The cascade is the simplest three ball juggling pattern & is basically a figure of eight on its side. There are two ways to learn it. One, pick up three balls & go for it. Or two, take things a step at a time. Learning to juggle is tricky, but anyone can do it. Those that think they will never juggle usually have the most fun, because they are all the more amazed when they discover how easy it is. Just have fun, don't force yourself to practise, if you have trouble with a particular step don't be afraid of going back & practising the previous one again.
Take one ball & throw it from hand to hand. Work on four things:
- Make sure each throw goes to the same height, approximately eye level. Throws from the right hand should peak on the left side, throws from the left hand should peak on the right.
- Don't reach up to grab the ball, wait for it to come down & catch it at waist level.
- Scoop your hands as you throw, make little clockwise circles with your right hand & anticlockwise with your left. In the full three ball cascade you will catch on the outside of the circle & throw from the inside. So start the habit early.
- Only throw in two dimensions: height & width, not depth. The ball should travel up & down, side to side but not towards or away from you.
Work on this until you can do this perfectly, with no forward or backward movement & without moving your feet. Try clapping under each throw, try clapping once behind your back then once in front, then once behind, once in front & once behind again before making the catch.
Then move on to...
The next step is the exchange. Take two balls, one in each hand. Using exactly the same throwing method from step 1 throw from the right hand, wait until it peaks on the left hand side & then throw upwards from your left hand underneath the first ball.
DO NOT PASS THE 2ND BALL FROM ONE HAND TO THE OTHER!!
Everyone does at first, it may be easier but it has nothing to do with the three ball cascade. Passing from hand to hand is a very hard habit to break but there are several things you can do to solve the problem:
- Try starting from your weak hand first.
- Keep your head up & look at where you want to throw the balls.
- Physically tell yourself what to do by saying out loud, "UP, UP" in time with your throws.
- Really exaggerate the scooping motion with your hands which will force you to throw (the ball) up.
After stamping out the passing from hand to hand problem most people tend to throw the first ball with a nice scoop & then uncontrollably jerk the second ball out of their hands. If you are starting with the right hand, concentrate entirely on your left hand. Start your left hand scoop as soon as the first ball has left your right hand, the timing should be about right for you to make the left hand throw at the correct time when the first ball peaks.
You will also probably find yourself throwing forward, to stop this remember to scoop your arms, stand up straight, with your feet shoulder width apart (many problems in juggling can be corrected by adjusting your posture) & keep your head up.
Again, get this step perfect, starting with both hands alternately. If you find it difficult throwing from your weak hand first try telling yourself what to do again by saying out loud, "left, right" or, "right, left". Get to the point where you can juggle, "right, left, gap, left, right, gap..." without pause in a smooth even rhythm. When you say gap, you should have one hand empty, try snapping your fingers in the gap. In Step 3 the third ball will be caught & thrown in that gap.
Be patient, when you can do this step smoothly, proceed to...
Almost there now. Pick up the third ball. You will start with two balls in one hand & one in the other. To hold two balls in one hand, grip one ball between your thumb, fore & middle fingers & one between your ring & little finger & the butt of the thumb.
To start with, count out three throws starting with the hand that is holding two. Throw the ball between your thumb, fore & middle fingers first, then throw the second ball from the opposite hand underneath ball 1 (just like the exchange in Step2) & then throw the third ball from the starting hand under ball 2. Stop by catching two balls in the opposite hand you started with. You have just completed three throws of the cascade.
Remember all the points you have covered so far, throwing each ball to eye level underneath the one before, in two dimensions, scooping your arms, not reaching up - everything.
Then count out three throws starting from the other side & stop. & then back again. & then back again. Keep going until you can do it comfortably.
Now all you need to do is keep going. Simply throw each ball under the one before. Just keep saying to yourself, "throw, throw, throw, throw..." Go on to four throws, then five, then six, then...well you're juggling!
Throwing forward will probably be your biggest problem. You may start off on one side of the room & end up on the other. Try juggling against a wall, (I recommend a smooth papered wall rather than bare brick if you value your knuckles) the balls will simply bounce back into the pattern. Try & reduce the number of throws that bounce off the wall, when the number is zero you've solved the problem. Or flick your fingers back into the palm of your hand as you throw, this will cause the ball to curve back towards you.
Another common problem is known as 'Limp Lefts' (or 'Limp Rights' for the lefties). This is where your dominant hand throws to the normal height but your weak hand hardly throws the ball up an inch. This is not because one hand is significantly weaker than the other but because your weak side is 'thinking' slower. Concentrate on the scoop on your weak side, just putting more physical effort in will only result in wild throws & probably tire you out. Tell yourself to throw higher by actually shouting when it comes to making the throw, "throw, THROW, throw, THROW" (this genuinely helps, I'm not trying to make you look stupid).
As you begin to juggle for longer you may find yourself turning to one side because one hand is throwing forward (usually your weak) & the other is not. If you turn to the left stand with your left foot in front of your right; if you turn right put your right foot forward. This slight adjustment in how you stand affects the way your arms move & corrects your throws.
Keep practising. Aim for a smooth scooping pattern, try not to jerk your throws. Don't worry about little problems, they will iron themselves out. You will find that correcting mistakes becomes easier & easier until you can do it without thinking, then one day juggling will be as natural as breathing.
You are one of us now.