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:

  1. List your favorite patterns for 6, in order of preference.
  2. A good run of each for you would be how many catches?
  3. Any other 6 patterns you juggle? (half-shower, 7777770, etc.)
  4. How do you warm up for 6? How long does your warm up last?
  5. When you were learning, what helped your 6 ball pattern the most?
  6. What is the most often noticed mistake when others are attempting 6?
  7. What is the best advice you received or give for juggling 6?

Thanks to all respondents for generously sharing their experience and expertise.

-Ram Prasad

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 them quicker.

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.

-John Nations

Favorite Patterns

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 Preferences

	PATTERN  Async   Sync   Half-Shower  Center-cross
    I               6                   5            4

    II              4        5          4            4

    III             2        6          3            5

    IV                       2                       3

Actual Responses

Rob Vanko:
1.  Fountain
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 
Nathan Hoover:
  [H_ A_ W_ S_] 	

(Note: I really consider the half shower one of the mainstream patterns. I
practice all 4 patterns about equally.)
Alan Morgan:
Async (way out in front), Wimpy, Sync (last by a mile)
Jim Lloyd:
I have an aesthetic dislike for the Wimpy pattern, so I don't practice it.
Allen Knutson:
None of these: my favorite pattern is 7 5, the standard (outside)
half-shower. I will admit that I first learned the wimpy pattern.
Arthur Lewbel:
My preferred patterns are, in order, wimpy, half shower, and sync in columns
(the last is a very hard but very pretty pattern).
Ben Schoenberg:
[_A _S _W]   (A: Async  S:Sync   W:Wimpy)
Jack Boyce:
  [_A _S _W]   (A: Async  S:Sync   W:Wimpy)
  Between A and S I would put the half-shower
Charlie Dancey:
(A: Async  S:Sync   W:Wimpy)
Ed Carstens:
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.
Simon Fox:
 [A_ S_ W_]     (A: Async  S:Sync   W:Wimpy)
 [X_ A_ S_]     (A: Async  S:Sync   X:Crossing)
John Gunser:
1/2 Shower, Wimpy, Columns (I am fountain impaired)
Jack Kalvan:
[W,A,half reverse]
John Nations:
 [A, S, W]      (A: Async  S:Sync   W:Wimpy)
Rick Rubenstein:
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
Tony Duncan:
[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)

Good Runs

A good run of each for you would be how many catches?

Number of catches per "good run" averaged over responses:

Async:           107
Sync:             60
Center Crossing:   72
Half-shower:       64

Actual Responses

Rob Vanko: A: 100 HS: 100 FS: 40 W: 100 S: 30 (work the least on this)
Boppo: [A..H.............S............................................W] [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.
Arthur Lewbel: 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.
Charlie Dancey: (A: Async S:Sync W:Wimpy) [50,25x2,100 (bounced)]
Ed Carstens: 756, 75, (6,6) [100,100,100] catches.
Simon Fox: [A_ S_ W_] [50 ,50, ?_] catches. I never count catches though.
Fergie: [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.
Tony Duncan: 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.
Rick Rubenstein: 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.)

Boppo: 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, scissor box.

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.
Ben Schoenberg: 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
Simon Fox: I would put the 75 half-shower as my second favourite 6 ball pattern.
Fergie: Full-shower and half-shower. (Also many multiplex patterns.)
Jack Kalvan: Many multiplexes.
John Nations: 777 771, half-shower, three-pair stack multiplex
Rick Rubenstein: I really like the half-shower. A six-ball shower is very nice to watch. :-)

Warming Up

How do you warm up for 6? How long does your warm up last?

Rob Vanko: 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
Boppo: 5 ball tricks, mostly backcrosses, running one- and both sides overhead, half pirouettes, and a few siteswaps. This takes about 5-20 minutes.
Nathan Hoover: 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.
Jim Lloyd: 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.
Allen Knutson: With 5. Generally one 5 run, which is ~2 minutes on average.
Arthur Lewbel: 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.
Jack Boyce: I just start with 3 balls and work up through 5 to 6. This might take 30-45 minutes during a typical practice.
Charlie Dancey: Working up thru the numbers, 10 mins
Ed Carstens: I like to start with 5 balls just to get my hands and arms moving... about 3 minutes
Simon Fox: 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 6 balls.
Fergie: I don't need a warm up for 6.
John Gunser: 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.
John Nations: 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.
Tony Duncan: I only do 6 when I drop 1 from 7 and don't care about tiring myself out.
Rick Rubenstein: 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 five.

What helped?

When you were learning what helped your 6 the most?

Rob Vanko: 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.
Boppo: 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.
Nathan Hoover: 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.
Allen Knutson: 5 half-shower and showering 4 backwards. Neither of these are so good for the fountain, though, I don't expect.
Ben Schoenberg: Working on 3 in one hand is important, and then concentrating on what each hand is doing in the pattern.
Jack Boyce:
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.
Charlie Dancey: 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.
Simon Fox: 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.
Fergie: 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.
John Gunser: 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.
Jack Kalvan: Alternating 3 in one hand, then three in other hand.
John Nations: Probably three in left hand practice and five ball tricks and pattern changes.
Tony Duncan:learning 7. I learned 6 afterwards and it took a day

Common Mistakes

What is the most often noticed mistake when others are attempting 6?

Rob Vanko: Most people try to juggle 6 too low, or the left throws much lower than the right.
Boppo: 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.
Nathan Hoover: 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.)
Allen Knutson: 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.
Ben Schoenberg: With sync and async, the two sides are not clearly defined in the mind or in the air.
Jack Boyce: 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.
Simon Fox: Collisions ! 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 crash...
Fergie: 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.
John Gunser: I don't usually see others throwing six.
John Nations: Their non-dominant hand still sucks with three in one hand. Also they run the pattern to a drop every time. You need to catch'em all.

Best advice

What is the best advice you received or give for juggling 6?

Boppo: 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.
Nathan Hoover: 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!
Jim Lloyd: 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 any day.
Allen Knutson: 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.
Arthur Lewbel: Advice - if you are naturally a low fast juggler, do the wimpy pattern. Also, 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.
Ben Schoenberg: 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 patience.
Jack Boyce: 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.
Charlie Dancey: Lead from the left, don't take it too seriously
Simon Fox: 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.
John Gunser: 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!!
Jack Kalvan: 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.
John Nations: 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.
Rick Rubenstein: 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 / naras-r@acsu.buffalo.edu