Nine Balls Anyone?
After 7 years of practicing almost every day in pursuit of 9 balls, I've finally almost got it down, or rather 'up' in this case. It's been an excruciatingly long road that only an insane person would try to take. In the time it takes to learn nine, you could learn far more impressive juggling feats and be way more entertaining to a crowd. After seven balls people lose count; nobody really cares (except other jugglers). It really is a rather selfish act. So why do I do it? Because WOW does it feel good. I'm addicted... but happily so. Not even drugs could give me the same thrill.
Just in case you too are afflicted with this silly obsession, here are some tips to make your road a little easier.
First, to give you an idea how slow progress has been, take my case. I first qualified in June of '91 (18 catches on my last day of highschool) after having worked on 9 for only a year. Until recently my longest run since then was only 22 catches. Pretty sad -- 4 more catches in 6 years of practice. But I wouldn't give up. It became a way of life. Every evening around sunset I go out and practice for about 45 minutes. Finally a few weeks ago (October 97) I broke through the ceiling doubling my old record with about 45 catches.
The final approach that took the ceiling out was breathing. I'd heard that on rec.juggling, one of the recent topics was how breathing techniques can be useful for numbers juggling. I had gone through many stages of trying out different ways of breathing and had concluded that holding my breath provides a steadier environment and since my pattern wasn't lasting more than a few seconds, running out of breath was not an issue. Nevertheless, I decided to renew my experimenting in the breathing realm.
The final approach that seemed to do the trick was to first take a quick breath in and out, then breath in with the first 6 throws and out with the next 3 throws and so on. But the real trick is compensate for the oscillating energy levels of breathing by focusing the exhale into making the throws stronger and the inhale into more relaxed throws. I now believe that breathing is essential for juggling nine in that it goes hand in hand with the osillating pattern. Since with all juggling, you can never have a perfect pattern -- you are always correcting -- breathing provides a platform to do that correcting in a cyclical manner.
Here are some sayings that I repeat under my breath between my nine ball runs.
"Lefties higher" (I have a tendency not make my left hand throws high enough)
"Balance/Posture/Proud juggler" (These are keys to maintaining a healthy pattern and mindset)
"Ten in a row" (This means release all nine balls cleanly 10 runs in a row. This helps overcome the tendency to false start)
"Three Four" (Make sure the third and fourth throws go high enough; this helps enable the run to exceed a flash)
"Faster" (Don't hold on to the balls so long, especially after catching the first ball. Obviously, but even quicker than you think)
"Relax" (Having a calm body is essential)
"So easy / I just want to juggle it / just let it happen" (pretend that it isn't as hard as it is)
"Don't think" (It's really mostly a mental game, and thinking gets in the way)
"Mary had a Little Lamb" (Singing this melody while running nine was huge breakthrough. It helps keep rythm, aim for continuousness and think less)
PRACTICE. Have fun!
For more info on number juggling see http://www.juggling.org/help/numbers/