Juggler's World: Vol. 42, No. 2

Juggler's Workshop

by Martin Frost & Mike Stillwell

© 1990 Martin Frost

Professional jugglers often speak about how important it is to vary your routine. Your pattern should move around the stage, change from high to low, and so on. One great way to add variety to a show is to use your feet. There are many methods of juggling with the feet but for now let's look at club kick-ups. We'll start with kicking a club up from the ground and work up to the drop-kick-up in which clubs are dropped from a regular cascade and kicked back with a foot. We'll also touch on some advanced variations for those who have mastered the drop-kick-up.

The Basic Kick-Up

The kick-up is a valuable move that should be in the repertoire of every club juggler. It allows you to retrieve dropped clubs without becoming tired from much stooping and bending.

The motion of the foot and leg is very important, so before trying to kick up a club, try the following exercise.

Stand in a normal stance, with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. For this exercise, let your arms hang at your sides and turn your hands palm down. Now lift your right foot and kick your right palm with the side of your foot. Your heel and little toe should touch your hand at the same time. If your toe is always lower than your heel, you won't be able to lift a club, so keep working on this exercise. Similarly, try to kick your left hand with your left foot.

Now you're ready to try the kick-up, using just one club. Straddle the club as shown in Fig. 1, and then use your left foot to roll the club onto your right foot (Fig. 2). To hold the club in place, keep the toe of your right foot as high as possible, leaving only your heel touching the ground, and twist the foot a little so its right side is higher than the left. The handle of the club should be touching the inside of your ankle (Fig. 3).

Make the kick-up by shifting your weight to the left foot and kicking your right foot outward using the same motion as in the exercise (Fig. 4). If you've done everything correctly (not likely the first few times), the club will make one spin before you deftly catch it in your right hand.

To make the kick-up easier, start with as much of the club handle on your foot as possible. This brings the right side of your foot close to or past the club's center of gravity and lets the handle or knob catch on your ankle and force the spin.

If you find that the club doesn't spin but floats up as a flat, you're probably lifting your knee instead of just your foot. Your knee should stay down and your leg twist inward as your foot comes up on the outside.

You may also find that it helps to step slightly to the left and a little forward with your left foot as you kick up with the right. Holding the club high on your foot is easier on a non-slick floor, so practice these kick-ups on grass or a carpet, not on a wood floor.

The Drop-Kick-Up

Once you have mastered the basic kick-up, you're ready for the drop-kick-up. As the name implies, you will be dropping a club from a regular cascade and kicking it back into your pattern. This is a difficult move, so first we'll work on just the new part - the drop.

Try to drop a club from a regular cascade into the position shown in Fig. 3. There are two choices for the type of drop: the flat drop and the trickier spin drop.

The Flat Drop

As you catch a club in your left hand, carry it downward and drop it onto your right foot (Fig. 5). Raise your toes and move your foot forward a bit. You may want to bend your body a little to reduce the distance of the drop. The club should be almost parallel with the floor with the fat end slightly lower.

If the club lands on your foot, stop for a moment. You should have a club in each hand and one on your foot. Adjust the club on your foot by moving your leg. You may need to pivot clockwise on your heel in order to "lock" the club into the right position. Now kick it up to your right hand and juggle. Repeat this exercise until you can drop the club into the correct position each time with no adjustments.

When you are comfortable with the flat drop, try to kick the club up right away with as little pause as you can. Keep doing it with less "ground time" until the club doesn't touch the ground at all. It makes contact with your foot about an inch from the ground and goes right back into the air to your hand. You will find that if you raise your foot a little higher and then allow it to "give" as it contacts the club, the motion will be much smoother and the club won't tend to bounce off your foot.

The Spin Drop

Just give the club one spin as it leaves your left hand toward your right foot. This is more difficult than the flat drop, but you learn it the same way. At first, just try to get it to land on your foot, then try to kick it up with as little ground time as possible.


Passing - kick up a pass
When you're passing, it's very convenient to be able to kick a dropped club to your partner. Or you can kick up an extra club to go into passing seven clubs (or more!). In either case, the technique is the same as before, using your left foot to roll the club onto your right foot. You may find it hard initially to do this while you're still passing the other clubs. But with practice it will become more automatic to do these two things at once. The kick-up itself may be easier if you step toward your partner on the left as you kick with the right.

Passing - kick up a self
A good looking trick is to kick up to your own right hand while passing, say to get a dropped club back into the pattern. The trick is the timing of the kick. You should kick to your right hand when your left hand is "throwing the hole" (created by the dropped club) to your right hand. You'll make a pass with your right hand as you catch the kick-up.

Under the leg
Just before your left hand drops a club flat to the right foot, throw a club under the right leg with your right hand. Or throw the club from the left hand under either the left leg or the right leg, but with a spin and directly onto the right foot.

High kick-ups
Kick the club up for a double or triple spin or more. Try to pirouette before catching it.

Behind the back
Make a left hand throw behind the back so that the club spins once and comes around the body to land on the right foot.

Use both feet
Mostly we've been describing kick-ups with the right foot, but obviously you can and should do the same things with your left. Learn them both at the same time - it's a lot easier than going through the whole process twice.

In Conclusion ...

Kick-ups can take a while to master, but they open up a whole new world of possibilities and are well worth the trouble of learning if just for all the bending over they can save you. Just take it a step at a time and be persistent and you will get better. Have fun!

If you have comments on 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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