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[edit] Body Rolling

When you first describe Contact Juggling to a person who has never heard of it, you might say something like “It’s like normal juggling, but the balls are rolled all over the arms and body instead of thrown in the air”. This gives a mental image, which is fascinating, and is what I live for as a CJer – the idea that someone could dance, or mime, all the while rolling a ball on the body as though strings are attached. Unlike Palmspinning, which is a very “close-up” art, body rolling is large and expressive. To entertain your audience, you have to become large and expressive as well. Compare close-up magic and stage magic. In close-up magic, you concentrate on the hands (usually) – it does not matter what expression is on the magician’s face, or whether he/she is wearing an outfit. All that matters is the interaction of the hands with the object being manipulated. In stage magic, however, the magician’s body language is all important. A fantastic contact juggler can practice for weeks, and be baffled about why the audience is not impressed if he/she forgets to include the whole body with the move. I have seen routines where the audience “oohed” and “aahed” at moves which any green CJer could pull off with only the minimum experience – this was because of the performers “stage presence” – an invaluable aid in a performance. By all means, learn the most difficult moves you can learn, but always be aware of how they look to the audience! When you practice any move in body rolling – also practice moving the body to accentuate the move. Pretend the ball has a life of it’s own. One comment I heard about a CJer I knew years ago was that he never moved his legs. The commenter did not say anything about the CJing itself, which said to me that the fact the CJer had not moved his legs made the legs stand out more than the ball. You must avoid this. Move your body to focus the audience on the ball. Don’t look around while performing – examine the ball. The audience will pick up on your focus, and watch it themselves.

[edit] Forearm Roll

After the butterfly, arm rolls are the next learning block. It will take a while to become consistent with them. The forearm roll is much easier than the Backarm Roll (yes, I made up the word “backarm” – what else would you call it?), as the forearm is very smooth, and therefore easier to balance on. To learn, you should first learn to balance a ball on the inside of the elbow. Hold your right arm out in front of you so it is almost straight, but not so much that the elbow is stiff. If you feel the elbow area, you will notice that there is a tendon that connects the biceps to the forearm. You can balance the ball to the right of this. If you straighten the arm even further you’ll notice the area flattens out even further. Don’t straighten so far that your arm is stiff, or you’ll find it difficult to correct the balance of the ball. Okay, now balance the ball there. If the ball moves to the right side of the arm, move the arm further right to compensate. If the ball moves left, move the arm left. This should be fairly easy at the elbow, but you should practice this balance point a lot, to make the action sink in. The next step is to learn to balance in the middle of the forearm. Feel the area. Close your fist and open it to see the difference. When the fist is closed, the arm is tense, and the muscles form a curve, which makes balance a little more difficult, so it is best to learn with the fist open. This agrees with a lot of people’s ideas of how contact juggling should be done, so that’s all the better. Place the ball on that area, and learn to balance there. This will take much longer than the elbow. In my case, it took weeks of practice to get to the stage that I could walk around with a ball there. When you have practiced sufficiently (in your opinion), it is a simple matter to roll a ball from the elbow, through the middle balance point, and to the palm of the hand. Learning the other way around is a little more difficult. The hand is used to catching things, but the elbow isn’t. Try it and see. When the ball is just reaching the elbow, pull the elbow back a little, at the same speed as the ball, and slow it to a stop. This is a variation of the catch principle, which I’ll explain later. This stops the ball, yet isn’t as clumsy as a sudden stop. The ball slows to a halt. Now that you can roll the ball up and down the forearm, you can add it into your practice routines. You could stretch out your Back-Back Butterflies, for example, by doing a forearm roll every time you butterfly into the palm. You can even just do continuous arm rolls – balance the ball on the elbow, and roll to the palm, while pulling the arm in towards you so the ball is not really moving. When the ball reaches the palm, pass it onto the other elbow and roll back. You can also do this in the opposite way. Ferret came up with a pass from one elbow to the other. Roll from palm to elbow, bringing the other elbow in close to it, then roll the ball onto the other elbow. If you’re rolling from the right to left, then you simply move the right arm to the right and lift it – this will cause the ball to move left. If you roll it right, then the ball should just roll on down the other arm. If you want to learn this with larger gap between the elbows, then you should learn Elbow Catches first (described later), then just toss the ball from one to the other and continue the roll.

[edit] Backarm Roll

The “backarm” is the side of the arm opposite the forearm (duh!). When you are learning to roll on the backarm, it is important to first get a feel of where the muscles are. Hold your arm out in front of you so it is parallel to the chest, palm down. Run your hands over the arm while alternatively clenching and unclenching your fist, hand muscles, and arms. You will notice that the backarm is much lumpier than the forearm. This is why you should learn forearm rolls first. Before beginning your rolling, you should plan out where are the points that the ball should stop or go through. If you tense your biceps, you’ll see that a flat area appears on the inside of the elbow. This is one place you could stop the ball. Another is at the base of the biceps – it is not necessary to tense anything to balance here, but if you tense the back of the upper arm, the muscle helps form a wall just above the elbow which may help while you are learning. Of course, you will have to be feeling the area in order to notice this. They are difficult to see. Each of those areas will help you during Backarm rolls towards the elbow. The balance point in the middle of the backarm is directly on the opposite of the one for the forearm. Luckily the backarm doesn’t really get bumpy until near the elbow. If you straighten out the arm, you’ll see that the backarm muscles form a triangle, with the thin end at the elbow. This makes it difficult to roll with a straight arm, so we’ll learn with the arm bent at a right angle – parallel to the chest. Choose which spot you want to stop the ball in on the elbow, and mentally plot a course from the cradle to there. This is for two reasons: 1) you will know what you’re doing at all times, and 2) you will have accomplished the move already in your head, making the physical act much easier. Now, roll the ball. Concentrate on the stopping position so you really know what you’re doing as the ball gets there. Make sure that the elbow is in the right position, with the appropriate muscles tensed. Difficult, yes? It gets easier with practice. It is much easier to do a Backarm Roll if you don’t have to worry about stopping the ball. Place the right arm in position, with the ball on the cradle, then place the left arm in front of it. The right hand should rest on the left bicep, and the left arm should be pressed against the right. Roll the ball right down to the elbow, and then pass the ball forward to the left hand’s cradle. Then bring the right arm under the left (if you bring it over, it will obscure the audience’s view) and bring it against the right’s, so you are in the opposite starting position. This is a very extended Back-Back Pass. A variation of this is called the “Genie Roll”. Start with the right arm in front with the ball on the cradle, and the left arm behind, hand resting against the upper arm. Roll the ball down to the elbow, and pass back to the left cradle, which then rolls to its elbow and passes forward to the starting position again. It is called the “Genie” Roll because of the position the arms take. A lot of people simply roll the ball right off the elbow in a straight line onto the opposite arm’s cradle. The receiving hand should be poking out past the starting arm’s elbow. This can be continued on the opposite arm then. Rolling down the backarm is a bit harder, as you have to figure out how to get into a position where you may have to roll from the elbow to the cradle. This can be done with the exact opposite move as just above. Place a ball in the left cradle; arm parallel to the chest, extended to the right. Place the right arm over it, extended to the left, and toss the ball to the right elbow, and roll to the cradle – if you toss it with a lot of sideways motion, you will not have to balance on the elbow before starting the roll. A very good way to practice your backarm rolls is to vary how you pass from one arm to the other. You can roll a ball to the elbow and pass to the other arm either inside or outside the bend of the arm, or behind the upper arm. By varying the pass, you are learning both to strengthen your backarm rolls, and also essential moves for recovering mistakes. The more ways you can do a move, the more likely you will be able to recover it smoothly when something goes wrong. Of course, the above variations can be reversed as well.

[edit] Backarm-Forearm Roll

When rolling from the Backarm Roll to the Forearm Roll, you should first make sure that the backarm roll is performed parallel to the chest. As the ball reaches the elbow, allow it to roll slightly up the upper arm, and bring the forearm up and over in an arc as if you were performing a Windshieldwiper, then allow the ball to continue its roll down the forearm. This can be done to extend the roll in as long a line as possible. For a continuous Backarm to Forearm Roll, start with a ball in the right palm, butterfly it to the cradle, Backarm to Forearm Roll it, and you will end up with the ball in the palm again, ready to start again.

[edit] Forearm-Backarm Roll

Rolling from the Forearm Roll to the Backarm Roll is slightly harder, as when you are turning the forearm over, the elbow rises up on the outside, which means that your ball may drop on the inside. Therefore, you should roll the ball a little further than you would normally, possible giving it a little “hop” with the elbow to get it over to the outside of the elbow. For continuous Forearm to Backarm Rolls, it’s just the opposite of the continuous Backarm-Forearm Roll – start with a ball in the right cradle, butterfly to palm, Forearm-Backarm Roll it, and you will end up with the ball in the cradle again, ready to restart.

[edit] Chop Roll

An extreme form of arm roll is the Chop Roll. It may help to learn this in a point-to-point manner. Start with the ball held on the Elbow Hold. The hand is held in a chop position (knife-edge down, thumb up). Roll the ball down to the hand, so it ends up in an Open Fist Hold. To do this, you’ll have to roll along the edge of the forearm, almost onto the backarm – the tendon from thumb to arm and the wrist bone tend to be a it bumpy. From there, bring the forearm straight up so the ball is in a Stretched Three Finger Hold. Carry on from that so the hand goes back behind the head, and the ball rolls down the backarm to rest on the extreme opposite of the Elbow Hold. It is easy to balance here as it is very flat, but getting into a position to use the hold is a bit awkward. From there, “simply” roll back up the arm, over the fingertips, and back to the Elbow Hold. It may help to sort of toss the ball upwards from the elbow before starting the chop motion required to bring the ball over and back to the starting position.

[edit] Armroll to Shoulder Hold

This is just a roll along the arms ending at the shoulder. The Backarm Roll seems to be the most aesthetic one for long rolls, so use that one. There are two main areas in which the ball can be stopped – between the clavicle and the trapezius (the huge muscle covering the shoulder blade), and between the clavicle and pectoral muscle. The first one is difficult to get out of – the ball is essentially stuck there unless you either jerk it out with a body movement, or nudge it out with your chin. The second one can be used to go either back down the same arm, across the chest into a chest roll, over the shoulder towards the back of the neck, or down the body to your legs. James Ernest used this move as an example of “serendipity” – that even mistakes can be used to form new moves (he was practicing chest rolls, and the ball halted above the clavicle).

[edit] Spiral

This move looks fantastic when accompanied by a lot of body movement. In the video “Contact Juggling: Part One”, Greg does several variations on it – pirouetting, both arms at once, and straightforward. Start with a ball at the Elbow Hold. From there, slightly toss it forward and up to give it a bit of momentum. The ball rolls up the forearm, but as it rolls, you should turn the arm under it so as it is coming up to about 2/3rds of the arm, it is then rolling on the backarm. As the ball approaches the hand, you spiral the arm around it so the ball curves around the heel of the hand and into it’s palm. Allow the ball to continue up the hand and into the Tripod or Three Finger Hold.

[edit] Helicopter

This could be thought of as the opposite of the Spiral. Start with a ball in the cradle. Roll it along the backarm until it reaches the middle of the backarm. Using the elbow as a pivot point, swing the arm in towards the chest so it ends up with the hand pointing palm down and held above it’s own shoulder. The ball is still in the same position. Continue the pivot, twisting the hand palm-up so the ball rolls onto the forearm and the arm ends up pointing away from you again. Let the ball continue its roll to the elbow. I like to do this move, and continue with a Chestroll followed by a Spiral in the opposite arm. It is possible, but difficult, to do multiple Helicopters – when the ball arrives on the forearm at the end of the spin, twist the arm over (hop the ball to make sure it doesn’t get knocked off), and start a new spin.

[edit] Forearm Chestroll

You will find after a while that it is easier to do Backarm Chest Rolls, but it is easier for the beginner to learn Forearm Chest Rolls. To do these, you should be proficient with Forearm Rolls on both arms. Just like learning the Forearm and Backarm Rolls, it is a great idea to plot out the ball’s route before journeying out. First of all, get an image of how you will be standing – you will be standing leaning slightly back, with both arms outstretched, as if inviting someone to hug you. The ball will travel up one arm, across the chest, and down the other arm. In greater detail, the ball will take the smoothest path possible, avoiding all bumpy muscles – it will roll up the forearm, up the inside of the upper arm (avoiding the biceps), crossing to the chest just above the armpit (avoiding the shoulders), crossing the chest below the collarbone (another bumpy area), and down the other side in the same method. After we have decided the route the ball is to take, it is time to decide how are you going to encourage it to take that route. The key is to use your body to change the ball’s momentum to make it want to move in the route you have planned. Rolling up the forearm is easy enough. Rolling along the inside of the upper arm encourages the ball to move towards the chest. As the ball comes towards the armpit, lean back, then move your entire body in the direction the ball should go, encouraging the ball to speed up to cross the chest – this movement is subtle, and you won’t notice it after a while, but use it while learning so it becomes a habit. The ball should move just fast enough to reach the other side before starting to fall. The roll down the other arm is just a controlled fall from there. Leaning back also encourages you to get your chin out of the way – you don’t want a lump of acrylic hitting you in the jaw – especially in front of an audience (it’s a bit unprofessional).

[edit] Backarm Chestroll

This chestroll is a bit more difficult to learn, but ends up being easier, and is a lot smoother in the end. It can also be repeated over and over, making for a good pause in the routine. Again, we start by figuring out how we’re going to stand. Stand straight, back tilted back a bit, and arms held out palm down as if they were around a large barrel. The index fingers should be about a foot apart (30cm). The ball will again be traveling by the smoothest route. This time, the route is clearer. The ball travels up the backarm, along the outside of the biceps (which is lying flat because of the pose the arm is in), midway between the armpit and shoulder, and along the chest just under the clavicle. The route down the other arm is just the same. To learn this chestroll, it is best to start with a large ball before gradually using smaller and smaller ones. I use a novelty 6” tennis ball to learn long body rolls. It is a good idea to imagine the ball rolling smoothly in a circle along the arms and chest, and make sure that the pressure is the same at all points. Don’t forget the small nudge in the direction of movement that you should do is the ball reaches the shoulder. It is needed to make sure that the ball doesn’t just get to the sternum then drop. If you do a lot of toss juggling, a chest roll thrown in at an appropriate point is a real crowd pleaser. This move can be repeated over and over by bringing the hands together at the end of the move and passing the ball over the fingertips and repeating the roll. A video I saw once (at yo-yo.org) showed a good example of when to allow the ball to drop at the middle of the chest. The person performing the routine (someone called Mike, I think) sat down on the floor, did a chestroll, and allowed the ball to roll down the chest and up the legs to the feet (he raised them together to make a channel for the ball to follow). Taking more from that video, it is a good idea to practice the Backarm Chest Roll in stages – practice Backarm Rolling to the elbow, then passing to the opposite hand, practice rolling right to the elbow and onto the opposite hand, practice rolling to the opposite shoulder before passing to the same hand you rolled from, and then practice the whole move from cradle to cradle. Don’t forget to practice doing this in both ways. You may never get as proficient in one way as the other, but you could say that the CJ equivalent of toss juggling’s “yeah, but can you do it with one more?” is “yeah, but can you do it in the other direction?”

[edit] Neck Roll

This is also called the Back Roll, which can confuse, as some people call a Back Roll the roll of a ball from the neck to the lower back. Rolling behind the neck is more difficult than via the chest. Mostly, this is because of the shape of the shoulders – they are concave to the front. An added difficulty is the inability to watch what you’re doing, but that doesn’t matter if you have practiced the other Chest Rolls thoroughly. It is easier to perform this using the Backarm Roll than the Forearm Roll. This is partly because you will have to lean the head well forward, an awkward move if your palms are facing up. Also, having the palms facing up causes the shoulders to rise slightly, which will make later stages difficult. Using a large ball again, you should move as if to perform a Backarm Chestroll. When the ball reaches the shoulder, however, you should bow the head forward, and stoop forward at the waist a little so the ball rolls along the shoulders and behind the neck. At this point, it may help to stop the ball in a neck hold, to allow you time to think about getting the ball back down the other arm. To do this easily, you can turn the head to watch the ball approaching, and raise the shoulder the ball is heading towards – when the ball goes behind the head, hunch your shoulders to slow and stop the ball. If you have long hair, it may be advisable to either have it loose, or tied into two separate ponytails. Having a single ponytail makes an awkward obstacle at the neck. I suppose you could get around that by hopping the ball directly over the neck using the shoulders, but you don’t want to learn that until you’ve learned to do it the old fashioned way. After you practice this for a while, you’ll probably come across one or two things that you absolutely need to iron out. If you find that the ball keeps falling off when it hits the neck, then you are not leaning the head far enough forward. It should feel like you are ducking under the ball – as if the ball was coming for your head and you were avoiding it. If you find the ball rolls onto the opposite shoulder blade before falling behind you, try leaning the head forward more and pulling the shoulders back a bit. If the ball goes around the neck, but then drops directly in front of you, try slowing down the move, and stand up a bit more as the ball goes behind the neck. This move can look very good if it is alternately combined with Backarm Chest Rolls continuously.

[edit] Neck Loop

On contactjuggling.org, this is called an “Around the Neck Roll”, but I think a “Loop” is more evocative of what is going on here. Basically, a loop is where the ball travels from one position, rolls around something, and returns to the original position. In this move, the ball starts in the cradle, rolls to the chest, rolls round to the back of the neck, and returns to the cradle. Congrats to Michael Glenn for creating this gem, which I would have thought is impossible beforehand. Of course, as we always say on .org, if you can imagine it, then you can do it. Before you start this move you should be very confident of your Backarm Chestrolls, and have at least reasonable success with your Backarm Neckrolls. Start with the ball in the right cradle (reverse, as usual, for the left hand). Roll the ball as for a Backarm Chestroll, with the roll traveling in the Chestroll route right up until it hits the middle of the chest. Now, pass the ball onto the left upper arm, but lower the arm so the ball is more on top of it than in front. When the ball is there, duck your head as if for a neck catch, and raise your left upper arm so the ball is passed back to the back of the neck. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that the ball isn’t so much passing around the neck, as the neck is passing around the ball’s route. The ball is returning in almost the exact path it used to get there in the first place. As with a Neck Roll, concentrate on getting the ball into a solid neck hold before letting it past onto the right upper arm, raising the head and bringing the ball safely down to the right cradle. Some people consider this to be one of the hardest commonly known contact juggling moves. I was pretty excited when I got it the first time.

[edit] Pirouette Neck Roll

This form of Neck Roll is surprisingly easy to do, once you can already do a normal Neck Roll. Basically, the idea is to twirl your body whole performing a Neck Roll. In effect, this isolates the ball, so it seems that you twirl under the ball, and the ball doesn’t move. It is important to keep a rounded shape while doing this move. The usual Neck Roll can be done in any old rickety way, but in order for this version to come off properly, it is absolutely essential that the ball roll smoothly.

[edit] Back Roll

For this move, you have to either be very flexible, or be ready to get into some rather strange positions. Learn to Neck Roll first, because this involves half of that move. Okay – roll a ball up the backarm and duck your head so the ball goes into the neck hold. Hold there for a moment so the ball loses momentum. Now, you have to decide how to do this next one – the lazy way is to drop carefully to your hands and knees, and very carefully lean your head back so the ball is pushed over the shoulders and onto the lower spine. Curve your back upwards to make a cradle for the ball to roll in. The non-lazy, flexible way is to do the same as above, but while standing. Keep your legs straight, and bend at the waist, remembering the curve of the back. You may need to spread your legs quite a bit in order to keep your balance. Getting the ball back up is interesting. Drop your upper back so the ball rolls towards the shoulders. As the ball comes up towards the shoulders, stand up quickly, and curve your back back to its original shape. The ball should roll back into the neck hold. From there, you can simply roll the ball down the other (or the original) arm and into the hands.

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