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The Karasel of Progress
Sun, Jun 29 2008
Chaotic Potential or "Why Rings Suck"
Mood:  d'oh

"I hate rings."

"I don't do rings."

"I don't even own any."

"They hurt my hands too much."

"(uproarious laughter)"

      These are five of the most common responses I get when I ask various jugglers if they juggle rings.  Not knowing any better when I was learning, I figured it was important to learn the trifecta - balls, clubs, and rings.  Only later was I surprised to learn how few jugglers care to adventure into rings.  Outside of the Gandinis, it's often hard to find another juggler at a convention who is gung-ho to pass rings. 

       But now I think I have a theory why rings "suck".  I put suck in quotes to illustrate the point that I in fact love rings.  I am merely acknowledging the fact that on the ladder of 'prop-ularity', rings definitely rank beneath balls and clubs.  I have no official data on this, but I think you jugglers out there will take my word for it. 

       For a while, I believed and preached the whole "dimensional" theory.  A ball is like one dimension.  A ring is like two.  A club is like three dimensional.  Until I realized that that theory is like stupid because it ignores the most important part of what makes an object easy or difficult to juggle - chaotic potential.

       Many jugglers I know are interested in Rubik's Cubes so I'm going to use a cube to demonstrate what I mean by chaotic potential.  Let's take a cube and place it right next to a juggling ball.  Now I forgot to mention that this cube has magical powers - it can hypnotize other inanimate objects.  So the cube is going to hypnotize the ball so that it does whatever the cubes does.

       Now let's start testing what I call the NFF or "noticeable flip factor".  No matter how I twist the cube (forwards, sideways, or horizontally), the ball (assuming it is a clean no-seams ball) shows no visual movement.  Its silhouette remains unchanged.  Sure, the ball can rotate any way the cube can (in fact, it can rotate an unlimited amount of ways) but its silhouette will always remain the same. 

       Let's look at a club under the cube's hypnosis.  When I twist the cube forward, the club does a reverse flip - very noticeable.  When I twist the cube horizontally, it does a "helicopter", a trick done often by Cecile Poncet.  However, when I twist the cube sideways, the club spins along its longest axis and no change in its silhouette is noticeable.  Though three-dimensional, the club only has 2 out of 3 flip bases covered.

       Finally, the ring under the cube's hypnosis.  Flip the cube forward - nothing (the typical way to throw a ring).  Sideways - a pancake facing sideways.  Horizontal - the ring spins as if spun on the floor.  At this point, it seems like the club and ring are tied for difficulty.  Both show noticeable silhouette change under 2 of the 3 cube spins.

       So then why do I think rings have more chaotic potential?  Well the only way to truly find out is to start throwing them.  Here's where the hidden danger of the ring shows up:

       Throw a club in as many ways as possible, but keep its flight path straight up and down.  Forgetting flats for the moment, you can do regular flips, reverse, helicopters in both directions as well as all sorts of diagonal flips in between.  Every time you release the club,  ALL points on the club (except for its exact midpoint) will spin in the same circle, somewhat like concentric rings or ripples from a rock.

       Now take a ring.  Position somewhere between a regular throw and a perfect pancake so that it is being held diagonal.  Now throw it straight up like you're trying to do a normal pancake and experience why rings have the most chaotic potential:


       That's right - rings are the hardest prop to juggle because they have the potential to experience the most chaotic flight path.  Wobbles are almost never attempted by ring jugglers on purpose but if they occur, a ring will be the most chaotic of all three props to catch with any sort of logical calculation.  In a well-executed wobble, many points on the circle are going back and forth as well as rotating.  Forget about concentric circles here - the points are doing a sort of mish-mash of intersecting ellipses.

        Now of course I still maintain that rings are easier to juggle than clubs from a cascade perspective.  Assuming you throw the rings "normally", you don't have to worry about spin whereas the easiest way to throw clubs is WITH spin.  So under normal cascade circumstances, we could say that rings are easier.

        But from a nerdy scientific geometrical standpoint, rings are much harder because they have the potential to be far less predictable in their flight path than clubs. 

        So next time someone asks you why you don't juggle rings, just tell them that "rings have too much chaotic potential."  I take no responsibility for the response you get.

Posted by Michael at 5:13 PM EDT
Updated: Sun, Jun 29 2008 6:35 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Mon, Jun 30 2008 - 12:11 AM EDT

Name: "Richard Reeses Kohut"
Home Page:

I'm not so sure about that.  I'm definitely not disagreeing with your whole "chaotic potential" / wobble effect theory, but I have a different idea as to why "rings suck".  They are a boring prop to audiences and to the unimaginative.

 Take a club, any throw whether it be a helicopter, reverse, single, flat, or double are not that much different in how hard they are.  They're all difficult throws to make, and there's no huge difference between them (it's not easier to do a 4 club cascade than 3 club helicopters, to illustrate my point.  Don't take that literally)

 Now switch to the ring.  A standard vertical throw with a ring is very easy once you figure out controlling the forward/backward aim.  However, any other throw with a ring is LUDICROUSLY hard.  Pancakes, flats, intentional wobbles, they're all twice the difficulty of the standard throw.  I can run a 6 ring fountain, but I can still not even qualify 3 ring flats, or 4 ring cakes.

That makes them boring, because most jugglers are turned away by how hard anything other than a standard throw is with a ring.  And unlike balls which you can make any kind of body throws or strange manner of catches and throws with (including siteswaps), rings aren't exactly the best prop for making "strange" throws with.  So most jugglers will only juggle rings with the standard throws, at least that's what I get when I see people juggling rings almost anywhere.  Not being able to do any sort of "strange" throws and only one type of throw, leaves a lot of jugglers kind of bored and confused as to what to do with them besides go for numbers, pirouettes, and basic patterns.  And that's MY theory, who knows if it's true or not.

Mon, Jun 30 2008 - 9:26 AM EDT

Name: "Bethany"
Home Page:

Very cool post.  I like it. :)

Mon, Jun 30 2008 - 8:08 PM EDT

Name: insanejuggler
Home Page:

Thanks for the comment Richard. I'm not sure if I agree with everything you said, but it was interesting to hear your theories. I know that 4 ring cakes might be easier for you than the 6 ring fountain, but to me that's what makes rings so great. Once you learn to pancake, it's like having two props in one!

Sun, Oct 5 2008 - 6:32 PM EDT

Name: "louis"

i agree with insanejuggler  about  the  pancake

i am a  1  year  juggler but  sice  i started  training  the  ring  pancake

a new world  is  opened


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