Do it Yourself


by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. 


Yes, it's fun to watch juggling (as in my juggling video) but it's more fun to DO IT !


Here are descriptions from juggling courses (Beginning & Intermediate) I taught for a decade in the 1980s, with UW's Experimental College in Seattle:

    Juggling is exciting, relaxing, and fun.  It's easy, too!   If you want to learn, I can help.  We'll start from the beginning and you'll develop skill in small, easy-to-do steps.   /   You'll move from basic patterns to simple yet impressive solo variations, cooperative stealing (& passing) between partners, and advanced tricks with 2, 3, 4 or more objects.  I'll show you principles for inventing your own new patterns, and for moving with fluency and style.   /   in both classes,...  We'll juggle with balls and clubs, humor and enthusiasm.

If this sounds like fun, you can learn how to juggle by using my 12-page booklet* for Do-it-Yourself Juggling (or with videos) that begins:

    Most people like to watch juggling.  There is a natural fascination with seeing the balls carve their fluid, moving sculptures through the air, as the juggler makes sense of a situation that, on the surface, looks very confusing.  Balls are flying up and down, all around, but somehow they remain in the air and under control.
    Do you wonder how the juggler keeps it all going?  Well, it's easier than it looks, and doesn't require any special super-coordination.  Yes, it really is possible.  If you want to juggle, you can do it! And this book can help you learn.  How?  Consider this example:
    Imagine that we're standing at the bottom of a long stairway, and I ask you to jump all the way up to the top.  Unless you're bionic or kryptonic, you'll protest “I can't do it!”  But if I ask you to climb to the top one step at a time, you'll easily make it because what you're trying to do is something you're capable of doing.
    Similarly, the complex actions of juggling can be learned in simple, easy-to-do steps.  Each step you take will help prepare you for the next one, and soon you'll be doing amazing and wonderful things.  This method works remarkably well for learning everything from basic fundamentals to the most advanced tricks.

* I sold these, along with beanbags-for-juggling, at public markets (in Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Costa Mesa) after free 5-Minute Juggling Lessons, plus IJA Juggling Festivals in 1981-82-83 in OH-CA-NY.  This small booklet was the first part of a large book that unfortunately has been lost.



How long did it take me to learn?

12 years and 45 minutes.  Why so long?   In high school a friend was juggling 3 tennis balls, so I said “wow” and he said “if you want to do it, I can show you how” but without thinking much I thought “no, I can't do it” and didn't accept his offer to teach me.   12 years later another friend said “I can help you learn” but this time I decided “yes, I can” and with her help (thanks, Lynn!) in 45 minutes I was juggling.  With skill and enthusiasm.   But ...

In addition to changing from “no I can't” to “yes I can,” a more important change was motivation.  The second time I wanted to learn, so I did.   Four motivating experiences were:  • just becoming older and more adventurous;   • watching street performers (musicians, mimes, balloon twisters, jugglers ...) early in the summer at the U District Street Fair in Seattle, and enjoying the creative art-in-motion of the jugglers;   • soon afterward, a coincidental conversation on the UW Campus with a Flying Karamazov Brother* (Howard, aka Ivan) about music (I love it - listening & improvising & teaching - and grew up playing trombone and Howard was part of the Tremendous Traveling Trombone Trio that I had seen & heard in Santa Cruz CA) and his experiences with entertaining (on the street versus on stage) and juggling;   • meeting Lynn, who let me say “yes” to learning.   I learned on 7-7-77 (she said “this will make it easy to remember the day”) and the next day I bought The Juggling Book by Carlo, to stimulate ideas for my exciting new adventure, to begin exploring possibilities.

My teaching of juggling began in 1979, with my first class for the “experimental college” of Oregon State University in Corvallis, where I also taught Strategies for Problem Solving that later developed into Education for Problem Solving.     /     also:  {booklet by me & teaching videos by others}   {learning from all experience}    {how I didn't learn to ski (by making mistakes) and then did (with insight & productive practice) plus learning to swim in 5 seconds}

* FKB-collage  1983  errors  music  symphony1  ducktown  more



a Teaching-and-Learning Update in 2021:  When I wrote Do-it-Yourself Juggling in 1982, the only ways to learn were books and in-person lessons, or to “learn it yourself” with no help.  Now things have changed, and you can learn with the help of videos about how to juggle.  And also what to juggle by making your own beanbags or thunderballs.  But first, here is one reason I was a failure with teaching tennis in high school, but a success with juggling.


two effective strategies for teaching:  One effective way to teach juggling — to help others learn the simple basics, intermediate skills, or advanced tricks — is with analysis-and-synthesis, by studying a complex whole-pattern, splitting it (with analysis) into simple parts that can be easily learned and then (with synthesis) recombined to form a new whole-pattern, in a whole-part-whole process.   /   Another way to teach is mostly by non-teaching, after an initial step of saying “learn it yourself” and turning them loose.  During the initial step a teacher motivates them to explore.  Tell them to “do experiments that produce new experiences, so you can learn new tricks” with self-discovering;  “try something new” and “let your hands figure out what to do” in a process that is much like the “mind-off, body-on” strategy described by Tim Gallwey in The Inner Game of Tennis.   /   Basically, a teacher can tell a student to either “use your mind” or “use your hands” when they juggle, but “do it both ways” by “doing each way at different times” so they will use both ways of learning, because each is useful.


some useful videos for learning:

• brief "just the facts" {2:00} by JuggleBoy.   The basic process is:  throw one ball back & forth in proper way;*   do two-ball exchanges (throw-throw-catch-catch, pause) starting with right hand, and with left hand;   juggle 3 balls, by continually doing two-ball exchanges.

• plus helpful details {7:08} by Mathias of Circus Made Simple.  I like his tip – used in my booklet & lessons, but ignored in most videos – of throwing from the center of your body, so (with one ball) the ball travels in a “sideways figure 8” like an infinity sign, ∞ ;   you can see how doing this with one ball {0:55-1:18} helps produce the smooth “flow” with three balls, as in {5:40-5:48}.  A common problem – not being able to throw “the third ball” – is easy to fix {3:15-3:47} by just doing throw-throw-throw without trying to catch.  One of the most important details is...

3-D Quality Control  —  * You want your throws to have consistently good quality in three dimensions:  vertical, so each throw begins at waist level and peaks about a foot above the top of your head, or a little lower (later your juggling pattern will be lower, but when you're learning you'll get a little more time by throwing a little higher);   sideways, with each throw going the same distance leftward or rightward, for symmetry, from near your body-center to about shoulder-width apart, or a little wider;   forward-and-backward, so balls always stay in a “wall plane” the same distance from your body, so you aren't moving forward or backward.

troubleshooting tips {13:37} with “good vibes” that I like (and you will too) from Kelly Taylor.  She wisely explains that "juggling is all about messing up and getting better in little increments, every time you throw."  You will "throw stuff up in the air, drop it, pick it up, and do it again," while you're learning how to juggle.    { I define self-education as learning from all experience. }

• and dutch tips {7:43} from Niels Duinker.

and more.


And then... my 12-page juggling booklet includes Step 4 (Juggling with Style) and Step 5 (Finding New Ways to Juggle) with tips to improve the quality and variety of your juggling, plus Chapter 2 (Learning How to Learn).

And during January 2022 (i.o.u.) I'll find links to videos for 3-ball tricks, four or more, and “cooperative juggling” (by stealing or passing) with a partner.  And of course with diy exploring (using different combinations of search-terms) you can find lots of videos.


Do-It-Yourself Juggling Balls:  While you're learning to juggle (and maybe later) you probably will prefer, as I do, roughly-round objects that won't roll away from you, so instead of bouncy balls you'll want to juggle beanbags or thunderballs.

3 Easy Methods {6:27} by CircusMadeSimple, to make SockBags, BalloonBalls, ThunderBalls.    {of course, you can do variations of his instructions:  instead of 1/3 cup for SockBags, maybe 1/2 cup or... try different amounts, to see what you like;   for BalloonBalls, again try different amounts of filler (rice, sand,...);   for ThunderBalls, instead of "completely full" you can fill them partially so they won't roll away as easily, and pennies are a filler with more “thunder sound” & less rolling, and the amount of taping (none, only over slit, total) is your choice, and covering with balloons is another option.}   {do experiments: if you make partially filled thunderballs, drop one straight down with no spin and watch what happens, then try dropping it with a slight spin; the results are interesting.}

also:  extra tips (like using a bottle + paper funnel) {9:21} from Evan the Juggler;  Polka-Dot BalloonBalls {2:34} by ZapCircus;  and more.

Or with non-diy you can buy beanbags or lacrosse balls (traditionally used by jugglers) from Amazon & others, or locally from Dick's Sporting Goods & others.



    cartoon about juggling     cartoon about juggling

Do-it-Yourself Juggling:
How to Juggle  (in 4 fairly easy steps) 
Juggling with Style 
Finding New Ways to Juggle 
Learning How to Learn: 
    Using your personal See-and-Do System,
    Relax to improve Coordination & Strength,
    How I Didn't Learn to Ski (and then did).


Copyright ©1982 by Craig Rusbult


a sad story: 

Originally this small booklet was the introduction for a large book about juggling (individually and with partners) but... unfortunately — after I invested lots of time writing many pages and chapters for it (with many creative ideas & diagrams) — the manuscript has been misplaced.  I cannot find it.   Sigh.   I'm hoping it isn't permanently lost, and eventually I'll find it, but... probably not.  I'm sad because if I now had the whole book, you could see it and use it for learning.


The cartoon was by Frank Clark (he also drew skiing & tree-cutting)

who now is the (very) Creative Director of Square Tomato in Seattle. 


If you like this page, you may also like these pages:
my juggling video
make your own music
how I didn't learn to ski
learning from experience
designing physical skills
the joys of thinking
Science in Sports
Science in Arts


This page, by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.