I had three small revelations today about learning to idle and why it is difficult for me to master. The first revelation came as a result of watching a video by Paul Anderson demonstrating idling variations. Paul runs a circus school and talks about how you might learn to unicycle in his school. He recommends 100 rocks with right foot down, 100 with left down, 100 with right down and left on the frame, then 100 with left down and right on the frame. So I tried that.
Revelation 1 - Rocking uses muscles that aren't as well developed as those I use for linear riding. By the time I'm at about 80 rocks with my right foot I'm getting sore above my right ankle. When I switch to left foot, the same happens. I've been putting Paul's advice into action this week and I'm noticing a difference - rocking is easier and without soreness. So now I'm doing 100 rocks each day with each of the four variations above.
Revelation 2 - If I always hold on to a support, I will always need a support. That's because in order to successfully do the trick I need to develop the balancing reflex that I can only learn if I don't have a wall, chair or other support to hold. I've got to get my body to instantly respond and restore balance, and that requires new wiring for lots of synapses, plus probably some new muscles. I think this was true when I first learned to ride linearly too. At some point you have to let go and develop the balance reflex.
Revelation 3 - The best advice I've heard about learning to unicycle is just to keep at it. Given #1 and 2 above I'd say that keeping at it means that you stick with it long enough to develop the muscles and the balance reflex you need to master the trick.