Visualisation

About my terminology: "training" refers to the process of learning a specific trick, a "trial" is a single attempt to do a specific trick, and "practice" is the process of learning an act, or to put it another way, to learn a trick within a certain context. I always seperate practice and training for they do not mean the same thing to me.

When I work on contactjuggling technique, I don't visualize the trick itself, but rather the feel of the trick being executed perfectly. So, I see the trick being done from a first person perspective.

During a trial, I try to keep hold of a couple of simple concepts.

First, work on only one thing at a time. For example, if I am working on the start of a trick, on a single trial, I would focus on the first flash and not care about anything that happens after. On another trial, I might be training the right balance. And on yet another trial, I might focus on shoulder placement, etc.

I have found this to be more valuable than to always try to do the entire trick, with all of it's various parts, correctly on each trial. Once the trick is out of my head and into my hands and muscels, I can put all of the pieces together, but it is just too much to remember and too many things going on to split my focus initially. When I have a clear, limited idea what I wish to accomplish with a given trial, then my chance for success improves dramatically and training is less discouraging.

Second, I try to focus with my "mind's eye". The information that most beginning contactjugglers latch on to is visual information. This feedback is crucial, but is merely a symptom of the actual contactjuggling itself. As such, I try to focus on the body and how it "feels" when executing a given trial. Even though my eyes are looking up, my mind's eye is watching my hands. I try to make it feel correct. I much prefer a run that feels smooth, but results in an error, than a run that requires constant adjustments and is a struggle to keep off of the floor. The body-tool is the only way I have to influence the trick, so I try to focus on it and not rely only on an intellectualized analysis of visual information alone. On some trials, I might focus solely on elbow placement, or placement of my feet.

I often use metaphorical images to encourage the correct "feel" for a trick. I often self-coach myself to let the balls roll out of my hands. A visualization of the balls moving themselves rather than me having to push them, helps me to get a good feel for the trick.

I have not had any experience with visualization outside of actual training. That is, I have had no personal proof that my technical performance improves by just sitting down and thinking about it. I dream about contactjuggling, but never in a way that would result beneficially. (If I were to perform as I dream, most of my shows would involve me going on stage having forgotten my balls, music or pants!)

However, I have had success with carefully directed practice sessions. Beyond visualization, and any of that stuff, the single most significant thing that one can do to improve contactjuggling technique is to train with a coach. To be relieved of the coaching responsibilities is crucial to achieving one's potential. Yes, contactjuggling is a skill that one can do alone, and if necessary, one can self-coach. But to really challenge the art, I am convinced that one needs a mentor/trainer/coach trio.


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