basic juggling pattern. First, find three items that are approximately the same size and weight. These could be balls, bean bags, oranges, apples or something else. These are called props in juggling jargon.
Find a roomy place to practice your new hobby. Much space is needed, especially at first, because you’ll undoubtedly drop your props frequently. But your skills will improve with practice.
Throw one prop back and forth between both hands at eye level. You’ll soon notice that one of your hands is more adept at tossing and catching. This is your dominant hand. The other is called your subordinate hand.
Now hold a prop in each hand and practice tossing them back and forth between your subordinate and dominant hands. Just prior to catching the ball in your dominant hand, try tossing the other prop you’re holding back. You may have to alter your stance if you find yourself moving your feet to be able to catch the prop.
Now hold one prop in your dominant hand and two props in your subordinate hand. Toss one of the props in your subordinate hand to your dominant hand. When you catch the returned prop, toss the remaining prop in your subordinate hand back. Keep practicing and you’ll eventually develop a juggling rhythm.
Benefits of juggling
Juggling is a fun hobby that can even earn you a bit of money if you choose to perform your new-found skills before an audience. But juggling offers other benefits, too.
Juggling can help keep you physically fit and mentally alert. Juggling improves eye-hand coordination skills. Learning the art of juggling develops cerebral skills that you’ll use while writing, reading, or playing music and sports.
Juggling also improves your eyes via exercise. Juggling makes your eyes hone in on a “target,” a prop, and smoothly follow that prop. Watching juggling props makes your eye muscles more flexible and enables your eyes to coordinate better.
Where To Learn And Buy Props
The best way to learn juggling is by watching a skilled juggler. Try to find a local juggler who is willing to teach you the art. Park districts sometimes offer juggling classes. Local circuses are another source for learning how to juggle.
Many towns and cities have juggling clubs that will provide lessons for interested beginners. Juggling clubs can be found online or in materials at local libraries. Beginners can also learn to juggle by reading books on the subject. Many online sites teach juggling basics through animated diagrams or instructional videos.
You’ll need props to begin your new hobby. Don’t buy juggling props at magic shops. The props sold there are usually of poor quality and are often unsuitable for serious juggling.
Quality props are sold in juggling stores that are found in many cities. Check out the local phone directories to see if there’s a juggling shop near where you live. Many juggling stores also sell props over the Internet. There are online databases listing juggling stores and their locations.
Making that First Toss
Juggling requires dexterity. That means that if you’re clumsy with objects and have a hard time holding onto things, you are probably going to have significant trouble learning to juggle. Whether or not you have innate and uncanny abilities to grab onto and catch things as they fall, or you can mindlessly toss your house keys around and never let them hit the ground, it’s a good idea to start at the beginning.
Juggling is an art form that offers people from all walks of life the opportunity to try and to see if they enjoy it and whether or not they will be any good at it. While juggling is not like playing an instrument –meaning, there aren’t nearly as many juggling instructors around the world as there are music teachers, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find one.
If you know of anybody that teaches the art of juggling, then you can find out from them how much they charge and whether or not that is something you’re willing to do.
If you prefer to start out on your own, then you might do well to pick up a basic book on juggling. It will show you the steps and the things that you can work on so that you improve your overall balance and dexterity over time. It is possible to improve dexterity with a little practice and some patience.
First things, first, however. If you’re ready to learn how to juggle right now, then find a soft object, something that will fit in the palm of your hand comfortably, and something that has at least enough weight so that the air doesn’t affect the trajectory or path of the object as you toss it.
You don’t need two or three of these objects right now. All you need is one.
First step: toss and catch
When you have this object, then simply toss it lightly in the air and catch it. Make sure that your eyes follow it up and back down into your palm. It may seem silly to do this, but what you’re doing is training your hands to catch something without having to see it directly into your palm.
But you just said to watch it.
Yes, but once you can do this without any issues, then it’s time to look forward, at a point somewhere in the distance. Not too far, mind you. Ideally you should focus on a point somewhere a few feet in front of your face. From here, you will learn to use your peripheral vision.
Jugglers can’t see every single object that is in the air at the same. They have to rely on their peripheral vision which most people take for granted. Athletes in team sports such as soccer and football know a great deal about relying on peripheral vision, as do martial artists.
Peripheral vision allows a person to see more than what the center of their eyes catch and focus on. It takes getting used to, so this single object toss is a great way to develop that knack for using peripheral vision.
When you begin to get used to ‘seeing’ the object rise and fall and are able to catch it on a regular basis, then try to put a book or newspaper in front of you, in a position so that you can still see the object you’re tossing. Read the paper or book while tossing. This will really put your peripheral vision skills to the test.
When you can read –and comprehend and remember what you read- and still successfully toss on object up and down, then begin to move it from one hand to the next. Toss the object back and forth until you are comfortable with relying on your peripheral vision. Then you’re ready to toss two objects in the air.
Adding the Second Object
Everyone wants to jump right in and juggle three or more objects into the air. That’s usually the recipe for failure. After you have the basics down of one toss and still using your peripheral vision, then add a second object. Take an object in each hand and toss it up and down. They should be tossed together to about the same height and caught at about the same time.
This should take some time to get used to, but once you successfully complete this task, then toss the objects to different heights, so that you have to catch them at different times.
After this is done successfully, you’re ready to begin juggling. Still with two objects, but this time you will toss one from its hand toward the other hand. With your receiving hand you will ‘pass’ or hand off the other object, which will be tossed into the air just as the first one was at the same moment that you catch the first one.
All you’re doing here is creating a constant flow of two objects, both in the same direction. When you feel comfortable with that, then try the next two object exercise.
The one-handed toss
Take both objects in one hand. Now, toss the first straight up in the air while holding onto the second. When the first object reaches its apex, or its highest point, then toss the second object straight up in the air. The objects should take a slight arc, or oval direction, moving from a point closer to your body at the toss and then slightly farther away from your body for the catch. Your hand should move a few inches forward to catch and then a few inches back to toss.
This will take a great deal of getting used to, and practice.
It’s best to try this first with your dominant hand. Once you’re comfortable with that, then work on it with your weaker or less-dominant hand. Once you can successfully accomplish this juggling maneuver, believe it or not, you can juggle four objects at once.
That Third Object
When you add that third object to your juggling routine, you will be holding two in one hand and one in the other to start. With the hand that’s holding two objects, toss one into the air toward your other hand. When that first object is reaching its apex, then toss the second object with that receiving hand toward the first hand. When that one is at its apex, you will again toss the object with your first hand toward the second and thus repeating over and over.
After the initial toss, no hand will need to have (or should have) two objects at the same time. In fact, there should only be one object in either hand while juggling three objects.
Congratulations, you’re a juggler.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to take a walk through history and understand where this entertaining art form came into exist and why it continues to thrill and mesmerize today.
Various Juggling Props
Jugglers ply their craft with numerous items, which are called props. Balls are the most common prop. Other commonly used props are bean bags, clubs and rings. Some people also juggle knives, fire torches, hats, cell phones or fruit.
Juggling bowling balls or cannon balls is impressive to an audience due to the extreme weight of these props. Some jugglers have even been known to juggle odd or dangerous props, such as chainsaws.
Balls are juggled with the same technique used for juggling bean bags. Bean bags are an ideal prop for beginning jugglers. The bean bags won’t bounce out of your hand when you try to catch them. Bean bags also won’t roll away should you drop them during practice.
For dramatic impact, some bean bags are equipped with lights. This can be a single red LED light that glows or a microchip that flashes. These glow-in-the-dark bean bags are typically juggled during night-time street performances or on stage at clubs or raves.
Juggling rings, comprised of thin plastic, are typically 12 inches across. Rings are a good prop choice for beginning jugglers who have already learned to skillfully juggle balls.
Rings tend to be lighter and thus are not as tiring to juggle. Due to their smaller cross-section, rings tend to crash into each other less often than balls. Rings can be a good investment for the fledgling juggler because they are reasonably priced and long-lasting.
But rings also have some drawbacks. Wind can make them unpredictable if you’re juggling them outdoors. And jugglers tend to toss rings almost twice as high as balls. So it’s thus harder to keep your throws within a comfortable catching distance. Mistakes can be painful with juggling rings if you catch them wrong or if you trap your fingers between two rings. But beginners will make fewer and less painful mistakes with continued practice.
Rings are typically juggled on stage because they are highly visible for the audience. Different colors on each side, or other decorations, can add dramatic impact to this spectacle.
Some jugglers wield fat rings comprised of hollow plastic. These are about one-half inch thick. These fat rings are softer and thus less painful for beginning jugglers who make mistakes during practice.
Juggling clubs resemble bowling pins. Juggling clubs are made from hollow plastic and come in many sizes and types. Many juggling clubs have a wooden dowel in the center to add some weight and strength. Some clubs have padded handles and many clubs have rubber pads on the ends. Juggling clubs can be decorated in many ways to add dramatic impact for performances.
Painful collisions between your hands and the clubs will often result when you’re first learning to juggle clubs. But practice will lead to fewer mistakes and eventually to no mistakes at all. Learn to catch clubs in the soft part of your hands, rather than the bonier parts.
Gloves are an option for preventing painful bruises when juggling clubs. Choose a fingerless variety of gloves. Biking gloves can be worn for juggling. Select breathable gloves that are light-weight and without much padding.
Knives are a dramatic option for jugglers who are street performers. But beginning jugglers should not try to juggle knives. You must at least master juggling clubs in a basic pattern before stepping up to knives.
The technique for juggling knives mirrors that used for juggling clubs. But knives are a bit heavier, so there are some differences in handling these two different props.
The specialized knives used for juggling are blunt so that you can catch the blade without inflicting too much damage. Even though juggling knives are blunt, they can still cause damage to the eyes if there’s a mishap. And while juggling knives are blunt, they don’t appear to be blunt. The false appearance of sharpness requires jugglers to overcome a natural psychological barrier when juggling knives.
Start by throwing and catching one knife. Practice this maneuver with both your dominant and subordinate hands. Then move to practicing with two knives. Begin with a knife in each hand and throw left to right in a high arc. Then move up to juggling three knives. Start with two knives in your stronger throwing hand when juggling three knives.
Don’t juggle knives near bystanders. Don’t sharpen your juggling knives because that will ruin their balance and increase the risk of injuries. Be sure to periodically tighten the screws on your juggling knives. Don’t polish the handles, but be sure to polish the blades occasionally to keep your juggling knives looking good.
Choose a grassy or other soft location when practicing juggling knives. This gives the knives a soft spot to land if you mistakenly drop them. The blades will bend slightly when dropped, so be sure to bend them back following practice sessions.
Store juggling knives in a soft bag that’s padded with sponge or newspapers to cushion and protect the blades.
Juggling fire torches adds much drama and visual impact drama to a juggler’s performances, especially at night or dusk. But fire torches are definitely not a prop for beginners.
Fire torches resemble juggling clubs. The bell end holds a flame-proof wick that is screwed into or bolted to a metal sheath. The torch is set alight by dunking the wick into fuel, which then burns without damaging the flame-proof wick.
Do not use gasoline or petrol to fuel fire torches. Acceptable fuels for fire torches are kerosene, paraffin, fuel used for Coleman portable stoves, ethyl alcohol or ethanol, aviation fuel, charcoal lighter fuel or even extremely strong vodka.
Tips For Beginning Jugglers
Here’re some tips that will help beginning jugglers improve their fledgling skills:
• Slow the pace at which you toss props into the air if the props are flying in all directions during practice. This allows you added time to control the direction of your toss.
• If the prop repeatedly drops from your hand when you’re trying to catch it, do hand exercises with both hands. This will improve your motor skills and enable you to more quickly close your hand around the prop so that you don’t drop it.
• Practice tossing three props in a similar arc using both your dominant hand and your subordinate hand.
• Practice throwing props using both your dominant and your subordinate hands. First toss the prop leading with your dominant hand. After mastering that maneuver, switch to tossing the prop leading with your subordinate hand.
• Practice juggling outdoors to give yourself more room for comfort and the mistakes that beginners inevitably make before becoming more skilled at their new hobby. Choose a site with plenty of space. A location with grass underfoot is ideal. Do not stand facing toward the sun while juggling.
• Practice tossing the props at various heights. You’ll soon find a height that is most naturally suitable for you.
• It’s important to learn to throw the props close to you. This means you toss the props up rather than out. Juggle something you like to eat, such as chocolates, grapes or marshmallows, to practice this important maneuver. Pretend that you’re tossing the marshmallow, or whatever treats you’re juggling, toward your mouth. Imagine this treat plopping into your mouth. This tasty trick will help you learn to toss props up instead of tossing them outwards.
• Novice jugglers show a tendency to walk forward when practicing but this can be easily remedied. To learn to stand still while juggling, practice juggling while standing in front of a wall or a closet door. Practice juggling without hitting the wall or door with the props. This will soon help you learn to throw the props in front of you rather than throwing the props outwards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can juggling help with other activities?
Of course. Juggling teaches balance and concentration. It requires a certain level of patience and dedication to master and not everyone will be able to, or want, to follow through to the point where they can juggle successfully. However, those individuals who manage to learn to juggle three or more objects at once will tend to have more acute hand to eye coordination.
Are there groups or organizations I can join?
Look around the web or within your own community. Juggling may not be an activity that garners a great deal of media attention, but there are many people who love the art of juggling and some who continue to push the envelope of what can be juggled.
I have a hard time juggling three objects. How do I move from two to three?
Juggling three items at the same time is one of the toughest things for any new, aspiring juggler to manage. The larger the object that you’re trying to juggle, the harder it will be. First, determine if you’re juggling something that you can catch easily enough.
Don’t try to juggling three bowling balls for the first time. Not only is this quite difficult, it can cause significant injury to fingers that could get caught between two balls as you shift them in your hand.
Golf balls make great objects to begin with, but they can cause damage to household items, if you’re not careful. Moving from two to three objects requires a different motion. First, try to simply toss one ball from one hand and catch it in the other without looking directly at the ball (or object). Using your peripheral vision can help to smooth out any wrinkles in your juggling skills and make you better prepared to successfully juggle three objects.
How can I get paid to juggle?
If you are skilled at juggling and believe that you have a routine that’s entertaining and that people would enjoy seeing, then you can contact local promoters to see if they are in need of a new juggling act. If you’ve never performed before, but can get five objects in the air, for example, then you will need to develop an act.
Standing in front of people and just tossing objects around isn’t enough; you need to be a performer and entertain while you juggle. Some people tell jokes. Others juggle dangerous objects. Still others make a comedy routine out of it. Find your niche, develop of strong routine, and before you know it, people will be calling you to join their show.
Juggling is one of the those timeless traditions and art forms that have appealed to adults and children alike. We see a person skillfully juggling and a apart of us simply wants to try it, to see if we could do it. People who can successfully juggle four, five, or even ten objects have polished their skills with many hours, and even years, of dedication and practice. However, the basic concept whether you’re tackling three, four, or more objects, is the same.
Peripheral vision is a key to successful juggling and when you can master your use of your peripheral vision, you can master the age-old art of juggling.