Thursday, September 25, 2008

Circus School Dividends

My morning at Circus School had an after-effect.

(Well, I'm looking for trapeze places in LA -- there are a few, but that's not the immediate after-effect.)

The immediate after-effect is that I bought some replacement juggling balls when I was there.  (My old juggling balls -- juggling bean-bag-balls actually -- had deflated from age and lack of use.)  My old juggling skills had similarly deteriorated.  I was doing that over-throwing thing where I had to walk to keep up with my juggling.  And I could barely make six throws before they got too far ahead of me.

Six throws, by the way, is how my old juggling book technically defined a "juggle."  Because if you make six throws, the balls end up exactly where they started, and you've completed a circuit.  (Three balls, two hands -- you do the math.)  (It called three throws a "jug.")  Anyway, because of this, I consider six throws (and catches, obviously) actually juggling, while less than six is still "working on it."

So, since I've been back, I've practiced a bit.  (On those days when I don't do DDR for my exercise.)  First day, I had a lot of chasing balls around the room, but once hit 12 throws.  (I still think in multiples of 6.)  Next time (a few days later), I hit 12 a bit more and got 24 once or twice.

Today, I hit 36 a couple times, while 24 was hit multiple times, and 12 was downright commonplace.  I think this legitimately counts as actually juggling again.  Not to mention, the overthrowing has gone way down -- when hitting 36, I might take one or two steps, but generally stay in place.  Go me.

I am again (well, I say again, but you would have to have been reading me for, like, five years to have read it before) amazed at how quickly the body can pick up a skill through repetition.  (Yes, I know, this was re-learning rather than learning, but it still holds.)  I mean, I totally sucked at P.E. all through school, and never really saw any improvement in my abilities except what would naturally come with getting older.  But, basically, when we started the two-week unit on tennis, my serves would be about as crappy on Day 10 as they were on Day 1.  But now, with juggling (and, five years ago, with figure skating), I practice something and I get better.  And what's really remarkable about this is that I don't see anything mental to it.  Which is to say, I don't catch myself consciously thinking, "hey, if you turn your hand a little, you won't be throwing way the hell over there."  But some part of my brain -- the part below conscious decisionmaking -- is able to make these miniscule adjustments just from practicing (and, apparently, doing it wrong) long enough.

And since I never really experienced this growing up, I still find it astonishing.

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