Blind Juggling

Many jugglers have experimented with juggling with their eyes closed or blindfolded, but there is actually a long history of blind juggling and a small group of jugglers that specialize in this skill. Let’s take an in depth look at the world of juggling without seeing (and those that pretend to do so).

Faking It

Like many juggling tricks of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, blindfolded juggling exhibitions were not exactly what they appeared to be. The use of gimmicks were still common among jugglers, as the art was still closely associated with magic and illusion. A great example of this comes from the juggling chapter of The Modern Magician’s Hand Book, written by William J. Hilliar in 1900. Below you can see his explanation of how to fake juggling three torches blind.

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A less well known but very similar description was included in the book Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena written by Chung Ling Soo in 1898.  Although quite repetitive, I am including it below for the sake of thoroughness in historical research.

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To see this type of blindfold being used by a juggler, click here to see the Rudenko Brothers’ blindfold leapfrog routine from 1968.

Of course, not all fake blindfolds were used in a serious manner. Bobby Jule used a fake blindfold for comedic affect, juggling three clubs with a blindfold on but then stopping and picking up something on the floor with the blindfold still on. He did this with great success with legendary television host Ed Sullivan, picking up some papers that Ed had dropped.

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Bobby Jule with his comedy fake blindfold on

Another juggler to use a trick blindfold for comedy was Daniel Rosen. Daniel would put a blindfold on and juggle three clubs while facing sideways to the audience. When he eventually turned to face the audience, it was revealed that there was a hole in the side that was facing away from the audience, easily allowing Daniel to see. This same idea was utilized years earlier by The Half Brothers. Click here to see them passing torches with the one sided blindfold reveal at the end.

Today’s trick blindfolds used by magicians are much more slick and can often even be examined and tried on by audience members. There are still a few jugglers who wear trick blindfolds to fake blind juggling, but with a bit of practice and talent, this is unnecessary.

Juggling Without Seeing

It’s not known when the first juggler learned to juggle with his or her eyes shut, but blind juggling competitions at juggling festivals goes back to at least the 1980s and probably earlier. While balls or beanbags are usually used, some jugglers prefer clubs as they feel that they have a better feel for its position in the air and have more to catch due to the handle. Some jugglers doing balls prefer to sit while juggling blind. When first learning, most jugglers begin juggling with their eyes open and slowing closing them. With practice, a blind start is not too difficult. A low pattern is usually desired and consistent throws are important.

There are a number of jugglers who specialize in blind juggling. Tony Duncan is perhaps the performer most jugglers associate blind juggling with. Tony includes a variety of blind juggling tricks in his shows and includes some quite difficult tricks. Click here to see Tony’s three ball blind act.

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Tony Duncan Blindfolded With Duct Tape

Click here to see Joelle Huguenin juggling three balls blind above her head, performed at WJF 5 in 2008.

Niels Duinker is the current Guinness World Record holder for Blindfolded Juggling, juggling three clubs for 6 minutes and 29 seconds in 2011. Niels juggles three knives blindfolded in his act. You can see this feat in the following video.

 
Juggling more than three objects blind is very difficult, but possible. Click here to see Domagoj Oreski qualify 4 clubs blind and click here to see Haarvard Hvidsten qualify 5 balls blind.
 
A newer juggler specializing in blind juggling is Mike Moore. Mike filmed two videos for this article, featuring a variety of great blind tricks and new unofficial world records for 3 and 4 ball blind endurance. Enjoy them.
 
 
 
 
Blind Behind The Back and Pinball
 
There are some other ways to juggle without looking. First is Blind Behind the Back (BBB). Originally this trick was done without the balls touching the back by performers such as Peter Davison, whom you can see doing this trick by clicking here. Nowadays, almost everyone who does BBB touches the balls off of their back, which is much easier. Another very popular way of juggling without looking is Pinball Juggling, which was invented by Komei Aoki. In Pinball Juggling, the balls are thrown (mainly with the wrists) in a low pattern, throwing them close to your body and letting them roll down the crack between your arms and your body. Pinball Juggling can be done in front of the body or behind the back. A simpler way of doing something similar is to just juggle off of your chest. Typically none of these methods that involve the balls touching your body between catches are allowed in blind juggling competitions and records.
 
Physically Blind Jugglers
 
One of the most successful jugglers of the later half of the twentieth century was Nino Frediani. At the age of 75, he is still performing today. What his audiences don’t know is that for his entire 65 year career, Nino has been legally blind. Born with chronic dystrophy of the optic nerve, he can’t drive or make out the faces of friends or family. This didn’t stop him from performing in top circuses, night clubs, and revues for many decades. He covers his props with bright gold decorations so that he can see the glint off of them under the bright stage lights. For those who have seen his act and later learn of his condition, it is truly a remarkable discovery. You can read more about Nino’s story by clicking here and can watch two videos covering his career below.
 
 

A juggler who is completely blind is Damian Pickering. He was taught to juggle three balls off of his chest by Raspyni Brother Barry Friedman. You can read a great description of how this came about by clicking here.

 
Another project to teach a person who is fully visually impaired was established by the Viktor Kee Foundation. Using ramps and other apparatuses, a man named Ross has been able to juggle up to six balls despite being completely blind. You can learn about this project by watching the following video.
 
 
Other Types Of Blind Juggling
 
Ball spinning, plate spinning, lasso spinning, and other similar juggling skills can be done blind. It might be interesting to see an entire act done blind with a variety of props and skills involved. A great example of non-toss blind juggling is shown by Lukas Reichenbach in the following video.
 
 
 
If you have an interesting skill that you can do blind, put it online and send me a link. I’ll gladly add it to this article. As juggling continues to evolve, I’m sure the boundaries of blind juggling will continue to expand.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of sixteen books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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