So it’s the start of 2018 – Happy New Year jugglers!
The start of a new year is always a time to reflect on your life and where you want it to go… or to just completely ignore that and think about juggling, which is what I’ve opted to do:
So I’ve had lots of interesting conversations about how people practice juggling, when they started and how quickly they learnt certain tricks. One topic which often comes up is how Anthony Gatto practices. Obvious he’s pretty decent at juggling, so must have been doing something right when he practiced. I decided to try and emulate his practice.
DISCLAIMER: I think Anthony Gatto has a strong claim to the title of ‘best juggler of all time’ and I in no way think I will ever be anywhere near as good as him. I respect his ability immensely and if I say anything like ‘obviously he’s pretty decent at juggling’ like in the line above, I’m deliberately understating things for comic effect. Hopefully this explanation didn’t spoil that effect too much, but I would hate people to think that I don’t respect his ability or that I’m trying to compare myself to him in any way. I just want to get better at juggling, and tell a few jokes. I also don’t think I’m a particularly good solo juggler either, so any statements I make to the contrary are also jokes.
END OF DISCLAIMER.
After reading http://www.juggling.org/help/essays/gatto.html and watching some of https://youtu.be/gtsaTMdKVTM I think these are the key things I’ve learnt about how he practices:
1) Warm up with some gentle balance exercises.
2) Practice for one hour, but every day!
3) Work on each trick for no more than 2-3 minutes, take regular breaks.
4) Have a list of about 20 tricks you are working on, if you aren’t enjoying one, swap it out for another one.
I think the idea of this is you make slow progress on lots of tricks at once, and if you do this every day for 20 years you end up being the best juggler of all time or something. Sounds like a plan- anyone want to book 43 year old Cameron for a performance, he’s going to be awesome? (See disclaimer if you think I’m being arrogant…)
This is very different to how I practice. Sometimes I’m super motivated about one trick and work on just that for a whole session, sometimes I rattle through tricks more quickly. Sometimes I have seen someone do something at a convention which I want to try. Sometimes I have a new idea and want to try and come up with some tricks of my own. Sometimes I’m driving to Austria and don’t practice for a day. The point is, it varies- I don’t have a systematic juggling practice routine. I’ve got my juggling to a level I am proud of but I’m not the best of all time like Anthony… probably only like the 7th best of all time or something (see disclaimer).
I wonder how much better I would get if I started practicing like Anthony? That’s what I plan to find out over the next month or so, maybe with a few days off when I’m skiing/moving to Germany. Who knows, I’ll do it when I can though (I know this already doesn’t really fit with what he does given he did it every day but you know I’m doing my best…).
Right, so I’ll warm up with some balance stuff, cycle through tricks really quickly (I think I’ll have a timer running to keep me disciplined) now all I need is a list of 20 or so tricks:
Balance warm up:
Turn round, kneel down, stand up sit down stand up, clap behind balance, do Macarena etc with club in both nose, chin and forehead balance (2 minutes)
3 balls, 441, 4ball sync and async, 5 balls all with balance. Maybe flash 6. (5 minutes)
Ok, now I’m warm ish, maybe mills is also a good warm up for the arm? I want to work on mills anyways so let’s put some of that in:
3 balls, 441, 531 (2 minutes)
4 balls, run, then 531 throwing 5 as under arm and as over arm. Kick up 3 to 4 (3-4 minutes)
5 balls, go for runs, try kick up 4 to 5 (3-4) minutes
I really want to get 5 ball mills looking nice it’s such a cool trick, seems weird only working on it 3-4 minutes but hey, let’s give it a go.
3 balls, 3 ups including linked 3 ups and 2 stage 720s (3-4 minutes)
4 balls, 4 ups out of both hands, 2 stage 720 out of sync? (3-4 minutes)
5 balls, 3 ups starting out of both hands, try and get 2 linked (3 minutes)
5 balls, try and land a 5 up out of both hands (3 minutes)
5 balls, 3 ups out of (6x,4)* ? (3 minutes)
I wonder if I’ll find the pirouette section tiring? Maybe I’ll switch this to being at the end after I try it tomorrow. What am I on now? 33 minutes or so, wow, that’s half my practice gone! Ok better get on with it:
5 ball siteswaps:
744 (1 minute)
645 (1 minute)
633 (1 minute)
94444 (1 minute)
97531 (2 minutes)
(8x,4)(4,4) out of (6x,4)* (2 minutes)
753 (1 minute)
Man that’s another 11 minutes gone, how did Anthony make this work? All I’ve done is balls. Crazy he was efficient enough using this practice to get at least as good as I am at all three props, if not better… (disclaimer).
6 ball practice:
3 in one hand, each way (1 minute)
One handed siteswaps with 3 balls like 432 and 42 each hand (2 minutes)
66661 (1 minute)
Run 6 async (2 minutes)
Run 6 sync (2 minutes)
Transition between sync and async (2 minutes)
Kick up 5 to 6 (1 minute)
Man I’m running out of time fast:
5 ball warm up, continuous 3 ups without spinning. 771. (2 minutes)
Try and get some runs of 7 balls (3 minutes)
It seems mad only trying 7 balls for that short an amount of time- I’m used to practicing it in half an hour stretches. I wonder if this will really help me improve?
5 ball half shower, throwing the odd high throw as a back cross (2 minutes)
6 ball half shower (2 minutes)
Man, that’s over an hour! This is insane, I have some other 3 ball tricks which I would love to get solid for an act in the future, I haven’t done any contortionist stuff, I haven’t practiced any of my shower tricks. There’s so many more ball tricks I can think of I want to work on and just as many club and ring tricks… I guess I’ll have to gradually change what is in my practice over the next 20 years so that I master clubs and rings too. Oh and head bounce. Also might take up cigar boxes. Should probably do some passing at some point too… hmmm.
I’m planning on trying this tomorrow after I’ve done some tutoring, if anyone has any feedback/suggestions of things to add or take out I would love to hear it.
I’ll post an update with how I found the practice tomorrow, and maybe again after 5 days or a week or something. Will definitely post again in 20 years when I’m the best of all time (disclaimer). Hopefully if you've read this far that last disclaimer was unnecessary. Bye x
I always wonder how much this differs from his practice when he started out. This routine of his was perhaps built more to help him maintain the level he had, it could be different to the training he did when he was actively learning new skills!
So if you follow the link from the post (http://www.juggling.org/help/essays/gatto.html) it describes how he tried juggling 4 clubs for the first time. Very different from my experience of learning 4 clubs- I remember putting in lots of hours and ending up with fairly battered forearms. It seems crazy to me that anyone can learn new tricks by spending such a short amount of time on them but I guess the key is doing it every single day. I guess the fact it seems crazy is why I want to try it for myself and see if it works for me :)
Obviously I can't know for certain but as far as I can tell this really is how he learnt new tricks as well as just maintaining ones he could do already.
https://www.juggle.org/anthony-gatto-interview-on-practicing/ the last question:
eJuggle: How has your practice style changed over the years?
Gatto: It has not altered too much. I follow the same structure as I used when I was ten. What I do now more than ever is listen to my body and do not force things to happen.
I used an app called "action timer" for when I had to do a bunch of physio. Basically put in the length of time for each activity, the title and hit the go button. It will tell you what to do when (including rests). If you plan to do the same thing week in week out it might be a good way of getting consistency. I'm sure there are a whole bunch of similar apps which might fit your need if you don't like that one.
I have been using an app I created to structure my juggling training and collect juggling data. The Android app is called Routine Builder. It is available free in the Play store, and by email. Check out my training logs to see what the app can do.
Lets not forget that he also had a coach. Someone who watches closely from a different perspective and gives good feedback is invaluable. It is perhaps what allowed him to get so much out of such short sessions. The question is if the same practice structure is optimal for a juggler without a coach.
Very true, I guess what I'm really testing is whether this 2-3 minutes per trick style of practice works better for me than my normal fewer tricks for a longer amount of time style. It's definitely different from what he did in a number of ways.
A while ago I was working on consistency of patterns. I made a recording of myself saying the name of a pattern I wanted to work on, then put in silence so the total track length was 30 seconds. I think I had something like 6 different tricks, so I duplicated each track 9 times to give me a total of a half hour of audio. I made this a playlist, hit shuffle, and BAM! I practiced in a very focused way for 30 minutes.
I did make a lot of progress during this time, but probably similar progress to when I practiced for the same amount of time by myself without such a rigid structure. Hard to tell.
 - For if you're having trouble understanding what I'm talking about, the session would sound like this:
"Around the head shower, right hand" [~30 seconds of silence]
"Blind behind the head" [~30 seconds of silence]
etc. etc. for 30 minutes.
As far as I understand your routine is a random circuit training, because you 'hit shuffle'.
I think that most people train in a linear way, one trick after another for a certain amount of time in a training session. I like the idea of a circuit training and for some tricks I have made good experience with something like A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D ... or A-B-C-D-B-C-E ... after a warmup and with short breaks in between. The letters are representing different tricks. At the end of a session I have repeated some tricks 2 or 3 times. 2-10 minutes per trick works well for me.
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