Mills Mess

The three ball trick. A very elegant pattern where the arms cross & uncross continuously. It looks complicated but is very simple once you know how. Once you understand which throw goes where the pattern is really easy to learn because it looks & feels so good you'll just want to juggle it all the time!

There are a few different ways to learn this trick, I have three different ways in this tutorial, none are really any better or easier than any other. Also included are some general tips & tips on juggling this pattern with different catches.

General Tips

Before you start learning the pattern with any method, let's start with some general tips.

Only cross your arms as far as you have to. Cross your arms & hold the bottom of your upper arms with your hands so that your little fingers are touching your elbows. Now let go of your elbows without moving your arms. This is as far as you have to cross. If you cross closer to your wrists you will be forced to juggle a very small & tight pattern (which does look good but isn't the easiest way to learn the pattern), cross higher up & your elbows will get in the way as you cross & uncross your arms.

In Mills Mess each hand throws alternately & every ball is caught by the opposite hand that threw it.

There are three basic throws:

If you are unfamiliar with the back toss throw it is well worth picking up one ball & practising it on its own.

Take one ball, cross your hands over so that the hand on top is the one holding the ball. The ball should be held just in front of the opposite elbow. Throw it in an arc so that it would land in your empty hand. While it is in the air uncross & recross your arms the other way before catching the ball in the opposite hand that threw it.

Throughout the pattern, each different throw is made with the same ball each time, so if you have three different coloured balls you can easily keep track of which throw to make next. It helps to concentrate your attention on the ball you have most difficulty with.

Step by Step

Take three balls, two in one hand & one in the other, cross your arms so that the hand holding two is on the bottom.

Begin with the hand on the bottom & throw one ball straight up to eye level. That's it for now, just throw it up & catch it.

Next, throw straight up again, then as the first ball peaks, throw the ball in the hand on top from the point just in front of the opposite arm's elbow to a point in front of the same arm's elbow, it should peak at the same height as the first ball. As you do so uncross your arms. Catch both balls in the opposite hand from which you started in the same order that the balls were thrown.

Recross your hands again so that the hand holding two is on the bottom again. If you started with the left hand on top you should now have it on the bottom. Do the same again but on the other side. Throw one ball straight up, as it peaks, throw from the hand on top, uncross your hands & catch both balls.

Keep practising this step for a while, be sure to work on both sides.

When you're comfortable with that, put in a third throw. Start as before: arms crossed, two in one hand on the bottom, one ball in the other hand on top. Throw from the bottom straight up, wait for it to peak before throwing with the hand on top, from the opposite elbow back to the same side, uncross your arms as you make the throw. Catch the first ball with the hand that was on top. When the second ball peaks, throw the third ball as an Over the top throw. Then recross your arms the opposite way from which you started, carrying the first ball underneath the other arm as you do so. Catch the second & third balls with the hand on top.

Do exactly the same starting on the other side. Practise this step to death.

For the continuous pattern begin the previous step, but as you throw the third ball (the over the top throw) don't throw it all the way to the other side. Instead throw it so that it will fall between your two crossed arms. When it peaks, throw the ball in the hand on the bottom straight up & on the outside of the ball thrown over the top then catch the third ball in the lower hand. You are now in the starting position on the other side having made the first throw of the sequence.

Now just keep going.

The Spiral Way

This method requires you to be able to juggle a Spiral both clockwise & anticlockwise. It will also help if you have one ball that is a different colour from the rest.

Start by juggling a Spiral pattern, any direction you want. Pick a ball, throw it Under the Arm as normal so that it flies to the opposite side from which you throw it & catch it as normal. But don't move your arm out of the way, just leave your arm crossed over the other. Make the next underarm throw so that the ball goes straight up & will land on the same side, catch the last Spiral throw under the arm.

As the ball thrown under the arm peaks throw the chosen ball from the hand that is currently on top from the point just in front of the opposite elbow over to a point in front of the same arm's elbow. Uncross your arms as you make the back toss & with the same hand catch the straight underarm throw. Then throw the next ball as an over the top throw & continue with a Spiral in the opposite direction.

Work on switching directions on both sides. When you can easily switch directions both ways, reduce the number of throws between changes. When you can change directions every third throw, so that the same ball is being thrown under the arm each time you are doing Mills Mess.

The Underarm Catch & Throw Way

Juggle a cascade & throw one ball straight up on the outside, with the other hand reach under the arm that threw it to make an Underarm Catch. Carry it back to the correct side & resume a cascade.

Do the same again, but this time instead of throwing before reaching to the other side to make the underarm catch, carry the ball & make an Under arm Throw & then make the underarm catch. This is basically an exchange of two balls under the arm. Practise this move on both sides.

When you can do that, juggle a cascade & make an underarm exchange on one side & then the other, keep going & gradually reduce the number of cascade throws you make between exchanges. When you can do continuous exchanges so that the same ball is thrown under the arm each time then you are performing Mills Mess.

Mills Mess with special catches

The standard pattern can also be juggled with Claw, Fork & Penguin catches.

When Clawing, keep your elbows up high & make all throws using flicks of your wrists, if you try to throw using your arms when they are crossed over you will end up pushing one arm out of the way.

When Fork catching, again keep your elbows high & throw from your wrists. Use your forearms to really cushion each ball into the catch. Keep your middle finger down as far as you can to make a really deep fork & really grip each ball between your ring & index fingers. Mills Mess requires quite a bit of sideways carrying before two of the three types of throw, a good grip will stop a ball from falling off the back of your hand.

When Penguining (it is now a word) lean your upper body & hunch your shoulders forward so that you can look down on the pattern. Don't throw the back toss all the way to the other side, there is only so far that you can reach across your body & still comfortably make a penguin catch.

There are loads of variations of Mills Mess, go back to the List of Tutorials & click on any link containing the word 'Mess'.