A comparatively new form of juggling, contact juggling refers to the movement of objects, i.e.; balls and other items using fingers, hands and any other parts of the body. However unlike in juggling where the objects are in the air, in contact juggling at no point they are in the air.
Contact juggling is most widely practiced using a ball / sphere (any type, weight and size) because it is easier to manipulate, roll and transfer across the body. There are some basic finger positions which needs to be mastered before one can move into smooth movement of the ball and then on to isolation and other tricks.
Basic Control – The Cradle
The cradle is a basic control technique. It depends on your fingers as much as on how you position them. If you know how to do simple magic tricks with a coin, you have an advantage in contact juggling. The cradle follows the basic three point balance system. Raise your hand with your palm stretched straight and fingers spread evenly. Now lower your middle finger as if you are about to hit the space bar on the keyboard. Place the ball right on top of the middle finger. It should rest firmly between the ring finger, the index finger and the knuckle of the middle finger. This is a basic cradle position. You can experiment with this position and figure out a cradle that works best for you.
The Basic Toss
The key to a basic toss in contact juggling is to toss the ball and then follow it with your palm or the back of the hand all the way. To do this successfully begin with a few simple tosses, either with your palm or the back of your hand with the ball in the cradle position. Do this the ‘normal way’, just as a pitcher would toss the ball before pitching. Once you are ready, toss the ball and follow it all the way up and down. However, while you are doing it ensure that you never really catching or griping the ball tightly. You simply use the shallow trough in the middle of your palm to rest the ball.
Basic Control – Palm to Cradle Transfer
This is more of a movement to start a trick rather than a trick in itself, however, if you are just getting into contact juggling even this would give you great satisfaction if you can master it properly. The trick is to start with your ball sitting on your palm. Raise your palm to your eye level at a distance of 1’ with fingers pointing to your right. Make a cradle with the other palm and place it just behind the palm with the ball. Now, in order to transfer gently push the back of your knuckles (the meaty parts) upwards for the ball to roll out of the palm and into the cradle. Remember, you need to understand how to execute this gentle transfer routine with either hands. When you do this as a rolling transfer palm-to-cradle and then back to palm it should look like a smooth single movement. Sometimes this movement also appear like the shape of a butterfly.
Palm to Palm Transfer
This is again a simple transfer technique that allows you to transfer the ball from one palm to another. If you do this really smooth it could appear as a walking isolation and a trick in itself. The process starts with the ball placed firmly on one palm. Stretch the index and the middle fingers of the palm with the ball and place them on the other palm as if you are leading it to receive the transfer. Now guide the ball using these two fingers to the other palm. For more transfer techniques check this online resource out.
Techniques of Contact Juggling – Isolation
Here is a quick explanation of a simple isolation technique. Also known as palm circle isolation it refers to the movements of the ball in your palm so that it seems it is actually suspended in the air. Regardless of the direction in which your palm is moving the ball would seem to be stationary.
The trick is in, like in any other type of contact juggling isolation technique, practicing. But the first thing is that you need to have the right ball and the right tutorial to get you started. No amount of practice is going to do you any good until and unless you have the right technique explained to you by someone who is experienced.
Start by placing the ball on your palm and then moving it back and forth to understand its movements. You will also get a feel of your palm and its form. The ball can move in three different axis. From left to right, back and forth and spin on its axis while being stationary. The second step is to move the ball left to right again getting a feel of that part of your palm’s terrain. This very much the same way a magician gets used to his fingers while learning his tricks.
Understanding the different cradle positions is an important step in contact juggling and especially in palm circle isolation. Understanding the cradle positions allow you to control the ball by pulling it in and moving it around. During the initial days of your practice you may not be able to move the ball that easily. You will need to understand how to effectively use your thumb, ring and little finger to manipulate the ball across the palm. Initially you may also attempt at using your wrists, which by the way is the wrong way of doing this. Instead, use your elbows to make the movement. You can compare the movement with that of a piston.
Body rolling is a neat little trick. You may have seen someone perform this in the streets. The arms are extended horizontally palms facing upwards. You start the movement with the ball firmly placed on the cradle of your palm. Gently run your arm underneath the ball. Beginners sometimes thrust forward with their arm. That may or may not work. But why take a chance when it is going to work only half the time? Rolling the arm underneath is a lot more controlled.
The ball rolls along one arm which is spread in front, and at angle of about 170 degrees to the torso. The gentle slope helps the ball to gather some momentum before it rolls across the chest and then finally rolls along the other arm. The trick is when the ball moves across the chest. You may find this tough or easy depending on how natural you are with it. You will need to push your chest so that ball runs across a flat surface. Finally you redirect the ball along the other arm. Ensure that the other arm is not at a steep angle to the torso as otherwise the ball will run along, gather momentum and take-off. Not the kind of ending that you would be looking to impress your audience with.
There are two major versions of a body roll. First one is the open body roll, the one that was discussed in above and the other one is the closed body roll. In closed body roll, the movements discussed above is repeated, except that the arms are in a closed posture, i.e.; your palms are facing downwards. The ball runs along the top of the arm rather than the inside. So, in this trick the movement begins with the ball firmly placed on the cradle formed by your fingers, your palm pointing downwards. Now, roll your arm underneath the ball and set it on motion. The ball moves along the arm, reaches the chest where you push your chest slightly so that it gets a flat surface to run through and then moves along the shoulders and on to the other arm. The transition from the chest and on to the shoulders is sometimes also a problem for some beginners. The trick is to hold your arms high to create a level surface parallel to your chest. If you lower your arms the ball will fall. If you are interested in juggling in general you should learn the basics and work your way up.