I got interested in juggling in my early teens through a do-it-yourself television program called Hobbythek, which aired a 15 minute clip about learning the basic three ball cascade. I memorized all important steps, and the next summer (several months later) I started practising in my parents' garden. In the beginning, the balls dropped so frequently that I occasionally juggled on my knees, so I didn't have to bend down to fetch the balls. My first set of balls consisted of old tennis balls, stuffed with rice to make them heavier (as suggested in the TV program). By the end of that summer, I was able to juggle a stable three ball cascade plus some easy tricks (Over the Top, Two in One Hand).
Over the next few years, I continued to practise in the garden, improving my skills and learning more tricks from a book . I also got real juggling balls (suede leather beanbags), and later ordered more juggling items like rings and clubs. As you can see in the photo, I've acquired quite a complete collection of juggling props over the years!
During a weekend juggling course by the local Volkshochschule (adult education college), I made my first awkward steps on a unicycle, and subsequently bought one for myself. The following summers - guess what - I alternated between juggling in the garden and struggling with the unicycle at the parking lot in front of my parents' house. That parking lot was very advantageous, because on Sundays there were almost no cars, and a surrounding metal fence for school buses provided something to cling to.
I didn't do much juggling during my military service and studies; fortunately, juggling is like cycling or swimming: you do not lose the skill, it only becomes more ponderous over time. Nonetheless, on three occasions I even presented my juggling skills to the public: First time at an event for pupils at HP Education, together with two other jugglers, and lots of my colleagues posing as magicians, fortune-tellers, etc. Then, on two subsequent diploma balls; just me, supported by my girlfriend of that time, who possessed some basic juggling skills, too. Actually, the most difficult thing about being alone on the stage is that you have to talk to the audience! It's utterly boring to wordlessly perform one trick after the other (except when you're able to do some really spectacular tricks like juggling with 6+ balls or with chain saws). You have to tell a story, some jokes, etc. Actually, rather simple tricks like the Machine can make quite an impression when combined with a funny story ("I used to work at the assembly line...). If the audience is friendly, they will applaud after every failure; I used to worry most about these awkward silences after dropping a ball.
Currently I am trying to intensify my juggling routine again. You can do it almost everywhere, from a few minutes to several hours, and it provides a lot of fun and relaxation. Especially in the office, it's an excellent alternation to sitting statically at the keyboard, and provides balance to both mind and spine. I can only confirm what's written almost everywhere: you'll get the most out of it by practising regularly; it's much more efficient to spend a few minutes several times a day than forcing progress in a long session once a week!
It's an interesting fact that many software developers are able to juggle; there seems to be a common fascination of the simple underlying mechanism that is able to produce a great abundance of different routines which in turn are made up of only a few basic patterns (this is similar to software!) Also see this statement taken from the Hacker Jargon lexicon:
... Hacker sports are almost always primarily self-competitive ones involving concentration, stamina, and micromotor skills...
Another cool thing I haven't mentioned so far is passing, i.e. juggling with two or more people, who exchange balls or clubs according to an abundance of passing patterns (lots of them can be found in ). In summer, you'll often find other jugglers at the city park or other central venues (in Stuttgart, it's the kleiner Schloßplatz). See some photos of me club juggling and passing.
Wanna see more of my juggling? Here are some photos and a small animation made with glowing balls.
Ingo Karkat, Sep-2002; last update 27-Aug-2006