Juggling is a physical skill, performed by a juggler, involving the manipulation of objects for recreation, entertainment, art or sport. The most recognizable form of juggling is toss juggling. Juggling can be the manipulation of one object or many objects at the same time, most often using one or two hands but also possible with feet. Jugglers often refer to the objects they juggle as props. The most common props are balls, clubs, or rings. Some jugglers use more dramatic objects such as knives, fire torches or chainsaws. The term juggling can also commonly refer to other prop-based manipulation skills, such as diabolo, plate spinning, devil sticks, poi, cigar boxes, contact juggling, hooping, yo-yo, and hat manipulation.
A juggling pattern or juggling trick is a specific manipulation of props during the practice of juggling. "Juggling, like music, combines abstract patterns and mind-body coordination in a pleasing way." Descriptions of patterns and tricks have been most common in toss juggling. A juggling pattern in toss juggling is a sequence of throws and catches using a certain number of props which is repeated continuously. Patterns include simple ones such as the cascade and complex ones such as Mills mess. A juggling trick in toss juggling is a throw or catch which is different from the throws and catches within a pattern. Tricks include simple ones such as a high throw or more difficult ones such a catch on the back of the jugglers neck, as well as the claw, multiplex, and pass. Systems of juggling notation have been created to describe juggling patterns and tricks. One of these is siteswap notation.
Juggling notation is the written depiction of concepts and practices in juggling. Toss juggling patterns have a reputation for being "easier done than said" – while it might be easy to learn a given maneuver and demonstrate it for others, it is often much harder to communicate the idea accurately using speech or plain text. To circumvent this problem, various numeric or diagram-based notation systems have been developed to facilitate communication of patterns or tricks between jugglers, as well the investigation and discovery of new patterns.
Juggling practice has developed a wide range of patterns and forms which involve different types of manipulation, different props, numbers of props, and numbers of jugglers. The forms of juggling shown here are practiced by amateur, non-performing, hobby jugglers as well as by professional jugglers. The variations of juggling shown here are extensive but not exhaustive as juggling practice develops and creates new patterns on a regular basis. Jugglers do not consciously isolate their juggling into one of the categories shown; instead most jugglers will practice two or more forms, combining the varieties of juggling practice. Some forms are commonly mixed, for example: numbers and patterns with balls; while others are rarely mixed, for example: contact numbers passing. Many Western jugglers also practice other forms of object manipulation, such as diabolo, devil sticks, cigar box manipulation, fire-spinning, contact juggling, hat manipulation, poi, staff-spinning, balancing tricks, bar flair and general circus skills.
In toss juggling, a cascade is the simplest juggling pattern achievable with an odd number of props. The simplest juggling pattern is the three-ball cascade, This is therefore the first pattern that most jugglers learn. However, although the shower is more complicated, "some people find that the movement comes naturally to them," and it may be the pattern learned first. "Balls or other props follow a horizontal figure-eight [or hourglass figure ] pattern above the hands." In siteswap, each throw in a cascade is notated using the number of balls; thus a three ball cascade is "3".
Contact juggling is a form of object manipulation that focuses on the movement of objects such as balls in contact with the body. Although often used in conjunction with "toss juggling ", it differs in that it involves the rolling of one or more objects without releasing them into the air.
Cigar boxes are rectangular props used in juggling. Cigar box manipulation began as a vaudeville act in the United States between the 1880s and 1920s, and was popularized by W. C. Fields. Originally, performers would take actual boxes that cigars were stored in and nail them shut to create their juggling props. Today, cigar boxes for juggling are typically purpose-built, hollow wooden or plastic blocks with suede or foam rubber padding attached to the sides.
A skill toy of Asian origin, the meteor consists of a rope, usually between 5 and 8 feet long, with weights attached to either end. Tricks are performed by swinging, wrapping and throwing the meteor about the body.
Knife juggling is a variant of toss juggling using blunt knives as props which are thrown and caught. Although knives are sometimes juggled recreationally, it is generally a performance art. Knife juggling is typically seen performed by street entertainers as part of a routine, or at art or historical festivals.
Juggling torches are one of various props used by jugglers. Torches are usually commercially made props that are made of wood and/or metal with a wick attached at one end. The wick is impregnated with a flammable substance (usually paraffin ) and ignited before use.