NLP Post 3: Juggling, Or At Least Acting the Fool

Now I understand why  medieval Fools juggled. The Fool archetype  is the messenger of the powerless, who can get away with telling the King unpleasant truths. By juggling, the Fool provides a mesmerizing distraction, and also belies his foolish outer appearance, mannerisms, and actions.

Because juggling is hard!

I know this, because I have been learning to juggle for nearly a month. My earlier posts here and here summarize the action so far: making juggling balls and practice, practice, practice, all while using only online learning resources. The process of using online resources worked well for juggling. Juggling is an active skill, so is well demonstrated via video. What I did not find, was much variation in instruction. One video was much like the next: the basic moves, building from one ball, to two, to three, then practice, practice, practice. Some included more tips on form, like keeping the elbows in, and keeping them bent at 90 degrees, but other than that, the Alexander technique, which is a method of learning movement, not of learning juggling, was the only site that gave me different methods to try.

I have created a video about my progress, and what I have learned:

My favorite juggling videos are those done by Niels Duinker, as shown in my video. Niels demonstrated just about every juggling pattern you might care to try. But when I got stuck, when I found I couldn’t get past four or five catches, I searched for something more, and I couldn’t find it in juggling videos. This is what I found:

Firstly, I have visual-spatial problems, although it is the spatial that is sorely lacking. I can walk down a corridor and bump into the wall. I once did a standard IQ test for a job interview. They called me later and asked if I had taken ill in the test, because my visual-spatial scores were significantly lower than all the others. What this means is that, while most people can learn basic juggling in a few days, I would be in the category of persons who will take a few months of daily practice. This forum reassured me that, short of poor eyesight, anyone can eventually learn to juggle. And I did continue to improve, just not to my stated learning goals of 20 catches of three different patterns.

Secondly, I researched adult learners (specifically, old enough to be feeling the effects of age on memory and processing speeds), and found a paper that also concluded that, in most learning, the difference between success and failure for older learners is perseverance. Castles ( 2013).

Finally, I recalled Gee’s notion of “grit,” and applied some. Gee (2013)

In the future, I would want to involve my students in a similar exercise. As I work with students who have learning difficulties, and often a lack of confidence, I believe a networked learning project would:

Allow them to find skills suited to their learning styles and thereby boost confidence, and

Allow them to find skills contrary to their learning styles, and experience them in both fun and failure, which will help change their conceptions of the value of failure.

I have enjoyed learning  to juggle, so far, and I intend to continue practicing. To me, the fact that I have not become heartily sick of it is evidence that this has been a true learning process.


Alexander method juggling instructions:

Niels Duinker juggling channel:

Quora online forum on juggling:

Castles, Jane. “Part-Time Adult Learners: Modelling Factors that Influence Persistence.” Order No. C816511 Open University (United Kingdom), 2003. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

Gee, J. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning.

Five ball cascade juggling gif in the public domain from:


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