Juggler's World: Vol. 42, No. 1

Juggler's Workshop

by Martin Frost & Mike Stillwell

© 1990 Martin Frost

This time we're going to talk about ways to steal clubs out of solo or passing patterns, from easy steals to much fancier ones. Some steals, or takeaways, are done from a side-to-side position, with both jugglers facing the same direction. Others are done face to face or from the middle of a passing pattern.

Half Stealing

For starters, try this half-stealing pattern. Stand to the left of your juggling partner. Moving in very close, reach in with your left hand and catch a club that's coming to your partner's left hand (see Fig. 1). Catch it higher than normal, before it reaches your partner's hand. Just before your partner's next left-hand catch, throw your club under the catching arm and back across to the right hand in a normal cascade throw.

You've stolen and returned a club in your partner's pattern. Try stealing and returning every third club, then every other and finally every club, all with only your left hand. When you're stealing every club this way, you and your partner are each half-juggling. Now try the same thing from the right side with your right hand.

While you're half-juggling, you have a free hand to do whatever you want. Scratch your head, adjust your hat, put on sunglasses, scratch your partner's head, steal your partner's hat, maybe give it back, etc.

Side to Side: Slow or Fast Steals

There are two principal modes of stealing: the slow steal and the fast steal. In the slow steal, you steal with only one hand (say, the left) although you end up with all the clubs. In the fast steal, you take clubs alternately with both hands. The fast steal is a little harder to learn, but once you understand it, it really isn't very difficult.

The slow steal starts just like the half steal above. Move in close to your partner's left side, reach in and up with your left hand and catch a club before it gets to your partner's left hand (Fig. 1). As the next club comes to the left hand, throw your first club to your right hand and catch the second club in your left. As you do this, step slightly in front of your partner, maybe pushing a little to make the steal dramatic.

To let your partner throw the last club from the right, you should catch your first club in your right hand with your right arm reaching far to the right and a little high. Your partner can then throw the last club under your right arm in normal cascade fashion. You of course catch the third club in your left hand as you take over all the juggling.

The fast steal starts the same as the slow steal. Take a club coming to your partner's left hand with your left hand. But as you do that, quickly step in front of your partner and reach out immediately with your right to catch the next club that was going to your partner's right hand. As in the slow steal, keep your right arm high enough to let your partner throw the last club under it from the right. You start throwing to yourself as you catch the third club from your partner in your left hand. Now you're in front and have all the clubs.

This steal is twice as fast as the slow take away, since you're stealing with both hands. While you're learning the fast steal, it may be helpful to have your partner juggle a little slower than usual.

Don't Be Faked Out

As you learn either the slow or the fast steal, and especially while your partner is learning to have the clubs stolen, avoid accidental faking. A false move is likely to end up with a club on the floor as your partner doesn't bother to catch a club you appear to be stealing. Don't move your arm in for the first steal until you're sure you're ready. Pick a particular club, watch it go around and when it heads for the left hand, jump in and start the steal.

On the other hand, learn not to be faked out. When you're learning to have your clubs stolen, practice totally ignoring the stealer until the clubs have been taken. Just keep your pattern even. The stealer shouldn't require any helpful throws from you.

The Walkaround

This is more sharing than stealing, but you can dramatize it to look either way. Once you and your partner are both adept at the slow steal, you can both continually re-steal the clubs.

After the first person has stolen two left hand clubs in the slow steal, the partner throws the last club under the first person's right arm and immediately moves around behind to the left to catch that very same last club with the left hand. That catch begins another slow steal and the roles have reversed.

After a second club is stolen by the partner, the first person makes a final throw under the partner's right arm and moves behind to catch that club in the left hand. In this walkaround, you each handle exactly two clubs every time you go around. You steal those two clubs with your left hand and throw them to your right hand. The third club is thrown around you by your partner - you don't touch it for the moment.

As you throw your last club around your partner, remember that you're throwing it to yourself, so make a throw you can easily catch, ignoring the other clubs. For a surprise, just put the club in your left hand behind your partner's back, or maybe make a sideways throw over both your heads to your left hand.

The walkaround can also be done with a fast steal, but naturally it is twice as fast, so you really have to move to do it continuously.

Sideways Variations

Be sure to try sideways steals and walkarounds from the right as well as the left. Then you can try this combination. Steal a club from the left side and immediately return it to the pattern, as in the half steal. Quickly move behind your partner to the right side and steal that club again, this time with your right hand. Toss it back into the pattern and continually steal that one club from both right and left sides.

Another idea is to steal continuously from the left while your partner steals from the right. Make each steal as soon as possible. This is easy with slow steals but more fun with fast steals.

Face to Face Stealing

Here are a few different ways of stealing clubs when you're standing face to face with your partner. These are usually done in the fast-steal mode, stealing with both hands, because there's not a lot of room for both people to be throwing selves when you're standing close enough to do front takeaways. You can, of course, just steal one club, especially when learning these moves.

We'll describe three front takeaways, each named for how you move your hand vertically to do the steal: straight down, straight in and straight up. In starting all of these front steals, it helps to focus on the hand that will throw the first club you'll take. You can get the rhythm of that hand's movements and know when you need to start in order to catch the club it throws. This is especially true of the straight-down and straight-in steals.

Straight Down

In the straight-down steal, you reach diagonally toward your partner's right hand with your right hand (or left hand toward left hand). Reach out slightly high and come down quickly, palm facing down, onto the bulb of the club just as it leaves your partner's hand (see Fig. 2). This leaves the club upside down in your hand. Quickly withdraw your hand and club to avoid getting hit by the next toss from the other hand. If you're going to take two clubs in a row, as you pull the first hand back, reach in high diagonally with the other hand and come down on the bulb of the second club. Pull that club out quickly to avoid the third club.

The timing is fairly tight. You must let the club coming from the left hand go by before you reach in and come down toward the right hand to take the first club. The second consecutive steal is easier since there is no club coming from the right (you've already stolen it). Also, since you take the clubs upside down, you have to correct with self throws of 1/2 or 1 1/2 spins.

In all of these front takeaways, it is very difficult to steal the third club like the first two. Usually you just let your partner throw the third one a little higher than normal so that you can catch it with 1/2 spin more than your partner would have used. This allows you to throw your first self to make room to catch the third club. With practice, you can make the third catch like the first two, if you throw the first self very early and then hurry.

Straight In

For the straight-in steal, the timing again must be precise. Like in the straight-down steal, you reach diagonally toward your partner's right hand with your right hand. But here you come in slightly later, letting the club spin about a quarter revolution so that you can grab it just as the handle is pointing down (see Fig. 3). Reach quickly straight towards the throwing arm, about chest high with palm forward. Grab the club high on the handle, right side up in your hand, just after the bulb spins out of the way.

If you make this move correctly, your hand will stop moving just before reaching the club, which will spin right into your palm. To take the very next club, pull the right hand back as you reach toward your partner's left hand with your left hand to grab the next club on the handle. The third club is most easily caught with a 1-1/2 spin "give away," as described above.

One word of caution: The straight-in steal can be dangerous. If you don't succeed in grabbing the club, you're very likely to knock it right toward your partner's face. You can minimize this possibility by making sure your hand is moving truly diagonally, toward your partner's hand, not toward the middle of the body. Also, be sure you grab the club instead of batting it. Try practicing at first with your partner juggling only one club in a cascade, and keep your eye on the club. Be careful!

Straight Up

The straight-up steal is done by taking the clubs very late, just before they would have been caught by your partner. In this case, your right hand first moves below your partner's left hand and, with palm up, makes the steal just above that hand by coming straight up and taking the club's handle at the last moment. The club will be right side up in your hand. To get low enough to begin the steal, you may want to sink down a bit by bending your knees. That also makes it easier to get your palm pointing up toward the incoming club.

Variations for Front Steals

Instead of keeping the clubs, take one and give it right back, to the hand that would have caught it. To return the club, place the handle right into the open palm of the catching hand. In this case, your partner shouldn't reach for the club, but simply stick the hand out, palm up, to let you insert the club. You'll want to be holding the club on the bulb, upside down.

Another nice variation of stealing and returning a club is to use a fourth club in the straight-down or straight-in steal. Hold your club upside down ready to be placed in your partner's hand. Steal a club with your other hand, and replace it with the fourth club. This may require you to steal with the opposite hand from what the instructions above say.

Steals from Passing

The takeaways above can also be used to steal from someone who is passing. The easiest such steal is the slow steal. Start by catching an incoming pass in your left hand and continue just like in the slow solo steal, stealing the next two clubs with your left hand until you've become the passer. A fast steal of a passer is not much different from a fast steal of a solo juggler.

If the passers are doing a 2-ct, stealing is relatively straightforward. If they're doing a 4-ct, you just have to know when to pass the clubs you've stolen. It will depend on whether your first steal is of a pass or a self and whether you're doing a slow or fast steal - you should be able to figure it out. In a 3-ct or a 1-ct, you have to immediately pass back any pass you steal.

The steal and return of the stolen club is also a nice trick in a passing pattern. Steal a pass with your left hand and immediately return it to the pattern by throwing a "self" to the person you stole it from (or by passing it in a 3-ct or 1-ct). If you move to a passer's right side, you can steal a self and return it with an immediate pass in a 2-ct, or with the appropriate pass or self in a 4-ct.

In fact, if you steal and return from the left side, you can move quickly to the right side and re-steal your own returned club, returning it once more with a pass or self depending on the pattern. If you've got the stamina, you can follow one club around the entire pattern, stealing it and returning it every chance you get, so that you are actually the only person to touch that one club. This is particularly interesting in a 4-ct, since you get to do three selves in a row with that club (left, right, left) after each pass.

Another good pattern is the walkaround (described above) done with a passer, or even with a feeder. The tricky part is figuring out when to do a self in a 4-ct and which person to throw to in a feed. You'll discover the answers quickly since there are only two possibilities in each case. Actually, if the feeder is feeding three people, sweeping right then left, you'll discover an interesting pattern when you do the walkaround with the feeder. Try a walkaround with the feeder of a 3-ct feed.

Stealing and Returning Between Two Passers

Instead of stealing clubs from beside a passer, you can stand between two passers and steal passes immediately as they are thrown. If you're inside the pattern, face perpendicular to the passes and reach to your right with your left hand to make a straight-in steal of a pass. Or you can stand just outside the pattern, facing the middle, and reach to your left with your right hand to make a straight-in steal of a pass. In either case, you can return the club immediately to the other juggler by quickly reaching over and either placing the club in the catching hand or tossing a gentle flat or single. Or wait for the hole to come around and fill it with the stolen club.

If you have a fourth club, you can almost simultaneously steal one club and replace it with your extra club. Stand inside (or outside) the middle of the pattern and do a straight-in steal of a pass with your left hand (or right hand, if outside), as above. Just as that club is being passed for you to intercept it, use your other hand to make a replacement pass under your stealing arm toward the other juggler. Since you're in the middle, your pass needs to be fairly short, but you should put enough loft on it so that it can be easily seen and caught as a single or possibly a flat. After you make this steal and replacement, hand your stolen club to the other hand and you're all set to repeat the whole move, possibly on every club passed.

You can also steal selves from the middle of the pattern. The straight-down steal gives you the most time to return a club, possibly using a fourth club from your other hand.

In Conclusion ...

Interesting variations come up when you try to reverse the starting side of sideways steals. For instance, from the left, reach across to the right with your right hand for an inside first steal of a fast take away. Or from the right in a right handed passing pattern, reach in with your left hand to catch a pass, in either a slow or fast steal. Or if the passing has been with only the right hand, try stealing out of left-handed passing, or out of a 3-ct. Try stealing the feed in a 10-club feed, or even in a random 13-club feed. Play around to see which combinations you like.

(In the next issue: Kick-ups. If you have comments on stealing, kick-ups or other Workshop items, you can reach the editors at: Juggler's Workshop, 3065 Louis Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94303; or give one of us a call: Martin Frost at 415/856-1456 or Michael Stillwell at 904/371-2057.)

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