Learn 3 Ball Juggling: My Method

So, welcome.  Something you may have seen a few months ago I put on Instagram on my stories, the method I use for teaching 3 ball juggling.

This is one of the things where, over the years, with youth circus, all the outreach groups and the other stuff we’ve done over the years, I think I can actually genuinely say I’ve taught well over a thousand people to juggle using this method.

It’s incredibly efficient.  What we do is look to building up the 3 ball juggle by building the pattern in layers and teaching the corrections you need along the way.

It’s very straight forward.

To learn to juggle, first you’re going to need some balls.  I recommend getting some kind of bean bag if you want to take it seriously.  

Tennis balls are okay to learn with, but they can be a bit annoying when you’re starting and stopping, as they have a tendency to bounce out of your hand.  They’ll work for a moment, but if you want to take it more seriously, a cheap pair of bean bags will make it go much longer.

I’ve got a ball here, slightly fancier and up market, about 70mm and 100g is what I look for in a juggling ball.  There’s various preferences, you have to try it out and see what you get on with,  Some oranges or apples if you have them lying around, it will work as well.  

The main thing that we want to do for this method is just learn to bring the pattern up, and build the throwing.  

We have a phrase in juggling: we don’t have catching, we have throwing.

If you throw and you throw correctly, the ball will just end up in your hand.  You don’t need to worry about making movements.  Eventually you will need to do this, and everything I say to you today is not a rule set in stone, just a series of techniques and other stuff to teach you and enable you to go.

First we’re going to look at how when we drop, it just gives us information.  If we throw too far forward, too far to the side, the middle, or backwards, these will work like that.

We don’t worry about mistakes.  Just worry about getting the throwing right.  Everything else goes from that.

The first movement we want to do is take the ball in our dominant hand, which is the right hand.  I’m going to throw it to the left hand.  I’m going to put my hand up to about shoulder height, and it’s just going to be waiting for the ball.  

I throw, and then I go, what happened?  Did it end up in my hand, or did it not make it across?  Or did I go too far on the outside?

This gives me information.  The idea is we just try and do this.  You’re going to try to do this 20 times in a row, just throwing.  All I’m doing is throwing, throwing across.  If you notice, I’m throwing diagonally across and not straight up the middle.

Throw, throw, throw, catch, throw, catch…Very straight forward.  Once you’ve done this about 20 times and you have an idea of where your consistent mistake is, this is the main thing we need to get across.  It’s learning how to correct mistakes.  

If I consistently throw in the middle too much and it’s not going far enough to the hand, what I want to do is start throwing to the opposite side.  I start throwing too wide to this side.

It doesn’t matter if it goes on the floor, don’t worry about that, or if it goes behind you.  To find the middle, we need to find the extremes.

So we do that a bit, then we go back, and see, have I got it in my hand?

This will help you figure out the correct throw.  It’s like rolling a ball up a hill.  It’s better to put a bit too much power in, know where it goes up, then take the power out, rather than going, is it there?  Nearly, nearly….

Bare that in mind for all your corrections.

The next thing I’m going to do once I have this idea of throwing in an egg shape and can do it, don’t worry about dropping.

Even if you touch the ball at this stage, it’s just as good as a catch.  Catching is a skill of itself.

I’m going to take 2 balls next.  With the 2, it’s very simple.  I’m going to start with my non dominant hand, my left hand for me, and I’m going to throw, throw, drop, drop.  i’m not going to worry about the catches, just worry about getting the throws right.  I’ll throw left, then right, drop then pick them up again.

Throw, throw, drop, drop.

Get the idea about this right, and you can even take your time.  I can throw, drop, throw, drop.  This will get me making sure that I’m throwing in the right direction.  I want this cross, cross, catch, catch.  But I want the crossing throwing to be emphasized.

I want is as close to symmetrical as I can get it.

The height will vary, around forehead height is good.  Some people need to go a bit higher when learning, some people prefer lower.  Play with everything and see what you prefer.  There’s no right or wrong here.

Once I’ve got this idea that I’m making a nice symmetrical cross, then I start trying to catch.  I go throw, throw, catch, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.

I’ll say this out loud.  It’s very important, because it will keep your timing.  Very simple.

You want to do that 20 times, 10-15 times.  You don’t have to get it; we’re just building up the pattern.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  If it’s kind of right, 80% right is good in this.

The next layer of the pattern is learning to throw two balls from one hand, and hopefully catch two balls in the other hand.  Exact same idea.  I throw, catch, throw, catch.

What will happen for most of you is you throw, and the ball will bounce off of your hand onto the floor.  That’s fine.

Stopping two balls in one hand, particularly with bigger balls if you’re not used to it, is a skill and will take time.  It will come after a while, so don’t worry much about it.

You’re just going to throw, throw, conscious drop, perfect. 

Once I have that, next thing is to go to three balls.  Very simple here, I’m going to throw, throw, throw, drop, drop, drop.  Not going to try catch.  

I want to emphasize this X pattern again, at whatever height we’re throwing at.

Throw, throw, throw, drop, drop, drop.  

We can also take our time, doing this very spaced out.  Throw…drop…throw…drop…throw…drop.  We just want to get the throwing pathway ingrained.  That’s what makes the juggling.

I generally tell people to do this 10 times, until it looks consistent.  Then it’s just a matter of going throw, throw, throw, catch, catch, catch, or drop.  If it touches my hand, it’s as good as a catch.

Once you can do that starting with dominant hand, we’ve built the pattern up.  Throw, throw, throw, catch, catch, catch.

Then it’s just an idea of going further.  We’re going to do four.  Throw, throw, throw, throw, drop.  Very simple.

Once you have it, it’s a matter of going for it.  What happens is there is a tendency of feeling rooted on the spot.  We want to avoid that.  The balls are going to be forwards and backwards; you have to be able to move.  You have to be able to step with it.

Don’t worry too much if you find things going around a little.  You have to get to the point where you make a consistent mistake.

Once you have a consistent mistake, say I’m always throwing and walking forward.  Then we go back to our friend Over Correction.  I start throwing my balls behind me.  Just overhead, boom boom boom.  I don’t even worry about catching or walking backwards.  

Once I’ve done that a bit, then I’ll go back to trying to juggle and find the centre.  It’s very simple, it will take some time.

Once you have the idea of, I can throw, we just want to get the idea of keeping the elbows down.  Keep elbows down, the throws are coming from this motion, slightly from the shoulder, slightly from the elbow, and the wrist doesn’t do much.

When you can run it a little, we want to get away from the idea of catching the ball.  Not sure if you can see this on the camera, but I’m never squeezing the ball.  I’m always making a pocket for it to fall into.  

It falls in, my thumb will guide it into the centre if need be, and the throw comes out of the centre.  It’s something to play with, but don’t overthink it at the start.

Just remember our sequence.  We start with one ball, going side to side.  Emphasizing this X shape.  Next we start from our non dominant hand and go cross, cross, catch, catch.  Throw, throw, catch, catch.  Then we go, two balls in our dominant hand to get the release.  Throw, gap, throw, gap.

After that, we go for throw, throw, throw; drop, drop, drop.  Listen for the rhythm.

Once that looks nice, then we start trying to catch.  Throw, throw, throw, throw.  

It will help, see how I’m speaking out loud.  This will help a lot.  You see this with a lot of advanced jugglers.

It generally changes to noises or clicks, but they do that to keep the timing and rhythm of the pattern.  So don’t be afraid to speak out loud.  Do what you gotta do.

I hope you enjoyed it.  I hope you found this useful.  Let me know in the comments if you found it’s working.  Other than that, have a good day.