Learn to Juggle

by Jack Kalvan
© 1999




It's fun!


Impress your friends!


Play and get exercise at the same time!


Improve eye-hand coordination, reflexes, and self-confidence!
Are you ready to juggle?
The basic three ball juggle can be learned by most people in a short amount of time... maybe half an hour with help from a good teacher or perhaps a few days on your own. Go through these instructions at your own pace. Before you try each step, relax and visualize what you want to happen. With a little practice and patience, juggling will become easy.
Before you start, it's important to accept that dropping is inevitable. Work on making good throws at first, and worry about catching them later. Many people find that juggling over a bed saves a lot of time and energy in picking up drops.
You may be assuming that you're going to learn to throw three balls in a circle.
This is called the "shower" pattern and is actually a difficult way to juggle.
Perhaps you can learn it later, but I will teach you the easiest, most basic way to juggle, called the "cascade" pattern. It is shown at the top of these instructions. To learn the cascade, you need to start with one ball...


HOW TO LEARN A BASIC THREE BALL JUGGLE

One ball: learning the basic throw and catch
The first and most important thing to learn is to throw and catch one ball correctly. This is the only move you'll need to learn the three ball cascade: Hold both hands in front of you with your palms facing up. Cradle a ball loosely in one hand, and lower the hand down by your side before throwing. The goal is to have the ball land in the other hand, so throw the ball up and a little bit across.
  • Throw using the elbow, not the wrist or shoulder.
  • Try to throw the ball about as high as the top of your head.
  • Watch the ball as it reaches its peak in the air, picture where it will land, and then hold your other hand under it.
  • Do not reach up to catch the ball; the ball will come down to you.

  • If you don't catch the ball on the first try, don't worry. It's more important to make a good throw and stay relaxed. The catch will follow naturally.
    Spend a few minutes throwing one ball back and forth, right to left and left to right. Each time, try to throw the ball to the same height and keep your hands level with each other. Practice until this move is smooth and easy.
    Congratulations! You've learned the basic move needed for juggling!

    Two balls: almost juggling
    Now you are ready for two balls. Hold one ball in each hand. Throw one of the balls up and across the same as you just learned. When this first ball starts coming down, then throw the second ball up and across. Each ball should cross over to the opposite hand. Throw, throw, catch, catch.
  • Look at the picture at the top of these instructions for proper hand position.
  • Both balls should peak at the same height (but not at the same time).
  • Take a pause in between the two throws. Juggling works best when done relaxed and slowly.
  • Do not throw 1 ball up and then hand the other across. (This is the #1 mistake with 2 balls.)
  • Practice the two throws and two catches starting with either hand until it feels easy.
  • Three balls: where real juggling begins!
    First, just hold 3 balls, placing 2 in the hand that you want to start with and 1 in the other hand. Then, the first 2 throws will be the same as you just did with 2 balls... but when ball 2 is coming down, throw up ball 3. If you catch them all, they will each land in the opposite hand from where they started.
  • Remember, pause between each throw and try to throw each ball to the same height.
  • Just make 3 throws and then stop and relax.
    Congratulations! You are now officially a juggler!

  • Mastering the three ball cascade
    When doing three throws starts to become reliable, don't stop at three throws, just keep going. When one comes down, throw the next one up ­ always alternating right and left in an even rhythm. Counting the number of throws can help you track your progress.

    Curing common juggling problems
    I have three pieces of advice:
    1. Concentrate on what you want to happen.
    2. Work on consistent, steady throws.
    3. Relax.
    If you are having trouble catching the balls, think about where you are throwing them. The most common problem for beginners is throwing too far out in front of you. To cure this problem, you need to throw the balls straight up in front of your face. It may help to imagine a glass wall two feet in front of you, to actually juggle in front of a wall, or to try juggling while walking backwards.
    The best way to improve your juggling is to practice. The more time you put in, the better your juggling will be.

    If you want to learn more
    After you have mastered the three balls, you may want to learn some tricks or add in more balls. You may even want to learn to juggle clubs, rings or other props. (Kids: do not try to juggle fire, knives, or other dangerous objects. They should be learned only under professional supervision.) Juggling can be a lifelong adventure; there's always something new to learn.
    You can learn more about juggling on the internet. The Juggling Information Service is a great resource. You can find other jugglers and maybe even a juggling club that meets near you.
    Also, the International Jugglers' Association publishes a great magazine and holds an annual convention, sometimes attracting over a thousand jugglers.

    Go to KALVAN.net