October 19, 2011

Secrets of the Quick Push and Punch Block

The quick push is where you push rather aggressively and quick off the bounce. A punch block is where you block rather aggressively and quick off the bounce. See the similarities? But it goes beyond that. In both cases, you use a short stroke; angle the ball or go at the opponent's elbow; make last-minute changes of direction to throw off an opponent; go deep on the table; keep the ball low; and focus on quickness and consistency. The shots are meant to force a weak return or miss. Many players are so focused on attacking that they never learn these more subtle but valuable shots. Placement is especially key - so many pushes and blocks go to the middle forehand or backhand that it's a crime. Or the shots are so passive that they put no pressure on the opponent, when of course every shot in table tennis should put pressure on your opponent in some way. Placement, depth, height, quickness, speed - these are all elements that make the shots effective. (The key differences are that when pushing, you also have backspin as a weapon, and can both load up the spin or vary it, and that when punch blocking, you can also use speed as a weapon.)

Match Analysis

Here's a video from the last World Championships between William Henzell of Australia (world #152) and Adrien Mattenet of France (world #31), with Henzell giving tactical commentary (10:25). Here's your chance to see how world-class players think tactically. Do you agree with his analysis? (Note - after posting this, I discovered that this was the same one I posted in my blog on Sept. 7. Oops. But enjoy it again!)

William's Journey to the Olympics

Since I belatedly discovered that the video above was the same one as one I posted in my blog on Sept. 7, I'm adding this new segment - William Henzell's Journey to the Olympics! Here's Part 1 (4:08),  Part 2 (6:26), and Part 3 (6:38). 

Attack letter

This is kind of funny, but mostly sad. Someone sent out a letter early this morning to a group of people in response to the satirical article a few days ago about Brad Pitt playing me in a movie based on the adaptation of my book, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques. (Here's the article, or see my blog the last two days.) The letter writer still believes it is real, even though I explained in my blog yesterday that it was a satire. He says he also sent the letter to the "Table Tennis Tales and Techniques" website, but I think he means the fake, satirical one at The Daily Quarterly that he still believes is real, not the real one, since I maintain that since it is my book. (And here it is!) As to The Daily Quarterly, I'm sure they took one look at the raving in the letter and put it aside. Or maybe they'll publish it for laughs.

The person, who for many years has been saying I shouldn't be in charge of anything (and far, far worse - he gets pretty nasty), and in fact got kicked out of a USATT Coaching Seminar I ran for USATT for yelling such things and refusing to stop (the USATT coaching chair kicked him out, not I), now attributes those words to the great Sol Schiff. He also writes, "Mr. Marty Reisman, late 60s, beat him in the US Open Hardbat Finals around 1998 and Coach Larry didn't have the backbone or the sense to put Mr. Reisman's photo on the cover of our magazine." To be accurate, it was actually in the final at the 1997 Nationals. Now, letter writer, you've been attacking me on this for years. So, one more time: I was USATT editor from 1991-1995, and from 1999-2007. I wasn't editor at the time of the match in 1997. I wasn't the one who chose the cover. I had nothing to do with it. But, of course, we've been through this many times, and facts don't seem to matter, do they?

Of course, this same letter writer once photoshopped me in a Nazi uniform with a Hitler mustache and sent that out to a large group of people, including the USATT board of directors and staff, claiming it was a school project.

But I did enjoy these parts of this morning's email: "If the movie was about the real Coach Larry, the man behind the curtain, the dirty, two-faced lying flat-sponge manufactures' operative posing as a journalist and couch and 'Hardbatter'--it would be a blockbuster, bigger than _ERAN BROKOVITCH...I've got the shrill characters." (I have no idea what that last part means. The ellipsis was the letter writer's, not mine.) And this: "There is no doubt that The Game is broken, thanks to the Coach Larrys."

Eating a ping-pong ball

Here are 31 seconds of someone actually eating a ping-pong ball. Bon appetite.


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I guess you posted the 'match analysis' video as a reminder for all of us to continously strive to do it. It is a 'reminder' since you had posted it once before on this blog.

In reply to by ttc

I posted the same one as before? I thought it was a new one. Oh well, we'll let people who missed it then go over it now. (EDIT - I just did a quick search, and sure enough, this is the same one that went up on Sept. 7. Dang. But good catch.)

In reply to by ttc

Since the video on William Henzell was a repeat from Sept. 7, I've added three (3!) new videos, "William's Journey to the Olympics." See above.

I seem to have a much easier time doing a quick push and punch block on the backhand, but am unable to perform the two techniques on the forehand. Do you have any advice that would help with this?

In reply to by PipProdigy

Hi PipProdigy,

It is generally easier to do this on the backhand, but not always. I actually do a better punch block on the forehand than on the backhand. (Alas, since I normally want to loop or smash on that side, it's less valuable there.) I can't tell if your technique is correct, but it does take practice. A key to punch blocking is little or no backswing; just get the racket into position so you can punch forward with it, taking the ball off the bounce. As to quick pushing, you normally only want to do this against a short ball, especially on the forehand. Make sure you tare taking the ball in front of you on the forehand push, not from the side.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

Thanks. I think the issue with my quick push on the forehand was just not taking the ball in front of me. I hadn't considered that. This is never an issue on the backhand since the backhand is always taken in front of me. As for the punch block on the forehand, I think I probably just need more practice and better timing. I seem to have a lot of trouble with anything other than blocking and looping on the forehand, probably due to a lack of formal training.

Hey Larry

I thought the Brad Pitt thing was hilarious.  I actually sent it to a few table tennis and non table tennis players it was so funny.  It did help that I just saw Moneyball last weekend.  Do you think the body with his head on it is Waldner?  Looks like somebody swedish to me. 

Anyway, the reason I'm writing is I can't believe somebody used this to bash you, especially since you aren't even taking credit for creating it.  Don't let it get to you, there are idiots everywhere.

Keep up the good work.

Dave Fortney





In reply to by dipperdave

Hi Dave, that's a good question - who were the original players before they photoshopped Brad Pitt and Michael Cera on? I'm going to ask that question in my blog. I think I've seen the Brad Pitt picture before, I think I recognize that backhand loop picture, but I can't place it. Here's a larger version: