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What to juggle with


To learn how to juggle, you will need three objects of suitable size, weight and hardness. Beanbags or hackey-sacks are optimal, but tennis balls or racquet balls and the like can fill the role in nicely. You may also wish to use mandarin oranges, rolled-up socks, newspaper balls or other similar objects instead.

Where to juggle


The place where you juggle should be bright enough to allow you to see the balls clearly. Depending on the balls used, it may also be necessary to juggle in front on a bright wall (as is often the case with hackey-sacks). The place should be well ventilated and not too hot, but a direct breeze is ill-advised as it may make it harder to throw the balls accurately. It should also be tall enough to allow you to juggle freely without hitting the ceiling.



Stand up in a comfortable position in the middle of your juggling area and begin with step one!

Three Ball Cascade

Three Ball Cascade

The three ball cascade is the basic juggling style. If you have not done any juggling before, this is what you should start with. You should NOT try doing a shower, where all the balls move in a circle, until much further along in your juggling practice.

Step one


Use one ball for this step. Take a ball in one hand. Now throw it to the other hand. The throwing hand should move in a semi-circle before releasing the ball in order to make the ball fly almost vertically. This is called a "scoop" and will help a lot in further steps.

You should aim to throw the ball in such a way that it falls directly into the other hand. Having to move the catching hand too much is not a good sign. The ball should travel in an arc, its top around the height of your eyes.

Do not look at the ball as it falls. You have to learn to control yourself and catch the ball without looking at it. If you do not learn to do so now, further steps will become very hard. Throw the ball softly and try and keep the flow of the throwing smooth.

Do not underestimate this step, as it is possibly the most important. Not knowing how to throw the balls nicely will result in trouble in the following steps.

Step two


You will need two balls for this step. Take one ball in each hand and throw it directly upwards. Catch each ball with the hand that threw it. Alternate which ball you throw such that when the left ball is at the top of the arc, you throw the right ball and when the right is at the top, you throw the left one.

This process will help you achieve good rhythm for later. Apply the principles from step one - throwing the ball so you don't need to move the catching hand much, looking upwards instead of at the balls etc.

Try and make this step as automatic as possible. Listen to a few songs while performing it and throwing the balls to the rhythm. Try and listen to songs with different rhythm. Fast, slow, whichever you like.

Step three


This is the step that makes what you are doing actually look like juggling. Take a ball in each hand. Now throw one ball to the other hand as in step one. When the ball is at the top of the arc (as in step two), throw the other ball to the first hand. The second ball should travel underneath the first one.

This step may seem a bit daunting, but it is just a combination of steps one and two. When practicing this step, you should train both hands equally. First, throw the left ball first and the right ball second. Then, throw the right ball first and the left ball second. After a while, you should be able to do this in a nice, circling movement.

Never be afraid of going back to previous steps just to recapture the rhythm or throw more accurately.

Step four


When performing this step, you are actually already juggling. Take two balls in one hand and one ball in the other. Always begin with the hand with two balls. Repeat what you have been doing in step three, but when the second ball is at the top of the arc, throw the third ball to the opposite hand.

When you have done this step, you have made the first juggling circle. Actual juggling is just a series of these steps. Try and repeat these three passes until you feel you have perfected them. Throw the balls accurately, remember the rhythm when throwing and always try and catch the balls. It isn't a problem if they fall on the ground, but you need to be able to do at least three circles (with pauses after each circle) without them falling down before proceeding to step five.

Remember to practice this step with both hands equally. Left-right-left, then right-left-right. Music might help you with rhythm.

This step is the forerunner to juggling. As such, you might feel tempted to pass it quickly, but you should resist the urge and repeat it until you are comfortable with it.

Step five


This is it, the last step of the way! This is the breakthrough step and the time needed to get the grip of it varies greatly from person to person. If you have thoroughly practiced the previous steps, however, it shouldn't be a problem.

Repeat step four, but instead of catching the third ball as it falls down, throw the first ball again and proceed right into the next circle. When you first do it, you might get caught off balance and you will drop all the balls. Don't worry, it's natural at this point! Repeat step four again. When you are comfortable, try and do two circles without pausing.

As you learn this step, you will realize the movements are becoming more and more natural. Feel the flow of the balls as they soar through the air. Enjoy yourself! You now know how to juggle!



I cannot do more than 3 (or 4 or 5 etc.) throws


This is probably a mental problem. If this is happening to you, you need to make a point of throwing your balls whether or not you think you can catch them. Even if you drop them, throwing the balls will help you get past this mental block.

I throw my balls forward


(and in turn have to walk forward to keep up)

This is a common problem and can probably be fixed by juggling while facing a wall just close enough that you can extend your arms.

My balls collide in mid-air


To fix this problem you will have to work on your throws. Go back to step one and make sure you throw the ball correctly. Make sure that you are "scooping" your throws so that the ball flies almost completely vertically.

I still can't juggle.


Try this: http://www.alightfingers.com/tuition/ This is a more gradual and supportive version of the above.

Basic Tricks

After you have practiced the three ball cascade enough that you can do it comfortably, you are ready to learn your first juggling trick.

Over the Top


The first trick that most people learn is "over the top". This trick is just what it sounds like, instead of the normal cascade throw in which the ball travels under the previous one, you throw a ball over the top of the other one.

To begin with, practice the over the top throw with only one ball. Simply take the ball in your hand and "scoop" in a half circle towards the outside instead of the inside. When doing this you will probably want to move your hand further to the outside in order to make the throw more horizontal. When doing this you should throw the ball all the way from one side to the other whereas in the cascade you throw them from the middle to the outside.

Once you are comfortable with this try working it into a three ball cascade. Do not worry about it falling. Just throw it over the top of the other balls and resume your cascade.

Jugglers' Tennis


Before you learn this trick you need to know "over the top".

When doing "juggler's tennis" it may help if you have one different colored ball but it is definitely not necessary. The jugglers' tennis is when you do an "over the top" over third throw such that the same ball goes over the top every time you throw it. If you have a ball that is a different color than the other two that should be the one that goes over the top. This will help you to remember which ball you are supposed to throw over the top and lets you concentrate more on the technique.

Half Shower


Before learning this trick you need to know "over the top". "jugglers' tennis" will help but is not required.

In the "half shower" you throw ever other ball over the top such that the same hand always makes this throw. If you thoroughly practiced "over the top" and "jugglers' tennis" this should be fairly easy.

Reverse Cascade


Before learning this trick you need to know all previous "over the top" tricks.

This trick is basically a cascade where you throw every ball over the top of the others. It is not, however, that simple. You see if you throw every ball with the over the top throw, you will have to continually throw them higher and higher until you cannot keep up. Instead, you must make your throws go from the outside to the middle. This will be hard at first but with practice will gradually become easier.

As soon as you have the new throw down you will want to work it into the cascade. You may have been starting with a normal cascade and working your way into the trick before, but with the reverse cascade you will have to go straight into it. You may not get it at first but keep at it. You will get it eventually and it is really fun once you do.

Symmetric Passing Patterns

This system is a great way of generating all the possible passing patterns within given restrictions, as well as providing a useful intuitive understanding of passing patterns to people already familiar with [siteswap notation]. The idea behind the system was originally described in an article by French Juggler and mathematician Cristophe Préchac which was [posted on rec.juggling in 1999]. Nowadays it is taught and promoted primarily by Sean Gandini and more and more other jugglers. On his website, he offers a [detailed explanation of symmetric passing] as PDF.

Even though that PDF is well written and structured, a wikibook would be more dynamic, easier to access and could be integrated with videos and passing software like generators and animators. Please see the discussion page.

Préchac Transformation


The Préchac transformation is a clever way of transforming solo siteswaps into numerous fascinating passing patterns. In fact every siteswap can be transformed into many different passing patterns. The resulting patterns will bear a structural resemblance to the siteswap they emanated from. We call these patterns symmetric because each juggler does the same sequence of selfs and passes. In addition to being symmetric, the patterns are also staggered, by this we mean, that the jugglers do the same thing but at different times.

Essentially the system takes a siteswap of   objects and of period   and transforms it into a passing pattern for 2 jugglers with   objects. It does this subtracting half of the period of any of the throw values in the siteswap, and transforming this into a pass.



Let's look at an examples of this. Lets take the siteswap 3 1 the two ball shower. This is a period 2 pattern. We can subtract half the period from the 3. The result is a 2p 1. A relatively easy and intuitive 3 object 2 count juggling pattern that has the same feeling as the 2 ball shower, 3 1. Instead of a 3 you throw a 2p to your partner and receive a 2p from her exactly when the 3 from your 3 1 would land. Please find a detailed explanation of the notation.

Notice how the amount of objects is computed in the same way as in solo siteswaps: the average of 2p and 1 is 1.5, so every juggler has 1.5 objects, and together the 2 jugglers have 3 objects. Consider the timing: both juggler juggle the same pattern one half a period after the other, i. e. when one throws the 2p the other throws the 1 and vice versa.

Determine Passing Category


To determine how the passes will be thrown it's helpful to put the pattern into one of four categories: classic, equi, bi or instant-bi.

If the period is an even number there are two types of passes it might be – classic or equi. Transforming an odd number either up or down defines the pattern as 'classic'. Transforming an even number in the same way defines the pattern as 'equi'.

In the case of an odd period the two options are – bi or instant bi. Transforming an odd number up or an even number down defines the pattern as ‘bi’. Transforming an even number up or an odd number down defines the pattern as ‘instant-bi’

Poi tricks

Some poi tricks include: reels, weaves, fountains, crossovers and windmills.

The more skilled the spinner, the more complex and subtle tricks they can pull. Some advanced tricks involve body wraps, which involve wrapping a poi string around an arm or leg, then pulling it to swing the poi back in the opposite direction. Throws and catches are also performed with the poi. Split time and split direction moves are possible, and some of the more difficult moves, such as the 'five beat weave', isolations or hyperloop require a considerable amount of manual dexterity, coordination, and fine timing to accomplish. Manual strength is not a factor, as power and control come from good timing.

There are different planes that the poi are spun in and these are usually parallel planes:

  1. wall plane - facing a wall
  2. wheel plane - sitting in car, poi spinning at your sides like wheels
  3. horizontal plane - like a lasso

The poi can be spun in the same direction (weaves) or opposite directions (butterflies). Moves such as stalls and wraps can change direction of one poi to change between these two classes.



Weaves are a class of trick based around the "basic weave".

The 3 Beat Weave


Considered by many poi spinners to be one of the staple moves, this is often one of the first few tricks learned. The poi are swung 180 degrees out of phase with each other, in a forward rotation. As one of the poi reaches its highest point it is swung down across the front of the body. When the poi that was swung across the body reaches its lowest point, the second poi is at its highest point on the same side of the body. The second poi is then swung across the body in a similar fashion to the way the first one was, although obviously in the opposite direction. Meanwhile the first poi is swung round to its highest point without changing sides. The swinger's arms are now crossed in front of their body. The first poi is swung down across the front of the body so that it is on its original side while the second poi is swung to its highest point. The first poi is then swung round to its highest point and the second to its lowest point without crossing sides. The first poi is then swung over the top of the opposite arm and down across the front of the body, while the second poi is swung back up to its highest point. The poi are now in the mirror position from when the arms were first crossed. From this point the same sequence from when the arms were first crossed is used, only in mirror image. The sequence can then be repeated for as long as the swinger wants.

The basic weave is called "three-beat" because each poi spins three times in a cycle: once on the same side of the body (e.g. left hand poi on left side) and twice on the opposite side. Backwards weaves, behind the back weaves, and 1½-beat, 2-beat, 4-beat, 5-beat, and other weaves are also possible.



Butterflies are a class of trick based around the "basic butterfly". The hands are held close together in front of the spinner and the poi spin in opposite directions flat to the spinner so that the poi cross at the top and bottom of their circles. This move can be done behind the head, behind the back and extended to any number of moves; there are as many variations on the butterfly possible as there are for the weave. These tricks are so named as when viewed from the front, the poi appear to be flapping horizontally like a butterfly's wings.

The Basic Butterfly


The poi are swung in a forwards direction in phase with each other. The hands are then both moved in front of the swinger so that the poi traverse a circle in front of the spinner, the left poi spinning clockwise, the right poi counter-clockwise. Their angles very slightly offset to prevent the poi from colliding as they cross at the top and bottom of their respective circles. This move can also be performed in reverse/backwards.

The Overhead Butterfly


This is a variation on the basic butterfly where as the poi swing upwards from their lowest position the hands are moved to a position above the head. As the poi swing back downwards from their highest point the hands are moved down the opposite side of the head to complete the butterfly "flap". The hands are moved from the front to the back of the head alternately with each "flap" so that the poi flap alternately once in front of the head then once behind.

Highly skilled performers perform butterflies with 4 poi (two in each hand) to execute a double butterfly. In each hand, one is held out of each end of a fist. The most expert practitioners do this with 6 poi so that a third one-footed butterfly can be performed with the other foot. However impressive though this last one certainly is, the majority of poi performers consider such things to have no real use, as it is highly difficult to transition from the one-handed butterfly back into two -handed moves.



Wraps are a class of trick in which the poi are wrapped around something, most typically part of the body, to change the path or direction of spin. There are two types of wrap - basic or recoil wraps wrap around the target and then bounce off so that the poi ends up spinning in the opposite direction to which it started from, and thru-wraps which wrap around a moving body part so that the direction stays the same but the poi changes the path it is travelling along. Typical targets for a wrap are the arms and legs, although any body part is suitable - one of the more dangerous places to perform wraps is around the neck. These are among the most dangerous fire poi tricks as the poi can come into contact with the body or become entangled round the body; double neck thru-wraps are perhaps the most dangerous move that can be done with fire poi due to the risk of the poi tangling.

The Leg Wrap


The leg is outstretched to the side while the poi are being swung to the sides of the body. The poi string or chain makes contact with the outstretched leg, causing the lower portion of the string or chain to be wound round the leg. Provided the poi had enough speed when contact with the leg was made, it will wind completely around the leg, with the head impacting the leg. The head will then rebound. Pulling upon the string/chain at this point will mean that, again provided there was enough initial speed, the poi completely unwinds from the leg and swings freely in the opposite direction to the one it did initially. At this point the swinger can proceed with another trick.

The Ankle Wrap


This is a variation upon the leg wrap where instead of outstretching the leg, it is bent to 90 degrees at the knee, with the lower portion of the leg turned out to the side. The string/chain then contacts with and winds round the ankle instead of the leg. The ankle wrap is usually not carried out on both legs at once as this requires jumping, which is exceptionally difficult to carry out at the required height and speed to complete the move before requiring to land.

The Air Wrap


The poi meet one another at the strings/chains, and wrap around one another. After spinning around one another for one rotation, the poi come undone again. This technique must be done with converging planes, steady hands, and with no pull from the spinner.



Flowers are a class of trick based on compound circles, where the hands are moved in large, slow circles, and the poi rotate several times for each arm rotation, creating further circles around the perimeter. These moves create beautiful, symmetrical traces when performed cleanly.



Split Time, Same Direction spin: The arms are moved in the same direction as the poi. Both poi are spinning in the same direction as each other. The arms remain 180 degrees apart. Same Time, Opposite Direction spin: The poi are spinning in opposite directions and the arms coincide twice per rotation, on the top and bottom positions. There's also a variation called Split Time, Opposite Direction - hands meet twice still, but on front and back (sic) positions.

Antispin Flowers


The arms are moved counter to the poi, e.g. if both poi are spinning forwards, both arms will do backwards circles. Much more difficult to master than regular flowers. The trickiest thing is that to make a four-petal antispin flower you need to make three rotations of poi in one rotation of arm and do it with good timing.

Opposite Arm Direction (Butterfly) Flowers


The arms are moved in opposite directions relative to the body. ie: From flower start position one arm moves forward and one backwards reaching opposite points, the next place is meeting above the head, then opposite points, then meeting at the waists. Both are moving opposite directions in circles while the poi moves antispin or inspin.

Contact poi


Contact poi is a class of moves where one or both poi are released from the hand and manipulated with other parts of the body. These moves are generally derived from staff and devilstick moves, and require poi with counter-weighted handles.



The poi is thrown against a part of the body (generally the leg or opposite arm), rotates around it, flies off, and is caught again.

Gunslingers (Propellers)


The poi is released, and kept spinning in place by spinning the hand in a small circle, with the wrist pressing against the chain close to the weighted handle.



The poi is thrown, then its direction is repeatedly changed by rebounding it from the hand or wrist. The poi is caught close to the handle, but not grasped. If done cleanly the poi will be stalled for only a fraction of a second before recoiling.



The poi is thrown and caught in opposite hands, then thrown forward causing the head of the poi to orbit the chain or neck.

Further moves


Moves to impress



The spinner spins both of the poi inside his or her arms at high speeds. This is done by spinning the poi 180 degrees out of phase with each other, therefore avoiding collisions of the poi heads. This makes a beautiful ring of light trail inside the spinners arms. Spinners must be careful and measure the length of the chain or rope on the poi correctly, so as not to accidentally hit themselves on the chin or on top of the head.

Back Bend Buzzsaw


The spinner performs the move above (Buzzsaw)but while bending backwards greater than 45 degree sometimes at degrees greater that bring the spinner into a limbo-like stance.



Stalls are moves that "stall" the poi, making them appear to stop in midair. They are used to change direction and transition into other moves. It is done by spinning the poi, and then extending your arm in the direction perpendicular to the point at which you wish to stall. This can be done above the head, between the legs, behind the back, and to one side or the other. Stalls are a staple move in poi, and are versatile and easy to learn.



Isolations refer to a class of moves where the poi handle is also spun in a circle, 180 degrees apart from the poi head. 'Perfect' isolation occurs when the poi handle and poi are moving in the same circle, and can usually create beautiful synchronized moves. Isolations can be done during a buzzsaw or in front of the body on a wall plane.



Extensions are movements where the poi is in line with the arm, ie. is an extension of the arm. This move is mostly used in big circular arm movements. Hybrids are combinations of isolations and extensions.



Hyperloops are movements where the poi ropes becomes entangled (twisted up) and then untangled, keeping the ends spinning the entire time.

Advanced spinners are able to spin their moves in places such as behind the back and between the legs.

There is a huge variety of different poi movements, and more are being developed over time. Most poi movements do not have clear, unambiguous names; the same movement may appear under various names in different groups of spinners.




Combat is a game played by jugglers.

Basic rules


The basic rules are quite simple:

  • At a signal everyone starts juggling.
  • The last person juggling a full set of balls wins.
  • Holding one ball while juggling the others in one hand is not permitted.

The combative aspect is that players intentionally juggle so as to interfere with each other, as long at there is no actual physical contact between players.

Combat is most often played with three balls per player. Very experienced jugglers may play combat with four or five balls (but the games are shorter), and brave jugglers may play with clubs.



Basic strategies include:

  • Moving face-to-face with an opponent so the opponent gets confused about which balls to catch. (Only works on novice players.)
  • Throwing one ball high, and using the time to wave a hand in front of an opponent.
  • Grabbing an opponent's ball out of the air, and either dropping one of your own balls, or continuing with four balls.
  • Grabbing a ball from one opponent and throwing it at another opponent. (Not allowed when playing with clubs.)
  • If the game is played with clubs, then it is possible to hit an opponent's club out of the air with one of your own.
  • Throwing one ball high and far away, so it is possible to safely hold the two remaining balls while running away from an aggressive opponent.
  • And of course, turning away from all opponents and hoping that they will drop a ball before you do.