Numbers Notes, by Boppo

Boppo (Bruce Tiemann) posted this to the net in June of 1995:

____General Stuff_____

Philosophy: numbers juggling is hard: 3 tricks take minutes, hours, maybe
days to learn; numbers tricks take, um, _rather_ longer.  Unless you
possess rare talent, expect to spend months on five balls, and years on
seven, to get them comfortable. 

Warm up - literally and figuratively.  Don't practice your hardest trick
first!  And cold, clammy hands don't have the responsiveness of nice warm
ones.  For the hell of it, try juggling when your hands and arms are
really cold, and then go soak your arms up to the elbows in water as hot
as you can stand, wiggling your fingers the whole time, for a full minute. 
Dry off, and immediately try the same trick again. 

When you juggle, try to notice tension anywhere in your body.  Try to 
relax that which isn't needed - do you clench your jaw, or your back, or 
your shoulders, for a trick that really only involves your hands and 

Remember to breathe when you juggle(!) If you have to hold your breath to
do five clubs, you won't go past ~30 seconds, or maybe a minute at most,
EVER!  Even if you have to tense up to throw all the stuff out of your
hands, make an effort to try to breathe again when you get down to
juggling, with only one object per hand. 

Use nice props: The Flying K's "Challenge" proves an expert can juggle
three of ANYTHING - so you might not notice if your props really suck when
you do three.  Expecting numbers to command your attention for quite a
while, in other words, that you'll be spending LOTS of time with your
chosen numbers objects, you might as well really like them: get nicely
weighted clubs, or quality beanbags (or balls, if that's your fancy). 
When at conventions, check out all the vendors, and try things.  But be
aware that beanbags soften up with use (which balls don't); ask numbers
jugglers what props they use, and how old they are and if they like them. 

Tendonitis might get you.  Symptoms: sore along tendons that hurt when 
you extend them.  Trainers say: (1) consume anti-inflammatories, f.ex. 
aspirin, ibuprofen before exercise, (2) heat affected region before 
exercise (using the water as hot as you can stand up to your elbows 
thing given above), and cold such as ice compresses afterwards, and (3) 
skip practicing the lead-filled tennis balls if that started it!

Two schools of thought about how to practice:  "performers" vs. "hobbyists" 
This is really a continuum... I identify Dan Bennett, Anthony Gatto, and 
Steve Ragatz as almost pure "performers" and myself, Alan Morgan, and 
Bruce Sarafian as more or less pure "hobbyists."  (Don't mistake this 
identification as an endorsement... realise the different points of 
view, and use what methods best suit you.)  

Performers:     don't like to drop: "don't practice mistakes", 
		only try to flash with clean finish, then flash +1 with clean 
finish, then  flash+2... and only try to juggle or run later, but always 
finish cleanly 
		don't make wild saves; stand still, keep clean patterns
		put off 7 until 5 is really solid... and put off 5 'till 4 is.
	Also, Dan Bennett thinks your mind stews on the last attempt of
every individual trick you try each session.  So stop on a good one!  Let
your mind stew on that one.  If you get lucky on your first try of a
trick, stop right there for the day(!) and try something else. 

Hobbyists:      don't care about drops: "it can't hurt to try; if you're 
not dropping, you're not practicing hard-enough tricks" 
		try to run a trick ASAP, and go 'till you wipe out
		willing to lunge, making wild saves or walking about
		trying to learn 5? a few hilarious minutes with 7 and 
even 9 will make 5 seem slow and empty!  "You won't know where your present 
limits are 'till you have, without a doubt, exceeded them."
	Consider working out if simple effort, let alone accuracy, of
target trick is a struggle:  push-ups, chin-ups, "air juggle 11" 
      Notice how buff Anthony Gatto and Bruce Sarafian are... maybe
there's something to it.  Since Burlington, I have started such arm
exercises, and I attribute my recent success with 9 and 10 balls in part
to it. 

	"flash" of n objects = n catches; 
	"straight flash" = n throws, n catches, 0 drops. 
   	"qualify" = 2n catches, currently accepted "legal run" criterion. 
    	"run" and "solid"... no widely accepted definition; here are some:
100 catches; able to perform without likelihood of drops; 1 minute (which
is REALLY long!); free to stop at will; "Solid is a state of mind, not a
run length." Three times around, three times in a row, no drops, on first
attempt with no warmup. 

_____General practice Techniques____________

Garbage juggling: n different things, tennis or whiffle balls, lead 
	-> if you can do these, the standard pattern with your favorite 
beanbags will be easy!

Tricks: Try to learn tricks with the target numbers patterns, as soon as 
the normal pattern starts to run.  Over the top, backcrosses, anything.  
As above, if you can do these even barely, the standard pattern will seem 

Siteswaps with 0s, 1s, and/or 2s, in addition to the target throws:
5 0 1, 5 2 5 1 2, 5 5 0 5 0, 5 5 2, 5 5 5 1, 5 5 5 5 0 to work on 5;
6 6 0, 6 6 1 6 1, 6 6 6 2, 6 6 6 6 1, 6 6 6 6 6 0 for help with 6, etc.

For many people, these tricks are easier to run than the target number,
but yet provide aspects of the same sort of difficulty that the target
presents.  For example, scooping the 6s enough in 6 6 6 6 1 and even 6 6 1
6 1.  Clubs do not lend themselves so well to siteswaps with 1s as balls
do, sadly. 

Vary the "usual" pattern.  Try it too:  fast, slow, high, low, narrow, 
wide, high & low "dwell ratio," far in front, up too close, etc, 
and in combinations - also run with n-2, especially way up high, too 
fast, and with low dwell.  Doing these expands your "comfort zone" and 
makes the default place for each of these parameters that much easier.

Notice what errors you make (may need another person, esp. a juggler, to 
watch): things like walking in circles, left hand throws too low, 2nd 
rt. hand throw always goes way in front of you, or doesn't cross...
 -> you want to make different errors on different attempts: if it's
always the _same_ _error_ then you need to work on fixing that, until it
isn't the error you make _every_ _time_.  

Also, exaggerate that error, then exaggerate the correction; (so if your
left hand throws in front of you, make it throw _behind_ _you_) now the
"correct" way is somewhere in between, but you'll never get there if you
stay on one side of the error-correction only. 

Attend to crossing point:  If launch position is correct and crossing
point is hit at right speed, then the rest of arc is assured. This gives
the benefit of quicker feedback if a throw is in error: it gets to
crossing point much sooner than it crests, the latter which might
otherwise be thought a good place to look.  You might think of a small
hoop you need to get all the objects aimed through, coming alternately
from each side, which is located at the crossing point.  (Looking there,
of course you need to use peripheral vision to make the catches more so
than if you look at the top.) Another image is to think that you are
pummeling a target floating at the crossing point.  Hit it equally hard on
both sides.  Don't let up.  These last two images have helped me make wild
saves: there's a localized place to aim for, even if the pattern has 
"fallen apart" or a wild catch is brought in. 

Try to keep your elbows more or less pinned to your sides.  It seems 
claustrophobic, not moving them much, but try it anyway.  I found it 
helped me make better throws during longer runs.  Later, I noticed (on 
the Baltimore tape) that Gatto hardly moves his elbows at all.  Watch him.  

More generally, watch people doing tricks you want to learn.  What do they
do differently than you do?  Some things to look for: How high is the
crossing point?  How wide is the pattern at the base, and how much scoop
is there?  What motions do their hands go through?  Arcs?  Back and forth? 
Triangles?  How do these differ from your own movements?  If these people
are able to error-correct things that kill your own runs, try to discern
their method of error-recovery.  (One of my methods: throw everything
after a problem a bit high.  This buys time, and keeps those throws out of
the way of the bad one.  Should the problem be fixed, the pattern can
gently be brought back down later.)


Most people prefer beanbags to balls.  Many find tennis balls too big and
too light and bouncy, to be good, but some sand, water, or pennies in each
one tames them, and keeps them from rolling everywhere to boot.  Silicones
are expensive and dangerously bouncy, but feel sooo good.  I find them too
heavy and dangerous for 8 or more.  They enforce "performer" style:  You'd
rather catch them cleanly _now_ than risk a failed error recovery and
subsequent bonk on the head _soon_. 

"Drop test" - beanbags only.  Only consider where they hit the ground or
better, the sand, and not where they roll to.  Of course, collisions void
the results - but do it over instead of sweating where they "would have
gone" - and worry instead about having them not collide! Throw ONLY, and
do your best to clear your mind of any thoughts of catches. With your mind
so cleared, you might find the throws are so good you try to catch 'em
anyway.  DON'T at first; let 'em drop.  You want to hear an even rhythm
when they hit, and to find them collected in piles right below your hands
(but maybe a bit wider).  If one hand always throws low, or if the throws
are wild, you'll spot it in the drop test: (The impacts will be uneven,
and the "piles"  will be spread out, respectively.) Also, if one hand
always throws in front of you, or you want to walk in a circle, you'll see
that too. 

The drop test is useful because when you juggle at the limit of your
ability _and_try_to_diagnose_the_problem_at_the_same_time, well, you're
busy!  The drop test breaks those tasks apart: first you do the throws,
and _then_ you step back and see where they hit, and listen to the
rhythm... and you can fully attend to _each_ _part_ since they're now

(Easier: Get a Dad named Nick who tells you everything you do wrong, and
picks up your props to boot.  Less good: videotape your sessions, and look
for what you might be doing particularly right or wrong.  Other jugglers
might be able to give you the same sort of feedback.)

"Catching" beanbags or balls during juggling is a bit of a misnomer. 
They're not solid grabs, like shaking their hands, but instead are almost
mere re-directions.  With a cup-shaped hand, if a ball smacks the base of
your fingers, your hand may close automatically around it, saving you the
effort of having to do it yourself, especially if the things are > 100g
each.  Though it isn't necessary to actually grab the ball during a
juggle, this automatic closure is certainly better than having to think
about gripping the ball, every single catch. 

If you drop a lot, juggling in front of a sofa or bed can save you some 
picking-up time.  And if you buy a dozen balls, you can distribute the 
whole lot of them around the room before needing to go fetch them.

________Evens vs. Odds____________

Odds patterns: cascade, outside halfshower

Evens patterns: sync. and async. fountain, inside and outside 
halfshower, wimpy (= synchronous center cross) 

Cascade:  want arcs to cross at ~90 degrees up there: this means wide
base, and throw across, not vertically.  Try to make the pattern "too
wide" - it will be a bit more arm effort to sustain from all the scoop
needed, but there will be lots more room, and a bad throw will less likely
collide.  If it's a tall and skinny pattern, the arcs will be "rubbing
against" one another for lots of length, making a bad throw much likelier
to result in collision.  If the arcs cross through each other at 90
degrees, when a ball goes through the crossing point, it screams through
and is never heard from again, from the other arc's point of view.  Here,
a throw can be bad and still not hit the others. 

Fountain:  This pattern requires _lots_ _of_ _scoop_; it's not tall and
skinny either, for the same reason as given above.  The throws are not
only not vertical, they actually go to the outside and look crossing if
you bring your hands "past together" at the base. 
	For n-in-one-hand, lots of things are easier than doing them in a
circle: "in, in, out", columns, cascade, and any which way.  But these
are not easier to do in stereo than the circle, except columns with 4.
	"Master/slave":  even if you can't run 3 in your bad hand by itself,
try 6 anyway.  Instead of thinking "Left hand, do three even though you 
can't" think "Left hand, mimic the right hand, whatever it's doing."  

Halfshowers: height ratio dictates rhythm; to find a comfortable rhythm,
you need to adjust the relative heights of throws.  Some adjustment of
rhythm can be obtained by changing the dwell of *one* of the hands, but
not as much as with changing the heights.  (I prefer having the two hands
have the same dwell.)

Wimpy pattern:  both hands cross, and one hand throws a tiny bit earlier
and also higher than the other, so the balls don't hit at the crossing
point.  Most people find this easier than the other evens patterns; some
even find it easier to qualify than n/2 in their better hand! 


Numbers clubs really help: they're long, narrow, light.  JuggleBug RYB are
my least favorite, followed by Europeans: these are heavy and with
hard-hitting handles.  Americans, though huge and hard to start, are
surprisingly light and also lofty, which amounts to slower patterns. IMO
excellent clubs to work with 5.  This is a matter of taste, of course. 
Radical Fish are IMO good # clubs, but Renegade #s clubs, are markedly
easier for me for 7. YMMV. 

Flashy vs. "good" and natural spins: Because clubs rotate with your arm as
you come up for the release, they'll spin anyway, even without any "wrist"
action at all.  I call these "natural spins," and they're quite high. 
Thus, slow spin = more time and hence a slower pattern.  Also if there's
no added wrist spin, then throw height becomes connected to the number of
spins: simply adjust throw height to correct overspun/underspun throws -
if they're underspun, don't think "need more spin," think "throws aren't
high enough." However, slow spins, and slow patterns won't look very
flashy, compared to forehead-height triples.  Query: Do you want to look
flashy, or do you want to juggle 5 (6,7) clubs?  Again, I don't advocate
one style over the other.  Try both and see what works.  But: 

Most people juggle five clubs with doubles that are *lots* higher than
they do doubles with, if you ask them to please show you three clubs
doubles.  Learning four clubs with singles is good practice for learning
how to throw natural spins:  It gets awfully quick fast if you help the
singles along with your wrists! Instead, relax the throws.  Now throw
doubles that same way... this is how to do the doubles for five clubs. 

Deep dips - a home place to return after each catch, and a long runway 
for each launch.  After each catch, bring the head of the club down along 
your leg, almost down to vertical.  No matter where you catch it, dip it 
back down to this place prior to throwing it.  Passers often do nice 
dips; watch them and copy it.

Siteswap throw heights:  if 3s are singles, 4s are doubles, 5s are
triples, 6s quads.  If 4s are singles, then 5s are doubles, 6s are
triples, and 7s quads.  So, if you want to practice 5s (as doubles) from
within 4 clubs, doing four _singles_ gives the best handspeed match, for 

Evens vs odds: 

Point head to where the throw is going: crossing vs. not.  In other words,
if the sun were directly overhead, the shadow of the club should point
tilted towards where it will be caught: 4s and 6s need the shadow of the
knob more towards the center of your body, the heads outwards towards the
_same hand_, and 5s and 7s need to have the shadows of the knobs towards
the outside, and the heads closer to the center, towards the _other hand_. 
Eventually, the clubs will be pointing almost directly away from you, that
is, not tilted at all, but the temptation to go the wrong way is so
strong, especially with even throws, that it's wise to aim for
overcorrection, and thereby get almost enough. 

Odds patterns: cascade, halfshower

Evens patterns: columns, fountain, halfshower

Cascade:  angle heads in.  Especially try to vary wide vs. narrow-based 
patterns; 5 is kinda wide, and 7 is very wide, at the bottom.  Five clubs 
takes _lots_ more space than three!  Also, the cascade CROSSES.  Try to 
throw "too wide" so you have to zip out to catch 'em.  That may be hard 
to keep doing, but at least they won't collide, the usual problem with 
>3 club cascades.  

Also, for five clubs, pay attention to the handles right before the
catches.  Make good catches the first time!  There is very little time to
adjust a bad catch, adjusting it in your hand, before it needs to be
thrown again.  Instead, try to twist your hand in any way possible to make
a catch such that you are holding the club *exactly* where you want to be
holding it for the next throw, like how high up the handle you want to be
holding it.  During the dip, do your best to erase the weird motion needed
to make the good catch. 

Halfshower: much like cascade, but look out for overspinning the lower 
throw.  It's a Zen-like HARD-gentle-HARD-gentle...
	Passers note: your left only does singles - that may be all it's 
used to, and therefore much better at!
	Rhythm of half-shower patterns: 
		4:2/1 (four clubs: doubles over singles) is galloped; 
		4:3/1 is async;
		5:2/1 and 5:3/1 are synchronous; 
		5:4/1 is async; 
		6:3/2 is galloped

Columns: easier for 4, but less helpful than fountain as stepping stone
for 5, and of no use for learning 6. It might work to learn columns first
as stepping stone to the fountain, prior to 5. 

	corollary:  keep your elbows in, maybe even in front of you! 
Here's a warped image: Your arms are amputated at the elbows, and you need
to stir a cauldron that is right in front of your belly with them.  To
reach the bottom of the cauldron, lean slightly forward even though it's
scary how close the clubs come to your nose, and how little time you will
have to get out of their way should they collide in front of your face.
	Also: if you face your palms together instead of up, then keeping
wrists cocked back maps directly to the head being directed more out,
which is good.
	Use lots and lots of scoop.  More than you think!  Grotesquely
exaggerate it; it'll be about right at first.  Try to make it "certainly
_too_ much" - probably you can't.  Extra scoop adds "muscular difficulty"
to the pattern - you'll be working harder.  But it alleviates "juggling
difficulty" - there will be more room, fewer collisions, and ironically it
will be easier to sustain, except for all the damn effort it takes.  (If
this isn't clear now, you'll know what I mean when you try it.)


	I used to juggle rings, years ago.  The only thing I recall that
_really_ _helped_ was thinking of 6 rings as "just like 6 clubs." 

Numbers Notes, by Boppo / Juggling Information Service /
© 1996 Juggling Information Service. All Rights Reserved.