6 Ball Juggling Survey
Six ball juggling is not as widely discussed as five and seven ball
juggling is. Here are the responses to a few 6-ball questions that I
had asked numbers jugglers in rec.juggling. The following set of
questions were e-mailed to about 20 people:
- List your favorite patterns for 6, in
order of preference.
- A good run of each for you would be how
- Any other 6 patterns you juggle?
(half-shower, 7777770, etc.)
- How do you warm up for 6? How long does
your warm up last?
- When you were learning, what helped your
6 ball pattern the most?
- What is the most often noticed mistake
when others are attempting 6?
- What is the best advice you received or
give for juggling 6?
Thanks to all respondents for generously sharing their experience
General Advice from John Nations:
Let me talk about six a bit and then I will answer
your survey questions at the end.
I learned six balls successfully but have had
very little success with seven. For a few years
I was doing 30 to 40 throw runs in every show
with six using medium Dubé stage balls. They
fill up my hands well so I can catch and throw
My advice is to first master three balls in each
hand. Other patterns for six like center cross or
half shower are decent but nothing is as satisfying
as the alternating three in each hand pattern.
With this pattern I have juggled six for over a minute.
Note: Fergie strongly disagrees here. His favorite
is the six ball center cross.
Anyway, you want to put some music on, because
practicing one hand at a time is super boring and
monotonous. Work hard on that non-dominant hand.
If you have to, do what I did: Tie a belt around your
waist and arm so that the forearm is the only free part.
In other words, you immobilize your upper arm. This
taught me to do two balls in the left hand when I first
learned the four fountain.
I didn't need such an extreme measure for three in the
left but I did need three times as much practice as with
three in the right. Once I got three in the left over 100
tosses, I was able to sustain six a bit.
Numbers God and all-around ball enthusiast Bruce
Sarafian says that for six balls, try to throw inside to outside
circles in each hand, but allow yourself to make column
corrections and also to throw in front of and behind other
balls. If I try to do that, I usually have too many collisions,
so I strive for smooth ovals.
Anyway, to help your six, try the 66661 with five balls.
From a cascade, that's a left same hand high throw, a
right same hand high throw, same again with left, then with
right, then pass the last ball across from hand to hand.
Then try to resume the cascade. This may be tougher
than six but it really helps when learning six.
Also try to do some four ball flashes with a clap of the hands
underneath. These may or may not help. I found that they
helped not to start learning six but to smooth it out when
I could already qualify it.
Pattern changes with four and five balls really help with
six because to change patterns is quicker than running
any individual pattern and this quickness is good practice
for the next level.
I'm glad to hear you're interested in six. Many jugglers
tend to start seven practice right after mastering five.
This may help, but I don't think there are any good seven
ball jugglers who can't do six well. Bruce learned six first.
One thing from Bruce's philosophy, though: Always be
trying numbers that are higher than the one you're currently
working on. He was trying to flash ten and running four
balls in each hand while learning seven. It obviously helped.
One more thing: It is crucial to catch the balls at the end
every few runs. If you run every juggle until a miss, you
don't learn success. You reinforce sloppy endings. So
try for ten clean throws and catches, twelve, twenty, fifty,
etc. If you fail to reach a goal, ignore the failure and try
again the next day. And watch other six ballers whenever
you can. Watching them helps you learn the height and
cadence of the pattern. Maybe someone will let you try a
front steal. I couldn't do it at first but trying it really helped me.
I hope you learn it quickly, but even if it comes slow, it is
a very satisfying trick. Now if I could just master seven...
Your friend, John Nations in Orlando, Fl.
List your favorite patterns for 6, in order of preference.
Note: I had not included the Half-shower as a possible favorite because
I didn't know better. A lot of respondents included it anyway.
PATTERN Async Sync Half-Shower Center-cross
I 6 5 4
II 4 5 4 4
III 2 6 3 5
IV 2 3
- (Numbers denote number of people. A=Async, S=Sync, W=Wimpy,
- Notice that NO ONE gave Sync as their first preference.
- The half-shower is a definite mainstream pattern. (I had not
included it in the choices I gave respondents, but many replies
mentioned the HS)
- Preference for the center cross pattern varies, but most
6-ballers seem to work on it anyway.
- This table represents preference for DOABILITY (juggling difficulty)
2. half shower
3. full shower
4. cross (wimpy)
1. Shower (hardest)
2. fountain (in or out of sync)
3. half shower
4. wimpy (easiest)
[A,S,W]. Including the halfshower, which I would, it's [A,H,S,W].
Giving scores, as opposed to rankings, it's
[H_ A_ W_ S_]
(Note: I really consider the half shower one of the mainstream patterns. I
practice all 4 patterns about equally.)
Async (way out in front), Wimpy, Sync (last by a mile)
I have an aesthetic dislike for the Wimpy pattern, so I don't practice it.
None of these: my favorite pattern is 7 5, the standard (outside)
half-shower. I will admit that I first learned the wimpy pattern.
My preferred patterns are, in order, wimpy, half shower, and sync in columns
(the last is a very hard but very pretty pattern).
[_A _S _W] (A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy)
[_A _S _W] (A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy)
Between A and S I would put the half-shower
(A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy)
Sorry I can't conform.
756, 75, (6,6)*, 6
* This is 3 in each hand done synchronously and each outside-in
like a reverse cascade. I prefer throwing from the outside
with 3 in one hand because it is less work.
[A_ S_ W_] (A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy)
[X_ A_ S_] (A: Async S:Sync X:Crossing)
1/2 Shower, Wimpy, Columns (I am fountain impaired)
[A, S, W] (A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy)
An ambiguous question. Favorite to watch? Easiest for me to do? Of
the three you list, my watching-favorites are probably A,W,S, and my
success-doing order would be W,A,S. However, none of these are my
actual favorite in either respect; I prefer to do and to watch a
[I do only crossing patterns ] I do a fake 7 pattern (A),
a semi synchronous crossing(B), a a half shower(C),
and a shower(D)
A good run of each for you would be how many catches?
Number of catches per "good run" averaged over responses:
Center Crossing: 72
- From individual responses it can be seen that a "good run" is
either 50 or less, or over 100.
- Notice from the actual responses that there is a huge variance.
- Now you know what you should shoot for.
S: 30 (work the least on this)
[300,100?,100?]. I don't practice the other two for duration.
Nathan Hoover: [H_ A_ W_ S_] [24,20,20,20] catches.
Jim Lloyd: [HASW] [30,25,20,???] catches.
Allen Knutson: (A,W,S) 25,25,50, and 70 in 7 5.
I was once timed with a stopwatch doing 6 ball wimpy for 1 minute and 20
seconds (over 300 catches).
Ben Schoenberg: [_A _S _W] [50,40,40] catches.
Jack Boyce: [_A _S _W] [300, 200, 50?] catches.
(A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy) [50,25x2,100 (bounced)]
Ed Carstens: 756, 75, (6,6) [100,100,100] catches.
[A_ S_ W_] [50 ,50, ?_] catches.
I never count catches though.
[X_ A_ S_] [300, 140, ???] catches.
John Gunser: 1/2 Shower, Wimpy, Columns [50, 50, 40] catches.
Jack Kalvan: [~100] catches.
John Nations: [A,200; S,80; W, 50] catches.
I do a fake 7 pattern (A), a semi synchronous crossing(B), a
half shower(C),and a shower(D) [A-200?,B-100?,C-40?] catches.
A: 30, S: 30, W: 50. I rarely practise any of these anymore, though.
Other 6 patterns
Any other 6 patterns you juggle? (half-shower, 7777770, etc.)
Inside and outside halfshower, transition fountain->halfshower->fountain,
also async fountain->sync->async. Full shower both ways, shoulders,
overheads, 7 7 7 7 2 with 7s backcrossed, four and five-high half pirouettes,
Also many siteswaps, for example the following:
7 5 6, 7 7 7 3, 8 6 7 3, 7 7 7 7 7 1, 7 7 8 8 5 1, 8 6 8 6 7 1,
9 5 5 5, 11 6 6 6 6 1, 9 9 9 4 4 1, 8 6 9 6 6 1, 8 8 4 4, 10 6 6 6 2, and
the excited-state 8 9 1, 8 8 8 1 8 8 1, and 8 8 9 1 9 1.
Somewhere there's a list of with many of the ones I've actually
tried, and many I've gotten, marked. If you care, I can dredge it up,
but I'd be happy to be read some tricks at random from a list by someone,
and try them in front of them, perhaps in Vegas. Without a doubt, some
I will have never tried before. I think I've tried ~100, and done at
least once maybe 60 or 70 of them. Just a guess, though.
Six is my favorite number to go wading through siteswap lists, when
I'm in that kind of mood.
Nathan Hoover: No, but eventually I'd like to learn 777771 and 11 1 (shower)
Jim Lloyd: It's funny you consider the half-shower to be an "other" pattern, I think it
should be considered the primary 6-ball pattern. It's the least collision
prone, and looks the best.
Half-shower is fun (max. about 40 catches.) I'm working on a finish
with 6: 777771 with the 1 under the leg, then catch the others
Jack Boyce: half-shower, 777771, 868671, 864
I would put the 75 half-shower as my second favourite 6 ball pattern.
Full-shower and half-shower. (Also many multiplex patterns.)
Jack Kalvan: Many multiplexes.
John Nations: 777 771, half-shower, three-pair stack multiplex
I really like the half-shower. A six-ball shower is very nice to
How do you warm up for 6? How long does your warm up last?
64 with 5, 4 and 5 shower in both directions, 3 in each hand,
5 half shower both ways.
Warm up for 10-15 minutes, also 5 in a high pattern
5 ball tricks, mostly backcrosses, running one- and both sides
overhead, half pirouettes, and a few siteswaps. This takes about 5-20
I do 5, 5 half shower, and 5 with 3 in my strong hand and 2 in my weak.
Maybe 5 minutes warm up, followed by 10-20 minutes of 6 ball juggling.
I don't specifically warm up for 6, but my best runs of 6 happen after I've
been juggling for 30-45 minutes.
I warm up by working on 3-ball stuff first, then 4, then 5.
With 5. Generally one 5 run, which is ~2 minutes on average.
Warm up for six: work on different 5 patterns (e.g., reverse cascade,
columns, etc., but not site swaps - I like my throws to all be the same)
Ben Schoenberg: My practice sessions start with beanbags,
with which I keep adding
one, going from 3 up to attempts at 10. I spend about 2 minutes with
zero (loosening up), about 4 minutes with 3, about 5 minutes with 4,
about 6 minutes with 5, and then about 6 minutes with 6.
I just start with 3 balls and work up through 5 to 6.
This might take 30-45 minutes during a typical practice.
Working up thru the numbers, 10 mins
I like to start with 5 balls just to get my hands and arms
moving... about 3 minutes
Practising 3 in each hand by itself,
4 club singles (with inside scoops) is a good one,
Generally, I think it's better to start warming up with clubs before
balls, because they are bigger and you can get your eye in. Any 4
club stuff is good. After that, I'd probably just go straight into
I don't need a warm up for 6.
I juggle most every day on my lunch break. I start with what ever 3ball
tricks have my interest for 10 -15 mins. Then 5 ball tricks for 15 mins,
6 balls for 15 mins (usually 5 mins for each pattern) and finally 15 mins
of 7 balls. Lately though I have been spending more time on 5 ball tricks,
rather than working with 6.
I warm up by trying tricks with five and doing four ball,
four-high pirouettes. I warm up for about three minutes
before feeling smooth with six. Occasionally I can jam
on six with no warm-up using Fergie bags.
I only do 6 when I drop 1 from 7 and don't care about tiring myself out.
I usually work on five and a five half-shower before working on a six
half-shower, which is the only six pattern I practise regularly. Times
vary, since I don't think of it as just a warm-up but as practice on
When you were learning what helped your 6 the most?
Thinking of keeping my wrists pointed out to keep the circles
going. Keep my lefts high, and throw from my belly button.
Don't let the pattern get too wide.
I'm not clear on the question. Working on 7 and 8 helped my 6
a lot, and also 5 and 6 ball siteswaps that make the six fountain easy.
My skill level, if that's the question, was at facility with 5 ball
tricks and a few 6 tricks, when 6 started cruising.
3 in my weak hand. For the half shower, one key point is that the first 4
throws are 2 synchronous pairs, then you switch to async and it just works.
5 half-shower and showering 4 backwards. Neither of these are
so good for the fountain, though, I don't expect.
Working on 3 in one hand is important, and then concentrating on what
each hand is doing in the pattern.
Just try everything! Especially 3 in one hand, of
course. It's also important to work on at least the
async, sync, and half-shower when you're learning;
don't get stuck in a rut working on only one thing.
You can also work on 5 ball tricks like 66661.
Also I have this quirky thing where I start all even
numbers with my left (weak) hand. It seemed logical
when I was first learning, since I had the launch for
5 down cold and the "extra" ball was in the left (the
theory being you can concentrate on the first throw
better.) Lastly, with the fountain try to focus on the
two points where each side peaks -- try to maintain
a consistent spacing for these peaks.
Leading from the left (weaker hand)
Starting with three in each hand and going from 3 casc to 4 fountain to 5
casc to 6 fountain
Ed Carstens: Getting a solid 3 in each hand by itself.
The advantage that 6 has over 7, is that it's obvious how to
break it down, ie. 3 in each hand. So until 3 in each hand
separately is solid, there's not much point trying 6.
I don't think there's much else to it. If both hands are solid,
then just practising 6 is the best practise.
In 1982 I went to the IJA convention in Santa Barbara, California.
I had been struggling with the 6 ball async fountain for a long time.
At Santa Barbara I saw someone doing 6 balls in a crossing pattern,
which was a pattern that I had never seen before. When I got home
from that convention I began working on the 6 ball crossing pattern
and had instant success! So, to answer this question, I would say
that selecting the best pattern helped me the most.
The thing that helped most was learning other patterns. I learned first
with columns, then wimpy and the 1/2 shower. Columns is so very collision
prone, had I not learned the other patterns I would have probably given
up on six. But now with other patterns to work on it keeps it fun even
though improvement is slow in coming.
Alternating 3 in one hand, then three in other hand.
Probably three in left hand practice and five ball tricks and
Tony Duncan:learning 7. I learned 6 afterwards and it took a day
What is the most often noticed mistake when others are attempting
Most people try to juggle 6 too low, or the left throws
much lower than the right.
Not enough scoop with the fountain. It's LOTS!
The balls follow parabolic arcs. In the
cascade, most of the width at the base is made up by throwing and
catching from different hands, that is, by the width of your body.
For the fountain, *each* *hand* must span the *entire* width of
it's arc, as the other hand isn't involved at all. That means,
throw from your navel to the outside, and then whip your hand out there
to get the next one, and scoop it into the middle again. With
lots of scoop, the pattern up top opens out a lot, and collisions
all but go away.
Don't get to see many people trying it. Everyone I juggle with either can
barely juggle 6, or only works on higher numbers (Alan Morgan.)
Flip answer: that I thought they were juggling 6. Actually it's
7 seen from the side. Real answer, same message: I basically
never see people attempting 6! 5, 7, 9, and maybe 8, but not 6.
Odd but true.
With sync and async, the two sides are not clearly defined
in the mind or in the air.
Focusing on only one pattern, and getting into a
practice rut. It's easy to miss the forest for the trees,
so to speak. From a more technical point of view, it's
crucial with the fountain to throw from the centerline of
the body. Oftentimes people will get lazy and not pull
the balls all the way in.
When practising 3 in each hand, i think they should be inside
scoops, where the ball is really dragged near the middle of your
body, and thrown outwards. Sometimes, if the last throw didn't
go out far enough, the next throw will collide with this ball, so
you tend to throw it straighter up, and this keeps happening until
Depends on the pattern. With a fountain pattern the most common
"flaw" that I notice is that the weaker hand drifts towards the center
of the body causing collisions with the balls in the other hand. With
the crossing pattern, I notice that a lot of jugglers let their hands
get too high up into their chest area which causes them to make short,
stiff-armed throws that go awry.
I don't usually see others throwing six.
Their non-dominant hand still sucks with three in one hand.
Also they run the pattern to a drop every time. You need to
What is the best advice you received or give for juggling 6?
Try lots of tricks with 5 and 6, and also try to bound errors:
_Overcorrect_ a problem, for example throw some _behind you_ if throwing
too far in front is a problem, so that the "correct" way has now
definitely been bounded on both sides, and is _somewhere_ in the middle.
Finally, try to vary everything imaginable over as wide a range as
possible: too high, too low, to little dwell, too much, too narrow, too
wide, etc... Besides expanding the region in which the pattern is doable,
it makes the comfortablest place for each of these parameters seem much
easier in comparison to the extreme places explored.
I think flashing 8 helps for juggling 6. After doing 8, 6 seems like so few
balls. Also make sure your weak hand can crank out 25 or more catches without
the help of watching the strong hand, while you are standing motionless, not
walking around in a circle.
Hope this helps, I am on a mission with 6: 100 catches by 12/31/95!
Practice, practice, practice. Oh yes, practice some more.
If you're going to try to master 6 in the fountain, I suspect you should have
3-in-1 hand down pat, such that 200 catches with either hand is doable any
Try the wimpy pattern, and try flashing 8 in it
Work on it when 7 isn't quite doable; 7 5 is similar but easier.
Advice - if you are naturally a low fast juggler, do the wimpy pattern.
it is helpful to work on just launching 3 from a hand and catching them,
checking that they are going to the right place at the right time. I still go
back and do this if my pattern seems too messy.
Work on endurance with three in one hand, on both sides.
Can you do 25 each side? 50? 100? Challenge yourself and don't lose
One time when I was practicing in a park this 6 or 7
year old kid came up to me and told me it looked like
I was holding one of those McDonalds's signs (the two
arches). Certainly the best compliment I ever got, and
that pretty much explains what you should be shooting for.
Lead from the left, don't take it too seriously
Don't skip it for 7.
practise 4 club singles,
don't beat your head against a brick wall with it. If it starts
getting worse while practising, do 4 clubs for a while, then come
back to it.
Fergie: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
For the 1/2 shower: Experiment with different throw heights to find a
rhythm that feels comfortable.
Be patient, be persistent and most of all have fun!!
Just work on 3 in one hand (throwing inside, catching outside). Alternate
runs between right and left hands. Don't waste time with 6 until the three is
SOLID (until your arms get tired.
Practice it a few minutes every day but don't burn out on it.
Always finish your practices with some kind of good run and
a clean finish, even if that means going back to five balls.
During the monotonous beginning phase, put some music on,
or practice with some other people around. Don't let it get
too boring or you won't stay motivated.
Try different patterns; don't practice any given pattern for too long
a stretch (switch to a different pattern or a completely different
trick if you have the will-power); RELAX.
Last Modified: 07/95
Ram Prasad /
Juggling Information Service /