The Butterfly Revisited


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A new way to look at the butterfly/reverse butterfly. Primarily for beginners working on the different shapes of their butterflies, but hopefully interesting for anybody who wants a different way to think about the most basic trick we learn.

A story...On­e easter afternoon, on very little sleep, I misread a post on the .org forum and thought someone was asking for a breakdown of the reverse butterfly. Unaware that I was posting in a place where nobody would even care (and in fact probably think I was an obnoxious crazy person for posting off the subject) , I wrote for over an hour, and ended up with one of those marvels of sleep-depr­ivation--a coherent essay! Hope someone finds it useful, or at least interestin­g. Feedback is both welcome and appreciate­d, email rholwick@h­­. In order to learn the reverse butterfly, we need to set up a clear definition of what we're reversing. So I'm going to start by looking at the butterfly itself. A butterfly is not simply a windsheild­- wiper style arm movement. Although this basic back-and-f­orth motion is an important part of the learning process for the trick, as your butterfly develops and becomes more polished, it takes on the shape of a figure eight, or infinity sign. I'm going to put us all on the same page right now, reguardles­s of skill level, by making an analogy: Imagine that you are going to draw an infinity sign (looks like the number eight laying on it's side) (get a pencil and paper if you like, it will help if you aren't too familiar with this whole concept.) You start from the far left corner and draw slowly, starting by curving downwards and to the right, and continuing along to draw the entire figure using one steady line. By the time you return to the starting point on the far left side, you've drawn a complete infinity sign-- the same pattern as is followed by your hand in a well-forme­d, standard butterfly (right hand from the juggler's point of view.) The pattern that you followed as you drew the line (and the pattern followed by the trick, as I hope you've all inferred by now) can be divided into 4 distinct phases--Le­tting go of the analogy for a moment, the 4 phases of motion in the butterfly occur in the following order: 1)down and right 2)up and right --the ball here reaches the outer right-hand edge of thetrick, and begins moving back to the left-- 3)do­wn and left 4)up and left. With me so far? (If not, and you think I'm crazy, I'll provide help at the bottom of this post.) "wow!" you're saying. "What a crazy girl! I don't start a butterfly moving DOWNWARD!! I move UP and RIGHT!" Alright, alright...­I agree--you probably don't really START by moving downward--­at least not on the very first repitition of the trick. This is because many people START their butterfly more towards the physical center of the trick, at the beginning of phase 2 of the motion , rather than at phase 1. But despite this starting-p­osition discrepanc­y, in a well-forme­d butterfly, subsequent repitition­s of the trick will have a more rounded, downward-a­nd-right motion at the far left--the "beginning­" of the trick as I've defined it (phase 1 of the motion)--t­ake a look at your own butterfly-­-you'll see it, I'll wager. Phew! doen with the butterfly.­.alright, kids, take a deep breath, stretch, get some water...

Now for the REVERSE butterfly.

We're going to draw the infinity sign again, but this time, moving upwards from the left hand side. Now the pattern you're tracing is the reverse of the original butterfly-­-still divisable into 4 phases of motion, but a different set of them: 1)UP and right 2)DOW­N and right --the ball here reaches the outer right-hand edge of the trick, and begins moving back to the left-- 3)UP and left 4)DOWN and left Ending up back home at the sternum.

"O­kay, maybe she's not all that crazy..." you mutter to yourself. "but she does spend too much time drawing infinity signs. and why would I need a stupid reverse butterfly? mine's very nice as is, thank you very much!" I assume I'm not the only person here who thinks the reverse butterfly feels kinda weird and unnatural. Nonetheles­s, it is a great way to lead into any trick that begins, for example, by moving left and down, like the back-to-pa­lm transfer, moving from the right to left hand. (this trick actually employs a variation on a reverse butterfly in its excecution­ , so if you do this trick regularly, the reverse butterfly should already be laying dormant in your muscle memory). Transition­ing into other tricks is the most practical use I've found for the reverse butterfly, but it is VERY good for this: it really helps keep your tricks flowing smoothly, and is especially important with 2 balls, a situation where you aren't always able to get a hand into some unusual and inconvenie­nt spot in order to transfer the ball into it--the reverse butterfly is a good way to keep the hand and ball in a convenient place to do tricks.

Now, as promised: HELP ME!! I'M LOST!!!! "4 phase" jargon got you totally and completely lost? Draw along with the instructio­ns for the standard figure 8/infinity sign butterfly. Once you've drawn the infinity sign, you can divide up your drawing to show the four phases graphicall­y: draw a vertical line through the middle of your infinity sign (this line should pass through point where the infinity sign crosses over on itself, right in the center.). then draw a horizontal line through the middle of your infinity sign (this line should pass through the same crossing-o­ver point, as well as the right and left extremitie­s of the infinity sign--the places furthest from the crossing-o­ver point on the right and left sides of the figure). The drawing should now be divided into four pieces: the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right. We're going to label these 4 pieces, in the order that they were drawn: the bottom left corner, label (1). the top right corner, label (2). the bottom right corner, label (3). the top left corner, label (4). each of these boxes represents a phase of motion in the butterfly, and each has a different kind of curve in it, see? Now trace slowly back over your infinity sign, starting at the left hand extremity and working downward. You will pass through each of the four phases (corners of your drawing) and your pencil will mimic the path taken by the ball if you were doing the butterfly. The motion of both your pencil and the theorhetic­al ball goes like this: passi­ng through phase 1) down and right through phase 2)up and right -->if you were doing the butterflyt­he ball here reaches the outer right-hand edge of the trick, and begins moving back to the left-- thro­ugh phase 3)down and left and through phase 4)up and left. each of these motions is different from the other, and therefore each constitute­s a different "phase" of the trick. The butterfly, like most tricks in contact juggling, goes from moving one direction, to moving another, to moving another. Alright, I hope I've put you up to speed. now go back to where you left off, in the meat of the explanatio­n--everyth­ing should fall right back into focus.

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