I wrote this in 2002, which was a long time ago by my count, however in hindsight it's still quite a useful guide, although games and puzzles closed down a few years later. I figured I'd salvage it and add it to my current webpage. I even got emails as a result of this thanking me for teaching the senders how to juggle.

I just copied the html over from the first effort, so for those of you who are sticklers for proper code, I suggest you don't look at it. I was learning html at the time, coding my html by hand out of a HTML 3.0 FOR DUMMIES guide. (I still code html by hand.)

How to juggle.

That's right, Anyone can juggle, although hand-eye co-ordination helps. Only about 2 people in 100 can actually juggle, and very few can do more with it than that, which is a pity, because it's great for relieving stress, and satisfying to do too.

Juggling is one of those things that looks a lot more difficult than it is. Nearlly that everyone tries once or twice, but decides that it is difficult so they give up. Why? Well, few people have the persistance or patience to learn - If you're bored right now (why else are you here?), it's definately worth learning. It'll pass the time while you do it, and it'll stay with you - the old cliche of riding a bike. The big problem is that most people make it very difficult for themselves by doing the wrong thing, to begin with. So how do you learn?

This is perhaps the big sticking point. It's very very hard indeed to learn to juggle with ... say... basketballs. In fact, anything too far from ideal makes your learning rate much slower, and a more arduous process. Getting the right stuff will greatly improve your learning time, and make the whole thing more fun.
There are three important factors to consider in a juggling ball:

  1. Size. - You want something between a medium sized apple and a smallish tangerine. - A golf ball is too small, a tennis ball slightly too big. Being too big is harder than being too small, so bear that in mind.
  2. Weight. - If you have a balance, an ideal ball is something between 80 and 120g (don't ask for imperial.) - again an apple is good. If something is too heavy it'll make it harder to throw to the right height. If you're too light it'll bounce out your hands.
  3. Texture/feel. - Don't use anything slippy, or likely to leak juice everywhere (oranges.) - really grippy things don't help much either, although that's not so bad. It's more important to ensure that your three things feel the same (and weigh the same) - if they're different they'll fly differently, and it'll slow you down learning. Juggling with radically different objects is a challenge for even the best. Worst I've had to do is called "A shirt a shilling and a shoe." - Don't even go there.
Ideally, you want to find an actual set of juggling balls. If you hunt around you can get 'em cheap (Games and puzzles in Cambridge is selling a set of three for �4) Rainforest Cafe do a fairly decent set for starting out, as do Natural World, but you can find these things all over. If you don't want to shell out, improvise. Baseballs will probabally work, but I don't really have any to check. - Use something comfortable to you though. If you are buying, go in for cheap balls, the difference between them and expensive balls is quite large, but there's no point spending an extra �10 if you're not going to go very far. If you do learn and want to continue, you've already got your money's worth on the starting set, and you can give them to someone else. Three people have now used my first set to learn., and I keep them moving around.

I'll also strongly recommend standing in front of your bed to learn. This has three advantages. You can close the door so no-one will see, you can't walk forwards (important. Most people get into bad habits "chasing" balls.") and finally you don't have to bend down far to pick them up (you're going to drop them a lot.)

Starting out
So you have your three balls now that's good. Go put two of them away again. To start learning you need to learn to throw the ball. This is actually the most important step, most people who give up do so because they never consider this bit.

Throw the ball from hand to hand in front of you. Pass it from one to the other and back over and over. This sounds easy, but I'm going to impose three conditions. Firstly, throw the ball to about eye level each time, and look ahead of you. Do not look at your hands. Secondly, you want to keep your hands fairly low, (just above waist level.) Do not move up to catch the ball as it comes towards your hand, let the ball drop into it. If you move towards the ball while juggling, you'll have to throw the ball in your hand during the movement and it'll loose accuracy. Thirdly, make every throw the same - This is the crux. If one throw is three inches higher than the other, then you're not going to be able to find a good rythm when you start, and you'll be buggered.

Two balls
Once you've done that (should take about ten minutes) it's time to move on to two balls. Start with one in each hand, and throw as you did before, but now, as the ball reaches its peak, throw the other one back. To do this, you'll want to move your hand in a little, so you throw past (read under) the travelling ball. Get used to this, you really really don't want the balls to hit in the air, because it means you have to react to catch them both. You don't want to throw over, in front or behind the moving ball, these are all much harder to do. Also, check that the ball you're throwing reaches the same height as the travelling one. Finally make sure you can do it starting with each hand. Keep at this until the second throw is at least as good as the first. With practice you'll find that you'll use the first ball as a reference, and the second throw will be more accurate.

Three balls.
All you need to do now, is repeat the second throw when the second ball is in the air. Try to time it the same, and practice to make all three throws the same height. - A good thing to do is to make all the throws but not bother catching. Look at where the balls land and see which throws were bad.

By this point you should realise that Juggling has nothing to do with being able to catch balls, it's all about accurate throws.

Once you accomplish the third throw, you'll want to do what's called a "4 ball exchange." Basically make and catch four throws, then stop. Within about an hour of picking up the third ball this should be fairly easy. Once you can do it, do it again, and again, until you're not chasing the fourth ball, and it's nice and easy to catch.

You're away!
Stick two exchanges together to make an eight ball exchange. This shouldn't be hard if the four ball exchange is accurate. Once you get the eight ball exchange sorted, go for twelve, and keep building. Your hands should naturally travel in circles, once the circle becomes identical every time you're doing it perfectly. At some point, you'll hit the realisation that you're actually juggling which will be immensely satisfying. Once that happens, just try to go on as long as you can. You'll soon get bored of counting. In total it shouldn't take much more than three hours to learn to juggle three balls without looking silly. Doing it in one night is a bit of a feat though, it took me three days. (But then again, I worked all this out from scratch when I learned.) You'll find that with practice you'll need to concentrate on the balls less and less, which is good, because then you can start thinking about other things.

I'll add one personal note. - Quite often, motvating yourseelf to learn something like this isn't too easy. The way I did it was I bought three juggling balls (rainforest cafe) and claimed I was going to learn. The fact that I'd put the money in myself made me feel that I didn't want to waste it.

Back to Socks and Puppets