Tumba Ping-Pong Show

September 3, 2014

Playing Off-Table Two-Winged Topspinners

A top player messaged me asking me how to play against a player who is relatively solid on both sides and takes a step back from the table, allowing him to deal with opponent's attacks. Here's my response. It's a general response as I haven't seen the opponent in question, but is the general way to play these types of players.

  1. Bring him in with short serves and short receives, and then get him with your first attack before he can get into his comfortable off-table pocket. Since these players hang off the table, attacking their serve often plays right into their game.
  2. Because he plays off the table, you have more time to get your forehand into position, especially into his wide backhand and middle. He's unlikely to beat you in a counterlooping duel between his backhand and your forehand. [Note - or any other forehand attack against his backhand off the table.] However, don't relentlessly go after the backhand - make sure to go there and to the middle. Players like this often seem vulnerable to the corners, but in reality they usually cover that area pretty well. So often really go after their middle until you have a clear winner to a corner. This was one of the reasons Lupulesku was so successful for years despite backing off the table so much - players relentlessly went after his wide backhand and didn't go after his middle nearly enough.
  3. Change the pace, with either softer loops or soft blocks. Find out early which side he's more vulnerable to a change of pace. This is where a chop block can be valuable.

While this was addressed for a top player (2400+), it's true for all levels. At lower levels this type of player backs off the table and more or less fishes the ball back over and over with soft and late counter-drives with a little topspin, and can seem like a wall, but the principles above follow just as much as for top players - except there's less threat of counter-attack, and so changing the pace (#3 above) is probably even more effective. 

"I am Groot"

On Friday I had a coaching session with an 8-year-old. He hadn't seen the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy," but had seen some sort of cartoon version of it, and so knew the characters - and in particular, knew the catchphrase of the giant tree creature Groot. (For those of you who have lived under a ping-pong table the last month, the only thing Groot ever says is, "I am Groot" - but that's only to human ears. In reality, by varying the inflection, it's an entire language.) So for the last ten minutes all of my coaching commands were "I am Groot," but with inflection and hand motions so he understood, once he got over his initial giggles. 

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan just finished doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. And yesterday she finished - one hundred down, zero to go! However, she had two more articles she wanted to put in regarding new ITTF President Thomas Weikert, and so here they are - Days 1+ and 2+!

As of Monday, the Deputy is the President

Besides the two articles above, here is another ITTF article on new ITTF president Thomas Weikert.

Thomas Weikert

So what do we really know about new ITTF President Thomas Weikert? As usual, we turn to anagrams. And what do they tell us? We know he's going to try very hard to be worthy, since "Make Worthiest" is an anagram of his name. But we must be cautious as some believe he and Sharara worked together to bring about his presidency - as "Teamwork Heist" is another. He may not be worthy of the role as "Shoemaker Twit" is another. In fact, he might not be the best person named Tom for the job as "This Weaker Tom" is another. (And the ITTF Board of Directors does have a Thomas Kiggundu from Uganda.) We might even worry that he'll bring decay to the presidency as "Him Weakest Rot" is another. And the guy might not be a hard worker since "Hate Work Items" is another. Finally, for religious table tennis players, beware the new direction of our sport - for "Ow - Atheist Trek" is another!

North American Championships - Juniors

Here's a new ITTF article about the North American Championships this past weekend that features the Under 18 winners - Jack Wang and Crystal Wang. The article also talks about Crystal's training at MDTTC, my club. I'm one of the other coaches who has worked with Crystal over the years, though I worked with her more when she was younger than in recent times, where she works mostly with her primary coach (Jack Huang) and one-on-one with our top practice partner/coaches. (I do coach her in some major tournaments, such as when she won the North American Hopes Trials last year.) On a side note, for those of you who read this article when it first went up yesterday morning, there was a mistake in the original version, where it had Crystal as being from the LYTTC - but that was corrected as the player from LYTTC was Amy Wang, not Crystal. (I emailed them about this almost immediately after the article went up!)

Butterfly North American Champions

Here's a Butterfly photo layout that features 14 of their players/champions from the North American Championships. (Disclaimer: I'm also sponsored by Butterfly.)

Easy Table Tennis Essentials

Here's a table tennis music video (1:57) from a couple of years ago that I don't think I ever ran.

Mime Your Own Business

Here's another video (3:06) from the Tumba Ping Pong Show. It features table tennis (see background, where someone is smacking people with balls) for the first 35 seconds, but no table tennis after that.

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October 22, 2013

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, the god Apollo, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

And now we get to the table tennis!!! Here are the eleven ping-pong scenes with 19 mentions.

Ping-Pong Scene 1:

I still dreamed of being a rock star or ping-pong champion, but those dreams had taken a bad turn after I'd been sold into slavery, I mean, become a sorcerer's apprentice. Somehow my parents had thought it was a good idea.

Ping-Pong Scene 2:

"Not Russia," Gus said. "The Soviet Union. Russia's just the main part of it. Don't you pay attention in school? Or do you just play ping-pong and listen to Beetles music?"

"It's not ping-pong, it's table tennis! And it's better than practicing magic I'm not allowed to do."

"Maybe, but according to Chef Wang, someday you're going to have to battle the Soviets, so I suggest more studying and less ponging.

Ping-Pong Scene 3:

"Can I go home now?" I asked. "I want to practice my serves." There was a school tournament coming up next week, and my reverse pendulum serve needed work. Maybe ping-pong was where I'd someday be someone, do something.

"Will you forget your ping-pong!" Gus cried. "A Russian agent just tried to kill you, you're supposed to defeat the Soviets, there's a Giant Face in the Sky that that compels us to say its name as if capitalized, and a murderous meteor is following you around, and that's what you're worried about?"

"I'm not murderous!" Buzz exclaimed. "I'm a pacifist." More quietly he added, "Except when someone makes me apprehensive."

"How am I supposed to defeat the Soviets?" I asked. "I'm just an apprentice. Maybe I can beat them at ping-pong."

Ping-Pong Scene 4:

I decided to change channels and said, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, find a station with a ping-pong ball."

The mirror showed me the latest lottery, with numbered ping-pong balls in a container. With gritted teeth, I tried again.

"Mirror, mirror, about to get whacked, find me some table tennis unless you want to get cracked." The mirror found the Final of the recent Florida Table Tennis Championships while the Beetles played "Strawberry Feasts Forever." I pulled up a chair to watch the final between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher.

"Aren't you packed yet?" Gus said. "Tonight, we're going to Washington D.C. to see the president, and you're watching ping-pong on the mirror?" He aimed his staff at the mirror, and the table tennis and Beetles action was replaced by my reflection.

Ping-Pong Scene 5:

I named it the Red Reisman, after a famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 6:

So, Gus and I left that afternoon to buy supplies at the Black Market, using the new flying carpet Gus had bought to replace the recently-destroyed Red Reisman. It was identical to the Red Reisman, except this one was blue and even more worn out. I'd named it the Blue Boggan, after another famous table tennis player.

Ping-Pong Scene 7:

Why was I here? What was my purpose, and why was I put on this world? It couldn't have been just to serve Gus his mid-day tea. I'd always wanted to be a ping-pong champ or a rock star, but there had to be more. Was I here to defeat the Soviets, as prophesied by Chef Wang? Or did I have a higher purpose, one which I would only discover in time? I just knew that someday I was going to be somebody, do something. I just didn't know what.

Ping-Pong Scene 8:

Gus looked disgusted. "Don't remember the formula for force, my apprentice with ping-pong balls for brains?"

"Isn't that F equals MA?" I said.

"Correct, Force equals Magic times Acceleration," Gus said.

Ping-Pong Scene 9:

Kennedy was watching the two go back and forth like a ping-pong match.

Ping-Pong Scene 10:

Ten more evils occurred before I finally pronounced it to the booming voice's satisfaction, leading to traffic tickets, an edge ball in a ping-pong game, dandruff, and other calamities.

Ping-Pong Scene 11:

She'd also brought a number of baby hooting owls, parahoots, that, in an emergency, could carry us safely back to Earth. They were cute little creatures, with big, almond-shaped eyes—like all cute creatures—and soft, wavy, brown feathers. Their eyes were the size of quarters, far too large for their ping-pong-ball-sized heads.

Epic Retrieving! Turning Defense into Attack!

Here's a great point (42 sec) showing some great lobbing and counterattacking. Not sure who the players are, though I'm sure I'll recognize them once someone comments below telling us who they are.

How Ping-Pong Saved My Life

No, it's not about me, it's someone else at Uberpong (Eric Jensen).

Kramer (from Seinfeld), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve McQueen Playing Ping Pong

Here are gifs showing this from Uberpong.

Pizza Hut Table Tennis Commercial

Here's a video of a recent Pizza Hut commercial (31 sec) that includes about one second of table tennis 23 seconds in. Why does it include table tennis? I have no idea. The rest of the commercial they show pizza and people eating pizza, then out of the blue there's table tennis for no apparent reason other than perhaps to show that if you eat pizza, you'll win at ping-pong. Of course, the greatest pizza place on the planet, Comet Ping-Pong, learned this long ago.

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's a video (65 sec, on a page in Chinese but the video doesn't need language) that was first shown to me by Chinese players at my club. I've posted videos by the Tumba Ping-Pong Show before, but this is a compilation of their best ping-pong tricks that's apparently going viral in China. 

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October 8, 2013

Nostalgia - The Top Players of Today and Yesterday

Mondays is usually my day off. However, since I'm going to be away at the Veep taping on Wed and Thur (see yesterday's blog), I asked my five students on those days if we could reschedule, and all five obliged. So yesterday I did two hours coaching, the first time I've done so on a Monday in a long time. I've also got two extra hours today, so I'll be coaching almost non-stop from 2:45-8PM. (Fortunately I'm over my arm problems.)

I was coaching on one of the front six tables. (We have 16 tables, sometimes 18 for training camps, but the front six are extra-large.) During the first hour I looked around at the other five tables, and couldn't help but reminisce. I remember back when I was starting out at the old New Carrollton Table Tennis Club (in Maryland) in the late 1970s. Between matches I'd watch as the club's star players played on the tables on the far right - we had something like 9-10 "great" players, all in the 1800-2000 range! Wow! This was back when I was about 1100, and to me they were the greats of table tennis - Herb Horton, Bob Kaminsky, Jim Verta, Carl Kronlage, Jim Mossberg, Ron Snyder, Gary Akinsette, Tim Ang, Barbara Kaminsky, Donna Sakai, Yvonne Kronlage - wow, were they good! Not to mention up-and-coming juniors Brian Masters, Mike Shapiro, Curt Kronlage, and Phil Shaw. Oh, and me, though I didn't start until I was 16.

But the world has changed, and I'm now a coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I still have that same sense of "Wow!" when I look about. And now back to the present, and those five other tables.

On tables 1-5 was Nathan Hsu and Chen Jie ("James"); Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Derek Nie; Raghu Nadmichettu and Harold Baring; Dong Yiming ("Steve") and Roy Ke; and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") and Crystal Wang. I'm not going to give all their ratings, but they range from 2250 to 2600, and six of the eight are under age 18, including such phenoms as Crystal (11, 2267, formerly 2355) and Derek (12, 2297). And hovering over tables one and two was Coach and former Chinese team member Cheng Yinghua, former 2850 player, not playing this time, just coaching. (Coach Jack Huang, former 2800 player and Chinese team member, would normally be there but was in China on a three-week vacation.) 

There are other clubs in the U.S. with such high levels of play; I'm just lucky to be in one of them.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2013

Here's the video (11:34).

Five Peculiarities to Become a Great TT Player

Here's the video (5:11). This is not technical advice, but a list of five attributes most of the top players have. The short list? Shakehands, lefty, attack, Butterfly, Asian.

Table Tennis Score Keeper
Here's a new scorekeeper app. "Table Tennis Score Keeper app is a simple application which helps players, their parents or friends in scoring matches. It can be used in local tournaments, leagues, college, or practice games. Scorekeeper app can score Best of 7, 5, 3 or 1 games. It records which player will serve next. You can add the player names and also extend by adding club or country name. Once a game in a match is completed it can be added and the next game can be scored. The app works on Portrait mode and also is tested on landscape for Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. It is best suited for parents, coaches or friends who are scoring for their player during a match."

Internet Calls Bluff on Incredible Ping-Pong Video

Yesterday I posted a link to the video "Amazing Ping-Pong Tricks with a Knife." I also asked if you thought it was real. (In the comments below Doug explained why he was sure it was not.) Well, the Internet has called its bluff and says it is not real - here's the article. So who are these people? They are the Tumba Ping Pong Show, and they need a segment of their own....

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's their home page. I've linked to some of their staged videos before. They have lots and lots of these spectacularly staged table tennis videos - take a look!

This Is How You Hang Out with Friends

The title of this video is longer than the video (5 sec) but it's pretty funny. Someone called it shaolin ping-pong.

Are We Twins?

Here's a hilarious video (2:23) starring Samson Dubina and Xavier Therien. I know them both so well (mostly from coaching against them) that it never occurred to me that they were twins - until now!

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