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Instructions: How to Juggle and Spin a Plate


Juggling and learning how to juggle provide numerous team building and motivational opportunities. Juggling exercises are great warm-ups for training and conferences - juggling is fun, different and memorable. Juggling, and learning how to juggle are mentally and physically stimulating. The process of juggling, and learning how to juggle also provides a good analogy for the learning process - the way the mind and body learn and develop new skills. Playing with other games and toys such as plate-spinning also motivates, stimulates, and provides an enjoyable activity to create positive atmosphere and to build teams and teamwork.

Gold BusinessBalls Juggling Balls


Conventional training concentrates on work-related skills, usually logical systems, rules, and theories - all left-side brain functions. Successful performance relies on behaviour and attitude as well, and qualities like confidence, initiative, commitment, determination and creativity, mostly dependent on the right-side brain. Juggling is an ideal vehicle for developing the right side of the brain. See the Motivation page for more explanation. Use toys and games to reinforce training concepts; it works. This is because the brain absorbs and retains more information if it is being stimulated across a number of senses. Confucius said: "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." Playing games and learning new physical skills stimulates many different parts of the brain, so people are truly stimulated; they enjoy it, remember it and understand it.

Juggling Instructions (Three-Ball Cascade)

These step by step rules will begin with simple one ball exercises, through to two balls, and finally to the three ball cascade. The longer and better you practise the essential throwing and catching movement with one ball the easier you will progress to two and then three. People who try two or three balls before they learn the basics, will as with any new skill tend to develop bad habits and a loss of confidence. Try to remember to keep an open mind, relax, and don't worry about making mistakes. Only by making mistakes do we learn. In the early stages practise for no more than ten to fifteen minutes at a time with at least an hour between sessions.

One ball 

Stand straight and comfortably balanced with one ball only in your dominant hand. Tuck your elbows into your waist and gently throw the ball to your other hand, peaking at your eye-line. Throw it back and forth from hand to hand. Throw at waist height, catch at waist height, and get the ball moving in a sideways figure-eight pattern, catching on the outside and throwing on the inside, in a kind of scooping motion. This is the essential pattern that your brain and body must learn. If the ball goes too far forward stand close to a wall so it stays close. When you have practised this so you can do it almost with your eyes closed, clap your hands once between throwing and catching. When you can do this, practise clapping twice. You can try other things like touching your nose or clapping behind your head, twice between throwing and catching, before moving to two balls.

Two balls 

With a ball in each hand throw first one and then the other as the first peaks. If you're throwing properly in a figure-eight pattern the balls will not collide. At first don't worry about catching the balls. Do not pass the balls (schoolgirls often learn circular juggling, which is based on alternate throwing and passing, so if you tend to pass because of this you'll need to re-train your brain to throw and catch instead, or the three ball cascade will elude you forever). Learn to catch the first ball before you try catching both. Say aloud as you progress 'throw throw drop drop', then 'throw throw catch drop' and finally 'throw throw catch catch'. Practise starting with your dominant hand and then starting with the other hand, and then alternating. You must practice this until it feels comfortable and is reasonably reliable until you move to three balls.

Three balls 

Hold two balls in the hand you wish to start with (hand 1), and one ball in the other hand (hand 2). Do as you practised with two balls, but after catching the first ball in hand 2 throw the third ball from hand 1. Hand 1 catches the second ball a split second after throwing the third ball. Apart from that split second between throwing and catching there is only ever one ball in the air. Your verbal command now becomes 'throw throw throw throw throw etc'. This is the Three Ball Cascade.

(With acknowledgments to Rob Hughes.)


Four, five, six balls?

I can't do five - (I'll get around to putting the practice in one day..) - five balls are a lot more difficult than three or four. The theory is: the five ball cascade is the same pattern as the three ball cascade but with more height (and accuracy) giving extra time needed for five balls. Assuming you are juggling three balls cascade style (sideways figure 8 pattern - ie., throw on the inside catch on the outside) and not circular pattern (when all balls follow each other in a circular pattern), then the transition from three to five requires: practice throwing three balls higher and in quick succession, leaving time to clap hands twice before catching the balls and repeating the sequence: throw throw throw clap clap (and repeat, obviously catching before throwing again). The two claps represent throwing the 4th and 5th balls - when you've practiced height and accuracy with three balls and two claps introduce balls four and five to replace the claps. As with learning three balls. practice throwing all the balls properly before attempting to practice catching as well. Five ball circular juggling is possible also - more difficult for most people - again requires more height and accuracy, giving time for five balls.

Juggling four balls can be done using circular juggling, but is easiest with two balls in each hand alternating - throw on inside catch on outside - the balls don't cross to the other hand - same pattern for six balls as well. Practice two balls in each hand separately for four ball juggling, and three balls in each hand for six ball juggling.


Instructions: spinning a plate

Ensure you have a proper plastic spinning plate and a wand. Don't try it with the best china and a knitting needle. Spinning plate sets can be obtained from most good juggling wholesalers or entertainers shops. Hold the wand up at an angle of 70 degrees and rest the underside of the plate on the wand at a similar angle facing the wand, with the point of the wand on the inside of the plate's underside rim. Gently rotate the plate using the wand in a kind of slow upside-down whisking motion - all the movement should be coming from your wrist. The key thing is to practice this and get the brain used to the feel of the plate on the wand. The brain will learn if you keep practising it. Speed up the whipping motion until the plate is spinning with the wand inside the rim, and then stop moving the wand, holding it firm and upright. The plate will continue spinning and immediately centre itself on the wand.

More detailed instructions for plate spinning

Starting position: Hold the wand at the non-tip end in the dominant hand, pointing it upwards about 10-20 degrees from vertical. Hand should be about chest height. Using the other hand hold the plate so that underside of the plate is facing your own face, head height, slightly angled so as to be able to 'hang' the plate on the wand tip inside the rim on the underside of the plate. Let go of the plate and gently use the wand to start rotating the plate with the wand tip against the rim. Rotate in whatever direction feels most comfortable. Starting this initial rotation is the most difficult part - it's all to do with feel. Most people eventually develop a technique of gently 'pushing' the plate at the time the holding hand releases it, via the contact-point between the lower part of the rim and the stem of the wand (which will be about six inches from the tip). The plate will initially rotate slowly on a near vertical plane; (it will move to the horizontal plane when it speeds up). Get the feel of slowly rotating and controlling the movement of the plate while it hangs by the rim on the wand tip - it's the essential skill to learn. The plate is likely to fall off a lot at this stage, until you get the feel and learn the control. When you develop this feel and control, speed up the rotation so the plate is spinning, still with the wand tip against the rim. This is all wrist action, rather like whisking an egg with a fork (only upside down). When the plate is spinning fast, stop 'whisking', leaving the wand stiff upright. The wand tip will naturally move to the centre of the plate and the plate will continue spinning.

Instructions: Diabolo

Position the diabolo on the floor over the string, and use the string to pull the diabolo across the floor from one side to the other. Lift it, spinning, with the string and pull it upwards quickly and repeatedly with your dominant hand, releasing slack each time quickly with your other hand. The diabolo will spin very fast. Move the sticks forward or backwards (right forward and left back or vice versa) to correct tilt.

Pull the string tight to throw the diabolo into the air. Catch by lifting one end of the string to meet it on the way down.

Quickly 'doubling' the string in a loop and tightening will cause the diabolo to climb the string. Unloop it just as it reaches the top.

Keep the diabolo spinning by pulling the string upwards quickly and repeatedly with your dominant hand, releasing slack each time quickly with your other hand.

The diabolo takes lots of practise, and a wide variety of tricks can be used - in many ways similar to those done with a clutch yoyo.

Instructions: Devil Stick

Kneeling or squatting down, stand the devil stick upright on the floor and hit it from side to side with the control sticks. Strike the devil stick between a quarter and one third from the top. Initially it will only move from side to side like the action of a windscreen wiper. Practise this a lot until your brain learns the feel of the sticks. You will then be able to 'lift' the devil stick by hitting it from side to side with the control sticks, when it rotates a half turn (180 degrees) between contacts. When you can control the devil stick, the starting position is resting it horizontally on the two control sticks.

Important for good control is keeping control sticks parallel with floor and straight. After a bit of practice you will be able to achieve full and double rotations between hits. A lot of practice will enable you to achieve the 'propeller' trick, using just one control stick to keep the devil stick spinning just like a propeller, hitting underneath every few rotations to keep it spinning.


Instructions: Levitron

See details of the amazing levitron anti-gravity toy on the Team building games section. Finding exactly the best weight, by using the weighted 'washers' is critical. The achievement of a perfectly level base is essential - use one or two of the wedges to adjust it. Very fine adjustment is necessary. A firm starting spin is important - be bold and press the spinning top quite hard on the lifting plate to get it started. The levitron weight adjustment will be necessary to change between uses and during long spells of use.

See also

Some other useful motivational references on this site for motivational study and development. Some of these articles, models and theories provide great materials for motivational posters, and provide good references for coaching, training and motivational and inspirational speaking:


© Alan Chapman 1995-2014