Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Toss juggling is the form of Juggling which is most recognisable as 'juggling'. Toss juggling is at once: a performance art, a sport, a form of exercise and meditation, a recreational pursuit, and often simply child's play. For some devoted jugglers, it may even verge on being a religious experience.
In toss juggling, objects -- such as balls, bean bags, fruit, etc... -- are thrown or tossed into the air and caught. Multiple objects may be thrown in succession, so that at a given point, some are in the air, going up, some are falling back towards the juggler's hands, some are being caught and some are being thrown.
As a performance art, the juggler will display her skill at manipulation, quite often performing intricate maneuvers with the tossed objects, but usually limiting those tricks to ones that the juggler is confident of successfully accomplishing. Some of the tricks performed can be a fountain when juggling an even number of objects, where each hand juggles half the number of objects to itself. Another common pattern is the shower which refers to a toss pattern in which the balls follow each other in a rotary pattern, with each ball being thrown from the same hand, and each ball being caught with the opposite hand, then quickly passed to the throwing hand again. Instead of a fountain, when juggling an odd number of objects, the most common pattern a juggler may perform is a cascade -- where balls are thrown from alternate hands, and caught in alternate hands.
Patterns and tricks
There are also amusing stunts such as the Yo-yo and the Robot , which provide an illusion that the balls are connected to each other or to the juggler's body. By adding elementary skills to any juggling pattern the pattern can be increased, incrementally, in complexity.
There are even wildly intricate patterns such as the Double Lubman , most commonly called Mills Mess. For a given pattern any number of variants may occur to the juggler, for instance, Mills Mess has at least three well-known variants, produced by adding flourishes such as Chops, holds, stalls, and carries.
As a sport, juggling can be done competitively, with jugglers taking turns to try to best each other's abilities, or juggling together, in teams -- called passing. In passing, two or more jugglers will throw objects to each other, performing such feats as may be accomplished 'solo', but juggling more objects.
Passing and feeding
If three jugglers can each juggle three items, together they may readily juggle nine items. A variation on simple passing, called feeding is performed by two or more jugglers all tossing to one specific juggler -- called the feeder. The feeder is usually the juggler with the better-developed skill. In a 3-person feed, the feeder may pass on every second beat (called "every other") -- alternately passing to the other two jugglers, while they in turn pass back to him on "every other other" (every fourth beat). Meanwhile all the balls not passed to the feeder are 'self-tossed' or thrown to oneself. Of course, a seemingly infinite variety of combinations of number of balls, number of jugglers, feeding directions or rhythms, etc. may be accomplished. Pass juggling helps to develop a better sense of rhythm.
Exercise and fitness
As exercise, juggling is a highly aerobic activity, increasing the heart rate and respiration. Juggling helps one to develop good eye-hand coordination and balance. Because juggling can exercise muscles not ordinarily used in day-to-day life, jugglers not only have good coordination, they are often quite fit or even muscular. Be assured though that they did not all start out that way! Juggling is a step-by-step process that yields greatest results when patiently learned.
Juggling helps to develop reflexes, and in fact, jugglers develop "higher-order reflexes", reflexes not typically associated with normal human activity. These reflexes are formed through repetition of what are, at first, slowly-learned and difficult processes. As the various processes develop into reflexive actions, additional, more difficult or complex skills are 'layered' atop previous, well-developed skills. These new more complex skills eventually become more reflexive, and eventually, various unusual high order reflexes develop. An example is that, while catching a raw hen's egg may be quite challenging to a novice juggler, a more skilled juggler might be able to easily catch -- unbroken -- an egg thrown towards him without warning.
Paradoxically, the same processes that are well-known for exercising the body, can also be a very relaxing activity. As meditation, juggling a repeating pattern or patterns can take one's mind off of the stresses they might encounter in their daily lives. Jugglers have described a phenomenon of near-disembodiment and tranquility which may come over them while juggling. The constant rising and falling of the objects, the regularity of the rhythms, can become almost hypnotic, and the attention of a juggler while tightly focused on the juggling pattern may seem to expand and even to "encompass the universe", yet it does not have the unwanted side-effects of drugs.
As a recreational pursuit, juggling excels in many ways. Besides the previously-mentioned health benefits, any form of juggling is at its best when done socially. The equipment is inexpensive or free -- though very costly equipment is also available -- and easily portable. Juggling is great for "breaking the ice" at parties, and other social gatherings. Jugglers are a friendly sort, usually, and are often very willing to help beginning jugglers with advice. Juggling conventions, clubs and other gatherings where jugglers congregate can be great places to meet and share the art of juggling, for experts novices and even 'non-jugglers' -- who often find themselves doing some form of juggling themselves.
As a form of play, toss juggling excels. Aside from being challenging and enjoyable, the numerous benefits mentioned previously make it a wholesome and healthy activity as well. Juggling is a good way to make friends, and to boost one's self-esteem.
Learning to juggle helps a child (or an adult!) to develop an intuitive understanding of many of the fundamental principles of classical physics. In so-called 'developed nations', many children's activities (television watching among them) seem to train them to have a short attention span, which can cause learning disabilities, lack of focus and a general sense of boredom. In any part of the world, a juggling child trains herself to have good mental focus, which can have the effect of increasing their clarity of thought and reasoning skills. Finally, and most importantly, juggling is fun, perhaps the most essential part of any play activity.
See also: Juggling for other types of juggling, and a more general discussion of juggling, juggling props and related activities. Â
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