Koki Niwa

August 11, 2014

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Here's a camp picture, with two players missing - they had to leave early, alas, and we forgot to get a picture when they were there. (Coach John Hsu is in background, that's me on the right.) Immediately after the picture they took turns smacking balls at the cup fort, with me feeding multiball. Many cups dies in the onslaught, but Froggy survived.

Koki Niwa and His Techniques and Tactics

Here's an article on Japan's Koki Niwa, world #15, where he talks about his techniques and tactics. Includes instructional pictures and a link to a Koki Niwa tribute video (3:36). (Note that the "chiquita" her refers to is the banana flip - Chiquita is a major producer and distributors of bananas and other produce, so I'm guessing that's where it comes from.)

Seven Things You Need to Know to Master the New Plastic Ball

Here's the posting and some discussion at the OOAK TT Forum.

Sports Psychology - Recognize Your Feelings

Here's the video (5:27) from PingSkills.

Top 10 Servers in Table Tennis

Here's the video (12:40).

Marty Reisman: The Greatest Sportsman You've Never Heard Of

Here's the article from Esquire Magazine. 

USA's Shivansh Kuma Finds Success at Guatemala Junior and Cadet Open

He made the final of Cadet Boys Singles, and teamed with India's Mudit Dani to win Cadet Boys teams. The two also made the semifinals of Cadet Boys Teams and the quarterfinals of Junior Boys Doubles. Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-9 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the ITTF article on the Cadet Boys Teams.  

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open

Here's the home page for the Aug. 6-10 event, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Fifteen USA juniors took part in the event - here's a participants listing. Here's a listing USA major results.

  • Krish Avvari: semifinals of Cadet Boys (here's a picture of him on the podium, second from right)
  • Kanak Jha: quarterfinals of Cadet Boys
  • Krish Avvari and Kanak Jha: Semifinals of Cadet Boys Doubles and Teams
  • Adar Alguetti and Victor Liu: Quarterfinals of Cadet Boys Doubles
  • Lily Zhang and Prachi Jha: Semifinals of Junior Girls Doubles, Quarterfinals of Junior Girls Teams
  • Joy Li and Puerto Rico's Adriana Diaz: Quarterfinals of Cadet Girls Doubles

Bockoven Brothers Netting Success in Table Tennis

Here's the article from the Boston Globe. I remember going to a Seemiller camp in 1977 when I was 17 and father Ralph was one of the big stars of the camp! Connor and Chase are the heirs of that tradition.

Top Ten Places to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Final of the China Super League - Zhang Jike vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (39 min). To save time and add drama they only play to seven in the fifth game in this league. (Spoiler alert!) Dimitrij leads 4-0 in that decisive fifth game - but Zhang scores seven in a row.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Seventy-nine down, 21 to go!

  • Day 22: The Gift of Braking and Changing Focus
  • Day 23: ITTF’s Museum Curator Chuck Hoey Preserves Our Heritage
  • Day 24: Shahrokh Shahnazi Promotes ITTF’s P5 Plan, Even to the IOC

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge Play Table Tennis

Here they are playing at a homeless shelter.

Ruini Li the Cover for the Milpitas Post

Here's the picture. (If you have trouble seeing the Facebook version, try this one.)

Funny Dog Watching Table Tennis

Here's the video (48 sec) - it's hilarious! (I might have posted this a couple years ago, but it's worth repeat viewing.)

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February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

I'm 53 today and sick in bed. Terrific. I'm still undecided whether I can do three hours of scheduled coaching tonight, 6-9PM. (Usually I have a 5PM as well, but she's out of town.) So today's blog will be a bit short.

Freezing Up

Here's an interesting psychological study. When I serve short backspin to top players, I instinctively prepare to follow up against three possible receives: short push, long push, or flip. This past weekend at the end of a lesson I played a practice game with a student who really could only push long off this serve. But a strange thing happened. I served and instinctively prepared for his long push - and instead, he pushed short! I was so caught off guard I literally froze in mid-backswing as the ball bounced twice on my side of the table.

I had mentioned short pushes to him before, but hadn't really taught him how to do them yet. He'd just picked it up on his own, and he realized he needed to push short to stop my loop. Meanwhile, my subconscious mind was so set on the idea that he could only push long that it not only anticipated it, it froze up when the push went short, as if to say, "That does not compute."

New Players/Practice Partners/Assistant Coaches

Two new players/practice partners/assistant coaches arrived at MDTTC from China on Monday. They are Zhang Liang Bojun, 17, a right-handed shakehander from the Hunan Province Team, and Chen Jie, 16, a lefty shakehander from the Guanxi Province who was training at the Shandong Luneng School. Here's their picture, with Zhang on the left. We're not yet sure of their level, but probably somewhere in the 2500-2600 range; we'll see. They join the two other players/practice partners/assistant coaches that joined us a year ago - Wang Qing Liang (17, rated 2598, Men's Singles Semifinalist at the 2012 U.S. Open, a chopper/looper) and Chen Bo Wen (14, rated 2494, a two-winged penhold looper), and coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Rocky Wang, Raghu Nadmichettu, Jeffrey Zeng Xun (currently in Taiwan but returning this summer) and myself.


The MDTTC March Open is this weekend, March 2-3.  Come play and watch as the new Chinese players and others battle for the title.

Chuang Chih-Yuan Smashes Lob

Here's a composite photo of Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan smashing a lob. From a coaching point of view, the key thing to note is how he backswings as if the ball were low, and then raises his racket, all in one continuous motion. Some players raise their racket too early, leading to an off-balance shot.

Shot of the Year?

Here's a video (40 sec) showing a shot by Koki Niwa at the Japan Top Twelve this past weekend. As one commenter wrote, "What in gods name possessed him to even attempt to hit that shot? It's madness, MADNESS I SAY!" One interesting thing to note is how Koki returned the short serve with a backhand from the wide forehand side, a growing trend these days.

Topspin Charity Event

Here's a video (3:19) of the MarblespinTV Topspin Charity Event.

Waldner Jump-the-Barriers No-Look Lob

Here's the video (1:06).

Colorful Tables?

Here's the photo - yellow, blue, green, and red tables.

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May 14, 2012

Tip of the Week

Returning the Tomahawk Serve. (This is an expanded version of my blog about this on May 10.)

Different Generations

At the club last night one of our up-and-coming kids, about ten years old, came up to me and said, "Larry, can I borrow your cell phone? I want to check my rating." For about five seconds I was stumped, wondering who he was going to call to get his rating before I realized that to this generation, "cell phone" is just shorthand for "small hand-held computer connected to the Internet." When I explained my cell phone only made phone calls (and, it is rumored, takes pictures), he was flabbergasted, and left shaking his head, probably muttering about old fuddy-duddies.

This got me to thinking about how the world has changed, in particularly the world of table tennis. Here's a brief rundown of changes since I started in 1976.

1976: Sriver or Mark V?
2012: About ten thousand choices of sponge

1976: Top-of-the-line sponge: $7
2012: Top-of-the-line sponge: $80

1976: Sponge that trampolines the ball out.
2012: Sponge that grabs the ball and explodes it out like a slingshot on steroids.

1976: Sponge came in red, black, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple,...
2012: Red or black

1976: Japan, Hungary, and Sweden battle with the Chinese
2012: Nobody battles with the Chinese (except perhaps the Singapore women)

1976: Teach the forehand loop to kids after they are around 1500, and the backhand loop when they are around 1800, if ever.
2012: Teach the forehand and backhand loop to kids after they've played about a month.

1976: Loop sets up smash
2012: Loop sets up loop

1976: Why would you need to learn a backhand loop?
2012: Why aren't you working on your backhand loop?

1976: Back off the table and loop
2012: Stay at the table and loop

1976: Reverse penhold backhand? Don't be ridiculous.
2012: Conventional penhold backhand? Don't be ridiculous.

1976: Use the backhand to receive serves short to the forehand? Don't be ridiculous.
2012: Banana backhand flips from the forehand side.

1976: Shakehand, Penhold, or Seemiller grip?
2012: What's a Seemiller grip?

1976: Inverted on one side, long pips or anti on the other, and they are the same color, so you have no idea what side was used. Players learned to stomp their foot at contact to cover up the different sound.
2012: Two-color rule since 1983.

1976: Olympic wannabe
2012: Olympic sport

1976: USATT membership: 5000 out of 218 million people in the U.S. (1 out of 43,600)
2012: USATT membership: 8000 out of 312 million people in the U.S. (1 out of 39,000)

1976: Full-time table tennis centers: 1 or 2
2012: Full-time table tennis centers: 50+

Forehand Loop Foot Position

Here's a video from Brian Pace of Dynamic Table Tennis on the foot positioning for forehand looping (9:43). And here's a triplicate picture of Brian working on his next instructional DVD!

Golfer Brian Harmon's Ping-Pong Problem

PGA Rookie Brian Harmon almost lost his chance to play because of ping-pong - and here's the story from Table Tennis Nation.

Japanese Junior Phenom Told to Eat His Vegetables

Japan's Koki Niwa may have upset world #1 Ma Long of China at the Asian Olympic Qualifier last month, but it wasn't because of his diet. "Looking after my diet is not something I'm all that interested in," said the 17-year-old Koki Niwa, who particularly dislikes tomatoes and carrots. His coaches are on him to eat better to prepare for the Olympics. Here's the rest of the story.

Non-Table Tennis: my new SF story

My latest science fiction story just went online at Quantum Muse, "The Sanctimonious Time Traveler Trap." It's a very short humorous story about two not-so-nice guys who go about capturing a very nice time traveler - and the entire story takes place as the three are falling from the sky.


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April 25, 2012

Set-up serves versus point-winning serves

I was teaching serves to a new student recently, and started to launch into my usual speech about the purpose of serves. Before I could finish, he interrupted and said, "I don't want to focus on serves that opponents miss. I want serves that set me up to do my best shots." He then explained how he wouldn't feel comfortable if he tried to win points on the serve outright, since if the serve did come back it likely wouldn't be setting up his strengths. Instead, he wanted serves that allowed him to use his relatively strong backhand. He also wanted to use serves to help set up his developing forehand and backhand, since the practice he'd get from using these serves and following up with a loop would make his attack stronger. 

I was stunned - this was exactly what I was about to explain, and this relative beginner already understood this. (Okay, he later admitted he'd read some articles of mine on the subject, such as this one, and in past blogs.) But that meant he'd done his research before signing up for lessons with me, which is always a good thing.) The key point is that while your serves should put pressure on an opponent (and thereby win many points outright), they should primarily be used to set up your best shot, or to help develop your attacking shots (which then become your best shots).

Because of his strong backhand, I showed the player how to serve various sidespin and topspin serves, both short and long, and with placements that would primarily favor returns to his backhand. (I also gave him the example of Dave Sakai, a USATT Hall of Fame player with a similar style of play that favored the backhand, and explained how Dave served to force opponents into backhand exchanges, often with short side-top serves to the backhand.) We also worked on short backspin serves that would set up his forehand and backhand loops, often placing these shots so as to force returns to his backhand. By mixing up these type of serves he'll develop a strong set of tactical weapons to use against anybody.

But we didn't completely leave out "trick" serves - as I explained (and he'd already read), you are handicapping yourself if you don't develop some trick serves that are designed to win points outright. Such trick serves tend to either win points outright or give opponents a ball to attack, so if they are over-used they lose their value. But used here and there, they not only win points, they give the opponent one more thing to watch for, thereby making your other serves even better.

Tim Boggan seeing red

Poor Tim Boggan. He was quite comfortable in the typewriter age, and then the world had to go and invent the computer. He uses one for his writing now (using Microsoft Word), along with that Internet thing (for email), but he and the computer have an adversarial relationship. Yesterday all of the text of the article he was writing turned red. In a state of hysteria, he called me and pleaded for help. (He called my cell phone, another device that continually amazes him. Keep in mind that he gave me permission to make fun of him in return for my help.) I was in the middle of a coaching session, but I called him back later that day. At first thinking he had actually turned the text red, I explained how to change font colors. However, that didn't work. I finally figured out that he'd somehow gotten into "Track Changes" mode, and the red was how Word kept track of changes, i.e. new text. I painstakingly explained what was happening and how to fix it, which is similar to explaining calculus to my dog Sheeba. Fortunately, Sheeba is very smart, and Tim is as well (well, in non-technical matters), and we finally got the text back to normal. But I fear it won't be the last time he will see red in his interactions with that confounded computer thing.

ICC's Three Olympians

There are zillions of articles on the USA Olympic Trials and the four Americans who qualified. Here's a good one that features the three that trained at the ICC club.

Koki Niwa upsets Ma Long

Here's the video of Koki Niwa of Japan, world #19, upsetting world #1 Ma Long of China (8:00) 4-2 (-8, 4, 8, 10, -5, 9) at the Asian Olympic Qualification, Apr. 19-22, with the time between points removed.

The most nonchalant point-winning block ever made

Watch this 28-second video and see Waldner basically stroll over and block a forehand winner against Timo Boll!

Adoni Maropis being silly

Yes, this is Adoni Maropis, the guy who nuked Valencia, California (on "24," season six) and is the reigning National Hardbat Champ. Click on the pictures and you'll see two more of Adoni, and if you keep clicking, you'll find a bunch more, including a number of table tennis action shots.


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