April 29, 2014

Shoulder Rotation

One of the most common problems with beginners is they don't rotate their shoulders on the forehand. Several players have this problem in beginning/intermediate class I teach on Monday nights. Even when they learn to rotate the shoulders when hitting forehand to forehand or in multiball they tend to fall back on arm only (i.e. no shoulder rotation) when doing footwork.

The solution I've found is to emphasize the rod-through-the-head coaching technique. When you hit or loop a forehand, imagine a vertical rod going through the top of your head, and rotate around the rod. In reality, the head normally moves a little forward doing the stroke from the back-to-front leg weight transfer, but often very little is needed since most of power comes from torque, as the body rotates in a circle. So for beginners especially it's important for them to focus on this idea of rotating their shoulders around this rod through their head. This gives them the right feel of the shot, and something to focus on to fix the shoulder rotation problem - and when they do footwork drills, it tends to stick with them and they continue to rotate the shoulders properly.

If you watch most world-class players, you'll find that much of the secret to their ability to produce great power and recover almost instantly for the next shot is this idea of rotating in a circle, so they end up balanced and ready for the next shot. The head does move forward or sideways some (and often up), and does so even more when rushed after stepping around the backhand corner to play forehand, but in general most of the movement is circular, creating torque while staying balanced. (Two keys to balance: keep weight between your feet, and use your non-playing arm as a counter-balance to your playing arm.)

Here's Men's Single's World Champion Zhang Jike playing a chopper. Note the circular rotation? His primary head movement is up as he lifts the heavy backspin. Here's Zhang Jike looping in multiball, against both backspin and topspin. (In the latter you'll note that the more rushed he is when moving to the backhand the more his head moves forward or sideways.) Here's Ma Long (world #2, former #1) demonstrating (and explaining in Chinese) his forehand (and then backhand) drives. Here's Timo Boll (former world #1) demonstrating his forehand loop. Here's a lesson on forehand counter-hitting by ttEdge. Even when smashing a lob most of the motion is circular - here's a demo on smashing lobs by PingSkills. (The link should take you to 1:47, where they demo the shot.)

Knee Update

After hobbling about on Friday after hurting my knee on Thursday night while demonstrating forehand looping for a class, it got better over the weekend. So I probably only wrenched it. I can still feel a slight strain there, and will go easy for a time, but it's mostly okay.

History of U.S. Table Tennis at Amazon

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (now 14 volumes, from the sport's beginning in this country to 1986) are now on sale at Amazon. You can order direct from Tim Boggan (and he'll sign them) or from Amazon. (See links below each volume.) How can any serious player not buy these books??? (Disclaimer: I did the page layouts and much of the photo work for all but volume 1.)

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll probably run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

Shot of the Day from the Worlds

Here's the video (36 sec, including slow motion replay), where Xu Xin (#1 in the world) pulls off this around-the-net counterloop against Tsuboi Gustavo of Brazil (world #69). (In my initial posting, I inadvertently said Gustavo pulled off the shot. Special thanks to Douglas Harley who caught this. Hey, they're both lefties!!!)

Stroke Mechanics

Here's a preview (2:35) of Brian Pace's new video.

Giving Advice During a Match

Here's the video (7:26) from PingSkills.

Reverse Pendulum Serve

Here's a nice video (1:12) that demonstrates the serve, using slow motion and a colored ball so you can see the spin.

St. Louis Open Hopes to Set Example with U.S. Citizens Only "Elite Event"

Here's the article.

Triples Ping-Pong

Here's the article. It's "…taken Australia by storm"!

The King of Table Tennis

Don't you love Xu Xin's shirt?

Ping-Pong the Animation

Here's the video (3:55) of this anime cartoon. It's in Chinese, with English subtitles.

Jan-Ove Waldner in TV

Here's a video (3 min) from five years ago where Waldner beats a TV host with various implements as a racket before finally losing with a banana! I believe it's in Swedish, but you can follow what's going on.


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October 31, 2013

Learning to Return Fast Deep Serves

Many players have trouble with them. How do you learn to return them? By practicing against them! I have a student, Doug, who was having trouble with them, especially when served to a certain spot I won't name since he may have to play some of my readers. So yesterday we played games where I started each rally off with a straight fast, deep topspin serve, and where I had only one shot to win the point. At the start he was horrible, missing the serve over and over. But guess what? Practice does make perfect (or at least better), and he improved and eventually won. (It's not easy trying to win on one shot when the opponent is looping your deep serve over and over!)

Now I wasn't using my best fast-breaking sidespin serves or the sometimes almost unreturnable dead ones, but few players have those serves except at the higher levels. But I'm going to press Doug on this, and soon he'll be facing these nightmares - and if history repeats, he'll get used to them.

I do a similar thing with other students. Sameer had trouble with a player's deep sidespin serve to his backhand in a tournament, so we played games where all I did was serve that serve. When he got used to it, I started throwing two variations at him and later more. Now he's comfortable with the serve when he sees it coming, and reacts to it pretty well even when I vary the serve.

One of our top juniors had fits with certain short serves to his forehand. So we played matches where I gave him that serve over and Over and OVER. Soon he was flipping it all over the table and I had to practically retire that serve against him in matches. Yes, my goal is to teach all my students to return all my serves so that soon they'll all be beating me.

It always amazes me that players win or lose more on serve and receive than anything else, and yet few actually practice these things systematically.

Ping-Pong Halloween

What are my Halloween plans? I teach a beginning table tennis class for kids on Thursdays from 6-7. I was thinking they'd want tonight off, but I was surprised last Thursday when all but one said they'd be here. (Three said they hated Halloween! Wow!!! Didn't like costumes and all that sugar.) I also have a private lesson from 7-8PM. So I'll be coaching from 6-8PM, and not getting home until close to 8:30PM, when most of the trick-or-treating will be over. Fortunately, the people downstairs will be around to give out the Snickers and Milky Ways I always give out. (I own a three-floor townhouse, and live on the third floor while renting out the first two.)

I won't miss Halloween completely. Besides bringing some of the candy to give out to the class (for those who like sugar!), I've got a Scream mask that I might put on during the class near the end. Or maybe I'll feed multiball in it. I've always had this dream of showing up at a club anonymously in some sort of costume (such as a gorilla suit, though a scream mask will do), and silently play matches all night and beat everyone.

Here's some table tennis Halloween stuff:

Orioles Player Taking Lessons

Another multi-millionaire Baltimore Oriole baseball player has arranged table tennis lessons with me. Ho hum. I've already given lessons to JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, and hit with a bunch of their players at their clubhouse. For now, the new one wants to stay anonymous. However, after taking a few lessons, he plans to play in our leagues during the off season.

Polyethylene Balls

Yesterday I posted a link to USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog with his thoughts on the new polyethylene balls, which are supposed to replace the current celluloid ones in ITTF events on July 1, 2014. (USATT would presumably match them, as they usually do on rule changes.) Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog about this last week. However, if you want to test these balls for yourself, JimT posted in the comments in my blog yesterday that you can order them from, which I just did. Cost for three balls was $7.99 plus $5 shipping, so $12.99 total. (Choose "BY AIR-small packet" for the $5 shipping, unless you are in a rush.) Once I have them I'll try them out, and let others from my club as well, and report back here.

Knee Update

Just a quick update - the knee seems fine now, though I'm still leery of making sudden moves, especially to my wide forehand. I'm wearing an Ace knee brace, and will probably keep using it for a while.

2013 Men's World Cup Best

Here's a video (4:25) of the best of the recent World Men's Cup. And here's the ITTF's Top Ten Shots (5:16) from the tournament. (It's really top ten rallies, shown from different angles and replayed slow motion.)

Roger Federer Wants to Play Lebron James in TT

Here's the story from Table Tennis World!

Funny Serves

So which of these three serves is the funniest?

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