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Never Look Away

Author: Wolfgang Westerboer
Credits: Kaskade 56
The illustrations are taken from Charlie Dancey's great book, the Compendium of Club Juggling, and the title is the first of his three "Golden Rules of Club Passing" (by kind permission of the author).

What is more important when passing: throwing or catching? Think about this before reading on.

For me, both are equally important. Somebody has to catch my throw - either my partner or myself. If the throw is sloppy, it will be difficult to catch, which means that the pattern will get shaky and may collapse altogether. I reckon jugglers in general don't pay enough attention to their passing throws and just accept that their partner is going to have to work hard to catch them. Who cares, they think, as long as the pattern keeps going somehow. Which is OK as far as it goes, I suppose, but it looks terrible.

Pattern 1 (P 1): 5 club 1 count (single spin)

Let's kick off with a pattern that's simple yet interesting and offers lots of scope for variations. And one that not everybody thinks they can already do easily.

2 jugglers throw 5 clubs,
A always throws across (cross throws)
B always throws straight ("tramlines"),
Every club is passed, i.e. all left and right throws are passes, not self-throws (1-count or "ultimate" passing)
Start:
A holds 2 clubs in the right hand, 1 club in the left,
B holds 1 club in the right hand, 1 club in the left
Both throw with the right hand first
A and B throw alternately: B throws exactly between A's throws.
The rhythm is perfectly even: throw, catch, throw, catch,...

This pattern is relatively easy to follow, so both partners have time to concentrate on everything: Am I getting the rhythm, the direction and the spin right? How is my throwing technique? Is my body posture OK? etc.
We've made a habit of starting our passing sessions with this pattern to get used to each other's styles. And it's a really good exercise for right-and-left passing (see P 6).

Note:
Be careful not to go too slow. You shouldn't have the feeling that there's a pause in the pattern. Try throwing flats (throws with no spins) - that will speed things up automatically.

P 2: 5 clubs 1 count (double spin)

The rhythm here is similar to the single-spin version (P 1), except that everything gets higher and slower.

The sequence is totally even: throw, pause,...
Everything else is as in P 1

This pause gives you time to do things like pirouettes and somersaults, or let someone else take over your clubs and your position...

P 3: 5 clubs 1 count (double spin, variation)

After you've been experimenting for a while, you'll probably notice that there are other ways of throwing doubles. One is to delay the throw, which feels like this:

Throw, pause, pause,...
Otherwise, everything stays as in P 1

Your own pass just about slips past the incoming club from your partner.
The two pauses can now be filled in with whatever moves you have time for (see above). However, the difficulty with this pattern is that you tend to fall back into P 2. To counteract this tendency, you can juggle a 2-club shower while waiting for your partner's pass to arrive: double pass, single self, hand across. The pass from your partner lands in the hand that does not catch the self. You could both do this at the same time, though at first it's probably better if you take it in turns. Important: practise the shower on both sides, not just one - the pattern is much easier if the juggling is continuous.
The pattern only works if both partners maintain the right rhythm. The partner throwing across should make sure that the throws don't fly like propellers, a typical mistake when passing diagonally (watch out for this on P 5 and P 6 too).
If you can keep the rhythm going without the mini-shower, you have time for other things. For example, you could do a couple of flourishes (twirling the club in your hand). The problem here is that to do a flourish you have to catch the pass with the club the other way up. In other words, the thumb of your catching hand should be pointing down and your elbow out to the side. The cross pass is easier to catch like this than the tramline pass.
Note:
If you throw at "normal" speed, the pass throws go much higher than a normal single pass or the self when you squeeze in the 2-club shower. To be precise, they should be the same height as the throws in 7 clubs 1 count.
Alternatively, one of the partners could throw singles and the other doubles. In this case, both partners start at the same time (more difficult).

Note on P 1, P 2 and P 3

These patterns are great for throwing "at random", meaning that you don't always have to stick to your role as a tramline or cross passer, but can choose to throw to your partner's "wrong" hand for a change. This is great fun, but both partners have to be wide awake.

P 4: 5 club 1 count box

Most people know the box pattern with balls: throw straight up on the right, simultaneously hand across from left to right, straight up on the left, simultaneously hand across from right to left.
Here is a 5-club passing pattern based on this technique:

Both partners throw straight ("tramlines")
A throws doubles, B throws singles
A juggles the box, B juggles in the same rhythm as in P 2
Start:
A: 2 clubs in the right hand, 1 in the left
B: 1 club in the right, 1 in the left
Start out of synch, i.e. B passes around the incoming club
A always hands the same club across between passes.

Notes:
B can incorporate a mini-shower or something similar (see Pattern 3). A's rhythm is too tight for that.
Both jugglers can throw to the same height if B starts a bit earlier than usual (but still later than A). In that case, both throw high singles or low doubles.
You don't have to throw tramlines: both can throw either always cross passes or always tramlines, but you can't mix, sometimes cross passes, sometimes tramlines.

P 5: 7 clubs 1 count

With this pattern it's particularly important to keep cool, juggle slowly and throw accurately.

2 jugglers with 7 clubs,
A throws every club straight (tramlines)
B throws every club across
Start:
A: 2 clubs in the right hand, 2 in the left,
B: 1 club in the right hand, 2 in the left
A and B both start with a throw from the right.

A typical problem with this pattern is that people try to throw "normal" singles. It is possible, but it's incredibly fast. If you prefer things to be more relaxed, try throwing the clubs at a height somewhere between double and single, i.e. roughly head height.
Reread the note on Patterns 2 and 3, and especially try Pattern 3 to get a feeling for the height. Take a look ahead to Pattern 6 too.

P 6 6 clubs, Pass Pass Self Variation

This 6-club pattern is an excellent exercise to prepare for 7 clubs 1 count.

2 jugglers pass 6 clubs
A always passes across, B always passes straight (tramlines)
Both throw in a pass pass self rhythm
A throws a passing box: pass, pass, hand across
Start:
A: 1 club in the right hand, 2 in the left
B: 1 club in the right hand, 2 in the left

To start with, A can pass doubles and B singles. The start sequence is then as follows: A goes pass, pass, hand across; B goes self, pass, pass. Both throw with the right hand first.
However, it's easier if both partners throw to the same height. A throws lower, B throws higher, both roughly to head height (see notes on Pattern 3). As B now has to start earlier, she might as well start with pass, pass, self with the left hand as soon as the first pass from A is in the air. The result is a calm passing pattern in which the passes go to exactly the same height as in 7 clubs 1 count, except that this time both partners do a self, which makes things easier to control.

Theory:

Some of you might want to point out that some of the patterns presented here cannot be true 1 counts - and you would be right. Even though we talk about 1 counts throughout, in fact we've been describing patterns that range from 1 count to 3 count, as you might have noticed when we varied Pattern 2 to make Pattern 3. The background: many of the patterns described here contain "throws" that are in fact pauses - the club is not released but held. Often you don't notice it while juggling, which is why a pattern appears to have fewer self-throws, or none at all. But if you know about the hidden (non-thrown) self, you can easily construct patterns in which, for example, one partner throws twice while the other throws 3 times.
Here's a quote from Charlie's book on the Seven Club One Count: This is a very unusual Passing Pattern - one of the very few in the Compendium of Club Juggling that uses half beats. All of the patterns presented here (except P 2) involve both partners throwing passes that can be the same height or they can be at different heights. In P 1 A passes a 2 and B passes a 3, or both passes are equivalent to 2.5. In all of the other patterns, one partner passes a 3 and the other a 4, or both pass a 3.5. To throw to the same height, one partner must throw slightly early - to be precise, one half-beat early.