What I learn from juggling sticks

(flower sticks/devil sticks/rhythm sticks/juggling sticks)
(I could explain all the different names, but I’m not going to here. – Sticks)

The first lesson that sticks taught me (over and over again) was that when you drop something, you pick it up, and try again (over and over again).  Practice makes gradual improvement.

Unlike most flow arts and juggling props, with sticks, the object that you are manipulating is never in contact with your hands (unless you decide otherwise).  Instead we use control sticks as a bridge between our hands and the prop.  This adds an order of separation and complexity that gives sticks a unique challenge.  It becomes highly physics and balance oriented.  Personally I am a huge fan of technical challenges.  This addition level of complexity means that the stick is almost never doing exactly what I thought I “told” it to do, which is why I often say that I am following the stick, as opposed to the other way around.  After becoming comfortable with using separate objects as a medium for manipulation, you will find that it is actually easier to control the stick in this indirect way.  What was at first a seemingly unnecessary additional challenge, becomes a more effective solution than the “easy” or “direct” way.

Sticks play is a game of toss and catch.  When I am juggling sticks, even after many years of practice, I am almost dropping them almost all the time.  And occasionally I actually drop them.  One might look at these miss-catches as mistakes, but eventually one sees one’s own mistakes as opportunities to make corrections.  After you break through the first steps of learning how to keep the sticks in the air, you will start to find that when you “almost” drop the stick, those are sometimes the times when you do the most awesome things with your recovery.  It is also useful to learn fancy ways of picking up your stick.  Anyone watching might only notice the recovery, and think that it was an intentional “trick”.  Experiencing yourself making epic recoveries is very satisfying.

After a while I developed a style of play, where instead of tossing, I keep my control sticks in contact with the centre stick constantly.  This creates a smooth flowing motion, which is very fun to play with, and allows for many interesting technical feats.
Sometimes, however, one needs to let go.  Just throw it in the air, and see where it lands.  Sometimes I don’t even try to catch it, just because.

People often ask me: “How long does it take to learn?”.
My first response is usually: “How long is a piece of string?”.
The answer is as long as you choose to learn for.  It’s about the experience of learning.  There is no end.  The longer you learn, the more you will be able to do.

Sticks have taught me many lessons in life.

If you can master the art of sticks play, you can do anything (except you’re probably spending all of your time playing with sticks).

Duncan Greenwood

PS – If you want to play with sticks yourself, you can buy some flower sticks in various kinds from Flow DNA.
Some of the best sticks I’ve played with are Picasso and Neo sticks by Juggle Dream, and we also have fire flower sticks and LED flower sticks.
As of writing this, we do not currently stock traditional devil sticks.  If you would like some, please email us with your enquiry.

We can also arrange lessons and workshops if there is interest.

Duncan and juggling sticks through the years:

Duncan spinning flower sticks (AKA devil sticks, juggling sticks, rhythm sticks) in 2010