Breaking News - Marty Reisman Passes Away
(Added Friday afternoon) He will be missed.
When players warm up at a club or tournament, they invariably start out by hitting forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. And there's nothing wrong with that as it gets the timing going while loosening the muscles a bit. However, often they do this for a long time. There's no reason to do this more than a few minutes. Instead, after about two minutes, why not do some footwork, which will really get you warmed up?
If you are just warming up, then 1-1 footwork is plenty. Your partner hits the ball alternately to your forehand and the middle of the table, and you move side to side, hitting (or looping) your forehand. You'll find moving and hitting not only is more like what you'll do in a game, it'll get you warmed up much faster.
Some will argue that it'll also tire them out quicker. Then hit less! What's better, spending 30 minutes trying to get warmed up, or getting a better warm-up in 15? But it's not that tiring since half the time your partner will be doing the footwork. That's where you not only rest, but work on your ball control. You'll get more practice on that hitting side to side then repetitively hitting to one spot.
Now do the same thing on the backhand. Don't just hit backhand to backhand - have your partner move you side to side some! Yes, a backhand footwork drill. In a match, you wouldn't just stand there and expect your opponent to hit to one spot, so why warm up for that? Have your partner hit one to your wide backhand, and one toward the middle. You might only want to cover, say, 1/3 of the table when you do backhand footwork, if that's what you'd do in a match. On the other hand, 2001 USA National Men's Singles Champion Eric Owens told me that he attributed his winning the title to his improved backhand, and he attributed that to doing drills where he'd cover over half the table with his backhand loop in footwork drills - saying that after doing that, covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the table with his backhand in a real match was easy.
Make sure to use the shot you'd use in a match. If you are a looper, go to looping once your drives are warmed up.
MDTTC Shirt on 30 Rock!
At the very start of 30 Rock last night at 8PM on NBC, Judah Friedlander ("Frank Rossitano") wore a blue Maryland Table Tennis Center shirt! I'd given him the shirt a few months ago. Judah is from Gaithersburg, Maryland (near MDTTC), and comes to MDTTC semi-regularly. I've given him a few lessons, though of course he's the World Champion, so nobody really gives him a lesson! Here are pictures I have of Judah playing table tennis, from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page:
photo1 photo2 photo3 (with Spider-man) photo4 (Anna Kournikova on right) photo5 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Judah Friedlander, Actress Susan Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner)
Table Tennis Robots
In my blog on December 5 (Wednesday), I wrote about table tennis robots. I've since done some updates - added a couple videos for Newgy and Butterfly. So I thought I'd link to it again so you can have a second chance to go out and buy these robots for Christmas!
Peter Li Teaches the Basics
Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the forehand push in this short video (41 seconds).
Forehand Pivot Footwork
Here's a video from PingSkills (2:25) on Forehand Pivot Footwork. "The key to all footwork is balance." I say the same thing in all my footwork lectures. This is one of the more valuable coaching videos to watch. Too many players don't pivot correctly, and they pay for it in balance and recovery. (Often players have no trouble stepping around to attack with the forehand, but cannot recover for the next shot because of a poor pivot move.)
Here's a PingPod video from PingSkills (7:23). "In this episode of the PingPod, Alois and Jeff discuss the Ping Pong Zone. This zone is what you enter into the first time you venture into a club. There are often unorthodox players who don't look very good but are extremely difficult to beat. Watch this video to see what we are talking about and how to overcome the Ping Pong Zone."
Attack vs. Defense
Here's a video (8:28) of Tan Ruiwu (Croatia, formerly of China) vs. Joo See Hyuk (KOR) in a vintage attack vs. defense/offense match-up in the first round of the ITTF Grand Finals. Time between points has been removed so it's non-stop action.
Animals Playing Table Tennis
In my collection of Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures, I've just added an orangutan. He's not actually playing, but waving a ping-pong paddle about is good enough for me. It's called shadow practice. He's going to be good! (So who wins between him and the chimp?)
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Tip of the Week
MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Five
The eleven week camp marathon is over - each camp Mon-Fri, with a total of 55 days of camp. We averaged over 30 players per camp.
On Friday, the final day, I gave lectures on flipping short balls, on equipment (inverted, short pips, long pips, antispin, hardbat) and on how to play certain styles (choppers, penhold, Seemiller grip). We ended the morning with the candy game, where I put piles of candy on the table (jolly ranchers and Hershey kisses), and the kids took turns trying to knock them off as I fed multiball, three shots each. There was a stack left at the end so I distributed that among everyone.
Then we had lunch, and then 17 of us walked to the 7-11 down the street. (They keep giving me free small Slurpees for bringing in so many customers!) In the afternoon we had a practice tournament. I also had an informal awards ceremony for Wesley Fan and Kyle Wang, who had won bronze medals at the Junior Olympics a month ago for Under 14 Boys' Teams, but had left without getting their medals (or even knowing they had won them!). The medals had been mailed to me to give to them. We also sang Happy Birthday to Daniel Zhu, turned ten that day.
Things I Learned This Summer
The Backhand Block
Here's an article by Tom Nguyen on improving his backhand, with tips from Steven Chan.
Tahl Leibovitz: Saved from Homelessness by Table Tennis
Here's an article in the Times of Israel about how table tennis saved Paralympic Champion Tahl Leibovitz from homelessness.
Here's a video from two years ago (7:54) that shows the Chinese team in training.
1958 U.S. Table Tennis Nationals
Here's a video (9:59) with clips of matches from the 1958 Nationals (now usually referred to as U.S. Opens), with commentary by Marty Reisman, who also appears in many of the clips. (He would win Men's Singles.)
Bryan Brothers Play Table Tennis
Here's a video (1:23) of the Bryan Brothers (twins Bob and Mike, #1 tennis doubles team in the world and recent Olympic Gold Medalists) playing table tennis in a charity to benefit the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Note the two-handed backhand by Mike! You also get to see Bugs Bunny (or a very large rabbit) playing. Really.
Real Table Tennis!
Here are six pictures of vintage table tennis as it should be played. (Click on each picture to see the next.)
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Forehand Looping from Backhand Corner
There's a discussion at the about.com forum about a point showing Larry Bavly (Heavyspin) winning a point with a "relatively low speed block to show that all points do not have to be won by hitting the ball hard." He does this against an opponent who had forehand looped from the wide backhand corner. There was some debate as to how this happened. The basic problem was that the woman looping against Bavly was rushed, and so was left off balance at the end of the stroke, and unable to recover back into position for the next shot. Here's the video. (This will download the video as a wmv file, which you should be able to play.) See how she is off-balanced at the end of the stroke, leaning to her left (our right)?
Now watch this example (in the point starting at 2:41) on youtube of a player doing the same shot and having no trouble covering the wide forehand for the next shot. This is a match between Wang Liqin (near side, in yellow shirt) versus Ma Long (far side, purple shirt). Wang is serving. Ma pushes the serve back, blocks the next ball, then steps way around his backhand to forehand loop. Wang blocks the ball to Ma's wide forehand, and Ma has no trouble covering it. Throughout the match watch how both players take turns ripping forehand loops, and see how fast they recover - because they are balanced throughout the shot, and so are able to recover almost instantly for the next shot. (Watch the slow motion replay.) There's another example of Ma doing this at 4:35, though this time he barely is able to cover the wide forehand Note how the players sometimes even use their momentum from the previous shot to get back into position.
A similar point happens in the second point shown, starting 22 seconds in. This time it's Wang Liqin who steps around to forehand loop, and is ready to cover the wide forehand. Ma actually blocks more to the middle of the table, but you can see Wang was ready to cover the wide forehand - and since the ball wasn't so wide, he is able to take this ball right off the bounce. (Watch the slow motion replay of this point.) There's another point like this starting at 2:24, where Wang again steps around to forehand loop, and is immediately able to cover the wide forehand - but this time, while he's there, he misses. There's another one at 3:43 where Wang against steps around, and this time Ma has an extremely wide angle to block to. Watch how easily Wang recovers and moves to cover the wide forehand, though Ma misses the block.
Regardless of where you are looping from, or even what stroke you are doing, balance throughout the stroke and rally is one of the key differences between elite and non-elite players. Players who can do repeated attacks in the same rally can do so because they are balanced and in control of their positioning and momentum; players who can only do one or at most two good shots in a row are usually off-balanced and not really in control. This doesn't mean you should always be perfectly centered between your feet, but that your weight should almost always be centered somewhere between your feet, with you in control of your body positioning, regardless of the momentum from the previous shot.
We won't talk about the rather awkward (but effective this time) "Seemiller" style block Bavly uses this point. Some things better remain unspoken.
Serving Short and Low
Are you playing in the Easterns this weekend, or any other upcoming tournaments? Have you been practicing your spinny serves so you can keep them short and low? No? Good. Then if you play anyone I'm coaching (and I'm coaching at the Easterns), we're going to loop or flip your serve in, and like the piggy with no roast beef, you'll cry all the way home. Oh, you've changed your mind, and decided to practice your serves? (Monday's Tip of the Week will be on how to do this. And no, you don't have to serve short all the time, just most of the time, or at least when facing an opponent who can effectively loop your serve.)
New Coaching Video from PingSkills
Overcoming Fear of Defending (1:32)
Joint Table Tennis and Golf Scholarship
Austin Preiss is going to Lindenwood College on a joint table tennis and golf scholarship, which must be a first. Here's the article. Some of you may know Austin both as a top junior player the last few years and for doing exhibitions around the country with his father Scott.
Stop-Motion Video Ping-Pong
This was a school project by someone, but it's hilarious, and gets better and better as it goes on (2:26).
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Tip of the Week
Counterlooping and the Sunset Years
I'm not exactly into my sunset years at age 52, and yet every year my counterlooping skills take another small step backward. Even minor decreases in muscle flexibility and quickness affect this more than most other shots. I did a lot of counterlooping last fall with students who were developing their counterlooping skills, and recently I felt that my own counterlooping skills were getting back to their norm (i.e. the way I remember them from long ago). Yesterday I was counterlooping with a student and there were times where I was just staring at my racket, hoping I could blame all the misses on that. The reality is I was stiff and tired (okay, a few dozen loops beyond bone tired) after four hours of coaching and playing (and seven straight hours the day before), but skills like these should be ingrained and automatic. Instead, balls were jumping all over the place and sometimes I felt like I was just flailing at them. I even had a second wind, felt energized - but still kept missing. It probably wasn't as bad as I remember, since I probably remember all the misses instead of the ones that hit, but in practice most of them are supposed to hit. Alas. (Here's an article I wrote on counterlooping.)
Speaking of counterlooping, during a recent group practice session I was playing matches with the beginning/intermediate kids, spotting most of them 6 points each. We also let adults join in as practice partners, and an elderly man in his 60s showed up. I didn't see him playing, and don't think I'd ever seen him play, so when Cheng asked me to play him a practice match I went in figuring he was another beginning/intermediate player, and took it easy on him. Down 2-7 in the first game, after watching him rip loop after loop from both wings, I realized my error. I tried blocking his non-stop barrage of loops, but to no avail - the guy may have been in his 60s, but his backhand loop was unreal! I finally went after his slightly-softer forehand, and since he seemed to go mostly crosscourt, I was able to get my counterlooping going. With my back to the wall, I came back to win that first game, lost the second (more backhand rips, plus he started smashing some of my loops), then won the next two very close games on my serves (he had great trouble with my forehand pendulum serve short to his forehand) and counterloops. It turns out he was a former top player from Ukraine. (Note to self: every unknown opponent is a possible top player from Ukraine, or China, or Timbuktu, so be ready!)
For the weekend (Fri-Sun), I coached an even ten hours, but also played about 20 practice matches, and went undefeated, including wins over one 2300+ player, one 2250 player, two wins over a 2100 player, and the rest against players from beginner to 1900.
World Team Championships
The World Team Championships started yesterday in Dortmund, Germany, March 25 - April 1. You can follow all of the action online.
Zhang Jike Backhand Looping Multiball
Here's a short video (0:53) of world #1 Zhang Jike of China doing multiball backhand loop practice at the World Championships. He makes it look so easy.
Road to London
Here's a TV feature (4:22) on USA's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang.
The Pongcast - Episode 12
The latest Pongcast (21:14) features the European Champions League.
Just let the dog play! (0:45)
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Sol Schiff RIP
Sad news. "Mr. Table Tennis," Hall of Famer Sol Schiff, died yesterday at age 94. He was the 1934 U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion, the 1938 World Men's Doubles Champion (with Jimmy McClure), and a member of the 1937 World Men's Team Champion (the only time the U.S. ever won the title). He also served as USTTA (now USATT) president for many years. Here's his USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame profile. (It's only "Part 1" - hopefully Tim Boggan will write Part 2 at some point.) Note - A number of reports incorrectly have him as being 95, but he was born on June 28, 1917, passed away on February 26, 2012, and so wouldn't have turned 95 until June 28.
In honor of Leap Day, go practice your footwork. Or at least read about footwork - here are five articles I've written on footwork that you may browse while lounging in a chair sipping diet coke.
The one time I was faulted
As promised last week, here is the story of the only time my serve was ever faulted in a tournament.
I've been playing tournaments since I started playing 36 years ago in 1976. I've probably played in about 600 tournaments. How many times have I been faulted? Exactly once - and as both the umpire and referee agreed, it was a mistake, the serve I was faulted for was legal. Here's how it happened.
In the early 1980s I was about to play another player about my level, around 2200 or so at the time. This was just before the color rule was passed, and so many players used different racket surfaces with the same color. Often they would flip the racket and serve with either side, and about the only way to tell which side the server used was by sound. And so many players with combination rackets began stamping their foot as they served to hide the different sound. It became a serious problem with all the loud distracting foot stomps, and so foot stomping during the serve became illegal. The wording of the rule roughly said that if the umpire believed you stomped your foot to hide the sound of contact, the serve would be a fault.
Before the match my opponent reminded the umpire of this rule, and incorrectly said that if I lifted my foot during my serve, it was a foot stomp and I should be faulted. I was using inverted on both sides, and did not stomp my foot during my serve - but I did left my left foot slightly off the ground when doing my forehand pendulum high-toss serve, my primary serve.
On the very first point of the match the umpire faulted me for foot stomping. I pointed out the actual wording of the rule, and the umpire looked confused. So I called for the referee. The referee explained the rule to the umpire, and the umpire then changed his ruling, saying that in he had gotten the rule wrong, and that I hadn't tried to foot stomp to hide the sound of contact. So it's a let, right?
Wrong. The opponent then argued that foot stomping is a judgment call, and that an umpire cannot change a judgment call. After thinking it over, the referee agreed, and so the fault stood.
I won the match.
Side note - I just read the above to Tim Boggan. (See my blog yesterday about his staying at my house for two weeks.) He said that if he'd been there, said I'd been ROBBED and that he'd still be arguing to this day about it.
Table Tennis in New York Post
Here's a feature on Michael Landers in yesterday's New York Post. Here's an excerpt:
"Some people joke around saying that [table tennis] is a combination of running, boxing and playing chess at the same time, but in reality it really is," Landers said. "There’s so much thinking involved, so much strategy and you have to have the agility of a boxer and the speed of a runner."
Commercials with Table Tennis
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Ma Lin Step Around and Loop
Here's a nice video (1:14) showing Ma Lin stepping around his backhand corner to forehand loop, using multiball. Video includes slow motion and from two angles. Best part to watch is the slow motion from 0:10 to 0:28. Key things to note:
A kid gets the sniffles, and I'm out $45
Yes, this is what happened when a kid got sick and canceled a 30-minute lesson last night, my only schedule coaching yesterday. (I've got at least two hours every other day of the week.) I'm out $25 for the lesson, $10 for the movie I went to see instead ("The Descendents," very good), and $10 for a coke and popcorn.
Article on Volunteer Coach of the Year
Here's an article in the Denver Post on local Duane Gall winning the USATT National Volunteer Coach of the Year Award.
Kanak Jha Interview
USA Cadet Team Member and ITTF Hope Team Member Kanak Jha is interviewed at the 2011 ITTF Global Cadet Challenge and Global Junior Circuit Finals in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 14-22, 2012.
Yes, you read the headline right - enjoy these ping-pong crackers. (And notice the table tennis emblem on the lower right.) As near as I can figure after some Internet searching, the two languages on the package are Thai and French, but I'm not sure. Can anyone verify?
Top movie monologues (including table tennis)
I would have had this blog up an hour ago but I got caught up watching "14 of the most impressive monologues in movie history." Personally, I can't believe they left out Patton's speech at the start of 1971's "Patton" (6:20). (Warning - lots of profanity.) Also missing is Syndrome's monologue from 2004's "The Incredibles" (2:13), including my favorite line, "You sly dog, you got me monologuing!" And while I'm not impressed with him personally, I would have included Mel Gibson's speech from 1995's "Braveheart" (2:33). And then there's "Ferris Bueller's Day off," which is mostly one long monologue. Here are the best lines (3:20), though these aren't really monologues.
But what about table tennis monologues? The first minute of this video from 2007's "Balls of Fury" is basically a sportcaster's monologue about the great golden boy table tennis prodigy Randy Daytona. The rest of the video (6:19) are hilarious scenes from the movie you have to watch.
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MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Four
Broken Bat Open
Yesterday I had the single greatest idea ever in the history of table tennis. I've figured out a way to bring in major table tennis sponsors for tournaments - with the Broken Bat Open! (©2011 by Larry Hodges!) It's very difficult to get major sponsors in table tennis - there just isn't enough money in the sport to make it worthwhile for big sponsors. But here's a way to change that and turn table tennis into the high profit-making sport that sponsors crave!
All we have to do is add one simple rule for tournament play: whoever loses a match must break his racket. Yes, you read that right - he must snap it over his knee, burn it, put it through a wood chipper, or whatever, the exact method doesn't matter as long as the racket is destroyed. Here's why.
Suppose a player enters an average of slightly more than three events per tournament. Since the large majority of players do not win an event, we'll assume that the player loses in an average of three events per tournament. Since most events are round robin, let's assume he loses an about twice per event. That means he will have to break six rackets. Let's assume we're running a four-star tournament with 200 players. That's 1200 rackets broken (and replaced) per tournament. Let's assume the average racket costs about $70. (We're ignoring sponge for now, and let the player take the sponge off his racket and put it on the new one.) Let's assume the distributor pays about $20 for that racket, and so makes a $50 profit each time they sell a racket. (They will be the sole distributor allowed at the tournament.) That's a profit of 1200 x $50 = $60,000! So we go 50-50 with the distributor - they put up $30,000 prize money sponsorship, and make $30,000 profit, and we're all winners!
Training in China
Here's a nice article by U.S. National Junior Champion and Men's Singles Finalist Peter Li on training in China.
Twisted Table Tennis
Yes, sometimes our sport gets a little twisted and seems to be going to the dogs, which is discouraging to us eager beavers, but if we stick to more concrete things and stay above water, we can meet and find devilish ways to develop our sport, and then someday we can all crow* like a rooster.
*Needed: picture of a crow playing table tennis.
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