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3-ball cascade
5 ball juggling

As a movement art, juggling is part of the artistry and traditionally belongs to the performances of the circus or the variety show . Juggling can be practiced as a leisure activity , as a form of performing arts or as a sporting activity.

Juggling primarily refers to the skill of repeatedly throwing and catching multiple objects in the air so that at least one of the objects is in the air at any given time. The most common props for juggling are balls , clubs and rings .

In a broader sense, the term juggling also includes circus disciplines such as diabolo , devilstick and contact juggling , in which objects are balanced and moved on the body, as well as spinning, in which objects revolve firmly around a center, such as in poi spinning or rod turning ( see this object manipulation ).

There are regular juggling conventions in different cities.


The noun juggler was adopted from French into German in the 18th century. In contrast, the verb juggling appears only in the transition from the 19th to the 20th century. French juggler comes from the Latin word ioculator , which means "jester". It is based on the Latin iocus ("fun"), from which the German word Jux originated.


Historic juggling balls from the 15th / 16th centuries Century, made of leather, filled with sawdust. Behind is a reproduction of a historical representation of a woman juggling.


Juggling is a skill that has been tried by various peoples such as the Chinese, Indians or Aztecs at all times and probably before the first records. One of the oldest juggling props, the diabolo , was invented in China . There are also representations on ancient Greek terracotta discs of boys playing yo-yo and evidence of women playing poi in New Zealand. The earliest known source is a picture taken from Egypt of an unknown prince in the 15th tomb in Beni Hasan from around 1794–1781 BC. BC. It shows four women juggling.


An early Greek statue of a juggler was found in the pyrines and exhibited in the National Museum in Athens. It was fashionable among the Romans, to the amusement of the people, to import jugglers from the Orient. Often these were slaves. But ordinary citizens and officers also juggled in their free time. On the Tagatus Ursus tombstone, for example, there is an indication that he was the first person to juggle glass balls. Sidonius Apollinaris, an officer in the Roman Legion, entertained his troops by performing juggling tricks with balls.


Various jugglers were mentioned in the records. Mainly it was about warriors who demonstrated their martial arts and could sometimes end a conflict before fighting broke out. Some jugglers were named, such as:

  • Lan Zi from Song Province is said to have juggled seven swords.
  • Yi Liao from Shinan, who was able to end the conflict between two houses by juggling the ball.
  • Xiong Yiliao juggled nine balls in the clash between Chu Province and Song Province

middle Ages

Juggler with balls and knives

In the Middle Ages, jugglers seem to have fallen out of favor, as many clerics and pastors who wrote the history accused them of loose morals and sometimes even witchcraft. From the beginning of the 6th century, bards or court jesters appeared at markets, festivals or in inns and made short, entertaining and slippery appearances. They often enriched their shows with short juggling tricks or some acrobatics , and at the end of their performances they passed around hats or bags for donations.

Jugglers were very badly regarded at the time, and they were treated with caution and suspicion for a reason, as many vagrants, con artists, and thieves also practiced juggling. Another difficulty was that the jugglers, unlike the poets and musicians , had no way of leaving their successes and achievements to posterity . They were quickly labeled as, albeit entertaining, day thieves or good-for-nothing. The saying comes from this time:

"Qual mestiers es plus aontos, d'eser joglar o laire?" - loosely translated: "What can be a worse insult to be a juggler or a thief?"

Another guess is that jugglers from the English in the 11th century troubadours and minstrels emerged. With the advent of the troubadours , the jugglers with their many talents became popular helpers of the troubadours and entertainers of the aristocracy . They moved across the country, from farm to farm and refined their skills in “schools” and “ brotherhoods ”. The first mention of such a brotherhood comes from the year 1331; the "Confrerie de St. Julian" in Paris .


In 1768, Philip Astley opened the first modern circus. A few years later he also hired some jugglers. From then on, jugglers found professional work at the circus. The recent history of juggling is closely linked to the history of variety and couplet . With the onset of industrialization , cabaret and with it juggling became increasingly popular until the middle of the 20th century. Jugglers were initially hired to entertain the audience in front of the closed curtain during the breaks, while the stage was rebuilt behind the curtain. These jugglers could now specialize in the actual art of juggling and neglect other tricks such as sword swallowing or magic. The gentleman juggling style was invented by the German jugglers Salerno and Kara , and with the development of plastic, jugglers began to use rubber balls. Previously, juggling balls were made from yarn, filled leather bags, wood or metal. The rubber balls had the advantage that you could make them jump. With the widespread distribution of the three major entertainment media, radio , sound film and television , cabaret then again lost its importance dramatically.

Forms of juggling

see also: object manipulation

Juggling in the narrower sense includes the classic disciplines of throwing juggling : balls, clubs and rings. Juggling in a broader sense includes all forms of object manipulation.

Solo juggling

Juggling pattern

see also: juggling trick

World records solo juggling

The props must be thrown individually, multiplex throws (throwing more than one prop at the same time) are not allowed. Only records with video evidence are considered permissible.

Status: August 2020

Balls and beanbags
number record Record holder year
11 beanbags 33 catches Alex Barron (UK) 2017
10 beanbags 39 catches Tom Whitfield (UK) 2020
9 balls 55 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 2006
8 balls 1 min 13 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 2006
7 balls 16 min 25 sec Adolfo Esteban Almonacid Cardenas (CHI) 2019
6 balls 25 min 17 sec Adolfo Esteban Almonacid Cardenas (CHI) 2019
5 balls 2 h 41 min 27 sec Ofek Snir (ISR) 2016
4 balls 2 h 46 min 48 sec Zdeněk Bradáč (CZ) 2010
3 balls 12 h 5 min David Slick (USA) 2009
number record Record holder year
8 clubs 16 catches Anthony Gatto (USA)
Willy Colombaioni (ITA)
7 clubs 4 min 24 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 2005
6 clubs 7 min 38 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 2005
5 clubs 53 min 21 sec Thomas Dietz (D) 2005
4 clubs 58 min 06 sec Ameron Rosvall (SWE) 2019
3 clubs 4 h 55 min 35 sec Nick Thomas (USA) 2019
number record Record holder year
10 rings 47 catches Anthony Gatto (USA) 2005
9 rings 235 catches Anthony Gatto (USA) 2005
8 rings 1 min 17 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 1989
7 rings 15 min 6 sec Anthony Gatto (USA) 2011

Multi-person juggling


A variation of solo juggling is passing , in which two or more jugglers juggle at the same time and throw each other at the same time. For the most part, clubs are used to pass. With three or more jugglers, changes in position and complicated walking paths can also be part of the pattern.

Competitive juggling and juggling games

Sports juggling

In the field of sports juggling, the focus is on technical skill, precision of execution and complexity of the juggled patterns. Stage effectiveness and artistic expression play no role. The World Juggling Federation, founded in 2003, holds sport juggling competitions every year.


All competitors start juggling at the same time and whoever juggles the longest wins.


The combination of jogging and juggling is called joggling. As with juggling, you can use any number of balls (at least three) or clubs for jogging.

Jogging world records (selection):

distance discipline time Record holder year
100 m 3 objects 11.68 s Owen Morse (USA) 1989
100 m 5 objects 13.8 s Owen Morse (USA) 1988
100 m 7 objects 53.6 s Thomas Dietz (D) 2013
10 km 3 objects 35:38 min Bob Evans (USA) 2011
marathon 3 objects 2:50:12 h Michal Kapral (CAN) 2007


See main article: Volleyclub

The mixture of volleyball and juggling is played at large juggling conventions.


Combat is usually played with three clubs per player. All players start juggling at the same time; if you are the last to juggle, you win the round. The players try to prevent their opponents from juggling further, for example by knocking a club away from them or taking them from them, while maintaining their own juggling.

Combat competitions are held at juggling conventions. A common format is the 1-on-1-Combat, in which two competitors compete against each other and a tournament winner is determined in the knockout system . This so-called "Fight Night Combat" is particularly widespread in Europe. In the "Fight Night" tournaments, points are awarded for the combat world rankings. The world ranking position of the players decides on the seed position in the individual tournaments.

Fire juggling

In fire juggling, juggling utensils are partially or completely ignited. In most cases, a wick band made of Kevlar fabric is soaked in lamp oil . This becomes porous after frequent use and can therefore be replaced. I.a. There are commercial versions of the following props: diabolos, balls, devil sticks, sticks, torches, poi, hula hoops and various fire ropes.

Fireballs can consist of a wire mesh into which a wick tape has been incorporated, or they can be solid. Moistened gloves made of cotton or, even better, Kevlar should be worn during use, as these can provide temporary protection against burns.

Fire poi (or fire chains) are burning wicks or kevlar ribbons that are wound or braided to a knot or a roll attached to chains and soaked in lamp oil. By rotating around the hands and the whole body, circles of fire that can be seen from afar are created in the dark.

Light juggling

In light juggling, light balls, light sticks, light clubs and light poi are juggled. The spectrum of props ranges from fluorescent objects that are used under black light, to phosphorescent ones, to self-luminous objects with built-in LEDs . For some years now, props have also been available that can be used to program complex and longer sequences with regard to luminosity, color and duration using a computer. So it is possible to have props that match the juggled tricks and the music light up, flash and change the color across the entire RGB color spectrum.

Forms of presentation

Gentleman juggling

Gentleman jugglers were the protagonists of the artistry of the 1920s, which were shaped by the variety theaters of the time. Gentleman jugglers were characterized by the two aspects of scenic design and the use of everyday objects instead of special props. The men dressed in suits combined juggling and balancing with the utensils of the upper class. The most famous representatives were Kara, Salerno or Adanos. One of the most famous gentleman jugglers of today is Jeton .

Physiological aspects

Juggling can increase physical and mental wellbeing . It promotes the ability to concentrate , the speed of reaction, the spatial imagination , as well as a sense of time, rhythm and balance . The even strain on the muscles and the musculoskeletal system increases mobility and endurance. Juggling also increases peripheral vision and trains coordination and awareness. With its almost meditative uniformity, juggling enables stress to be reduced . However, constant catching can also put a strain on the joints, especially the wrists. Intense exercise can lead to bruises and joint pain.

Cognitive development

Although neural plasticity is most pronounced in childhood, positive effects of motor activity on cognitive development have also been demonstrated beyond childhood. A study carried out at the University of Regensburg in 2004 found that regular juggling leads to a temporary compression of gray matter in the brain, even in adults . The changes took place on the one hand in the visual area of ​​the cerebral cortex , which controls the detection of spatial movements. On the other hand, the left pars posterior sulci intraparietalis , which controls the grasping of objects, changed.

Bittmann et al. (2005) emphasize that the perception of movement "contributes to a harmonious bilateral brain development" (see also: brain hemispheres ) and can thus have a strong influence on cognitive performance. They were able to prove that there is a positive connection between balance ability and school success. In a study carried out in 2005, high-learning students exhibited better balance behavior than low-learning students.

A study by Scholz, Klein, Behrens and Johansen-Berg from 2009 using the diffusion tensor imaging method led to similar findings: the white brain matter in a region of the parietal lobe increased after six weeks of training (three balls, five times a week half an hour) by about five percent even if the test subjects did not achieve the goal of learning the three-ball cascade.

Contemplative approach

But there are also interesting approaches in another area. In his book Zen in the Art of Juggling , Dave Finnigan , a world-famous juggler, describes his experiences during a several month juggling camp in a former Taiwanese monastery. The goal of juggling is to maintain a pattern. The key to success lies in letting go: Instead of following the balls with their eyes, good jugglers look to where the balls reach their highest point during flight or, as in the case of the poi game, try the position of the poi, which is noticeable due to the centrifugal force to be felt in the leading hand. Over time, the player learns to guide the balls blindly with this information and trusts the laws of physics that dictate exactly which path the ball will take.

Juggling can thus become a special form of meditation : You concentrate all your attention on a more or less simple, but completely periodic and usually very symmetrical pattern that you can completely control. There is no opportunity to plan ahead or look back, if you juggle at the limit of your abilities, you have to concentrate fully on the pattern and its current state. This makes it possible to completely move away from everyday life for a while and to develop inner peace. This is also the core of so-called contemplation , which, in contrast to meditation, does not try to empty the mind, but rather the gentle inner focus on a recurring, fundamental mental statement about life, a positive affirmation or the emotional liberation from worries and compulsions of everyday life.

Mathematics and Physics of Juggling


The notation of juggling patterns using sequences of numbers is known as siteswap .

Throwing heights and throwing frequency

Physically it can be calculated how much higher you have to throw the juggled objects so that the juggler can juggle with the same throwing frequency . A vertical trajectory is assumed.

The following applies to the flight time at a launch speed of and the acceleration due to gravity :

In the case of objects, this results in a throwing frequency of:

The height of each building is:

it follows:


If you now ask for two different numbers of objects and a constant throwing frequency, the result is:

and it

From the relationship equation it follows that the throwing heights must behave exactly like the squares of the number of objects used in each case, so that the same throwing frequency can be juggled.


There are various juggling software - mostly freeware :

jugglemaster Stick figures juggle all conceivable siteswaps (notation for juggling patterns).
JuggleAnim Html version of jugglemaster
JugglingLab Same presentation as both of the above. In addition, the program can check siteswaps for validity with its pattern generator or search for valid siteswaps for siteswap fragments. That means z. B. that one finds throwing sequences or transitions between different juggling patterns. Has an educational ladder diagram
juggling graphically elaborated Mannekens juggle siteswaps - even in groups
Juggle Crazy Shareware. Only three balls in the demo. But also with ladder diagram

See also


  • Dave Finnigan: All about the art of juggling . DuMont, Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-7701-2214-3 .
  • Charlie Dancey: Encyclopaedia of Ball Juggling . Butterfingers, Bath 1995, ISBN 1-898591-13-X .
  • Jörg Driver: Juggling properly . (Sportpraxis 257). BLV, Munich-Vienna-Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-405-14427-2 .

Web links

Commons : Juggling  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Duden: The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language. Mannheim 2007, Lemma Juggler .
  2. Duden online: origin of juggler , origin of joke
  3. https://jugglingrecords.wordpress.com/
  4. http://www.fightnightcombat.com/current-points-and-rankings.html
  5. ^ Karl-Heinz Ziethen, Alessandro Serena: Virtuosos of Juggling. Santa Cruz, CA 2003, ISBN 0-9741848-0-2 , pp. 44 and 125.
  6. B Draganski, C gasifier, V Busch, G Schuierer, U Bogdahn, A May: Neuroplasticity: changes in gray matter induced by training . In: Nature , 427, 2004, pp. 311-312.
  7. Nature University Jena.
  8. ^ F Bittmann, S Gutschow, S Luther, N Wessel, J Kurths: About the functional relationship between postural balance regulation and school performance . In: German magazine for sports medicine . 56.
  9. Scholz, Klein, Behrens. Johansen-Berg: Training induces changes in white-matter architecture . In: Nature Neuroscience .
  10. Dave Finnigan: Zen in the Art of Juggling . OW Barth bei Scherz, Bern 1993, ISBN 3-502-64201-X .