1. Break it down
Every move in prop manipulation can be broken down into a series of simpler moves. For example, if you’re working on a trick that requires movements with both hands, try one hand at a time until the movements feel ingrained in muscle memory. Then try bringing the two halves together.
2. Watch a tutorial
Since the birth of YouTube there’s been an explosion in the quality and availability of tutorials. Get clear instruction streaming right to your computer screen. If you find that tutorials are a really effective way for you to learn, you might consider looking into online classes.
3. Check out a demo
Perhaps the move you’re working on doesn’t have a tutorial or the ones you found are unclear. It helps to find a video where the move is being executed expertly and comparing the movements to your own. Use a mirror to help Identify what you are doing differently from the video.
4. Slow Mo
Many online video players including the one on Juggling.tv have a slow motion toggle. Slow down the movement to see the intricacies of each element in the trick. A good visial understanding will help you replicate it.
5. Watch Yourself
Both mirrors and video can be useful for helping you connect the way a movement looks and the why it feels. This is especially important in isolation work. My personal favorite while traveling is to use the isight camera on my Mac or when playing outside, the reflection in glass doors and windows. Your shadow on a sunny day makes a great mirror as well.
6. Mime it
If you can’t seem to get the move with your prop in motion, set it aside and walking through the move. Miming the movement without the prop will activate your muscle memory. The motion will feel more intuitive once the prop is reintroduced.
7. Visualize it
The ability to imagine scenarios that have not yet happened is one of the things that make human beings unique. When you imagine an experience, it lights up many of the same areas of your brain that are active when you actually engaged in the activity. Imagine getting a bad paper cut; you cringed a little, and this is because imagining the experience is real to parts of your mind.
Visualization often used in gymnastics. Athletes spend part of their training imagining the routine and how each step feels. Routinely walking though troublesome moves in your mind will allow you to take advantage of this mental hack. You can read more about the power of visualization by visiting this link.
8. Be a puppet
If you have access to someone who knows the move, ask them to “manipulate” your body through the steps of the trick. Moving through the trick’s pattern activates your muscle memory. When on your own with your toys your body will have a much easier time hitting those pre-set targets. Knowing how your body should move makes it’s easier to feel what you are doing incorrectly.
9. Sleep on it
As we uncover the secrets of the brain, neuroscientists discover that sleep is crutial to memory and learning. Sleep allows your brain to process the experiences of the day during through “Non-REM sleep”. So while your eyes are closed and you’re resting, parts of your brain that were lit up during your attempt to nail the behind the back weave will be active. As a result you learn while you sleep.
On this note it’s important to get a good night sleep as often as you can just as a part of healthy living. Read more here.
10. Change toys
Most prop manipulators play with multiple toys. Since many moves can be done with more than one prop, if you are stuck on a particular move, why not try with a more familiar prop. For example, you might find that the corkscrew in hooping becomes easier once you walk through the move with poi. Also try a bigger hoop, a shorter set of poi or heavier balls. Switch it up and get a fresh perspective.
We all hit a wall eventually. It’s easy to stick to the moves you know and fall into a lazy pattern when moves that seem impossible dampen your spirits. Stop, breathe and remember to celebrate all the incremental improvements. Good luck.