Training advice

Training advice for jugglers

Who am I to give any juggler advice on how to train?

From the moment I started to take juggling seriously, I have been wanting to know how to train effectively.
I’ve set set goals, made lists, tracked progress in many ways. I followed many workshops, asked dozens of jugglers for training advice. I even attended circus school where I had a juggling teacher, Gregor Kiock, and plenty of other jugglers around me. I’ve read books from Jason Garfield, Laido Ditmar, and essays like for example from Steven Ragatz, Jon Udry , Wes Peden, and Thom Wall.

I have learned from all of these sources. And of course, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Also, with so many skilled young jugglers out there, it is hard to remain confident about my own skills!

Yet, as you can see from the summary above, I’ve always craved for more knowledge.
Information about juggling practise is always vague. People have such different goals, and few keep track of how much time and effort goes into a certain trick. Nobody holds numbers, such as for seemingly basic questions like, “how much time should it take to learn 5 balls?” Common advice such as “good posture is a requirement for juggling” has never been properly proven. To top it off, whenever we try to combine all our knowledge to create the perfect training programme, we still get our asses kicked by 14 year olds, as demonstrated here by Arron Sparks.

So, rather than pretending that I hold the answers, I am going to give you my gut feelings. I have some experience, and that has led to some beliefs. Likely a lot of those beliefs are wrong, but by writing them down here, I give you a chance to experiment with them yourself. This is the only way I know to bring juggling further, and hopefully over time only the strongest tips will survive!

Here is, in no particular order, my best training advice for jugglers:

Unless you are making progress on every single new throw, you don’t need to work on a new manoeuvre for an hour! You might just learn it overnight if you give yourself some rest.

Want to improve your endurance or solidity? Don’t just do 10 long runs in a row, rather do your move in new ways. Turn around, walk forward and backward, up and down stairs. Raise or drop the speed and height. Make connections to another move. Invent new variations. Perform the same throw in a different siteswap. I believe this is more effective to solidify the original pattern than to only drill the original one.

Keep at it
An hour of juggling daily, and you will keep on seeing the improvements over the years. It might look like the pace goes down. But when you were juggling for a month it took just another month to double your skill level. If you juggle for 5 years it might take 5 years, but it will happen!

Don’t save the hardest trick for the end
Anthony Gatto personally recommended me a training regimen where I would start with 3 balls, and end my session with 7. But my sessions would always take much longer than expected, and there would be too little energy left to improve my 7. Now I say the opposite. Warm-up is important, but as soon as you are ready, start with the hard stuff.

Break it down
Too often my confidence is unjust. After years of doing 3 ball backcrosses, I still do much better runs if I start with a few tries with two balls.

Look at yourself
It is always much easier to find out what goes on, if you can see a video of yourself. Outside eyes can help to point in the right direction too, but the message they deliver is never as strong as seeing it yourself.

Control the conditions
The quality of your training session is dependent on a lot of factors. What you wear, your shoes, the people around you, the snacks you brought with you, the kind of floor, the cleanliness of your props, the light, the temperature, the time of the day, what you did and will do the rest of the day, etc.
Find out what works best to you, and take control over your training conditions wherever possible.

Practise together with people more skilled than you are
This might not help your confidence, but there is an above average chance that these people do the right things. By surrounding yourself with talent, you will consciously and unconsciously pick-up on their technique, knowledge, and habits. When people are not around, watching youtube videos can be a substitute, though it gives a much less realistic impression.

Is this good advice? I can’t prove that. Perhaps one day these hypotheses will be scientifically studied. Until then, we have to learn from each others experiences.

What is your best advice? What is your experience? I would love to hear!

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I am a juggler and circus performer from the Netherlands. I travel all over Europe to learn, create, discuss, perform and organise, and I am always looking for fun projects to join! Feel free to contact me about anything :)

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