Advice on Juggling 5

General advice from the people on rec.juggling about how juggling 5 balls is achieved and how problems may be solved. Advice is offered by
George Strain
Terry Jones - long post.
Bengt Magnusson
Barton - warm-up exercises and plan.
Rick Moll
Jerry Kalke - half shower.
Allen Knutson
Roger W C Hansen - a bit on four balls, to break the monotony.
Peter Olin - a planned approach.
Steve Joyce - success!
Phillip San Miguel - opinions.

George Strain

For what it is worth I'd like to offer my pet 5 ball lesson. One VERY useful pattern I found for learning 5 rings and 5 clubs and solidifying my 5 balls (I learned it after I could already do 5 balls OK) is a 4 ball pattern which simulates 5, one hand at a time. This pattern may have been mentioned before but I think it is definitely worth working on. Start with 3 balls in one hand and 1 in the other. Start with the hand that has 3 balls. Make 2 quick throws both with this hand to the other hand. When these balls come down make 2 quick throws with the other hand and so on. Try it, it's much easier than 5. However, it makes you get used to starting with 3 in one hand, it forces each hand to do pretty much the same thing it would have to for 5 at the same speed, but it has the added advantage of letting you concentrate on one hand at a time. The pattern will have a rhythm of "Right, Right, Left, Left, Right, Right, Left, Left." Note that sometimes you will be just holding a ball in one hand while the other hand does the work. This pattern can also be done with 5 balls to help learn 7.

A useful tip for 5 balls if you're just trying to learn the flash is to get together with someone who already does five, and flash it back and forth with them. This will let you get used to throwing all five and catching all five, but not at the same time.

Terry Jones

Here's a tome I wrote a few weeks ago when there was lots of discussion about learning 5. I'm in the same boat myself. the stuff below is the result of probably 8 months or so of thinking about 5.

While we're all chatting about learning 5, I thought I'd add my 5 balls worth, which hopefully will be interesting to the people out there who are currently tackling 5 (as I am). The first time I tried to throw 5 into the air was last May I guess. Just to throw them and have them cross over without collision seemed like a fairly difficult task. Keeping track of which one had gone up first and was (occasionally) coming down first was also initially non-trivial - at least if you wanted the other balls to land somewhere in a circle whose radius was less than about ten feet.

A pretty inauspicious beginning. had I not seen other people juggling 5 effortlessly, I probably would never have continued -- it's something I would have thought just wasn't meant to be done. Wrong Wrong Wrong. I had always felt that I learned to do new things as quickly as the next person, and prior to learning 5, the longest I had spent on trying to learn anything had been a couple of months (in learning 4 balls).

I should add that I disagree with the 2n catches means you're an n ball juggler stuff that has been going around here lately. I don't consider myself an n ball juggler until I can pretty much do n balls indefinitely. At this stage I'd say I'm a 4 ball juggler, but not a 5, even though I have done over 100 throws with 5 balls several times. the complete control just isn't there.

Back to the subject. 4 balls had seemed a very slow thing to learn (to get reasonably good - as opposed to getting 8 throws). The learning curve for 5 has been exponentially slower though. you have to derive what satisfaction and encouragement you can from the tiniest steps at first (especially if you're trying it alone and haven't people to encourage and teach you). The first time I threw up 5 balls and then managed to catch and throw up number 6, it seemed like I had taken my first real step, but what a tiny one. Progressing at this rate isn't terribly inspiring. What kept me going was the idea that other people had learned it. It was possible, so I had to be able to learn it too.

Over a few months I progressed to the stage where I could get off up to about ten throws (I always count throws :-)). things that I found helpful as practices were:

Of course there's always straight out trying to do 5 ball cascade too.

Last fall I moved to Bloomington and came into contact with steve Ragatz and a few other people here who could either do 5 or were working on it. Then things began to pick up. I practised three hours a day for a few weeks! I got lots of tips on things to try. I don't know which ones were useful in particular since I did them all, but here are some of them.

There are probably other things that don't come to mind. During all of this I was pretty single-minded. Whenever I juggled, I regarded whatever I was doing -- no matter what, as practice for 5 balls. Even if I was just cascading 3 for fun, I would think about 5.

The mental side of things seems very important too. Here are a few more thoughts about the process. you think a lot when you try to learn five -- at least I did (and do) -- What am I doing wrong? Why does that always happen? etc.

Bengt Magnusson

About five balls: You seem to be doing the right thing. 10- 15 min/day for months and months is perfectly normal for five balls. It took me about one month, but that was at 30-40 min/day. The learning curve is extremely nonlinear, with several sudden steps and long plateaus. Just keep at it, and don't give up!

A few training tips to keep you going (and not dying from boredom): juggle four balls, and then throw a few of them into the five pattern; finish by resuming the four ball juggle. This is how you do that: Find out about site-swaps, and juggle the 552, 5551, and 55550 from a four ball fountain. The 552 means: juggle four in the fountain, then send two balls (right-left) up high and across. Then pause for a beat, before you resume the four cascade. It will go like: right high across, left high across,
right pause (i.e. holds on to the ball), left hand normal four fountain throw, etc. One hand will end up doing two throws in a row. Run it starting with both the left and the right hand. The point behind this is that the two balls that go high and across are thrown exactly as if you were juggling five. If every throw was like that, you'd be doing five! The advantage here is that you are only actually using four balls, which you (presumably) know how to juggle. You can therefore concentrate on the two five ball throws. It's like juggling four and a half balls, which gives you a half-way point to conquer.

The 5551 is a little harder; it's like juggling 4.75 balls. You send three balls up high and across (starting with a normal four ball fountain): left high across, right high across, left high across. Then you pass the fourth ball from the right hand directly across to the left, like the little low throw in a shower. As soon as the left hand gets that ball, it resumes a normal four ball fountain. Again, run this with both hands as the starter. The + 55550 is almost there, like 4.9 balls or so. It's really five with a hole. You juggle your four ball fountain, and then send all four up high and across. After that, one hand will be empty for one beat, and then you resume the four fountain again. It goes like right high across, left high across, right high across, left high across, right empty, left normal... Again, one hand gets to go twice in a row.

All of these tricks can be done continuously, i.e., you can keep doing it instead of resuming the four fountain after just one cycle: 552 552 552 552..., 5551 5551 5551..., and 55550 55550 55550.... Good luck with five balls, and don't give up! It's a really hard trick, and it will require a lot of work, but everyone can learn it if they just try.


somebody got me talking about five-ball juggling, and I'm not likely to stop! Tim asked: "when can I say that I can juggle five-balls" (or something to that effect. My answer is: "whenever you feel like you can juggle five-balls". It took me a month to learn how to juggle 3 balls for one five minute run. I've been juggling five-balls for four years now, and I have only had one run of over five minutes. Therefore I would have to say that the ratio of difficulty between five-balls and three is about 50:1. This is why I see myself juggling seven in not less than ten years. I wouldn't be surprised if I could get fourteen throws within half a year, if I practised constantly, but to actually try to learn the art of seven ball juggling is not something that I see in my near future. Anyway, I am actually very content juggling five. Here are some of the steps that I took on the way to becoming a solid five-ball juggler.

  1. Practice a lot. I can talk a lot about things that you can do to inspire yourself, but they won't do any good if you don't practice.
  2. Change your routine a lot. Don't practice in just one way. If you do, you will get stuck in a rut. I have seen a lot of people try to learn five-ball juggling by standing in one place for hours on end, picking up the juggling balls after they drop them, and trying again. I admire their dedication to their practice, but I don't think that they are doing themselves any favours. Making five-ball juggling boring is a recipe for failure.
    So: put on some music. Find another person who is working on Five, and have a five-ball juggle-off. Get a stopwatch and time yourself. Time yourself repeatedly, and make a chart. Chart your performance in five-ball once a month. Go to juggling conventions and watch numbers jugglers and get inspiration from them.
  3. Work on juggling other than five-ball juggling. Learning to juggle five-balls is frustrating, and if you practice five-ball exclusively, you will become a frustrated juggler. Also remember that five-ball juggling is intimately related to three-ball juggling. If you let your three-ball slide while practising five, you won't get anywhere.
  4. Warm up before you juggle five. Five-ball juggling requires a relaxed body. I have seen countless jugglers defeating themselves with five because they had their shoulders hunched.

Here's the five-ball practice that I recommend:

  1. Stretch out. Work your neck around. To stretch out your arms, take a broomstick, hold it in back of you with both hands, and then stretch up. If you have any favourite stretches to loosen you up, use them.
  2. Work on three-ball patterns. Start with a regular cascade, then do half reverse on both sides, and then work into a reverse. Work on showering from both hands. Throw behind the back and under the leg throws. If you can do Mills' Mess, do it now.
  3. Do an endurance run with three balls. This shouldn't go so long that your arms are absolutely exhausted, but you should have a good feeling at the end of your run of how your arms move while you juggle. This run is like a dry run for five-balls. You should probably juggle for 5 - 10 minutes straight, but don't worry if you drop sooner.
  4. Now you are ready to juggle five-balls. Work on some variation of the theme of: Stand in one place and juggle. As I said earlier: Stand in one place, juggle, and listen to music. Or something! It is better not to do this part all in one chunk. Even variations on the theme of standing in one place and juggling will get tiring after 20 minutes. It is far better to break this up into four five minute chunks, each slightly different. Your ego will of course tell you differently, but five-ball juggling is not necessarily the best sport for those of large ego (think humble).
  5. If possible, try to end your five-ball workout on a high note, or failing that, a happy note.
  6. Give yourself a breather after juggling five-balls, and then pick up three clubs, or something else that interests you. I have always found that one-ball manipulation is a low stress variation of juggling that I enjoy after putting five up in the air. Remember that five-balls is not all that there is to life. In fact, the more that you can forget about five-balls at this point, the better you feel about juggling as a whole, because five-balls carries with it a high frustration level.

Rick Moll

...It sounds like you have the pattern down pat, but need to be able to recover a slightly broken pattern. Once you learn to do that, run-length is limited more by muscular endurance. I hope to be doing at least one run of 1000 catches every day by convention time.

In my experience, numbers pattern irregularities tend to be of three types:

1) Pattern gets too narrow or too wide.

To fix a too narrow pattern, make the throws slightly lower as you
also make them wider.  Conversely, to fix a too wide pattern, raise it
a bit.

2) As the result of a too-low or too-high throw, two balls in the
pattern have come too close together.

To fix this, you need to bring your hand up, to catch the first one
early, make a very quick throw, and then bring your hand down to catch
the second one lower than normal.  This will only come with many hours
of practice.  Usually I don't know that this problem came up until I
feel one of my hands make the correction.

3) Pattern gets pushed over to the right or the left.

The fix for this is very anti-intuitive in that it seems that you have
to make the problem worse in order to make it better.  For example,
suppose the pattern shifts to the right.  You should move the right
hand (only) farther to the right, stabilize the pattern, and then move
the whole thing back to the left.  Warning: The above advice is not
all that useful on the intellectual level.  It's the hands that have
to "know".  One of the best ways to practice the above is to learn
"one under the leg" with five balls.  It's not really that hard if you
are comfortable with it on three, and it's more interesting than just
practicing the basic pattern.

Oh, no!  I've caught myself being pompous and long-winded, but it's
too late!

Jerry Kalke

A comment on Five ball half shower.

Before five ball half shower should even be attempted, you should get
really comfortable with the four ball half shower.  Get it good
enough that you can go at least a minute or two without messing up.
This will ingrain the higher right lower left (or vice-versa) into
your brain.  You will need this, because you are not going to have
much time to think about it when doing five.

Next, get comfortable doing five in the normal cascade pattern.  This
is no mean feat, but comes to some easier than others. Now if you have
trained well with the four ball half shower (and can keep it under
control even if the balls aren't thrown too high (this helps with your
speed control)) the five ball shower should not be that difficult.
Just start normally, meaning three in the right and two in the left
starting in an async pattern just like the normal cascade.  You
should be able to achieve the five ball half shower before too long
after this.  It's no great mystery.  All it takes is practice.

Allen Knutson

I have found that the best tricks to learn to work up to 5 are
showering 3 each way, and reversing them continuously, i.e. 5 1 and 5
2 5 1 2. That's how I learned 7 (with 7 1 and 7 2 7 2 7 1 2). NOTE:
you must make the pattern very asynchronous for this to work,
i.e. left, right, left, right, or else you're just learning how to do
4 in a synchronous half-shower (because you're really doing (4 across,
2 across) rather than 5 1).

Roger W. C. Hansen

I thought I would relate an experience I had last month.  I was
attending a juggling festival and juggling 4 balls in simple
asynchronous columns.  Another juggler came up and complemented me on
my juggling and related that he was having a similar problem to yours.
He would juggle 4 balls in columns and the balls in his right hand
would move forward and fairly quickly he would loss the pattern and
drop.  He demonstrated this for me and asked what he was doing
wrong. I could not see anything that he was doing wrong.  I told him
how hard I had worked to finally get my 4 ball pattern stable and
consistent and suggested that with more practice and discipline his
problem would be solved.  This was, of coarse, of no immediate value.

After a bit of juggling, I recalled the discussion of "stork" juggling
that was posted a long time ago on the old list server.  As I recall
the original posting stated that one way to solve the problem of
beginning jugglers throwing forward was to have them stand on one leg
and juggle.  The original poster claimed that this helped to keep the
throws in the plane for some mysterious reason.  This fellow was still
having trouble so feeling somewhat mischievous I told him about it.
Incredible as it sounds, it seemed to work for him.  He was having
trouble with his right hand throws going forward, and balancing on his
right foot seemed to straighten them out.  Balancing on the left did
nothing for him.  The only logical explanation that I can think of is
that the throws are bad because of a posture defect and balancing
forces a posture correction that affects the throws.  I am not sure if
this method will help every juggler with this problem; however, it is
inexpensive to try.

Peter Olin

  I started juggling two summers ago. Got 3 quite quickly, although
  not as quickly as other people that I know. Was comfortable with 4
  by Christmas, and had a goal of doing 5 by the following summer...
Try setting your primary goals at bit lower. 

I learned juggling 3 more than 10 years ago, but couldn't do anything
but the cascade, reverse cascade and an occasional shower, although at
that time i didn't know that there were names for the juggling

I didn't juggle anything for about 8 years or so, except for an
occasional orange cascade at X-mas. Approx. two years ago, I found
rec.juggling and got inspired to start juggling, now that I knew the
theory behind 4-ball juggling (a secret to me for 8+ years). It didn't
take long before I learned the 4 ball fountain.

Next was 5. At that time an impossible task, but the helpfiles at
piggy helped me.

Instead of setting my goals at 5 immediately I had the following
subgoals along the way. And I really recommend them because they are
all nice patterns on their own and learning them makes you happy, an
important positive feedback on the way to 5.

Don't consider yourself done with any subgoal along the way. Always go
back to perfect the individual patterns now and then. I used to
practice all these things in sequence at every practice session. It
worked pretty well. My 5 ball cascade is not solid, but that's because
I only practice it about twice a week.

With 3 balls:

* Learn showering 3 in both directions. 
* Work a bit on the snake.
* Flash 3. Clap. 
* Try to continuously flash 3. 
* Any other nice three ball tricks that keep you happy. (Important!)

With 4 balls:

* Fountain (as a base for the following site swaps)
* 552 -  Start with fountain, then throw 552, continue with fountain.
	Next learn doing 552 continuously.
* 5551 - Start with fountain, then throw 5551, continue with fountain.
	Next learn doing 5551 continuously. In both directions.
* 55550 - "Five with a hole". Start with fountain, then throw 55550,
	continue with fountain. Work on doing 55550 continuously. This
	might actually be a bit harder than 5 due to the weird timing.
	If you have problems with this one don't worry.

With 5 balls:

* Flash 5
* Learn juggling with 5 in steps. First learn 5 throws. Then learn 6
	throws. Go on to 7, 8, 9, 10. Then try to juggle as long as
	you can.  Don't always try to do endurance runs. Set your goal
	to perhaps 20 throws and make sure that you can do that really
	good, and perhaps with a neck catch as finish.

Nothing to it, really. :-)

Steve Joyce

SUCCESS! Finally, after a few months of working on 5-balls seriously,
I am getting some good runs.  But more important than that, it's
starting to just FEEL right, natural, and not awkward.  So I thought I
would pass on a few tips that I learned along the way.  Yes I know
there already is a 5-ball help file and I have read it many times.
There is some really good information in there but I found a few
different things that worked for me.

When I first started throwing 5 balls up in the air, they just seemed
to be all over the place. I had no idea which ball came from which
hand and just caught whatever one was close by.  I think a big mistake
here was doing long runs in a 4-ball asynchronous fountain for
practice at this point.  It sort of got me stuck in a rut of catching
throws from the same hand.  I knew I had to do something to get used
to crossing throws and still keeping track of more than three objects.

So I learned about siteswaps and practiced lots of different ones from
the 5-ball help file.  My experience was rather disappointing.  I
couldn't really get long enough runs to get any quality practice time
out of them.  I ended up spending most of my time chasing balls around
the living room, trying to grab them before the dog.  Looking back, I
think it was the timing that really messed me up.  Unless you have a
good feel for the 5-ball timing, it is hard to throw fewer balls in
that pattern especially when you add the spaces.  The 55500 seemed to
work OK for me but I had limited success with 55550, and 552.  5551
was a disaster, as was 51.

I don't really agree with whoever said you have no business learning 5
until you can shower three in both directions.  While it may help, I
think it is really a different trick.  Ever notice most of the people
that suggest doing these siteswaps to learn 5 can already do 5?  I
think the symmetry in a 5-ball cascade makes it easier in some ways
than than these 5-ball practice patterns (at least for me).

At the point when just flashing 5 was still a bit of a struggle, I
started just throwing 4-balls (crossing in a 5-ball pattern) and
catching them.  I did this a lot, starting from the left, then the
right and concentrating on perfect arcs, and good rhythm.  After some
practice with this, I went back to a standing flash and it came much
easier.  Remember to start from both sides.  I found catching the
balls rather than trying to go for extra throws was really useful
because I didn't have to chase them all over the place.  The extra
throws just came naturally, and I added them only when I was ready
rather than going until the pattern fell apart (thanks to advice from
Steve Ragatz on practice style).  My advice is to find an exercise
like this that works for you; something you can practice every day
that keeps you throwing the balls rather than fishing them out from
under the couch.

I also encourage people to experiment with different props and
different throw heights.  I started with some small homemade beanbags,
then went to some larger hockey balls and found it easier to keep
track of them.  Then I picked up some small hi-bounce balls and found
them better for getting consistent starts but collisions were
disastrous.  I also found having different colors and launching them
in the same order helps you to diagnose a problem if it does repeat
itself (my third throws were always too far forward).  Eventually I
went back to the beanbags and now find them the easiest and can even
recover from some minor collisions.  I tried lots of different heights
and surprisingly settled for just above eye-level (probably because I
have a ceiling fan!).

What's next?  Now I think I will go back to the 4-ball siteswaps to
try to get my 5-ball pattern more solid.  Maybe I'll try a few 5-ball
tricks.  And I think I will buy a few more clubs (How the heck do you
start with three clubs in one hand?!?).

Phillip San Miguel

...I believe that for most people 55550 (4 objects in a 5 object
pattern with one hole) is harder than 5.  Even the 3 object chase
(55500) is just about as hard as the 5 object cascade.  The exception
to this would be for someone who has excellent timing.

I don't think there is anything inherent in site swaps which makes
them bad for practicing 5 -- I think it's that people who already do 5
often have this revisionist idea of what the best way to learn is.  So
rather than tell you what they did they suggest stuff they think
should help.  This often includes tricks they've only mastered after
they got five.

An ideal pattern to practice 5 is the 3 object site swap 52512.  You
throw 2 objects in close succession back and forth at a 5 object
height/speed while holding (the "2's") the other object and
transferring it to the other hand when the first of the other two
objects arrives.  The held object serves to keep the time while you
get practice throwing 5's out of both hands.  I really use this trick
when I work on 5 clubs.  Usually warming up with it then going into
the chase (55500), which is harder.

But it's true, the best practice for 5 is 5.  But there are a few
tricks easier than five I find useful to warm up or, earlier on, just
to practice a component of 5 before I could hope to throw 5 up.

Phil Thomas / Juggling Information Service /