Introduction: How to Juggle: the 3-ball Cascade
Someone recently requested an Instructable on how to juggle, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to put up my first instructable.
This is a basic 3-ball cascade, the most basic 3-ball juggling pattern there is. If there is enough interest, I might post further patterns and tricks as people request them. You can also buy all kinds of juggling books which will guide you through these, but those cost money and most of us here are cheapskates. At least, I know I am.
I decided to use animated gifs on this to get the point across clearly and without distraction. All animations in this instructable were created using the Pivot stick-figure animator
Here's what you'll need:
1. 3 objects - preferably bean bags, but anything fairly spherical would work. I would recommend something with minimal bounce or roll, as you'll probably be doing a lot of chasing when you first start. For some good, sturdy, cheap bean bags, check out these.
2. A little space - Don't try to learn this in a phone booth. Chances are that you'll have smallish spherical objects bouncing off of walls at some point in this process, so you should move away from your grandmother's knick-knack shelves before proceeding.
3. Comfortable clothes - likewise, constrictive clothing will make your arm movements less fluid.
4. Some time - I learned to juggle 4 balls between classes at community college. I would hurry to my next class then stand in the hall juggling for 7 minutes before taking my seat.
Step 1: The Toss
This is the simplest step from the observational stand point, but it is very important developmentally. You want to practice tossing a single ball back and forth from hand to hand, making sure that your tosses are even.
Ideally, the tosses should fly in such a way that your hands will make small, circular movements as you toss and catch.
Plant your feet about hip width apart so you have plenty of movement potential. This is a good habit to get in, since some juggling tricks require a reasonable amount of bending, so you want to work on staying balanced.
In most cases, your shoulders should be relaxed, and your elbows about waist height, and bent about 90 degrees in the resting position. If your hands are rising above the height of your chest, you're probably putting a little too much effort into it.
As you toss, keep your eyes fixed on a single spot directly in front of you, and relax your focus. Try to keep the ball in your peripheral vision as it moves. This will become increasingly important as you add more balls later.
For the purposes of three balls, each toss should probably not go above your head height (for now).
Keep practicing this until you can go back and forth 30 times without dropping.
Step 2: The Half Jug
Now, we add a second ball.
Starting with one ball in each hand, you're basically going to make them trade places.
1. Start with your dominant hand.
2. Throw a nice, gentle arc just like you used to do with just one ball.
3. As the first ball reaches its apex (about eye-level), throw the second ball from your non-dominant hand, under the first ball
4. Catch the first ball with that same hand (non-dominant)
5. Catch the second ball with your dominant hand.
Repeat these steps until you begin to feel fairly comfortable with the process. Once you can do this with some ease, try starting with your non-dominant hand. You'll need to be able to do this from either hand.
As you work on this, try to keep the spacing between your throws even. You should throw the second ball as the first ball reaches its apex, and you should catch the first ball as the second ball reaches its apex.
Also, work on keeping your eyes centered and using your peripheral vision to watch the balls fly. You'll find that this gets easier to do as you have multiple objects, but you still want to avoid tracking too much with your eyes.
Step 3: The Jug
Now you're ready to move on to all three balls, but we're going to start small.
1. Start with two balls in your dominant hand, and one in your non-dominant hand.
2. Holding on to one of the balls, throw the other one from your dominant to your non-dominant hand.
3. As the first ball reaches its apex, throw the second ball from your non-dominant to your dominant hand.
4. Catch the first ball in your non-dominant hand.
5. At about the same time (when the second ball is at its apex) throw the third ball from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand.
6. Catch the second ball in your dominant hand.
7. Catch the third ball in your non-dominant hand.
You should now have two balls in your non-dominant hand, and one in your dominant hand, the exact opposite of where you started. If not, you did something wrong.
The best way to proceed from here would be to Start with your non-dominant hand and repeat the above procedures (in reverse) to end up exactly back where you started. You can just pass one ball back to your dominant hand and start over, however you want to make sure you get a feel for doing the jug with both hands.
As you work on this step, you'll probably start to run into problems with 'bad' throws. This is normal. It's just your brain's way of saying that it isn't comfortable keeping track of so many things at once. Here are some pointers that will help keep you on track:
1. Stop when it gets frustrating: The less fun you're having, the less you're going to enjoy juggling, and the less you're going to want to keep learning.
2. If you have to, revert a couple of steps. Now that you're seeing the effects of misguided throws, it's easier to appreciate just tossing one ball back and forth and getting your throws down pat.
3. "A touch is as good as a catch": Okay, so this isn't quite true, but in the preliminary steps, being able to touch a ball at least means that it's in the vicinity of your hand, which is better than otherwise.
Step 4: Juggling
1. Start with 2 balls in one hand and 1 in the other (at this point, it shouldn't make much difference which is which).
2. Throw a ball from the hand with two balls to the other.
3. When it reaches its apex, throw a second ball and catch the first.
- Start small. You can already do three throws and three catches (a Jug). For starters, move up to 4 throws and 4 catches. Once you can do that, move up to 5, 6, etc. Once you can do 6 or 7, you're probably ready to just go until you stop.
- Be kind to your back! The default response to a drop is to bend down and pick it up, but if you squat instead, two things will happen: 1) your back will be much happier, and 2) your legs will get super buff. 1 squat per drop, times, say, 50 drops per practice session = killer legs! Seriously, next time you watch a pro juggler, check out his legs.
- Avoid Joggling! Joggling is a fairly common occurence among beginner jugglers. It occurs when the juggling is at the point where the juggler can keep the objects in the air for a decent amount of time, but every once in a while one of the balls gets some forward momentum instead of just going side to side. What usually results is a second bad throw, as the catching hand moves forward to release and catch, which leads to a third bad throw, which eventually leads to the juggler chasing his balls down the hallway.
1. Find a large, bare wall.
2. Stand facing the wall with your elbows at your sides and your forearms extended. Your knuckles should just barely not touch the wall (maybe an inch of clearance).
As you juggle in this position, you will occasionally bounce a bad throw off of the wall. This is okay, and can make a good trick if you can make it look good. What it will help do is keep your hands from flying forward to retrieve a bad throw, and releasing bad throws themselves. As an additional bonus, any time you reach for a bad throw, you get a nice rap on your knuckles, which serves as instant negative feedback for your brain when you goof up!
Step 5: Have Fun!
Now that you're a pro juggler (at least at the 3-ball cascade) you can start playing around.
What happens if you throw that ball behind your back? Or between your legs?
Don't be afraid to experiment!
Show off to your friends and co-workers!
Just make sure that whatever you're juggling isn't going to endanger the immediate surroundings (plants, knick-knacks, pets, children, etc).