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This is a brief FAQ on the art of double devil sticking using the 'X' pattern.
It is rarely seen, but well worth learning.
This FAQ is an overview, focusing on points which I have found to be of most value in double sticking.
There are two main patterns for double sticking; one is to keep them going as 'propellors' i.e. each Devil Stick is kept aloft by it's own handstick rotating in a flat plane in front of the body like a propellor.
The other is an extension of the basic 'idling' pattern where the Devil Sticks form an 'X' shape in front of you, and each one is passed from one hand stick to the other.
The propellor pattern is more common, and generally considered to be the easier one.
In my opinion, the 'X' pattern is not particularly more difficult; I suspect it has acquired it's reputation because not many people use it.
I learnt the 'X' pattern, so this FAQ will deal solely with that one.
Double devil sticking is an advanced technique.
However, the skill of keeping two Devil Stick going continuously bears little relationship to advanced single stick techniques, so don't feel that you have to become a single stick master before attempting two.
You do need to be able to keep one stick going effortlessly in whichever pattern you are going to use for two.
Double devil sticking has a reputation for being very hard to learn.
It is hard, but I believe it's difficulty is exagarated, probably because it's quite rare to see someone who can keep two sticks going.
If I were to compare it to other juggling type skills, I would say it's comparable in difficulty to 5 balls i.e. will require commitment and time, but is within the reach of anyone willing to work at it.
Nature of the pattern.
There is a limit to how many of the 'difficult' skills one can aquire, choices have to be made about which skills to excell in; why would double devil sticking be on the list?
Double sticking has several interesting characteristics which appealed as I put in the regular practise necessary to learn it.
Firstly, it is fairly static and made an interesting break in between some of the more cardio vascularly intensive skills I was learning, such as 5 balls, clubs, passing etc.
After jumping around after various props it was good to stand stock still, and focus on the repetitive activity of double sticking.
Secondly, it relies a lot on focus and concentration. Of course this applies to most juggling type skills, but, more than in any other I found that, when starting the practise and finding that it's just not working, a period of standing back, collecting myself and then applying real focus on the sticks and rhythm, would result in a pattern that worked.
Thirdly, the rhythm of the pattern is very appealing. When you're at the point where you have started to grasp the pattern, the difference between it being 'raggy' and hard to maintain, and it being natural and steady, is that you slot into the rhythm of it.
The sound, when the rhythm is aquired, is also very nice.
You'll need two Devil Sticks of the same type. I use 'Absolute' Devil Sticks, these are a good basic model in the mid to low price range.
First of all, don't get moisture on the devil sticks; if they're at all slippery it will hinder double sticking considerably.
For this reason I always pick up the sticks using the ends, so as to not transfer perspiration from my hands to the center parts of the stick.
If they do become slippery, wipe the sticks and handsticks with a dry rag.
Where to hold the handsticks.
Most beginners with single sticking will hold the handsticks at the ends, as they improve they hold them more towards the center as this gives more precise control.
With double sticking you need to go back to the ends, the pattern involves keeping two Devil Sticks going in a fairly confined space without hitting each other- you need plenty of length in the handsticks for greater space for this to happen in.
Just like learning single stick, you start from the ground.
Kneel down or squat, put the Devil Sticks in a 'V' shape (i.e. the bottom ends are in the same region) in front, held up by the handsticks.
Pass the sticks simulteaously, keeping the lower end of each stick on the ground; catch on the other handstick, hold, then pass again etc.
Unfortunately, when advancing to getting them airborne, the 'V' pattern is not suitable; it is, however, necessary for this stage of floor practice.
Kneel down/squat again-
For this you are better off arranging the Devil Sticks in an 'X' shape in front of you, held up by the handsticks.
Although it's possible to commence with the 'V' shape, the fact that when the pattern is going in the air, the sticks will adopt an 'X' form, neans that it's better to start them in an 'X'.
Unlike the 'V', the 'X' shape doesn't work as a ground move; so the first impetus must get both sticks off the ground and into the air.
At this point you're on your own! It will seem totally impossible to maintain the pattern, it's a matter of practice, practice, practice.
Do a few minutes every day, progress will occur. Development. Having reached the point where you can get the sticks in the air and consistently maintain several beats of the pattern, here are some things to focus on: -
Focus and concentration are the foundation of a good pattern, it's often worth standing back for a few seconds to relax, empty your head of distractions, and then commence with renewed focus.
Watch your body tension; I find that my shoulders lift and have tension when double sticking. Whilst it may not be possible to eliminate this you should be aware of, and endeavour to minimise it.
Catching the sticks; the sticks aren't hit from one handstick to the other, you should try to 'catch' them and let the handsticks 'give' a little.
It is during this 'give' that you acquire valuable tactile feedback as to the state of the sticks, and have the opportunity to make adjustments (most of this will not be on the conscious level).
It is a small window, you should strive to maximise it by emphasising this 'catching' and 'giving'.
Dry sticks Hold end of hand sticks 'X' shape Focus/concentration 'Catching' and 'giving'
[ 17. October 2003, 12:18: Message edited by: onewheeldave ]
"You can't outrun Death forever. But you can make the Bastard work for it."
--MAJOR KORGO KORGAR, "Last of The Lancers" AFC 32