Juggling 5 Clubs

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4 clubs with a balance to 5 clubs (865 Kb) - performed by Nate Williams at Lodi, Oct 2000
  Note: This is actually two clips spliced together. He came really close to pulling off the transition several times, but never hit it on camera. Nevertheless, I felt the edit gives you an idea of how it would look.)
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Steven Ragatz

My comments on learning juggling stunts apply only if a rather heavy assumption is made. That assumption is that you, the juggler, wish to really LEARN the trick. When I say learn, I mean that you intend to be able to perform the trick with great accuracy under even stressful conditions - every time.

This is an important assumption because there are many jugglers who merely wish to a flash or get a few rounds in the gym. The area after the initial breakthrough is the toughest part to perfect. It is important that you make this choice early in the rehearsal process because all of the suggestions that I have are very useful, but terribly boring and frustratingly tedious.

  1. Make sure that four clubs is going well. 100 right hand counts. Without a solid four club pattern, working on five any more than you have will waste energy.
  2. The first way to attack a large trick is to break the trick down into easier tricks. (If you are a computer person, this philosophy will remind you of "Divide and Conquer") The two exercises that I use for five clubs are four club crosses and a three club chase.
Four Club Cross: two clubs in each hand and cross them in a five club pattern. Make sure that you keep the rhythm steady, including the "hole". Three Club Chase: all three clubs in one hand and release right, right, right, left, left, left. Again the rhythm must be steady. If you let the rhythm become syncopated, the exercise will not be as beneficial.

Before you even pick up five clubs again, be able to do 100 counts with each of these exercises. The idea is this, each of these exercises are easier than five clubs. Before you can do five clubs, you must be able to do all of the components of five clubs. If you work on five prematurely, you will learn it, but it will take much longer.

So, once you have 100 counts with each, do short, clean runs with five. If you can only do 10 throws, then do only 10 throws. Don't keep juggling until you drop. Always limit yourself to a run that you are absolutely confident that you can complete. This is a grave error in practice style among many jugglers. If you juggle until you drop, that means that every time you practice a run, you are also practising a mistake. We don't like practising mistakes. This also means that saves don't count. If you have to make a save to keep the pattern going, STOP. This is not performance, this is practice. Gradually increase your run lengths, but what ever you do, don't worry about records. The primary assumption is driving to what you will learn, not what you have learned.

Boppo (Bruce Tiemann)

Tips for four and five clubs... First off, I DID learn five first then four. Don't follow my example... unless you too are mesmerized by seeing a five club cascade, and decide that nothing is more important than learning that pattern.

  1. If you want to learn the fountain specifically: point the top of the club OUT so that the handle doesn't smack you in the wrist when you catch it. For odd numbers, angle the clubs in so the tops point to the other hand. (In other words, imagine the sun being directly overhead. The shadow of the club, going from handle to head, ideally should angle towards the other hand, that is inside, for crossing throws, and away from the other hand, towards the outside for non-crossing throws.) You need to really thrust your wrists forwards and angle your hands out A LOT MORE THAN YOU THINK to make the clubs merely point directly forwards - it might seem they should be pointing out, like the flat front trick, but they won't.) The throw is strange at first.
  2. Try both in sync and out of sync; one may be much easier than the other.
  3. If you merely want four clubs in any pattern, try the double-single or the triple single half showers, and also the columns patterns. Columns can be done in or out of sync, and if in sync, can be "middles-outsides", the"half-splits" or the full splits. Unlike the fountains where you catch on the outside and then carry, "scoop" to the inside for the throw, there is no scoop in the columns patterns - you throw each club right where you caught it so you don't need to angle the clubs against their own motion, and the throws are a bit easier - and it's because of this that showering clubs is hard: by passing a club from left to right, the head has out-moving momentum yet the throw demands that it be pointing IN, towards the other hand, for it to be easily caught - so you really need to freeze the sideways motion of each pass before throwing it, or make it loop underneath so it becomes correct again - or do the flat front where it isn't an issue.

    For the half-showers, you angle the clubs the same way as for three or five. But the doubles-singles pattern is tighter and faster than all others except singles itself, and the rhythm is an uneven right-left.....right-left.....right-left, whereas all others are either cleanly in or out of sync. The triples-singles is evenly out of sync and only as fast as a regular three club, single-spin cascade. But at first the triples will be wild and the temptation to overthrow/overspin the singles will be great. Both the triple-single or double-single patterns cross the throws so you don't need to angle them any differently than for three.

    Passers often find these patterns easier because the left hand just throws ordinary selfs all the time. I know one passer, John Gilkey (sp?) who found the five clubs, triple-single and quad-single half showers easier than the doubles cascade because his left hand didn't like doubles. I'm not sure, but I think he couldn't do the four club doubles patterns either, just the half showers really

    If you want to learn five, I suggest you learn the out-of-sync doubles fountain. The scoop that you use for the fountain is quite like what you need to do in five, and the columns patterns don't teach it. The handspeed, in throws per second, for five (natural) doubles is about the same as for four SINGLES - it's fast. Four doubles-singles has an intermediate throwing rate between five and four doubles, and gives good practice for ONE of the hands. Try the left-handed doubles-singles, and also try the three club shower BOTH WAYS as additional practice for five, as well as the siteswaps 5 5 5 5 0, 5 5 5 1 both ways, and 5 5 2 (um, and 5). Since the handspeeds are about the same between five doubles and four singles, if you can run four singles, you can do the above site-swaps as doubles from within four singles without having to adjust the timing, and so you can work up to running those tricks non-stop from trying them just once in a while.

    Also try four balls and a club; start by throwing the club first. I find that all of these patterns are about as hard to do good runs with as five itself, easier in some ways and harder in others. Five is really unforgiving but calmingly symmetric; 5 5 5 1 has all those damn 1s, which may well be harder than 5s at first. Try 'em all, stick with the ones you learn the most from. I also do five clubs in the doubles-singles and triples-singles half showers, but both are much harder than the doubles cascade for me.

  4. As they say you should do for passing, bring each throw down to nearly point to the floor before coming up for the throw. Besides encouraging natural spin, it gives each hand a home to return to after every catch, even wild catches. Look at people running five clubs: the clubs go down quite a bit below horizontal before every throw. You can get away with jerky, sudden, non-dipping throws with three but not with five. The upswing after the dip is nice and long, so there's lots of opportunity to make all the throws consistent. This pattern gives only a few inches of error-margin, so a long runway (or barrel, if you prefer) prior to launch is required; this is provided by deep dips.

  5. One thing that has helped me with seven balls and seven clubs, is to lower the point that your attention is focussed on. Rather than looking at the tops of the pattern - there are two, one for each side - instead look at the crossing point, which may be only halfway up, and there's only one. Aim each throw to go from the home position to the crossing point; imagine something's there and you want to hit it with every throw, pummeling it from both sides, alternately with each hand. If you have chosen the crossing point correctly, once you "hit" it, the club (or ball) will continue through the rest of the pattern correctly, and will land catchably. Certainly you won't hit throws from the other hand (because if they would hit, they would do so at the crossing point, and they're going there alternately) and you won't hit throws from the same hand, because if they both came from the same home place and went through the same point, they're going on the same path, but one has a head start.

    Why is this better than my saying "If you just throw them perfectly in pattern, you will have no problem?" Because you get immediate feedback about what's perfect. When doing seven, certainly, and to a lesser extent when you first try five, there's a long time, perhaps a throw or two (or three or four with seven), between when you make a bad throw and when it has peaks in the wrong place, that is, that you've made a bad throw. So you'll be in the dark for several throws after a bad one, before you know it's bad. By looking at the crossing point, you can immediately see if the throw is misplaced, and try to correct the very next throw. I've had my best error recoveries in seven balls by suddenly attending to the crossing point when I sensed trouble, though I've had my longest runs by Zenly spacing out, looking at the center between the two tops. I've also had the most consistent set of good seven club runs by always looking at the crossing point; In other words, I best think of seven clubs as a string of continuous error recoveries. (Grrrr!)

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