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Learn How To Juggle

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Learning to juggle is fun, challenging, and doesn't even need expensive equipment. While the best way to learn is to be taught by a juggler, these step-by-step directions can get you started.

What you'll need: You can learn with just about any ball sized objects that you can catch in your hand. Balls that bounce or roll away (like tennis balls) can be challenging and frustrating. Most juggling teachers prefer bean bags for beginners.

Click Here for directions to make your own "JeanBags".

If you want to start slow or are teaching younger students (under 12) try starting with these Warm Up Exercises.

Watch the animation to the right to get a general idea. Diagrams to go with the directions below are coming soon!

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Learn How to Juggle

A Step by Step Guide to Juggling 3 Balls

 

 

Step 1. Start by holding just one ball. Cradle it in your palm with your elbows at your sides and relax. This is going to be fun!

 

Toss the ball gently and watch it fall to the floor.

 

Now, the most important step!

Bend over and pick it up!

If you aren’t afraid to pick it up and try again you have what it takes to become a great juggler!

Go to Step 2.

 

Step 2. One Ball

With your hands about waist level and keeping your elbows at your sides, use a scooping motion to toss the ball gently from one hand to the other. Keep your palms up as your hand goes down, then up to toss the ball. The ball should go about as high as your forehead in an arc as wide as your body. As the ball goes from hand to hand it should travel in the path of a sideways figure 8 -always releasing in the middle and catching on the outside. This is the basic cascade pattern.

 

Keep throwing from hand to hand, letting your fingers close around the ball after each catch, even after this becomes boring. You are teaching your muscles to make each throw the same until this becomes second nature.

 

Step 3. The Exchange

With a ball in each hand, throw one across just like before, then just as it begins to fall, throw the second ball in an arc right back to the first hand. If you do it right you can count a steady rhythm of throw-throw-catch-catch and the balls will have switched hands (if you have different colored balls you can check).

 

If it didn’t work (most of you won’t succeed at first) here are some pointers: if the balls collided, remember to scoop each toss -the balls should draw an imaginary “X” in front of you. Also notice that the balls don’t go around in circles, so if you’re passing one ball underneath you’ll get stuck when it’s time to add the third ball.

 

When you get it to work, keep practicing until it’s comfortable, then practice starting with your opposite hand first. If you throw the balls just right you can catch them without letting your elbows leave your sides to reach forward.

 

Try to do the exchange ten times in a row (alternating right-left and left-right) before moving to the next step.

 

Step 4. Preparing for Three

To start with three, you’ll need to hold two balls in one hand. Hold one in your palm, then extend your thumb and first two fingers to grab the second. You should be able to throw the one in your fingers while holding the one in your palm. Also try catching a ball that’s already holding one (using the same fingers). This will be an important skill when you want to stop juggling.

 

Before moving on, here is an exercise to help visualize what’s coming next. First stand against a table or sit on the floor with a ball in each hand and a ball on the surface in front of you. Set the ball in your right hand down in front of your left hand then pick up the ball to the right. Now set the ball in your left hand down in front of your right hand and pick up the ball on the left. Now start with the right hand again and keep repeating. This is no-gravity juggling using the table in place of the air. Notice that there is just one ball in the air that you simply exchange with the ones in your hands- right, left, right, left, and so on.

 

Step 5. The Third Toss

The goal this time is to do two exchanges in a row.

 

[1] Take three balls with two in one hand, one in the other. If you are left handed you will probably want to start with two in your left hand.

[2] Throw the first ball from the hand holding two in an arc just like before

[3] As it begins to fall, throw the ball from the opposite hand and catch the first in your empty hand (so far it’s just like before)

[4] Now, as the second ball heads to the first hand, throw the third ball across in time to catch the second ball

Finally catch the third ball in your fingers triumphantly!

Study the diagrams to help you visualize it then give it a try!

 

This step will take a bit of patience but it’s worth it. The little bit of effort will separate you from the masses who gave up after a few half hearted attempts. Every time you pick them up to try again is a success in itself. When you have succeeded in catching all three, arrange the balls so you always start with two in the same hand.

 

More tips:

When juggling, your hands go up and down alternately. Pretend you’re lifting weights alternating right and left just bending at the elbows. Now change the movement into circles (like spinning jump ropes in double-dutch, but in reverse). Practice this for a while to get used to the motion.

 

A common problem is that the third ball goes too far forward and just out of reach. As you concentrate on the first two balls in the air, you panic and fling the third ball just to get rid of it. To fix this try not to throw the third ball until after you’ve caught the first. Hold onto it until you need to catch the second ball, then you will have more control to throw where you want (to fly up but not away).

 

The ideal juggling pattern stays in one plane. That is, the balls don’t travel forward or back, just up and down, left and right.

 

Step 6. Juggling

Now it’s just a matter of keeping it going. Try adding a fourth throw or a fifth keeping a steady rhythm alternating hands. Simply continue exchanging the ball in the air with one in your hands.

At this stage it is helpful to practice standing over a bed. It cuts down on bending over for all the drops (there will be many) and helps prevent you from throwing too far in front of you. Also take occasional breaks to let all the new information sink in. Your brain and muscles are learning a new skill, and in time you won’t need to think about it anymore.

 

Keep track of how many catches you can make before stopping. A run of 6 catches in a row means you’re officially a juggler. Congratulate yourself when you can make 10 catches and stop without dropping. Then go for 25, or even 100!

 

Fancy Tricks:

So you want to get fancy with throws under the leg or behind the back? Simply repeat the learning process with one ball again, but doing your trick throw. The practice the exchange with two ball so you can do your trick throw as the first or second toss. Finally try throwing the trick into the middle of your juggling pattern. It usually helps to make the throw just before the trick a little higher to give you more time.

 

Final Words of Wisdom:

It’s nice if you can catch a bad throw, but it’s better to aim your throws to where your hands already are. Practice at least a little every day for steady improvement -keep your balls in plain view to remind you. Find some friends that you can juggle with or even teach. Good luck and don’t give up!

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