March 8, 2011

The Forehand Loop: Chinese vs. European Theory

The forehand loop is often taught differently by Chinese and European coaches, though there is, of course, a lot of overlap. The general Chinese theory is that the loop is an extension of the drive, and so you focus first on the forehand drive. When that's very strong, then you extend the backswing and learn to graze the ball, and you have a loop. The general European theory is that they are two very distinct shots, and the loop is often taught very early.

Kids who focus on hitting early on (and generally develop strong blocking games as well) tend to get better early, while those who focus on looping early on seem to catch up when they are bigger and have enough power. If the hitter gets stuck mostly hitting and blocking, the loopers tend to pass them. If the hitter develops a big loop and learns to use it, well, that's almost the definition of a top Chinese player. Meanwhile, players who learn to loop early on but never really develop their table game (especially blocking) often get stuck at a level because of this hole in their game. 

Losing weight

Losing 17 pounds seems to have made me a better player. How 'bout that! People keep asking me how I lost 17 pounds in two months. Basically I did it by snacking constantly! Yes, from morning to night, whether I'm hungry or not, I keep snacking . . . on celery, carrots, cabbage, and tomatoes. When it was meal time, I wasn't that hungry. I also stopped drinking ice tea and went with plain water. I also tried to get exercise, mostly through table tennis and a few shadow practice sessions each week - I keep a weighted racket at my desk. (Good for practicing forehands and braining intruders.)


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I started playing about 15 months ago with very little previous experience, even at the recreational level. Right away I started lessons with a Chinese coach and he was all about two-winged looping. There was also another guy about my same age (I'm 57 now) who started about the same time. 

I struggled mightly converting practice to games. Unlike the "other guy" I started perusing the web and watching videos. I even read your book! Wink...wink!

After about 6 months I changed to another coach who teaches a more European style and once I started learning to counterhit and block (not to mention simple pushes) my game jumped immediately. My rating is now appx 1300 and the other guy is still stuggling with a rating of about 700-800. 

I think for older beginners especially your point about not being able to develop a "table game" is a good observation.


Hi Willis, the irony is that in your case, it was a Chinese coach who stressed looping, while it was a European coach who stressed the table game. Often it is the reverse. But for older players - both you and myself (51), I wouldn't recommend a loop-oriented game unless you've been doing it for many years, or you just want to play that way. You still may want to learn to loop, but mostly as an opening shot against backspin.

Well, the first coach did teach me to loop. He was all about multiball and I hit thousands of balls and could loop pretty well in drills. But my opponents have the bad habit of trying to hit the ball somewhere I'm not expecting it...

The second coach rarely uses multiball. We do lots of tactical training where (for example) I serve and he pushes long and then I try to loop it back. Then we repeat that drill over and over. Also, I've chosen to play LPs on the backhand side and my new coach is much more tolerant of the LP blocking style and its unique tactical requirements.

I'm not trying to "dis" my first coach though. My second coach wouldn't have had anything to work with if my first coach hadn't taught me the basic strokes, regardless of style.


You need a mixture of what the two coaches are bringing. Multiball is extremely important in developing the shots and footwork, and is especially stressed by the Chinese. But you need the game-type situations to learn to use it in game-type situations, which is what Europeans often stress.