Swinging Club, Fire Chain, Meteor

A Guide to Club, Meteor and Fire Chain Swinging

Chains and meteors both depend on centripetal force to keep their flexible lines extended. Meteors consist of a single long line, and chains can be either a single line or separate lines.

Staff and swinging clubs are stiff version of the above. They can quickly be brought to a stop or change directions, and lend themselves to tricks requiring a stiff central section (body and shoulder rolls, or snakes). These tricks can only be done with difficulty, if at all, if the line is flexible. On the other hand, you can't do wraps or work in two planes with a staff.


Tricks and Resources

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Swinging Clubs

What is club swinging?
Club swinging is exactly that. It is done with one or two clubs (or torches). The clubs are swung very quickly around the body and head. Club swinging clubs usually have a special large knob to make the swinging easier. Club swinging can also be done while juggling of course. Just throw something high and presto, you have time! Club swinging should also usually be done with non-European clubs as it tends to destroy the rubber knobs on European style clubs.

When club swinging was still an Olympic sport (as late as 1948) it was a quite regimented discipline. The moves were very militaristic -- and using a graduated set of weighted clubs you can develop big beefy biceps working on these tricks. What Allan Jacobs and others since have done is to take the FORM of club swinging and apply a much more showy and relaxed STYLE to it. The Schatz book will give you the basic form with a military style.

Rick Wilson writes:
"In the club swinging instructional video by Allan Jacobs, available from the IJA, Allan spends a lot of time teaching club swinging tricks by starting first with a long pole. It turns out that a lot of club swinging moves are actually long pole moves (see staff spinning page), with a gap in the middle of the pole. When the moves are done properly, the clubs are always in opposition, as if they were the ends of a long pole."


The main Swinging Clubs that can be purchased ready made are:

The "Spotlight" available from Renegade Juggling
$8 each

Renegade Spotlight swinging club

Klassic American Clubs available from Dubé
$23 or $27 each (see site)

Dubé Klassic American Swinging Club

Swinging Torches:


The "Fire Swinger" available from Renegade Juggling
$30 each

Renegade Fire Swinger

Klassic Torches available from Dubé
$26 each

Dubé Klassic Torch

Radical Fish swinging torches (long and short lengths)
available from Serious Juggling
$28 each

Radical Fish swingin torch

Check out their individual web sites for more information on each.

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Fire Chains/Cables

A weighted chain, swung from the hand in various planes of motion. Can be snapped to a stop around limbs (wraps), thrown and caught, or just swung in a variety of patterns and styles. The action and movements are very similar to swinging clubs, and the moves for one can often be used for the other. The idea comes from various cultures art/dance forms, New-Zealander's named the weighted implements 'Poi'. The weighted end can be covered with wicking and set alight, or a soft ball for practice, or a 'beaming' poi, as well as the possibility of attaching long tails.

Also on the 'net is the Home of Poi - a comprehensive resource on poi. This site includes history, instruction and they sell many different types of well made poi (see below). They also host a list of international places you can get together with other spinners.

A very easy method to practice with, is to use a pair of long (knee high sport style) socks, with another pair stuffed into the toe of each, and use these as swinging implements. This is not only cheaper to get an idea of the activity with, but its also less dangerous to limb and environment if practicing indoors. This does give only a very rough idea of how a chain will swing though.

Another decorative effect you can do is thread a 'glow necklace' through the loops of the chain, creating a nice indoor show potential.


professionally made Poi/Fire chains/cables are available from:

Luxotica offers a large assortment of quality looking poi implements. from wicks, to tennis balls. incl:

performance poiHome of Poi offers 2 standard types of poi (performance poi pictured at right):

fire poi fire poi:

beaming poi and beaming poi:

Renegade Juggling
Teflon coated stainless steel cable available in three lengths: 18", 21" and 24".
The wick is available in medium (36") and large (48").
Three handle styles: single finger loop, two finger loop or wrist loop.
$35 each

Juggleart in Australia (not mentioned on website yet though).

Check out their web-sites for more details on each.

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Named Meteor Balls, Meteor Bowls, Water Meteors, Fire Meteors, Monkey-Fist Meteors, or Convertible Meteors. The name depends upon what object is used to weight the ends. As a weapon, it is called a meteor hammer.

Eric Bagai writes:
Fire meteors traditionally consist of two [inward facing] small bowls, connected by a length of rope or chain, into which fuel [or water] is poured and then lit. The bowls are then swung about like clubs, staff, or batons, and look like harnessed meteors. Centripetal force (and very smooth technique) keeps the fuel in the bowls. In China, where this technique was developed, students are not allowed to use a fire meteor until they have several years of experience with a water or sandbag meteor. A simple way to reduce the amount of danger is to bolt wicks to the bowls. Then follow the same guidelines as with other wicked props. In this way you don't have to deal with flaming liquid sprayed in a 50 foot radius when you goof up.

The procedure is similar to staff, club swinging, poi, and some asian martial arts. This being a martial art it's all down to the foot positions & body movements.
The most common injury with meteors is sculpting notches in your shins, and crotch-whacking. I also once saw a friend set his hair on fire while using fire-meteors. You can get hurt with clubs and chains/poi, but it takes more effort.

Monkey-Fist Meteors are meteors that have a monkey-fist at each end. A monkey-fist is a complicated knot that is wrapped around a small weight, and is commonly used by boaters or climbers to weigh down the end of a rope that needs to be thrown a considerable distance. These meteors would be the ideal thing to practice with. The only Guide to Tying a Monkey-Fist Knot can be found at Shooting Star's Marlinspike page.

Practice meteors: a pair of 36-inch shoelaces and a weight of choice (to see the effects of them lit up: a couple of cyalume sticks (glowsticks)).


Both of these are produced (and information on provided) by Eric Bagai. These items are available from Serious Juggling and Renegade Juggling. Eric Bagai has also published a book on their usage, see resources for more details.

Universal Meteor. $50
Completely adjustable, industrial-strength meteors with snap-link attachable cathedral-wicked torch heads, weight-adjustable practice balls, and netting (for water bowels, blinking bike lights, small animals, . . .). The central cable adjusts from 3- to 11-feet (for use on stilts) and is made of aircraft cable covered with soft vinyl tubing.
Monkeyfist Meteor. $35
The perfect answer to professional-looking meteors in the daytime or in any lighted venue. All the flash of fire, with none of the danger. Contructed of half-inch woven nylon rope, with 3-inch diameter monkeyfist knots at the ends. Available in brilliant solid red, blue, green, black and white, or in the same colors with a white stripe. (Solid red available only from Renegade Juggling.)

Universal Meteor. I asked Eric Bagai a few questions about the meteors he produced. This is the reply I got:

1) How are the chain length differences achieved?
The Universal Meteor consists of 12' of aircraft cable and a 6' length of vinyl tubing. The the tubing is centered on the cable, which is then fed through swivel-ring metal snap-links at each end, and then back into the tubing. The protruding loops of cable are held in place with screw-on wire grippers. To change the length of the cable, loosen the grippers and shorten or lengthen the amount of wire as needed, and then tighten them up again.
2) What exactly is a cathedral-wicked torch?
It's a kind of diagonal folding that exposes more surface of wick than the usual wraps. I use ordinary torch wick, but belt webbing would probably work fine, too.
3) I pressume the netting for bowls is wire mesh, what kind of bowls should be used?
Nope, it's actually surplus military East-German helmet netting, with rings attached. Wire mesh, or even plastic garden netting would probably work as well or better. The size of my nets is a bit small, and they are more fragile than I'd like. Mostly, they are included to indicate possibilities -- I assume anyone who used nets regularly would find something else they prefer.
4) What material are the practise balls made of?
Tennis ball with a slit on opposite sides, and a loop of parachute cord threaded through it. Add small coins to adjust the weight. It will still hurt when you bang your crotch, but your shins will love it.
5) How are the interchangable ends attached?
The snap-link I use is found in most hardware stores. All materials except the tennis ball, wicks, and nets, are common hardware and plumbing supplies. You could probably buy an identical set of parts for $20-25 U.S.; less if you bought in quantity.
Any other info?
I have no problem with others copying my basic design. If one has the time but not the money, go for it. To copy it commercially would be silly: the labor and cost of materials make this a real minimum-wage kind of income, and would be less dependable than working at MacDonald's. Figure also that vendors will want a 50% discount, and you can see that the manufacturer's profit is not very much. It's like neckties: anyone can find better material in a decent dry-goods store, and pay much less than a store tie would cost -- the sewing and ironing is trivial -- but no sane person does this because store-bought is just more convenient. Still, jugglers are not noted for spending their time wisely, by ordinary standards.
My design is safer and more convenient than anything else I've seen, and I'd be very happy to see it improved. It's not patentable, and even if it were, I'd have to sell a few thousand of the suckers before I could afford the process. So go crazy, if you want to.
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Whip Chains

Very similar to nun-chucku, the three-, five-, and seven-, or nine-section martial arts staff shares characteristics of the flexible and the stiff materials, but has the capability of really beating the crap out of you, or even killing you, if you screw up. It's one of the central weapons of the Chinese martial Art WuShu. The three section staff is called a San Chet Kwon.
There are lots of nice things you can do with whip chains - most involving major body movements - circling the chain under/between your legs, around your arms, neck & body, laying down and jerking yourself into the air just enough to whip it under your body (this move can be seen in the movie "Iron and Silk"), pirrouettes - not forgetting that it's a weapon so there's also lots of sudden whip movements out of a circle pattern in a straight line - make sense.
See information on nun-chucku and WuShu for more on their usage. back to top

Basic Action and Tricks

The majority of tricks can be done with both Clubs and Chains
I found the best method to teach myself by, was to just experiment. I made a set of fire chains, and stand in my garden/driveway twirling them around my body deciphering out what motions work, and what motions result in a whack to the head, or a tangle around a limb.

There are only a few tricks listed here. The majority of tricks are available in attainable resources, as listed below. For meteor moves, try using your imagination or possibly the staff tricks section.

Use caution if you decide to go for the real weapons instead of the things sold by juggling supply people. They are real, heavy, and hard. You probably will get hurt learning to use them, and things made of wire and wick will seem like toys by comparison.

Basic Actions (clubs and chains)

The best place to learn specific moves is your imagination or using the various resources listed below. Here's a short list to get you started. back to top


The most information seems to be available through books for these arts. The Anna Jillings book for almost everything there is to know about club swinging, which can almost all be applied to Fire Chains; to books on the various martial arts.



poi videoTHE ART OF POI
34minute instructional video on chain swinging, NZD$30 (approx USD$15), more info available from Home of Poi and covers:

A PBS Great Performances documentary on one of the world's greatest creative jugglers. Michael is the recipient of the 1990 MacArthur Fellowship, the "genius" grant. Includes his famous crystal ball work and innovative ball bouncing/triangle piece.
60 min. VHS $19.95 ea
Available from Dubé Juggling
Seen it. This is a wonderful video for any juggling enthusiast. I own it myself and Highly recommend it. It only contains a short (3 minute?) segment showing him club swinging, but it is beautiful and inspirational nonetheless.

Rick Wilson writes:
"In the club swinging instructional video by Allan Jacobs, available from the IJA, Allan spends a lot of time teaching club swinging tricks by starting first with a long pole. It turns out that a lot of club swinging moves are actually long pole moves, with a gap in the middle of the pole. When the moves are done properly the clubs are always in opposition, as if they were the ends of a long pole."
This film is no longer available as the original producer of the video won't allow any more to be duplicated for sale (unknown reasons).
Seen it - This is one of the best instructional videos i've ever seen. approx an hour long, VERY clear descriptions and camera shots of each trick. The only detraction i would have is that he doesnt ever perform a long routine to show what is possible when you master the art. If you can hunt down a copy, do so.


THE CHAMPION (1915) [Charles Chaplin, Bud Jamison, Lloyd Bacon, Edna Purviance, Leo White, Gilbert M. Anderson]
Contains a parody on club swinging.

Seen it. Contains some great 9-section whip chain swinging and some staff spinning sequences. Shows a head wrap with the whip chain.


Ben from Serious Juggling writes:
"The Schatz book is nice at $10 (the others are each $17), but is written in a very old style. The Jillings book is more modern, and has a great deal of precise text. The Richter book has less text, but many sequences of cute drawings."

Comb-bound, thoroughly illustrated, 60 pages, $16. Pub:Flaming Sparrow Press, 1999
"Detailed, step-by-step instructions on the ancient art. Forward by Tim (Fyodor Karamazov) Furst, and extensive fire-safety practices. Takes you from basic definitions through the Fountain, Helicopters, Windmills, Poi and one-handed work. Nothing else like it in print." - Eric Bagai
Available from Serious Juggling and Renegade Juggling.
This book was published on September 22, 1999, so you know its up-to-date ;)

THE BOOK OF CLUB SWINGING by Ben Richter. US$17 from Serious Juggling

picture of Jillings book, from Dubé website MODERN CLUB SWINGING AND POLE SPINNING by Anna Jillings
"This book is a modern treatise on the old art of club swinging. Anna presents her experience as a performer and teacher in 20 clearly illustrated lessons. Beginner to advanced moves on snakes, fountains, warming up, and information on using fire, UV light, performing and pole swinging."
112 pp. 8.25 x 11.5. Paper. US$16.95 ea. Available from Dubé Juggling and Serious Juggling.
This edition is actually now out of print, and supposedly there is a second edition being worked on. No word as yet as to when it will be available. Dubé is now out of stock.
The book itself is supposedly very good for club swinging, but only has 4 pages of staff spinning. The Instructions are reportedly very precise and clear.

picture of Schatz book, from Serious Juggling website CLUB SWINGING: FOR PHYSICAL EXERCISE & RECREATION by Schatz, W.J. (c) 1990 Pub.: Brian Dube
"The swinging of two clubs, originally an exercise and Olympic event, has been revived into a juggling art. Numerous combinations can be learned from this previously rare manuscript. Most of today's club swinging routines trace back to this work."
115 pp. 68 diagrams. Paper. US$9.95 ea. Available from Dubé Juggling and Serious Juggling.
"This book is fairly old. It dates back to the time when club swinging was just considered an excercise. It is one of the most incomprehensible books I have come across. I do know of one person who has learned to club swing from it, but most people just use it as a reference." - Andrew Barden

Tom Burrows wrote at the beginning of the 1900's two books entitled "The Text Book of Club Swinging" and "Club Swinging as Applied to Health, Development, Training and Display". Charlie Holland mentions that they contain photo's and moves, such as "Two Simultaneous Three-Club Rolls" and "A Double Leg Glide" for example.

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