Juggling seven balls has always seemed difficult but achievable. At EJC, about 100 people take part in the seven ball endurance event every year. The endurance world record stands at more than ten minutes - a long time. A group of us hanging around in the park the other day were trying to estimate how many seven ball jugglers there are in the world and the number we arrived at was about 10,000. That's quite a lot - seems doable.
Anyway, I'm currently trying to learn how to juggle seven balls.
But my ball-juggling aspirations end at seven. The world record for 8 balls is just over a minute. It was set by someone of freakish natural talent (Anthony Gatto) who dedicated ~35 years of his life to juggling before becoming disillusioned with the whole thing and starting a cementing business. Anthony Gatto could only keep the pattern going for about a minute. I'm definitely not that talented or dedicated and I'm also fairly keen to try to keep my shit pretty much together.
Eight is also an even number, making the most basic 8 ball pattern a fountain (4 balls in each hand, no crossing). This pattern is not as visually appealing and is less satisfying to juggle than a cascade (which is very satisfying to juggle) - the most basic odd number pattern.
So... juggling eight balls is never going to happen, but flashing eight (throwing all the balls up once and catching them again) probably will because it's going to be great practice for getting the 7 ball pattern really solid. Is this not juggling? What does it mean exactly to juggle N balls? The International Juggling Association has a rule about that: If each hand catches each ball at least once, this is called 'qualifying' the pattern. Numbers jugglers often talk about 3 milestones:
Personally, I feel like I can 'juggle' a pattern at about 30 catches. Qualifying isn't long enough to feel like I can really do it. On the other hand 100 catches is a lot - even for 5 balls.
So how quickly can you learn how to juggle seven balls? For me, 'demoralizingly slowly' pretty much sums it up. Most of the time it feels as though i'm not improving at all - a couple of weeks of daily practice typically results in no measurable improvement - I can even feel like I've gone backwards. Over a period of about six months, I've progressed from seven catches to about twelve.
...and having compared notes with other jugglers, this seems to be about normal.
Conceptually, the 7 ball cascade is not very difficult - it's just the 3 ball cascade with more balls. It is a little physically demanding, but for short runs strength isn't a very important factor either. The difficulty is all in the throw precision. Learning it is about putting in enough hours to build up the required muscle memory.
For effective learning, it's best to mix things up a bit and practice patterns related to the 7 ball cascade in addition to the 7 ball cascade itself. The patterns I use as exercises include (in increasing order of difficulty):
I also deliberately play with the parameters within a given pattern:
So there ends my thoughts on 7 ball juggling.
I'll end with a clip of me qualifying 7 balls when I can finally do it.