Getting Started with Devil Sticks

The following advice was offered by Rich Friedeman:

i've used crystal (sp?) sticks, and while they are slow and sticky, i think the techniques for learning to use one of those doesn't carry over to regular devil stick as well as you'd think. the whole idea of making the crystal stick rotate around a stationary center is not really present. you can just toss them any which way, and catch them and throw them back as you choose. IMO it would just start you off by learning really bad habits for devils stick. once you have a good command of the basic devil stick moves (double sticking, single sticking, flat spins, and propeller spins...(that's the order i suggest you try to learn them too)), using a crystal stick is occasionally helpful for figuring out exactly how more complicated moved are supposed to go, but it's not really necessary.

getting started with devil stick is really very easy, if you break it down into small steps. the very first think you have to do is take whatever devil stick you have (Dubé, todd smith, jugglebug...just about all of them) strip the tape off and replace it with cloth bicycle handlebar tape. tape form the end of the stick to the center. this makes it soft and grips well without being bulky or having big ridges. now, to start using it.

put one end of the stick on the ground, and hold your hand sticks parallel out in front of you, a little more that shoulder width apart. rest the devil stick on one of them. you want to toss it back an forth, catching the devil stick on the receiving hand stick each time. don't hit it; throw it and catch it, then wait a couple of seconds. you want to move the hand sticks UP AND DOWN ONLY. this, i am convinced is the real secret to learning devil stick quickly and easily (i've taught several people, and this is what always gets them going well). the devil stick is supposed to rotate around it's center. the center itself is to remain relatively stationary. when you're tossing the stick back and forth, do it with a quick motion from your elbow and wrist. don't move you upper arm, and whatever you do, don't trace out an arc with your throwing hand, pushing the stick along the whole way.

once you get a good feel for the idea of throwing and catching it (and can keep in moving in the plane parallel to your torso pretty well) it's time to go on to the next step. begin on the ground as before, except this time, while the upper half of the devil stick is resting on one of the hand sticks, the other hand stick is resting on top of the lower half of the devil stick. it looks kind of like an elongated percent sign....anyway. this time, when you toss the devil stick, make sure you toss it hard enough so that the end which is resting on the ground comes up off of the ground. when the devil stick rotates around to rest on the other hand stick, catch it as before. but, in addition to that, take the initial throwing stick, and bring it down on the top of the lower half of the devil stick, trapping it gently to the ground.

this sounds very complicated, but if you have access to a devil sticker of almost any ability, ask him to show you what double sticking looks like. that's what you're doing, you're just forcing the stick to stop on the ground after each toss. once you get a feel for how the motion works (generally no more than about 5-10 minutes, but take as much as you think you need) try to keep it up off of the ground for more than just one toss. remember to throw and catch the devil stick, don't just hit it back and forth with the hand sticks. it helps to try to make each catch last as long as possible. to do that, just keep your handsticks closer to the center rather than the end of the devil stick (about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way out from the center is usually best.)

as to where on the hand sticks to make contact, that's a matter of personal preference, though i would suggest being no more than 1/2 way in from the free end of the hand stick. when i was first starting, i'd try to make contact about 2 inches in from the end of the hand stick. it's a good safe distance, i'd say.

Getting Started with Devil Sticks / Juggling Information Service /
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