Juggling Practice Tips

By Xah Lee. Date:

• When you juggle, concentrate. Don't rush or hurry as if trying to master right away. Enjoy it. When you relax and concentrate, your brain learns the most.

• Take you tricks apart and practice on your weakness. For example, for 4 ball juggling, practice single handed, practice different throwing directions, practice hands wide apart, practice elbows straightened out…. Practice and focus on each area separately. (but you will still need to practice the whole together)

This tip is observed from training of professional sports. For example, in football, the athletes do not merely play the game everyday. Rather, they do some physical training such as sprinting and some weight lifting, and practice their skills of ball aiming kicks, fooling tricks, passing, team coordination etc all separately. This is so that, they can dedicate efforts to improve each nook and cranny. If their practice simply consists of playing the game everyday, their progress will be comparatively retarded.

• Think! If you always make some errors, stop, and think about it a bit. Why you make such error. What should you do to correct it. Then, start again.

Thinking is actually quite important. Think about possible variations. Think about your practice technique. In general, just take a minute to think about things once in a while. It may resolve a problem you had for a long time, or discover new things. Thinking is simply a powerful tool that are often forgotten. (this Thinking applies to other things in life).

• Practice regularly. Say, daily, or few times a week, according to your personal need. At least 20 minutes a session. Distribute your practice times. It is better to practice 30 minutes everyday in a week, than 4 hours on Monday.

• Find other jugglers and practice with them. Watching and talking with other jugglers advances your habit, skill, variations, and psychology of learning vastly.

• Make a progress report and goal list. Describe in detail the tricks you are currently learning or practicing. Write down the number of throws you can do now. And write down a goal for next week. Be conservative in your goals. Do this weekly or monthly.

3-ball Juggling Tips

H wrote:

Hi, I'm learning the 3 ball mills mess, and am well and truly stuckified. I start with my arms crossed, right on top, with two balls in right and 1 in left. I chuck em all over the place, and switch my arms, and end up again with 2 in my right and 1 in my left. …

The so-called Mill's Mess as a trick is one way to screw a juggler foundation.

Instead, what one should learn is:

• Master cascade, reverse cascade, and columns. When you are doing the columns, be sure to alternate your hand for the middle ball, so you can become fluent in using both the left or right hand for the middle column. Practice until you are able to do 50 throws of each pattern at least.

• Now, learn to do cascade, reverse cascade, or columns, but now with your hands crossed. Say, starting with left hand on top of right hand. Do this until you can do 50 or more for each pattern.

• Now do the same with right hand on top.

When you can do any of the above, 50 throws or more, cross your hands and do cascade (or reverse cascade, columns), then try to switch the bottom hand to the top. Master this hand bottom/top switching. From there on, you'll naturally develop many variations than the narrow-minded Mess, as easy as a pie.

This crossed-hand-switch-crossing also is the key to 4 balls and 5 balls's various so-called “mess” variations.

In the above, you have trained with the basic moves of cascade, reverse cascade, and columns. These are the basic patterns.


In doing these patterns, your palm is facing up. This is the basic juggling. There is another style, called clawing. That is, instead of palms facing up, your palm is facing down. You throw the ball by releasing your clutch on the ball and move your arm upward, and you catch the ball by forcing your arm down and catch it as you'd catch a fly in the air. This style is called clawing.

Clawing, can also be mastered. One can do the “mill's mess” with clawing. There are also jugglers who can do 4-balls 633633 siteswap with clawing, and even 5-balls cascade with clawing. Again, to master clawing, you can begin with the basic patterns of Cascade, Reverse Cascade, and Columns, as above. Then train with your hands crossed, then learn the hand-crossing transition. This regime will get you to master the clawing to perfection.


Another basic throwing-catching variation is Above-Head. In this variation, lift your hands up in the air as in the gesture of surrender or worship. With a ball in the hand, throw it up as if doing a push towards the sky, and you catch the ball again with your raised arm, palm up. The above-head juggling is in fact easier than clawing. 4-balls above head is pretty easy and you can learn it at the same time you learn normal juggling of 4 balls. Many jugglers can do 5-balls above-head, or the various siteswaps with 4-balls above-head style. To master above-head, same as before, do the basic patterns drill. Very few jugglers bother to learn cross-hand tricks above-head, but it can also be done.

(For a good demonstration on video of clawing and above-head of 4 or 5 balls with some advanced 4-balls siteswap, see Erin Stephen in this essay: Goddess of Juggling.)