Lessons

So, you've just ordered some props and want to know what to do with them. Thanks! Or you're looking for ideas or just trying to learn more about this juggling arts thing. No matter why you've hit this page, welcome!

Poi Lessons * Nunchaku Lessons * Contact Juggling Lessons
Staff Lessons * Other Skills

This page is in its early stages. More information will be coming as soon as we can get it here. For suggestions, or if you'd like to help out by adding some tips & tricks of your own, please email us .


Before we begin, a few words of wisdom.

Etiquette

The "swinging arts" are getting a very bad reputation in some parts of the world, due in large part to a lack of good manners. To help bring peace and harmony to all concerned, we present some ideas for good swinging etiquette.

Know your space - Many swingers take little heed of who or what is around them before they begin. Besides being a safety risk, it's also very inconsiderate. Don't start swinging in the middle of someone else's workspace, and try to select a place where others won't be walking through all the time. This saves everyone from interruptions and harm.

Be aware - If a prop rolls into your work area, stop swinging or move to allow the person retrieving it safe access. Closing your eyes and swinging without a care for others is great for working on those hard tricks, but it doesn't work if you're in a room full of people. Also, as more children are participating in festivals, it's important to remember that they're probably not going to look out for you, therefore you must look out for them.

Be considerate - If someone has a prop that you'd like to look at or try out, don't attempt the tricks you can't do yet. I've had a couple of fairly expensive props broken because people said, "Wow! Neat prop! Can I try it?," and then as I stand watching them whap themselves, the ground, and the props, they say, "...I can't do this trick yet." If it's not yours, BE CAREFUL WITH IT! Don't take advantage of the kindness of others. This includes asking permission to try out props BEFORE you try them out, and keeping your trial period within the bounds of reason.

Be thoughtful - If you are working in a space and there's a workshop going on, move out of the way or better still, move to a different area. I once watched a group of about six poi swingers actually refuse to move when politely asked by a workshop instructor. This is not the way to make friends and get people to appreciate what you're doing.

Remember, everyone else is trying to have fun, too. If you want others to respect your needs, you must be willing to do the same.



Poi Lessons

Shop for Poi

Grip

The simplest way to say this is: There is no "right" grip for poi. Whatever works best for you is the "right" grip for you. You need a grip that is comfortable and flexible, but strong and secure enough to prevent your props from flying out of your hands. Some of the more familiar grip types are described below.

Kite Grip

This grip can be used with medium or long straps. It provides a self-tightening and very comfortable grip using either two fingers or your entire hand. The kite grip works best with nylon or soft leather straps as it requires flexible material. It's called the kite grip because the mechanics are used mainly by stunt kite flyers. Follow the steps below to get the grip for your left hand. Reverse for the right hand.

Step 1 - Hold the string end (the bit where the string attaches to your strap) in your right hand with the loop end pointing to your left. (figure 1)

Step 2 - With your left hand, turn the loop end of the strap toward your right hand and downward one half-turn, forming a half-twist in both sides of the strap. (figure 2)

Step 3 - Insert your middle & ring fingers through the loop from the bottom. Don't worry about the twist, it all works out in the next step. (figure 3)

Step 4 - Run the string end between your middle & ring fingers. Note that the twist in the sides of the strap allows it to follow the curve of your hand. (figure 4)

4-fingered version - Do steps 1 through 4 as above, but instead of your middle & ring fingers, place all four fingers through the loop. Run the string end as before. If your straps are large enough, you can lay the strap across your knuckles (figure 5). This is the most comfortable position we've found so far.

As you swing your poi, you'll find that the centrifigul force pulls the strap tighter around your fingers, and that you can actually keep a loose grip on the strap without it falling off.

Click on an image to enlarge

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5


Three Finger Over & Under Grip

Generally, the best 3-finger grip is as follows: Turn your hand palm up and let your poi dangle straight down. Place your index, middle, and ring fingers through the loop. Take your middle finger and pull it out of the loop and either up toward the sky or down toward the ground, whichever you find most comfortable. Then lay it naturally over the outside of the loop material so you have an "over & under" kind of grip (figure 6). This is a very secure and comfortable grip and works well for almost every trick.

Figure 6


Simple Grips

As we've said, there is no "right" grip. However, some people feel more comfortable trying ideas from others at first. Here are some simple grips you might want to try.

  1. 1, 2, 3, or all 4 fingers placed through the loop
  2. Around your wrist
  3. Thumb & forefinger (this grip is not overly secure for long periods)

Always remember, whatever grip you decide to use, it must be secure, comfortable, and strong.


Beginning Circles

Almost all swinging moves work in circles of various sizes and locations. The first thing to do is to get the feel of your props. Try swinging in slow circles in the following places:

  1. In front of you
  2. To each side (same side & opposite side)
  3. Over your head

Work your arms - You have 3 articulation points in each arm. These are your shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Many poi tricks involve the poi spinning around your hands & fingers, but why limit yourself to that? Try swinging in circles centered on each of the articulation points you can find, and mix them up. A combination of circles on varying centers is a "high mileage" trick. That means it's easy to do but still impresses most audiences.

Move your body! Many poi swingers use the "Joe Juggler" approach to tricks, which often involves standing in one place and letting your hands & arms do most of the work. Because poi is based on movements of the props over a larger area, you can utilize motion to improve your performance. Walk, run, skip, turn around, go high, go low...move your body along with your props.

Study other disciplines - Poi, club swinging, staff twirling, and nunchaku all share similar elements, but each has its own unique possibilities as well. Juggling of all kinds can and does involve some of these same elements. You will do yourself a huge favor by studying as many different skills as you can. It will make it easier to learn a new prop, and it will help you find new combinations you hadn't thought of before. There's also the added benefit of helping prevent "prop snobbery".

Remember to try all these circles in each hand! Work your "non-dominant" hand a little bit more so your routines won't seem one-sided. Get comfortable in one hand at a time in the beginning--work your way up to both hands at once.

Practice all circles in both directions. Spend a little extra time on any direction, hand, or circle that seems difficult. The objective is to be able to do any circle in any direction at any time and not feel like your hands are going to fall off.


Poi Trick #1: Forward Figure 8

This is the Forward Figure 8, also known as the Outward Single Figure 8. We'll go into terms a bit later. Many tricks are based on figure 8 patterns, so it's a good place to begin. Just follow these steps:

  1. Swing in a forward circle on the side of your body. The end should be going away from you at the top of the circle.
  2. At the top of a circle, pull your arm over to the other side of your body and continue doing circles in the same direction. NOTE! From your hand's point of view, you will now be doing backward circles. Try not to think about this part too much.
  3. When you feel comfortable, wait for the top of a circle and pull your arm back to the side you started on.
  4. Practice until you can switch after one circle on each side. So the pattern is: same side for one circle, opposite side for one, same side, opposite side, etc.
  5. Congratulations! You can do a trick!
  6. Now, repeat these steps for the other hand.

Once you can do this trick in the forward direction in both hands, try it in the reverse direction. BE CAREFUL! Reverse figure 8s bring the ends close into your body, and the risk of whappage increases.


Poi Trick #2: Forward Circles (sync time)

This trick is exactly what its name implies. You will be doing synchronous forward cirlces with both hands.

Swing your poi in circles on each side of your body, moving in a forward direction. That means the ends are going away from you at the top of each circle. Practice slowly, working on keeping the poi in sync.

Tip #1: Your hands should be palm down as much as possible, and you push forward with your fingers. This will help keep the poi running in straight lines rather than angling inward.

Tip #2: When first learning this trick, use your elbows and wrists to make the motions more exaggerated until you get used to the timing and the position of your hands.

Variations
Don't be satisfied with just one trick! Try synchronous forward circles in the following variations:


Poi Trick #3: Backward Circles (sync time)

If you can go forward, you can go backward. Everything is the same, except for two things.

1. Your poi will be moving in the opposite direction.
2. Your hands will be palm up and you will "scoop" back with your fingers.

Practice all the tips and variations you worked on with Forward Circles until you are comfortable in both directions. When doing the full-arm variation, you may have to swing your arms out in order to pull the trick.


Poi Trick #4: Changing Directions - Wraps

There are many ways to change directions. The direction your poi are swinging, the direction you are facing, and the direction your body is moving all qualify as "direction changes". Right now, we're going to talk about one simple method of changing the direction your poi are moving by wrapping and unwrapping the "string bits". We'll start with the easiest wrap for now, and move on to harder ones in later tricks.

Please take note: These tricks are best done with string poi. Using cable or chain is quite possible, but can be a bit dangerous and should only be done after much practice with safer materials.

Leg wrap - Begin by swinging one of your poi in an inward circle in front of you (going down the inside and up on the outside). Go slowly. When you feel comfortable, stick your leg out and allow the poi to wrap around your leg about a half-turn until the end lightly baps your leg. Then, pull gently to accelerate the change in direction. When the poi frees itself from your leg, move it (your leg) out of the way. Look at that! Now your poi is swinging in the other direction. To get back to where you started, stick your leg out again and do the trick in reverse, being careful and slow.

Practice both hands individually, then in both sync and async timing.

Variations

Obviously, this is just the beginning of what you can do with wraps. Practice & experiment!


Stay tuned for more tricks, coming soon!



Nunchaku Lessons

Shop for Nunchaku

Before you begin, please review our notes on nunchaku safety & legal issues.

One quick note about these instructions: At Neon Husky, we view nunchaku as an implement for artistic expression, not as a weapon. While some of the moves we discuss come from the martial arts, we do not present any of these instructions for use in any self-defense or other, similar situations. There is a very large body of information relating to using nunchaku as weapons. If your interest goes in that direction, we suggest you look elsewhere for your instructional materials.

Grip

The basic grip is very simple. You will be holding your nunchaku the way you grip any cylindrical object, the way your hand naturally curls around it. While most martial arts styles use a grip near the top of each stick, in artistic nunchaku you will be gripping along the entire length of the prop, depending on the trick you're doing and your desired objectives. The normal grip is with the top of the stick (the end nearest the joint) going out the thumb-side of your hand. There are reverse grips, finger-roll grips, and a few other minor variations, but for now we will only be using the normal grip.


Nunchaku Trick #1: Two Basic Positions

To begin, we will be discussing only two static positions--these are positions in which all moving parts of both your body and the props can come to rest. Every static position is also an option point. Option points will be discussed at a later time. The two static positions we will be talking about are:

  1. The up position - The nunchaku are held in both hands, the top hand holding one stick over the same shoulder, the other hand holding the other stick under the arm. For example, the right-handed up position has the right hand holding the top stick over the right shoulder with the left hand holding the bottom stick under the right arm. The cord or chain is behind your arm.


  2. The down position - A one-handed position where one stick is held in the hand, and the other is trapped between the elbow and the body.

"Where's the trick?", you ask. Good question. The first trick is getting into each position, and then moving from one to the other.

Step 1 - Hold the nunchaku in your dominant hand about waist height with the top pointing away from you toward the front. From this position, lift your arm and swing the chuk up so it goes over your shoulder. Reach under with your opposite hand and catch the free end under your arm.

Tip #1: This is a catch, not a whap. Work on catching the free stick as it swings under. Try not to anticipate its arrival, or you will have sore kunckles and a missed catch to show for it.

Tip #2: This trick is a lot easier if you allow your wrist to roll backwards so that you flip the free end over your shoulder. This will help the chuks swing under in the right trajectory, as well as allowing the free end to go under your arm a bit farther which will make it easier to catch.

Practice this until it becomes second-nature. Don't forget to work both hands. You may want to try a variation where you do all the catching with your arm so that you can get into the up position as a one-handed move.

Step 2 - From the up position, flick your top hand forward while letting go with your bottom hand. This will allow the free stick to swing upward and over your shoulder. As it comes around, open your elbow allowing the free end to swing down between it and your body. Catch the free stick between your elbow and body, still holding the stick in your dominant hand. You should now be in the down postion.

Tip #1: As you get better at this transition, work on using your fingers to add finesse so that you're just barely tapping your armpit as you stop the free stick. Finesse will prove useful in almost all nunchaku moves.

Tip #2: Just as in the up position, there is a very fine line between anticipating the arrival of the stick and catching it too late. Careful practice is the best way to get this just right.

Variations


Nunchaku Trick #2: Arm Switch

The name says it all. You're going to switch from the up position on one side to the same position on the other side.

Step 1 - From the up position, let go with your top hand while pulling forward & upward with your bottom hand. This brings the chuks down around your shoulder and toward the center of your body.

Step 2 - Continue the motion by lifting your arm (the one holding the prop) up and into line for the catch you learned in Trick #1. If you do it correctly, you will wind up in the up position on the opposite side from where you started.

Tip #1: Your wrist needs to be loose and fluid for this move to work properly. At first, you will probably be too stiff and wind up with the props moving in awkward paths. Stay with it, it gets easier.

Tip #2: Remember to roll your wrist backward at the top of the motion to help swing the free end around better.

Practice this move a lot. It may seem boring now, but it will be a big help later on.

Variations

More tricks coming soon, watch this space.



Contact Juggling Lessons

Shop for CJ Stuff

Ball Basics

The ball or sphere is the center of all contact juggling. The first and most important part of contact juggling is selecting a ball that works for you.

Choosing A Ball

Ball Size - In general, you want the largest ball that you can comfortably hold in your hand. The larger the ball, the slower it will roll and therefore the easier it is to control. For most people, this is a ball between 3 and 4 inches in diameter. The accepted "standard size" for acrylic balls is 3 inches, though nobody is exactly sure why.

Ball Material - Acrylic is usually the material of choice for contact juggling balls, but there are other options that work well, particularly for beginners. No matter what type of ball you choose to begin with, you need to be aware that it's going to take a lot of abuse. Most CJers have a "practice" acrylic that shows many scratches and nicks, and a "performance ball" that is usually exceptionally clear. For learning the basics, you can use any ball that's the right size for you. Some suggestions are:

Whatever ball you choose, it must be rigid enough to hold its shape. A beanbag or other squishy-type ball will not work.

Acrylic Safety - Acrylic balls, especially clear ones, can and do start fires. KEEP YOUR ACRYLIC BALLS OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT! You can use them in the sun if you keep them moving, but all you need to do in order to test this principle is stand in the sun while holding a ball in your hand. It doesn't take long to understand the properties of a clear sphere!

Cleaning & Maintenance - Acrylic balls should be cleaned with a soft cloth. You can use acrylic polish or mild soap and water. Other materials can usually be cleaned with soap and water. It's important to keep the surface of your ball clean so it will not become sticky and hard to manipulate.


CJ Trick #1: The Cradle

Okay, so this isn't really a trick. However, it is one of the most important things you will learn and you will find that burning this technique into your brain will be very useful.

Step 1 - Hold your hand in front of you, palm down. Form a cradle for the ball by holding it in a track between your index & middle fingers (2-finger cradle) or by placing the ball on your first 3 fingers and dropping your middle finger slightly (3-finger cradle).

Step 2 - Place your ball into the cradle you made and balance it there. Do this until you can hold the ball with your fingers relaxed as much as possible. Try keeping the balance while walking around, moving your hand around, etc. When you can do this with one hand, do the same with the other hand.

Tip #1: Work on the relaxation part. The more relaxed and fluid your cradle is, the easier it will be to work with the ball.

Tip #2: Practice balancing the ball without looking at it, including while you are moving your hand around. Developing a feel for the ball and the way it interacts with your hands will also help later on.

Tip #3: If you have 2 balls, practice with one in each hand. Don't forget to try moving them around!

Tip #4: Practice moving the ball back and forth with your fingers. Take note of how gentle the motions are and try controlling the position of the ball on the back of your hand.

The cradle is the most common resting position in contact juggling. Do all you can to make it as comfortable and familiar as possible.


CJ Trick #2: The Flopover

This trick is sometimes called The Butterfly. Actually, it's the foundation for The Butterfly and a whole bunch of other tricks. We suggest starting with this one because it builds a lot of important fundamental skills.

Step 1 - Start with the ball in the cradle of your dominant hand.

Step 2 - Toss the ball from the cradle straight up and then catch it back in the cradle. Do this until it feels comfortable.

Step 3 - Toss the ball into the air by flopping your hand over so it's palm up. Catch the ball in the same hand, now on the palm-side.

Step 4 - Do the same in reverse, tossing the ball from your fingers to the back of your hand and catching it in the cradle. This will be the hard part.

Step 5 - Practice making your tosses lower and lower, until the ball is actually in contact with your hand all the way over your fingers in each direction. The ball should roll straight up and over the tips of your fingers. As you become more fluid with this motion, you will begin to feel the ball more accurately. It's hard to describe, but when you feel it you will know.

Step 6 - Once you can do this in one hand, learn it in the other.

Tip #1: Once you have the basic motion, experiment with keeping your fingers rigid or "wavy." Both will be useful.

Tip #2: Be sure that the ball comes to a controlled stop at each point. You may want to practice your back-side catches by tossing the ball from your other hand and catching it in the cradle. Flailing about under the ball will not help you as you put tricks together.

Tip #3: Try the flopover with your eyes closed. Once you have "the feel" for this trick, you may actually find it's easier if you don't watch.

Variations

More CJ tricks will appear as time allows. You can also consult Silver's Painless Guide to Beginning Contact Juggling for other useful tips and tricks.



Staff Lessons

Shop for Staff Stuff

Staff Blasphemy

Before we begin the lessons, here's a statement that may shock a lot of staff twirlers: It's okay to grip your staff someplace other than the center. The Staff Police will not come and take you away if you hold your staff away from the center, or even by the end. No, really! We have been spinning and teaching using these methods and not once has anyone come along and threatened to take our toys away. Obviously, if you are spinning a fire staff you probably shouldn't be working out on the ends, but many of these principles apply no matter what type of staff you use. Don't allow yourself to be limited!

Grip

Just as with poi, there is no singe "correct" grip for staff twirling. In fact, you will use a number of different grips depending on what tricks you are doing. However, the same basic requirements apply--your grip must be comfortable, stable, and flexible enough to allow you to control the staff as it moves through and around your hands. Luckily, most staff tricks will not result in a staff-shaped projectile if you let go, however there are still risks so caution should be maintained, particularly when working with fire.

Hold your staff firmly but loosely--you need to allow the momentum to help carry the staff through its various movements. Your grip should be more like managing the staff's motion than forcing it to go where you want.

Staff Trick #1: Front Rotors

A rotor is any trick where the staff spins about a mostly-fixed center (usually near the center of the staff). The Front Rotor is one whee the staff spins directly in front of you in a vertical plane. There are several different methods to perform this trick--we suggest becoming familiar with all of them as you may find elements of each useful at other times. In general, you will probably find one method you like best for this trick, and that's the one you'll wind up using most often.

Method #1

Step 1 - Grip your staff near the center with whichever hand you choose. Which hand you start with will determine the direction of rotation for this exercise. Your palm should face down.

Step 2 - Turn your hand over so your palm faces up. Notice that you can really only do this in one direction unless you can disconnect your elbow and wrist. Right-handers will turn the staff clockwise, lefties will turn it anti-clockwise.

Step 3 - Allow the staff to roll another half-turn over your palm and between your thumb and index finger. You will need to let the momentum of the staff help with this.

Tip #1: Let your elbow and wrist rotate over just a little more to help provide support and accuracy for the staff as it rolls.

Step 4 - Take your other hand and place it next to the hand you started with so that your thumbs are together. Both hands will be palm up. You should notice rather quickly that your arms are crossed down near your wrists.

Step 5 - Let the staff roll into your free hand and grip it when it is over far enough for you to do so. Your new staff hand is still palm up.

Step 6 - Roll your hand until it is palm down and then go a little farther to prepare for the last transfer. This time the staff will be rolling over the pinky side of your hand. Don't forget to turn your elbow out a little to help get more roll.

Step 7 - Catch the staff in your free hand (the one you started with), palm down--well, mostly down. Then stop.

Voila! You're back where you started. Repeat this procedure to get the rotor. Practice making smooth transitions and keeping the rotation speed consistent. Don't forget to practice this starting with your other hand! You will need to know all tricks in both directions to be an effective twirler.

Variations
You can make this rotor a little easier by doing less with your off hand. Instead of rolling all the way over with both hands, your off hand can only turn a half-turn so the first hand doesn't cross a second time. For example, if you are starting with your right hand, your left hand will cross under your right for the first (thumb-to-thumb) transfer, but then your right hand will stay on your right side and catch the staff (palm down) as it rolls over instead of crossing over your left hand. This method is easier but more tiring as you move your arms and hands a lot more.

Method #2 (one-handed)

Step 1 - Pick a hand and hold the staff near the center, palm down.

Step 2 - Turn your hand over as in the previous method. When you run out of hand, release the staff and let it roll over the back of your hand and catch it when it is within reach of your fingers. Repeat as needed.

NOTE! This method cannot be used indefinitely without some fancy sliding moves as your hand will "walk" along the length of the staff. You can use this walking motion as an excellent control drill. Practice moving from one end of the staff to the other by only rolling it over your hand. You'll have to work in both directions so it helps you learn good and consistent control. Don't forget to practice with your other hand too!

Method #3 (fingers)

Step 1 - Hold the staff near the center and twirl it to get some momentum.

Step 2 - As the staff turns toward your fingers, allow it to roll over each one in turn. You will need to push against the staff to help keep it spinning.

Handy Tip! This method requires strong fingers. You should work your way up to this method by practicing easy finger rolls first. Be careful not to over-practice this method as it can cause repetitive stress injuries and bruising of the finger bones, both of which are very painful.



Related Skills

Below is a list of skills relating to the "stuff you don't have to let go of" ideal. Links and other resources will be added as they are discovered or created.

Do you have a skill or resource you think belongs in this list? Please let us know!


Home  Online Store  FAQ  Safety  Festivals  Gallery  History  Links  Feedback  About Us  Site Map

© 2000-2011 Neon Husky, LLC, all rights reserved
Web design by Neon Husky email our webmaster