How I Learnt to Juggle 5 Balls in 30 Days

I have always wanted to be able to juggle 5 balls! So I thought it was a perfect opportunity to make it into a 30-day challenge!

I can juggle 3 balls easily given years of practice. I first learnt to juggle 3 balls when I was in a permaculture village in Queensland. There were these large bean pod seeds – and I learnt by just using those and practicing some progressions that my mum taught me. I slowly got there over time.

Since then, I’m at a stage where I can juggle 3 and perform a number of tricks. If you want to learn how to juggle 3 balls, check out my juggling tutorial on YouTube below:

A few years ago, I did try to learn to juggle 5 balls. I watched YouTube videos and practiced the number of progressions needed to go from 3 balls, to 4, and finally to 5. However, after a week of practicing I didn’t make any progress and unfortunately my interest also slowly went away.

After having my juggling balls out and every now and then picking them up and having a bit of a throw, I’ve gotten more and more interested in learning to juggle 5 balls.

So for a 30-day challenge, I’m going to be learning to juggle 5 balls!

What qualifies as juggling?

Before we begin, to guage whether I complete this challenge successfully, it’s important to note what qualifies as juggling.

Qualifying a number of objects means juggling for at least twice as many catches as the number of objects being juggled, e.g. 14 or more catches of 7 balls.

Therefore, if I want to successfully juggle 5 balls, then I need to make 10 or more catches. While it doesn’t seem that difficult, I’ll have to see how it goes. I won’t be having this as the only goal of the challenge, as I can’t imagine it taking too long to do this. By the end of the 30 days, I would ideally love to be able to juggle 5 continuously, or be able to make roughly 20-30+ catches regularly.

Current skill level / juggling ability

At 22 April 2020, I can comfortably juggle 3 balls, while also maintaining a 4 ball juggle for a short amount of time. With 5, I can throw them once into the air pretty well, but always catching them is an issue – and I’m definitely not able to throw them back in a similar direction for a second catch.

You can see my current ability in the video below!

So not a bad starting point really in terms of juggling techniques and throwing precision. I’m really interested to see how much I can improve in 30 days!

Day 1 – 22 April 2020

To begin, I need to learn the best steps towards juggling 5 balls. I posted on Reddit (r/juggling) the above video and asked for anyone’s favourite methods.

I was linked to an article by Thom Wells about juggling 5 balls: https://thomwall.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-five-ball-juggling/

This article outlined some terms and vocabulary that I’ve never come across with Juggling – most importantly Siteswap, which is essentially knowing how high and where the balls cross when juggling with different balls. This gives each throw a labelled number, which you can use to demonstrate throwing patterns. After discovering that there are these patters like 5551, I gave them a bit of a shot, but they are incredibly hard to start doing.

Here is a really simple diagram which shows it perfectly:

I’ll be using the article above as a guiding point for some progressions and techniques. As well as this article from Juggle Wiki: https://juggle.fandom.com/wiki/Siteswap

Day 2 – 23 April 2020

I spent a lot of my time juggling practicing the above siteswap exercises. I couldn’t really get any of them at this stage.

However, thinking about juggling 5 balls, I have noticed that I lack the ability to accurately throw the ball to a 5 ball height and land back in my hand. Given that’s what 5 ball juggling is, throwing the ball in a certain spot over and over, I think the best way forward to begin with is to just practicing throwing the ball to that height. The higher I can throw the ball accurately, the less I have to rely on my muscle memory and hand-eye coordination.

I practiced this throughout the day. I was feeling a lot better about the whole thing being able to successfuly make 1, 3, and 3 ball catches at the correct height. I’ll continue using this as a starting drill each day when practicing.

What I also found pretty easy is throwing 4 balls in the air and catching them again. This was really helpful as I notice sometimes I throw some balls slightly higher or lower in succession – nailing this method will really help towards juggling 5.

Day 3 – 24 April 2020

After discovering a tutorial from Taylor Tries on YouTube, it appears that my initial thoughts of just improving throw height are pretty essential and what I should focus on. A really good video is below:

As I’m working on throw height for 5 balls, I thought I’d venture outside in the sun and practice throwing a lot higher to improve accuracy.

It went really well, I’m getting the hang of it. At this stage, I can successfully do a 4 ball flash (throw 4 balls across once and catch) pretty much every time. I can also do a 5 ball flash and catch all the balls pretty well most times, usually just dropping one or mutliple if they hit mid air. I really just need to focus on practicing this movement.

As for the patters, such as 5551 (3 balls thrown at 5 height and the fourth just throwing across to the other hand) is very challenging and I haven’t been able to do any of them yet. Or even the easier 441 with 3 balls is incredibly hard. I’ll keep practicing it every day, but I am making better progress with 5 ball height throws and catches.

Day 4 – 25 April 2020

Spent about 20 minutes just going over the recently learned drills and practicing with different numbers of balls.

Day 5 – 26 April 2020

After 5 days of practicing, I managed to land 12 catches! Which means I qualified juggling 5 balls! I was doing a livestreat at a park and it just managed to flow really well! Check out my video below:

Super happy about that. I’m going to keep on practicing and see where I get at the end of the 30 days!

Day 6 – 27 April 2020

My practicing has been going well, I usually go for about 15-20 at a time, and sometimes get a few times in throughout the day as the balls are just in my space.

I’ve noticed that when I get to the 4th or 5th ball in a throw, that one is usually off – so I’ll need to focus on my throws at the right height and in the right position.

I’ve been finding the 4 ball flash really helpful for the first 4 throws, I can pretty much always catch them properly. The 5 ball flash is a bit of a hit and miss still, but I do make a good number of catches.

Day 7 – 28 April 2020

For Day 7, I went outside to practice throwing higher. I did my normal warm up of 2 balls, then juggling 3 higher, and then flashes with 4, and lastly 5.

I then continued with 5 balls and after about 10 minutes, I was really finding the groove – I was making multiple catches!

This made me realise that perhaps just practicing the 5 balls more would be more beneficial than working on the progressions. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but for me it feels as though just doing the 5 balls a lot I really get the hang of it. I might try this out further, spending more time just with the 5, starting by doing a flash and catching them, then adding one extra throw, etc.

Day 8 – 29 April 2020

I’m slowly getting better at juggling 5 balls! During one of my Facebook live streams, I managed to qualify 5 again, or at least I think I did… there are times when I make a lot of catches, without focusing on the number of catches. Either way, I’m starting to get more catches as the days go on.

Day 9 – 30 April 2020

During my main practicing time at lunch, I noticed that I wasn’t really catching the balls as easily as I have been. Unsure why this is, but perhaps because I didn’t spend time practicing with 3 first, then 4, then 5.

As I’m usually practicing indoors, my throw height is limited by my roof – not that it’s too short, but I don’t throw them as high as when I’m outside. From now on I’ll be trying to get outside to practice. I need to really get into the groove of throwing higher and improving my accuracy

Day 16 – 7 May 2020

Super happy with my progress so far! Every day when I spend some time juggling, I make a number of 10+ catching rounds – the highest so far has been 20 catches!

The main problem I am having is the balls hitting each other mid-air. I am trying to throw them on slightly more of an angle, but at my current skill level, I just end up throwing them too far left or right to properly continue juggling.

I’m getting better though – half way in and I’ve made a maximum of ~20 catches. I’m thinking that if I keep this up (and practice even more) I will hopefully be able to make 30+ catches regularly.

I’m continuing to live stream my juggling practice over a variety of platforms, you can check out where I post here. This helps to just keep a log of what I do, and to capture any awesome moments like my first time qualifying 😛

My throw heights are slowly getting better – I feel more comfortable throwing it at the 5 ball height.

I haven’t been able to progress more on the siteswap exercises like 441 – they are just incredibly hard for me to even practice them, let alone do them properly. I’ll keep trying as people say they really help, but just constantly juggling 5 is going pretty well for me!

Day 28 – 19 May 2020

While progress has been slow since I could qualify juggling 5 balls. I’ve definitely improved my juggling ability.

During a live stream yesterday, a number of times I made 15-20 catches! I was feeling really good about my skill level. My throws have been very consistent.

The problems I’m finding though this challenge are:

  • The balls hitting mid-air (super annoying and my main problem)
  • I’m throwing them too much at an angle (to avoid them hitting)
  • My throw timing is sometimes off (throwing too fast and having to make slower/quicker throws to catch up).
  • My left arm throws aren’t always consistent – which throws off the catch timing and accuracy.

This seems to be more of an issue the higher I throw, as the arc of travel for the ball becomes narrower. I am slowly getting the hang of it though, but it’s super frustrating when they hit and they drop.

What I’ve been doing since about day 15 is making sure I am making the progressive catches and moving on when I make 5 or more successful attempts.

For example, I start by doing a 5-ball flash (throwing each ball in the air once) and catching them. Once I do that successfully 5 times, I then move on to making 6 throws and catching. And I repeat this, adding one extra throw and catching. This has really helped me to ensure my earlier throws have been good enough to continue juggling. It also really helps with progress, as I get more comfortable throwing a certain number of balls successfully. I’d say that this method has been the most helpful for me so far.

I am still unable to do basically all of the siteswap techniques and patterns – I just find them so difficult to even try, that I end up just going back to what I am good at (described above).

I’ve got 2 days left to practice more before I do some tests on day 30 and see how I’ve progressed over the 30 days. I’m hoping that I can get some 20+ catches on camera – definitely an improvement from my initial 3, 8, and 5 catches.

For the 30-day test, I am thinking of recording for 10 minutes and recording the number of good throws I make (anything above 10 catches). Then doing a rundown of how many 10, 11, 12, 13… etc ball catches I make.

Day 29 – 20 May 2020

One more day to go. I’m feeling pretty good about my progress given only 30 days.

I’ve noticed a few things that I’ve done over the challenge which has been the most successful in improving my juggling skill:

  1. I normally start off a juggling session by throwing 2 balls, at a higher height. This has helped to get comfortable with throwing higher and to improve my accuracy.
  2. Juggling 3 balls higher, focusing on two different things: First by having a long hold time before throwing – this makes the juggling look pretty fragmented and not very smooth, but it trains you to quickly throw before catching, which happens with 5 balls. Second, similar to the first but having a very short holding time. This has helped train my throws to quickly adjust without holding the ball too long and get more familiar with the speed needed with 5 balls.
  3. 4 ball flashes have been very helpful. Mainly by practicing to throw consecutive balls across at the right height. I also focus on the throw height while doing this.
  4. Doing catching drills – for example, doing a 5 ball flash and catching all 5 and stopping. Once I get 5 successful repeats of this, I’ll move on to 6 catches, then 7, 8, 9, etc. I’ve found this super helpful for making sure I progress with more catches, while still being able to properly juggle them and throw them where I need. I will also use this as a warm up before I start maxing out as many catches as possible.
  5. I’m unsure if there is a technical term for this, but essentially what I would do is use 4 balls, throwing across each other, but move my hands in the motion as if I had 5 balls – I’d imagine its called something like making a ‘ghost throw’. For example, I throw the 4 balls, and with my next hand, I act as though I am holding a ball to throw it. This makes the pattern have a block in the middle, but it’s a great way to practice the motion of having 5 balls.

So considering you are pretty competent with juggling 3, those are my best tips for someone wanting to jump from 3 to 5 ball juggling.

Oh, one last tip that made everything much, much easier… practicing your juggling next to my bed. When the balls dropped, probably thousands of times over the 30 days, it was so much easier to just pick them up off my bed rather than having to bend down and pick them up from the ground.

Day 30 – 21 May 2020

For the last day of the challenge, I did a bit more practice in the morning before recording myself.

I know that I progressed quite a lot since starting. On day 1, I got 5, 8, and 3 catches. Not the worst.

Over the 30 days, I’ve been able to juggle 10-15 pretty easily regularly, so I was keen to see how I performed on the final day.

So I started recording myself…. and on day 30… I was able to juggle 5 balls for 24, 25 and 26 catches!

I’m incredibly happy about that! I can’t always get that many throws, but I’m not too far off getting 20 throws regularly now, so I would say the challenge was a success!

Quite an improvement from only 30 days of practice – it really shows how much it can help if you practice something every day!

If you’d like to see my experience in video format, then check out the following video on my YouTube channel!!

So that’s it for this challenge, watching some juggling videos, I came across a lot of people juggling with clubs. I’ve tried them before, and I’m so bad at it… which would make it the PERFECT challenge to do soon!

Until then, keep on challenging yourself in any way you see fit.

Nathan

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