Learn a Cool Trick From a High-Level Circus Performer

On a sunny afternoon in June, my friend Andrew and I met up with Emmet Louis, an ex Circus Performer turned coach, to learn about object manipulation and other interesting skills.

Emmet watched us fumble as we tried to perform a simple exercise:

  • Hold a ball in one hand,
  • hold your other hand out,
  • without moving the empty hand, throw the ball from one hand to the other.

You can make this exercise as complicated as you’d like by choosing where to place the receiving hand (e.g. in front of your waist vs. behind your head)

Here is what happens to most people (both Andrew and I fell into this trap):

  • Your first throw either flies past your hand or falls short:

shortlong750

  • You then use micro adjustments to inch your way closer to your target: If you threw too far, you’ll throw slightly softer on the next one, and so on, until your reach your hand:

incrementalchanges750
Luckily, Emmet stopped us before we wasted our entire session creeping towards a bullseye.

He shared the secret master jugglers all know:

Don’t adjust, OVERCOMPENSATE.

Until you reach basic accuracy, micro-adjustments are a waste of time. You should instead try and overcompensate.

What does overcompensating actually mean?

Let’s say your ball didn’t go far enough on your first try. On your next throw, you should aim behind your hand.

overcompensate750

As we changed our approach to the more counter-intuitive overcompensation, our accuracy suddenly skyrocketed.

Emmet soon moved us on to 3-ball juggling.

To find balance, you must go past it.

Let’s use an analogy to help us understand the power of overcompensation.

How do you find the balance point of an unfamiliar object?

gravityglue

 

If you take a wild guess, miss, and try to correct little by little, you’re wasting your time (As you would throwing the ball closer and closer to your other hand).

Instead, you should try and overshoot the balance point as quickly as possible. This will create a range that you can reduce by repeating the same process.


Here’s a visual example of overshooting the balance point.

Can you benefit from this technique elsewhere?

Absolutely. I apply it in all kinds of situations.

  • I’ve written about my use of a similar approach to skyrocket the speed at which I learned how to Kitesurf.
  • I infuse overcompensation techniques in many areas of my guitar course.
  • If I’m learning a song, I’ll always explore extremes (singing very loudly, softly, with an accent, etc.) to find where the right balance is.

How about you?
Have you ever used this?

Are you interested in learning guitar?

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