Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How To Be... a Juggler

When I was in high school, I decided one morning that I should be able to juggle. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. It wasn't that I wanted to be able to juggle, just that I thought that I ought to be able to juggle. No, I have no idea why I decided that. At any rate, it was a Saturday morning, and I was at work in the gym at church, but it was a pretty slow day or too early or something, because I only had a couple of kids. They were both just skating, so it didn't leave me with a lot to do other than just be there. Maybe I was just bored, but I don't remember that as having anything to do with my idea of "oughtness" about juggling.

A few tennis balls later, and I was learning to juggle. I worked on it for a few hours until I had it down. Or up. Or around. Or whatever.

Once it was late enough that people my age were crawling out of bed, teenagers began to show up, and I had to actually do some other work; however, my best friend showed up, and I demonstrated my new skill. His response was something like, "That's great, but you're doing it wrong." He took the tennis balls from me and showed me the proper way of doing it, which was not around in a circle like they do it in cartoons. My reaction was something along the lines of, "Well, this is how I'm going to do it," because I wasn't going to go back and try to learn some other way of doing it.

Maybe if I'd had access to Arlee Bird, I would have learned to do it right the first time. What? You didn't know Lee could juggle? Well, now you do. And, due to the miracle of the Internet, something I didn't have back when I was in high school, here he is to tell you how to juggle!

Take it away, Lee! Or something like that...

     It takes a lot of balls to be a juggler.  You've got to learn to throw up and then catch what you've thrown up.  Er, this is not coming out right.   Let's just toss out this opening and let me start again.

     Juggling is an art that incorporates the mental disciplines of math, science, and physics and blends them with the physical disciplines of movement and balance.  Juggling is not difficult if you are willing to focus on what you are doing and then practice.  Once it comes to you it's much like riding a bicycle or something of that nature.

      Want to learn to juggle?   Start by learning the basic three ball cascade pattern.  This is a matter of keeping three objects moving in regular alternating arcs for a sustained period of time.  You must learn to maintain a continued one, two, three waltz rhythm with the three arcs.  A juggling count is very helpful in the beginning.

      The first step is to master one object, preferably a ball or a spherical beanbag, tossed from one hand to the other.   Learn this toss from right to left, then left to right, repeatedly without dropping and keeping the same identical arc each time.  Back and forth, back and forth, until you've perfected the feel of the toss and the catch.

     When the first arc is mastered, then start with a ball in each hand.  Focusing on the arcs, toss the first ball from the right hand.  When that first ball reaches the peak of the arc and begins to descend toss up the ball in the left hand in an equal arc, but not on a collision course with the first.  Repeat over and over until the movement comes naturally.

      As you continue the alternating passing of the two objects between your hands, begin to imagine the third object becoming a part of the pattern.  Now instead of the one-two repetition of throws, think of the one-two-three rhythm with the two objects and one imaginary object.   After the tosses, the hand movements, and the rhythm are ingrained in your mind you can add in the third ball.

      The visualization should have helped, but the actual third object might be intimidating and confusing at first.  The main thing is don't give up and keep that waltz rhythm in your mind.  In the basic juggling pattern your hand and arm movements remain the same and the arcs of the objects should also be repetitive.  Juggling is like music.

      I recommend that you practice over a bed so you don't have to chase balls or bend over too much.  You will be picking up dropped objects a lot at first.  Juggling is good exercise, but in the learning process it might be more exercise than you'd want.  Your focus on the juggling pattern will also be better if you aren't chasing objects all over the room. 

      After you've essentially mastered the basic pattern you will be ready to experiment with more arcs, heights, speeds, and other pattern variations.   And don't forget the essential rule when performing your new skill before an audience:  If  you drop something just keep going and act as though it was meant to be.   Learning the skill of recovery is one of the most essential components in a jugglers bag of tricks.

      Now go learn to juggle!  There are many healthy benefits for mind and body.  You might even be able to pick up a few bucks juggling on the street for tips.


  1. Very cool post! My daughters both got interested in juggling for a short period of time when they were younger, but they didn't stick with it. Alas, it would've been awesome to have jugglers in the family!

    As for myself, I'm way too uncoordinated to ever attempt to catch more than one ball at a time and even that is generally beyond my limited capabilities.

    Anyway, I'm glad Alex mentioned your site because it reminded me to come back over and follow you. I'm not sure if you remember me, but I used to run a blog called, "One Magic Bean Buyer" and I followed you from that...

    So now I'm following from my new blog and it's nice to see you again! :)Happy A-Zing!

  2. I'd be scared of being hit in the face.

  3. Juggling is a rhythm. Yes, I actually know how to juggle! Can't do large objects like pins, but anything about the size of tennis balls.

  4. Strangely I always thought it was something that would be cool to do too.I can't, I'm pretty useless with co-ordination and catching balls! It was fun to read HOW to do it though. Maybe I'll dig out some tennis balls!

  5. I'm always impressed with jugglers. I can't even juggle one ball.

    I'm here thanks to Alex.

  6. My son in law can juggle, he tried to teach a bunch of us, some got it, some didn't, I certainly didn't - I could sometimes get three balls in motion and then I would muddle it. Not easy to do. I'm impressed Lee and Alex can juggle.


  7. I couldn't say why, but juggling freaks me out. Maybe because it reminds me of a circus, which I find pretty disturbing.

  8. I remember having the urge to be able to juggle when I was in school. I want to say we were doing it in gym, but I honestly can't remember for sure. I was pretty good with three balls and if I paid close attention I could keep four going. I'm sure that today, I'd be lucky not to hit myself in the head with them. I love that you taught yourself and you do it your way. I like people who don't follow the norm. :)

  9. So many people start off with the circular motion, or shower as it is called in juggling terminology. I guess it just seems like the natural way to do it. That's why I recommend the mastery of one, then two with the rhythm and pattern visualized, and then go for the three.

    By the way, besides the enhancement of hand/eye coordination, I've heard it suggested that juggling can stave off things like Alzheimer's and keep ones mind youthful and alert. I've known a lot of older jugglers so maybe there's something to that!

    Thanks for the visiting opportunity!

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  10. I can juggle tennis balls pretty well. I learned one day back when I was a card-swiper at our local gym. It was so boring I decided to teach myself. It took the full 8 hours, but I mastered it! Time well spent, right?

  11. My significant other can juggle. He used to be in a performing troupe when he was a kid, juggling and riding unicycles in parades and other events.

    Now he occasionally juggles for my nieces and nephews at their birthday parties.

  12. I've tried Juggling before, but failed. Maybe I'll give it a shot again :)

  13. I've always been fascinated by jugglers. Their minds have to be geared very differently than mine to keep objects from obeying gravity. I can toss one ball in the air repeatedly and that's about it.

  14. I can juggle a bit, nothing more complicated than 3 balls or spherical fruits. I'd really like to do more though. 4, 5, 6 balls. Then I'd feel like its something I could brag about.

  15. I'm not dextrous enough to juggle. I think my man boobs get in the way.

  16. Oh, wow. I thought the same thing about water skiing...without the double ententes, ha ha.

    CD Coffelt ponders at Spirit Called
    And critiques at UnicornBell

  17. I've tried, I really have. I'm just not coordinated, and I have a fused right wrist that most of the time does what I ask, but also a lot of the time just randomly drops things. Cereal bowl inches from The Engineer's head the most dramatic, recent one. I shouldn't have peeled all those potatoes... that you taught yourself so quickly, and isn't it just such a downer when someone tells you it's WRONG? There are many ways to do stuff.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

  18. How fun to have Arlee Bird, A to Z master, to teach us how to juggle. I can do scarves, but anything else I have yet to master. It might have to do with lack of practice, though:)

  19. I took a course about juggling during my training as hospital clown. It was really fun because all balls kept falling on my head, and got the best laughter for that and since I was a laughter hunter, I never got it right.

  20. This is such a great post! I've always wanted to be able to juggle, but I've just never had much time to learn how.

  21. Karen: We've tried to get out daughter into juggling, because we think she'd be good at it, but, so far, she is resisting.
    I do remember that blog title.

    Sheena-kay: I've never even thought of that. The top of the head, yes, though.

    Alex: As long as there are no blues involved. Okay, yes, that was bad, I know.

    Suzanne: Mostly, I just can't convince myself to take the time for anything like that at this point in my life. I have to many other things that -have to be done right now!- to take the time to practice juggling or anything.

  22. I've never been able to juggle--well not objects anyway. Juggled a few boyfriends in the past. lol

  23. Enjoyed this J post with the story of your self taught juggling as well as the 'Art of Juggling' from Arlee. It definately is an Art and magical as well. Well done for the Letter J.

    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

  24. Teaching juggling is probably even more difficult than juggling itself. I'm sure that it just came naturally to you after all of those years of performing Lee. Andrew, Thanks for bringing the master juggler over for a fun lesson!


  25. Robin: Sometimes, I feel like that, too.

    Jo: I knew about Lee, but Alex came as a surprise.

    S.L.: Oh, man, a love a good juggling act.

    Cherie: I never got to four, so I'm impressed.

    Lee: Hey, thanks for guesting!
    I don't know that I thought it was more natural; it's just how it was in cartoons, so I thought that's how it was done. The other way does make more sense.
    Strategy games are also a good Alzheimer's defense.

    ABftS: I think it probably was. I mean, what else did you take away from that job?

    M.J.: That's cool! My juggling friend could also (kind of) ride a unicycle. I always would have liked to try one out, but they're not easy to come by.

    J.A.: It does take some work.

    C.: Hey, it's a start!

    Rusty: You, too! Man, I may have to work on this again.

    Michael: Um... I can't think of an appropriate comment.

    Huntress: I tried water skiing once. I decided I would stick with snow skiing.

    Tina: Wait a minute, peeling potatoes fused your wrist or made you almost drop the cereal bowl? Personally, I'm a fan of people wearing cereal on their head ever since my friend's younger sister did that at breakfast one morning at his house.

    Robin: I never could get the hang of scarves. They just moved too slowly.

    Al: I have an uncle that was a rodeo clown, but there was no juggling involved.

    Gina: It's one of those things that, if you want to do it, you have to just make the time to do.

  26. Pk: Ooh... that sounds dangerous!

    Sue: Thank you so much!

    ENI: I'm glad he could do it. It felt appropriate.

  27. I can do the "Live Long and Prosper" greeting with my left and right hands, does that count?

  28. My freshman year of college, I lived on a floor with half of the juggling club. It was quite comical coming home from class, dodging the various projectiles flying back and forth in the hallway. One guy was also a fire eater.

  29. Once you understand the pattern, juggling three objects isn't all that hard. Not that I do it well, mind you!

  30. Spacerguy: Can't everyone do that? Maybe now... I don't know.

    TAS: Where the heck did you go to college? That's way cooler than the cow tippers I had in the dorm next to me.

    Cindy: Pattern? What pattern? :P

  31. I can juggle tennis balls- that's about it. :)

  32. Rebecca: I'd have to relearn, I'm sure.

  33. I tried to learn juggling, once. I knew the secret but I never mastered it. I have no patience for practicing, really. I don't want to work at having fin. That's the same reason I never got any good at golf. That and my complete lack of athletic ability. It's different if the practice is fun, like guitar. Then I'll do it a little.

  34. I tried to learn once, but failed miserably. I kept making the same mistakes over and over, and just couldn't seem to train my body to do otherwise. Great post!

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  35. Briane: Golf is supposed to be fun? I must have missed that part of golf class.

    Kristen: It can be a challenge. It's not something I think I'll take up again. You know, I mastered it once, so that's enough for me.

  36. It's interesting that you say it helps with Alzheimer's. I will have to try this with my grandmother

    Chontali Kirk

  37. C. Kirk: If you get your grandmother to juggle, please let us know!

  38. I learned to juggle three balls one day when I thought why not, too! Haven't done it in a while. I'll bet it doesn't come back as easily as riding a bike - maybe more like falling off the bike. I should try it again. My first graders loved it. I was awesome as I recall...

  39. Donna: Riding a bike isn't even like riding a bike, so I doubt juggling is.