Anti-Social Passing: Stealing Clubs from Passers

two stick figures passing a club in stop-action


These passing steals and take-aways are generally done when two people are passing clubs and a third person comes along and steals a club that was being passed. The third person then throws (or hands) a club back into the passing pattern such that the passing can resume as though uninterrupted. It has been pointed out that this is actually borrowing a club, but we'll continue to use the somewhat pejorative term "stealing".

Passing steals and take-aways can be quite fun and entertaining. Many of these moves can be accomplished by inexperienced or even non-jugglers, but there are also moves which can take years to perfect. The passers may appear to be doing a simple 4-count (every others) but this appearance is deceptive. To succeed at these moves, it is necessary to have solid club passers that are able to adjust to incoming clubs from odd directions and timings, pass wide (or sometimes high) to avoid hitting somebody in the middle), or learn/unlearn habits (whether to 'vamp' or 'hold' when short a club, for instance).

For descriptive purposes, we will call the two passers "North" and "South", at those locations on a compass, and facing each other (usually) at a distance of about 7-8 feet (Measure this sometime?), and we will assume they are doing a standard right-handed 4-count unless otherwise noted. "Amy", and later "Bob", will be the people who are doing the steals and take-aways.

Note that when we talk about North and South, we really mean North and South (true, not magnetic). This Feng Shui alignment guarantees pleasing results for all involved. If you line up in some random orientation, please do not complain to us that these tricks do not work!


a throw of a club from one passer to another.
a throw of a club that does not go from one passer to another.
steal (of various locations/timings)
Removing a club from a passing pattern (even temporarily) so that it is no longer moving on its own or under control of a passer..
(in 'extra club' steals, making sure extra club is in correct position for next move)
handback(of various flavors)
Putting a club back into the hand of one of the passers.
handle steal
taking a pass such that the stealer is holding the handle (as if to juggle the club)
bulb/body steal
taking a pass such that the stealer is holding the fat/body of the club.

Don't-throw rules

When doing 4-count, do not pass if you have two clubs. Don't self-throw with two clubs until an incoming club has been identified on its way to your hand.

How to be a passer

The North and South positions are actually quite important. The passers are required to throw good, consistent passes, on time, and in such a way as to avoid Amy and friends in the middle.

Steal locations and technique

The diagram above shows a club in stop-action as it is passed from left to right across the image. The labels show the general regions for steals which we will use in further discussions.

normal rotation, hand above/below, etc.

Locations 1 and 4 are for bulb steals. Location 4 is hardly ever used -- it could be a source of interesting new flair. In location 1, the stealer makes contact with the club more or less as it is coming out of the hand of the passer. There is now maximum time before the club will be 'missed' by the intended recipient of the pass, thus allowing an easy replacement/handoff.

Locations 2, 3, and 5 will yield handle steals. Location 3 is hardly ever used. For a location 2 steal, the stealer anticipates the release point & path of the path, and grabs/lifts/pulls the club. For a location 5 steal, the stealer simply grabs the club in front of its intended recipient.

All of these steals take hand-eye coordination, which comes with practice. The easiest for a club passer is probably location 5 (though they'll probably be stealing right-handed... and if you only pass right-handed, you are only used to catching passes with your left hand!)

Though hand-eye coordination is helpful, you would be surprised how successful you can be. See (to be written) description on "aiding the new club stealer".

Handback techniques

The handback we won't discuss further is when you toss the club to one of the passers, with or without spin, usually on a passing beat to fill the gap. This is a valid way to replace a club, but it a) doesn't require more description, and b) isn't a 'handback'.

Now, on to the other (real) types. It seems that there are two basic orientations for a club you are returning to a passer. The first is vertical, handle down. You should be holding the body (or at least very high on the handle) and put the club about where the passer would expect to catch a pass. The pass is what you are imitating with this placement. It needs a name.

The other basic orientation is the horizontal club, with the handle (knob) facing the passer who will be receiving the club. You should be holding the body, and there are many ways to get the club into the passer's hand. Among them are to

  1. swing the club up from below, and meet the passer's downturned hand somewhere around normal for a self catch/throw.
  2. swing the club down from above, more closely imitating the catch of a self throw.
  3. get the club near the passer's hand, early enough that the passer can see it and reach for it if necessary.
For normal purposes, the horizontal club can be in a north-south orientation, or the club's body can be pointed out from the passers.

Simple stuff

These are good warm-ups of some of the basic skills that will be needed for the complex stuff.
• Walk through
This is the simple move where Amy walks through North and South's pattern without disturbing it. While this move is simple, it does require understanding the timing of the 4-count and faith/bravery/stupidity that the passers will not club you. In truth, with good passers, they will avoid you and it would be quite safe to mis-time it or walk through blindfolded. The time to start the walk-through is just after a club has passed by from one passer to the other.
• Stop in the middle
Amy starts to walk through the pattern but stops in the middle. On this and most of these moves, it is important for passers to throw wide of Amy. Amy should be able to move and turn around comfortably within the pattern.
• Catching/Passing exercise (for non-jugglers)
"North" has three clubs, Amy has one club, South takes a break. North passes with Amy. Amy never juggles but throws to North on the 4-count and catches North's pass.

Basic Steals

Doing the easy stuff, some of the building blocks and more skills.
• Basic Inside Steal
Amy walks into the middle of the pattern and stops. Amy turns to face North. As North throws to South, Amy reaches up and catches North's throw with left hand (location 2). South stops juggling (with one club in each hand). As North makes the next throw to South (4 counts later, wide of Amy), Amy tosses a club to North's catching hand. South resumes juggling while catching North's throw.
• Basic Outside Steal
Amy stands to the left (and slightly forward) of South. As North throws to South, Amy reaches up and catches North's throw with the right hand (location 2). South stops juggling (with one club in each hand). Amy walks through the North/South pattern and throws club to North as North throws next club to South. South resumes passing.
• Handoff instead of Throw
Instead of throwing the club back to North, hand it to North. When handing the club, do it in a smooth continuous motion toward where a club would normally caught. Do not change directions to adjust (let the passer come to the club). (The handoff can come from above or below...)

Self Steals

We are not talking about stealing a club from yourself, rather that you will be stealing a self throw of one of the passers.
• Throw 2 Steal
If we number the throws in the passers' 4-count 1,2,3,4, where "1" is the right-handed throw to the other passer, then throw "2" is the next self throw from the left hand. Amy stands to North's right and then steals North's "2" throw just before it lands in North's right hand. Now throw it immediately to South (as North would have). Alternately, walk it across and hand it to South.
• Throw 3 Steal
A stands to North's left. Amy then steals North's "3" throws (the right-handed self throw) just before it lands in the left hand. A now walks behind North, to North's right side and either throws or walks the club to South. Note: Amy will throw a club to South between Amy's steal and Amy's giving it to South. North can then juggle and "pass the hole" as Amy throws to South.

Extra Club

• Outside exchange
A stands in between North and South, just to the west of the pattern, and faces East (into the pattern). At the same time as North passes to South, Amy passes to South the extra club from her left hand. Amy then steals North's pass with her right hand before it can reach South. Some people steal-then-throw, requiring a quicker pass to South. This can mean that South has less time to react to the incoming toss, which may arrive at an unusual angle, height, orientation, etc. Split this into variations ... where to catch, how to replace, etc.
• Inside exchange
Amy stands in the middle of the pattern between North and South, facing East. Amy is therefore inside the pattern, facing out (clubs are going in front and back). At the same time as South passes to North, Amy passes to North the extra club from his right hand. Amy then steals South pass with his left hand before it can reach North. (See previous on timing)
• Handoff exchange instead of Throw
Both of these extra club moves can be done by handing the extra club to South immediately after stealing the pass.

Jazz it up

By alternating the types of steals and replaces, one can get very creative. By standing right in the middle of North's pass to South, Amy can steal with either hand. She can then hand the club in from the the top, the bottom or the side. She can toss the club in behind the back, under the leg, from a kick up, .... She can also place the deliver the club a beat late to South's right hand. The timing on this is the same as a right-to-right double.

• Assembly Line
• Blind Steal
Amy faces North, steals pass from South with right hand which is below waist and behind her. This takes cooperation (targeting and a fairly soft throw) by South.
• Wally Walk (wimpy version)
• Wally Walk (full version)

Two Stealers

• Handback
Amy steals North's pass while Bob steals South's pass (location 2?). Then Amy and Bob walk through the pattern and immediately hand the pass back to the juggler from whom they stole it. Note: both Amy and Bob must do this at the same time. To time this, say "next" as a pass is made, and then steal the next pass
• Pistons
Amy and Bob both do the outside exchanges, then immediately they hand the stolen club from their right hand to the other stealer's left hand. It is also possible for A and B to swap places while handing across the clubs. (( some discussion of body vs. handle loads/reloads & passes might be useful in many/all of these descriptions... if these pages are to be 'standalone' and not just memory aids ))
• Windmills
A and B do outside exchanges, using a straight-armed overhand 270° motion to deliver the club to the other passer. They then do a similar motion to exchange the newly-stolen club with the other stealer (thus reloading).

Swapping the Ends

• Basic swap
Amy stands to South's left. Amy then takes the pass in a late steal and keeps it. South then moves into the middle and hands North a club on the next pass.
• Receding Forest Solution aka Receding Forest Problem
• Steal and Turn
• Wally Walk Whirl
• No, You take it

2-count steals

• 2-count steals
When the passers are doing a 2-count, vamping/passing/juggling the hole is preferred when a club is taken, instead of the 4-count "rule" of stopping when down to two clubs. All of the basic moves still work in a two count, i.e. inside/ouside steals and exchanges.
• Walk Behind
Amy steals North's pass and walks north. Amy then walks behind North and places the club in North's left hand just as the hole would arrive.
• Hot Potato
Amy and Bob are both outside the pattern facing each other. Amy steals North's pass and immeadiately tosses it to Bob (before the next pass). Bob then tosses the club right back to Amy right after the next pass. Amy in turn, tosses the club back to Bob after the next pass. Bob now quickly hands the club to North (filling the hole). Once you get this down, both Amy and Bob can steal and toss at the same time. The rule we use is that when Amy and Bob both are tossing clubs, they should go to the right.
• Hi Five
Amy steals North's pass and runs north. At the same time Bob steals South's pass and runs south. Amy runs behind North while moving the club from her right to her left hand. Bob does the same behind South. Now, both Amy and Bob run through the pattern (to the left of the other), while giving a "Hi Five" with their right hands. Then Amy hands the club to South (and Bob to North). Note: Amy and Bob can safely run through the pattern because they will be doing it as the holes are being passed.
• 7 clubs 2-count (doubles)
It turns out that stealing out of a 7 club pattern is in many ways easier than stealing from the normal 6 club 2 count. The standard steal is to steal North's pass early and then hand it to South as it would normally arrive. Because they are doubles, there is a lot of time to do this.

Further Topics

There are many un(der)explored and un(der)documented areas. Here are a few:
• Left-handed 4- or 2-count Steals
Once you get accustomed to avoiding, stealing, and replacing clubs in the right-handed version, you will find yourself in quite a mind-bending exercise trying to do it in the mirror, so to speak. It is rather like crossing the street in a strange country, one where the cars are driven on the wrong side of the road.
• 3-count steals
Even more mind-bending. The possibilities for places to steal from and put back are much wider (think of 'random' 3-count passing), but while learning, the possibility of getting struck by a club is much greater, as is the likelihood of causing two clubs to arrive at the same hand at the same time...
• 1-count steals
Wow. Probably like the previous stuff, only more so? Try it and let us know!

As we get time, expect us to flesh out descriptions, variations, and other possibilities of the topics discussed on this page.

• Steals in other arrangements
So, you have four people who are bored with all of the patterns they do, and don't know what to do... Get three of them doing outside (or inside) triangles in a 4-count. Have the fourth person stand inside (or outside!) and steal a pass...

It is possible, from the inside, to get a nice sequence of continuous steals going with or without an extra club, working around the triangle... or taking the first club and using for the 'extra' club in subsequent steals (move in the opposite direction of the passed clubs... that is, go clockwise for outside triangles. Steal pass, move, steal pass, replace with club 1, move, steal pass, replace with club 2, etc.). It should be possible to get two or three people in the triangle... stealing/moving, or stealing/handing to other stealer/replacing, or ...

From the outside, one can steal and run, steal and run, round and round the triangle.

Some of this info was originally compiled/created for the workshop on steals at the 2002 IJA Festival.
Last updated: 20 May 2004. Part of the "Passing Wisdom" of the Aerial Mirage Jugglers
Copyright 2003-2004 Dave? Ron? Aerial Mirage?
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