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I have found that the most over looked thing in all manuals and videos is how to create the misdirection. Some say misdirection is a natural thing and occurs subconsiously they may be right to a degree. Learning how to read it is not however.
Think about it in all these books and videos you hear them say draw there attention to this pocket while you reach into this pocket. None really ever say how they keep this attention and that is why they put out a video. I think most find it easier to show you than try to make you understand how they do it. This makes learning pickpocketing a bit harder from a book. James Freedman "Go on steal yourself" is a great example of this(before you bash me this is a really good book). It does have one small chink in it that you must see.
James I think falls into what can be called an illusionist pickpocket. He explores the contents of the pockets while the spectator is aware of it, he then acts as if he returns the items to them. In reality never letting the items go back into the pocket if you think about it this is the easiest way to make a spectator believe you are faster than you really are. he asks for the contents of each pocket one by one. while he drops the item back in the pocket(while still retaining it) he draws attention to the next pocket and ask for it to be emptied. this makes the retention of the item a breeze to get away with.
If you stop to really look at this technique you will notice that he really only half steals because he did not drop it all the way to the pocket. This really is brilliant to an enth degree because you could then stand back and say what would you like me to steal first...? Then produce the item named as if you had just removed it.

If you combine a good watch steal with this approach you will easily be looked at as a great pickpocket as freedman himself is...Not that any of us is a James freedman as it were!

The next post I will try to explain the other type of pickpocket using Bob Arno as the example who is by the way one of the best pickpocket around and probably one of the most overlooked when the topic of the best is brought up.
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Thanks for the interesting topic. I am sure you have read my posts on making this pickpocketing topic fresh. Good work!

Now to your answer:

In Ricki Dunn's pickpocketing book, he describes this kind of pickpocketing technique of a European method. The idea of how you would ask your spectator of what’s in their pocket and pretend to place it back them miraculously produce it later.

Ragman, I know what you are saying and I know you could use this technique in an act. I do!

However, I believe that too much of this way of stealing can get too repetitive and quite boring. Pickpocketing has to be one of those things, where everything this is happening at once. People are so exited about the show, and watches keep disappearing and belts go missing and everyone is laughing. Pickpocketing is such a unique talent, that the last thing we need is someone to get bored watching it.

Now I have never seen James full act. I have his stealing the show DVD, and he only shows you clips from his show. However if you just keep pickpocketing with that technique, the audience starts to notice that you have not placed back the objects. You just pretend to. Repetitiveness is something you do not want with pickpocketing. You want to be taking things when people know, when people don’t know and when people swear they were totally watching you.

Now I am not saying do not use this way of stealing in your act, use this method sometimes, however use other ways as well. As I said, you want people to see you take things, you don’t want the audience seeing you take things (for the surprise at the end) and you want the audience to sometimes to figure out on what you are doing.

I believe if you are specialising in pickpocketing or that’s what people are coming to see you need to do what real pickpockets can do! What do they do? They steal stuff from people, without them knowing. That’s it! That’s your act! However to make this entertaining to a room full of guests is not the easy part. This is where you use all different ways of pickpocketing. This is why BOB ARNO is so good! He lets the audience see and not see on everything he does. Like with anything, if you get to repetitive with something people will get bored. And as with pickpocketing, there is a certain amount you can take of someone, YOU HAVE TO keep the audience entertained the whole time.

My act:

I am very outgoing, comical, cheeky performer on stage. So when I do my pickpocketing act, I use the James Freedman approach to stealing an item of when I can not find out of what that item is or the pocket is to hard to get to. I try and take stuff without the audience knowing, and then I also take stuff when the audience can see what I am doing. A mixture is good. My act is 25-30minutes long. I start of with a flashy/big opening. (Loud music, lights, something for the audience to get in the mood.) Then I introduce, tell some jokes, perform some gags, then a small magic trick. (Nothing to exiting, because I am preparing them for the pickpocketing.) I get a man out (do this funny thing) and then go into the audience and chose the people to take the stuff. Finishing off, with a shirt steal and pulling off a mans underwear. All that is about 25-30mins. Remember the pickpocket can ONLY go for a certain amount of time as said before. No one can do an hour long act unless they are doing other stuff in their act. Ex Bob Arno normally does a 1hour act teaching others about pickpocketing and talking about crime. A pickpocket act can go between 4 – 12 minutes. Mine goes for about 12 at the moment. See its up to you of when you should stop the stealing or not. Just do not let it get boring. See if there are 5 guys on stage, of course the goal is to take something of them each. You want to try and take different object of each of them just to blend it. Then always end with something big, either of shirt steal or giving them back their watches and wallets. Myself, I have been ending with underwear pull and tie return.

Ragman and others. I hope I have not babbled of the subject too much and gave you an idea about that steal. Personally, as I mentioned above, I do like that technique and I do use it, however I believer it’s just another way of stealing items for a show – it adds to the pickpocketing.

Let me know of what you think, I took a long time to write and edit this and I would to hear of what you think.

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kris attard
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Hailing from Europe, my stage pickpocketing developed to some degree on the inspiration of Borra etc, so while I am somewhat of a purist, I also have lots of respect for the 'in-and-out' steal approach. Like others here, I preferred the more direct steals approach in terms of what I liked to, but as I discovered it does entertain an audience immensely to see items being stolen right out after they have been returned. Please don't under-estimate the entertainment value (which is after all on top of our priority list too) of such steals. Imagine someone talking about a street pickpocket experience they had in a Paris market: which creates most story interest?...that they reached for their wallet and found it gone, or that they had their wallet stolen, caught the thief and returned the wallet, but a moment later found it gone again?
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