Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 13:14:50 -0700
From: Steve Goldberg
Subject: [freestyle] Paradox Tutorial v1.0a
For those of you who don't know what "paradox" means, the following is a
basic tutorial (written by yours truly). For those of you who are experts,
it may be a good way for you to explain the concept to others, so I invite
you to read it. But please don't pick nits with it (corrections are fine,
but perhaps they're better done in private e-mail; I will post a corrected
or updated tutorial later if necessary, given whatever feedback I get from
experts). The idea is to explain the basic concepts, and not to get into
the gnarly details. It is also hoped that the following tutorial can
evolve and live on the website and be posted to this list when people ask
this question (which they will) into the future:
----- WHAT IS PARADOX?
The first thing to do to understand "paradox" is to look at one of the
basic paradox moves and see exactly how it differs from the "non-paradox"
version of the same move. In this case, we'll compare "mirage" with
For the purposes of this discussion, consider "mirage" from a "clipper"
set. That is:
clip > op in dex > op toe "mirage" (from clipper set)
Concretely, let's say you set the bag straight up, out of your right
clipper delay. To do a "mirage", you would then plant your right foot (the
one that just did the clipper set), and jump over the bag with your left
leg (we call this an "in-out" dexterity), catching the bag on the toe of
your right foot.
Now, the "paradox" version of the same mirage would be have exactly the
same ending, (i.e., in-out dexterity to opposite toe) but with the *other*
leg doing the initial clipper set. In other words, instead of setting the
exact same left-leg in-out dexterity using your right clipper, you start
out with a set from your LEFT clipper. This makes the move APPRECIABLY
clip > SAME in dex > op toe "paradox mirage"
Why is it harder? Well, this is the essence of "paradox", and I'll get to
it below. Try to do this yourself and I think you'll see it is harder.
[Instruction: The standard way to hit a paradox mirage is not to plant the
setting foot (since that just makes the timing harder). Instead, you do a
set, and IMMEDIATELY "snake" your setting leg out from behind the leg you
set with (this implies that paradox moves are always set from a cross-body,
because it's the snaking motion that partly defines what a paradox is) and
without planting you throw the leg over the bag from in to out. Then you
do the delay on your opposite toe. Consider that since the motion was
"in-out", you had to really get your leg around the bag when doing the
dexterity. This is *part* of what makes the move harder than the
non-paradox version of the same move.]
So for this example, "paradox mirage" is considered the "paradox" version
of "mirage" because, technically, it is a mirage, except that it is
*harder* because of set is from the "wrong clipper"!
Therein lies the paradox -- in freestyle footbag, it has always been the
common thinking that "the set doesn't affect the difficulty". But we all
know it does for "paradox" moves.
So the essence of "paradox" is that, by changing the set from one side to
the other, but keeping the rest of the move the same, you make the move
appreciably harder to execute. This is not true of *all* moves -- just of
those moves that *are* harder as a result of the set. [For the sake of
this explanation, assume that paradox only makes sense for "cross-body" (or
There is nothing in the *basic* definition of "paradox" that implies
anything about whether a dexterity is "in-out" or "out-in". In other
words, there are paradox versions of out-in dexterity moves, just as with
in-out moves; for example, "paradox reverse-mirage".
However, there is a class of moves starting with a clipper set for which
the difficulty of executing the move is *not* appreciably different for
*either* side set. Such moves generally involve OUT-IN dexterities, but
that's a red herring. The fact is that "paradox" *doesn't* mean "set from
the opposite clipper from the regular move"...
People frequently try to define "paradox" in a way where it stands alone,
instead of in simpler terms of the non-paradox versions of the same move.
Here is a simple way to look at "paradox":
"Paradox" as a term only makes sense when used to describe a
move that is more difficult than, but otherwise identical to
another move -- wherein the difference is entirely attributed
to the *set*. Furthermore, the set for a paradox move is always
from the cross-body position.
That said, the actual determination of which moves are harder because of
the different cross-body set is the ultimate issue behind the "great
paradox debate". Suffice it to say that, in general, if the move doesn't
*require* the "double-hip-pivot" to execute, it's not paradox but rather
just the other-side set. Examples of moves that *can't* be made "paradox"
are: butterfly, switch-over, leg-over, and swirl. (This is not an
exhaustive list.) Paul Munger sent out a reasonably good list of criteria
for whether or not a move is paradox. This tutorial is not meant to
propose any standard for measuring such, but rather to give the reader a
basic understanding of the concept.
The rest of this tutorial gets into the contentious issues around why
paradox moves are "appreciably harder". You can skip it if you don't care.
It is not intended to stimulate discussion or argument, but to simply
orient the reader as to the issues involved.
Most advanced freestylers agree that the paradox mirage is harder than the
mirage for a couple of reasons:
"paradox mirage" is harder than "mirage" because:
(1) you have to "snake" your setting leg out from the cross-body
position quickly and precisely in order to get back under
the bag for the initial dexterity;
(2) you have to really pivot your hips (more than usual) to
perform the move -- first in one direction, then in the other.
Therefore, in the current difficulty-rating system, a "paradox" move is
awarded an extra "body" add (for the double-hip-pivot). You can probably
see that this is a contentious issue -- since most players believe paradox
moves are harder than their non-paradox counterparts, really defining why
is important. The "double-hip-pivot" standard is not particularly well
accepted and people frequently come up with moves that don't fit this
standard but which they believe are paradox. We won't address these cases
in this tutorial.
Further, certain spinning (or gyrating) moves are thought of as "taking the
place" of paradox in most cases. It is important that you understand that
spins or gyrations don't necessarily "negate" paradox -- they don't "cancel
it out". They simply "subsume" it. If you think back to the earlier
description of paradox mirage, it's the "snaking dexterity motion" and the
"body" hip-pivot required to hit the move that make it "paradox" as a
result of setting from the "wrong side" and going the "long way around the
bag". Spinning or gyrating is just another such added level of
difficulty... A good example is "vortex". At first glimpse, "vortex" looks
like a "gyrating paradox drifter". But this is not correct; "vortex" is a
"gyrating drifter" (non-paradox). The reason is simple: the spin of the
gyrating motion is a "body" motion; once the spin is complete the remaining
work is very similar to the work required to hit a drifter from the
"simple" set. The spin made the move harder, not the same-side set. (This
gets into the argument about switching feet in spins/gyros; I will leave
that for a separate thread.)
That's enough for now. :-)