Juggling: The Art of Throwing (and Catching) Objects – Part 2

Over the years, it was easy to leave those tennis balls lying wherever. They weren’t a part of my everyday life, or anything. They weren’t so important that I had to take them everywhere that I went. — I realize now that they should have been.

There were many days during my childhood that I sat with nothing to do. The thought of juggling came and went multiple times in-between a thousand other thoughts. Then, when there was someone to talk to or some place to go, my mind was on everything but those tennis balls.

I found myself wishing that I knew where they were at times. There were often times that I was out with family or left in the car while they ran errands that I wish I had been able to find and take those tennis balls with me.

Of course, I already knew how to juggle. The mystery (of three-ball juggling) was gone. Taking them everywhere didn’t seem to make much sense.

While out with family and friends, I would hear someone mention juggling and my mind would instantly slip back to those tennis balls. I’d make a return comment, but would end up in a position that I was unable to prove that I was able to juggle when it came time to show my ability.

Jugglers would appear every now and again, juggling everything from tennis balls or another type of ball to custom bowling pins or plastic rings. The first year I had ever gone to Riverbend, years after I learned to juggle, I ran into a professional juggler. I stopped and talked to him for a couple of minutes, but he went back to juggling the moment that I asked him a question about technique.

I’ve come to learn that many people who juggle aren’t too willing to offer advice to those who are interested; nor do many of them offer to reveal the ‘secrets’ of how it’s done.

Within the passed few weeks, I’ve found myself standing at Walmart in one of the aisles of the Sporting Goods a number of times. I’m always stopping by those aisles to see if they’ve got any new stock in, new colors available, or if they’ve got special deals going on.

I’ve gotten a few awkward looks while standing in the middle of the aisle, looking over the available selection, trying to decide if I wanted to buy another fluorescent green set, or a pink set of tennis balls, to help support awareness for breast cancer. — I bought the pink and a set of brightly colored orange and yellow.

With the canister of three tennis balls in hand, I felt like a child awaiting Christmas morning to open my new toy. I walked up and down the aisles of the store tossing the pack into the air and catching it, trying to keep my patience. — Nope. It didn’t happen. — I ended up popping the top and pulling the balls out before making it to the check-out.

In order to try my hand at juggling four tennis balls at the same time, I made a return trip to get another pack of the Hope tennis balls (the pink pack) as well as another pack of the brightly colored.

Walking up and down the aisles, wandering through the entire store while juggling was something that I don’t think I have ever done before. My eyes kept bouncing from the balls that I had been tossing into the air to those who turned their heads in order to get a view of what I was doing. More people began to take notice when I was done walking and ready to check-out.

There I was, standing in the line juggling three tennis balls. Of course, I was also practicing the newly-learned Reverse Cascade. I was sure to switch up the routine, offering a view of juggling two in either hand before returning to a usual Cascade.

On one of my return trips to Walmart, I walked back to the car to grab my cigarettes. On the way back to the main doors a guy who had just lit a cigarette raised his head with a look of surprise, then offered a compliment, saying that he had seen people juggle before, but never had he seen someone juggling while walking.

The two of us stood outside the main doors for a while talking about juggling, tips and techniques, and a couple other interests. I told him how to get started with three-ball juggling, and he offered some information about the next place I should apply for a job.

After we split ways, I had to pack up the balls for the ride home. It was no big deal, they came right back out of the pack once I got out of the car. I was back to feeling the excitement about juggling and the want to increase my skill had returned.

Since then, out of curiosity, I have counted a total of twenty-one tennis balls and also have been tempted to return to the store for another pack or two. I’m not so sure that I would like to destroy perfectly good balls in order to test out a couple theories that I have, though. So, I my leave those theories alone for a while.

Well, I guess it’s time to get back to practicing. I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts and journey of juggling up to this point.

If you’re interested in juggling, I would have to suggest that you first learn how to juggle two tennis balls (or other objects) in one hand before attempting anything more difficult. Once you have the general idea, practice juggling with both hands. Learn how to successfully juggle two balls in both hands, one at a time, completing at least three consecutive catches. Doing this before rushing on to three will allow you to add the third ball to your routine more smoothly.

As I’ve explained to others who have asked me to teach them: Just as Sgt. Kesuke Miyagi taught those teenagers respect, honesty, and courage with the whole routine of ‘Wax On; Wax Off,’ there is a similar need for it in juggling.

The very same two-dimensional motion of repeating circular movements helps jugglers to improve their juggling skills. The main difference is: You don’t have to argue with Sgt. Miyagi about payment for waxing his car.

Try this: Hold your arm somewhat relaxed, aligned with your shoulder, palm up. Now, if it’s your right arm, you make a small clockwise circle in the air. It shouldn’t be too large, since it is only meant as a demonstration as to what movements your arm and hand should be making while you juggle two balls in one hand. If it’s your left hand, then make a counter-clockwise circle in the air in front of you. — Don’t worry if your circle isn’t perfect, just let it flow.

This little tip is called ‘Keeping the Circle.’ Your hand, whichever you’re juggling with, should complete a circular motion during the process of juggling. Keep your eyes open and watch your movement. The more fluidly you’re able to become with Keeping the Circle, the better your juggling will become.

Keeping the Circle will be tough at first, but hang in there and keep working at it. Over time, with practice, you’ll be able to keep better control of your throws and catches. Eventually, you’ll be able to keep to the circular movements while you’re juggling. Then, you’ll see just how much your juggling actually benefits from Keeping the Circle.

To practice this step so you’ll get a feel for it, hold one ball in your hand. On your way back up to begin another circle, you’ll want to toss the ball when your hand reaches approximately the nine o’clock position. Depending on your toss, your catch will likely vary around the three o’clock position. Vice versa for left-handed practice.

Note: Keeping the Circle is only one of many names for this technique. Others simply call it ‘O,’ while other jugglers have no name for it at all.


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