How to use a Fushigi Ball
Make a ball appear weightless with the art of Contact Juggling
If you've seen the Fushigi ball commercials on TV you may be wondering how they make the ball appear weightless like that. This lens will teach you the basics of the art of Contact Juggling. We'll explore what sort of ball to use, and some great tutorials created by members of the Contact Juggling community.
First things first...
There is NO mechanism inside the ball
Let's get the myth out of the way immediately. There is no mechanism inside the ball. No liquid, no gyroscope, no electricity, no magnets, no motors, no magic. Fushigi is just a ball and nothing more. The illusion of weightlessness is created using an art form called "Contact Juggling" that's been around for more than three decades. It was pioneered by the perfomer Michael Moschen in the 80's.
You can do it with any ball that has a smooth surface with no noticeable tell marks on it.
Yep, you heard me right, you don't necessarily need a Fushigi brand ball to learn to Contact Juggle. In fact, I wouldn't recommend one at all for beginners... there are safer, more affordable options, but we'll get to that later.
In the meantime, here's Dawn from the Ministry of Manipulation, explaining why a Fushigi Ball is like an orange...
Types of contact juggling
A quick bit of theory...
You don't have to read this bit, but it might help.
Contact juggling comes in a variety of different forms. All the forms look different and create different illusions. They aren't mutually exclusive either, you can master one of them or all of them, and you can mix them together at your leisure. In fact, innovation is deeply encouraged in the contact juggling community. Maybe you will be the person who invents the next big trend?
Body rolling is where the ball is moved from one point on your body to another. Yep it's that simple... in theory at least. There are certain points on your body where it is easier to balance a ball than others. These are called "stall points". The obvious stall point you already know is you palm. Since you were a child you have practiced an become adept at controlling objects in your palm. But contact jugglers open up a host of other stall points too - the back of the hand (aka the cradle), the inner elbow, the outer elbow, the temples, the forehead, the top of the head etc.
Between each of the stall points is an almost limitless number of possible "paths". Bodyrolling is the art of rolling ball smoothly and seamlessly along these paths between stall points.
If you want to get really nit picky, your entire body is just one big path and there aren't really any such thing as stall points, but that's really advanced and not very useful for beginning.
Here's a great example of Bodyrolling...
Isolation is the art of keeping the ball in a fixed position in space while moving the hands and arms (or if you're really good, other body parts) around it. Isolation creates the strongest illusions and usually the best crowd reactions, but it also requires the most careful attention to detail and hours spent looking in a mirror trying to iron out the tiny bumps in your movements.
Here's Jago doing some fantastic isolation stuff with two balls (note, there's body rolling in this video too, but look for the moments where the ball looks like its fixed in space...)
Multiball combines aspects of rolling and isolation but is also an art completely unto itself. It is one of the most therapeutic and beautiful forms of contact juggling.
Here's Moon doing some amazing multiball...
So what ball should I use?
Making the right choice...
My general rule is that you can start with any ball that has a little bit of weight and a nice feel to it... but pretty soon you'll want to get hold of a ball that is smooth(ish) with no logos or what contact jugglers call "tell marks" on it. Contact juggling exploits the featureless or reflective properties of the balls surface to create the illusion of weightlessness, so you'll want a ball that's as pristine and spherical as possible.
Stay away from light balls, they'll make everything much more difficult to learn. Avoid those air filled kids balls, foam balls, or tennis balls. But you might be able to start out with a pool cue ball, a lacrosse ball, a mini basketball, or as Dawn pointed out - an orange.
The basic balls are as follows:
You can get these from a lot of online juggling vendors for around $10-15 (that's right cheaper than a Fushigi ball). They are easily the best ball for learning. They are just the right weight, smooth and featureless except for a nearly invisible seam, and best of all they won't break everything in your house when you drop them. The balls made by Dube, Mr. Babache, or Play are the most well known. You're probably best starting off with a 76mm for kids or those with smaller hands or a 100mm for adults.
Acrylics are the most beautiful of all contact juggling balls. They can really create a magical effect and are the balls that most professional use. However, they have a few negative aspects -- First, they are expensive ($40 or more for a 100mm); second, they are very heavy and if dropped will damage things like pets or small children; third, they scuff up pretty easily if you drop them a lot; and most importantly if left in the sun they are a FIRE HAZARD. As a result I don't recommend you get an acrylic until you are at least a few months into contact juggling.
Fushigi balls are acrylics (see above) and come with all the downfalls of regular acrylics except the fire hazard one. The reason Fushigi balls are not fire hazards is that they have a chrome center and hence no focal point for the sun's rays. In my opinion, Fushigi balls are somewhat lower quality and not as pretty as regular acrylics.
These are basically stageballs with a light source inside. They look very cool, but are also kind of expensive.
Sil-x balls are almost identical to regular stageballs except they are half filled with silicon fluid. This makes them just a touch heavier and a bit more stable when you're rolling them up and down your arms. They are a great beginners ball.
There are plenty of other kinds of balls you can use too but these are the main ones... in the following videos you can get further information:
Okay I got a ball, now what?
The most important rules
So you're holding your new ball and you really, really want to do something with it. Not so fast there cowboy (or girl). There's a few basic rules to go over first...
1) Wear some shoes, especially if you're using an acrylic or a Fushigi. You can easily break a toe.
2) Make sure you are well away from small children, pets, televisions, aquariums, windows, light fixtures and anything else that can break easily.
3) This bears repeating... Never EVER put an acrylic ball in direct sunlight. It will start a fire quicker than you could believe.
4) Stretch before you practice. Injuries are more common in contact juggling than you might think.
And now some other helpful suggestions... not rules per se but just solid advice...
1) There is no fast way to get good at contact juggling. You must put in many hours, days and months of practice. The journey teaches great patience. Stick at those moves no matter how hard they first seem... you'll be amazed at what's possible.
2) Do everything as slowly as you possible can. The biggest flaw beginners make is usually moving too fast. Watch the videos on Youtube of the professionals and notice how smoothly and slowly they are moving.
3) Use a mirror or video yourself... it's vital to see yourself from your audiences point of view.
4) Make sure you are practicing both sides of your body equally. A common beginners tendency is favor one side of the body over the other (usually your dominant hand).
Your first trick
There's a lot of debate about which move to start with, but I think the Enigma is the perfect place to begin. It's relatively easy because you're using both hands (so less drops and fumbles will be involved), but at the same time, when polished and perfected it creates a wonderful "wow" factor with an audience.
Rather than try to explain it in writing... I'll let some of the best tutorial videos show you how...
Your second trick
The Butterfly is one of the most basic moves in contact juggling but also one of the most effective for the illusion it creates. It will take a little work to master this one but a few solid hours of practice should put you well on your way to amazing your friends with it.
Where do you go from here?
contactjuggling.org, that's where...
Now you've got a good grounding in the basics and you probably have practiced a couple of tricks, the gates are wide open for you. There is a huge, worldwide community of contact jugglers online at www.contactjuggling.org. Why not head over there and say hello. They will offer you sound advice and support as you continue your contact juggling journey.