Visual Imagery with Ma Long
Yesterday I had private sessions with two junior players. The first one, age 12, about 1700, has great ball control, but often falls back on forehand looping with mostly his arm, which leads to both a loss of power and frequent injuries. We've been working hard to fix the problem. Often he'll loop really well for a time, then he'll fall back into old habits. He'd taken some time off during Christmas (partly because I was also away), and so was a bit out of practice, and so I was worried he'd start up with his old habits. What to do?
After a short warm-up, we watched (on my smart phone) the first half of this video of Ma Long (5:06), which features his forehand loop. (For those living in a cave, he's the reigning world men's singles champion and ranked #1 in the world.) The idea was to get that visual image so that he could match it. And it worked – right from the start his loop technique was very Ma Longish.
My second student, age 10, about 1200, is working on developing his forehand loop. He tends to be backhand oriented, and so often blocks with his forehand from a backhand stance. So we're working on rotating sideways on forehands, which opens up the side for a bigger swing. Since we were going to spend much of the session on his forehand loop, about five minutes into the session (after giving him a good warm-up), we stopped and watched the first half of the video. It paid off – once again I had a student looping with Ma Longish technique.
While neither player is going to be Ma Longish level anytime soon, this type of technique training is a big first step. I strongly recommend other players to regularly watch videos of top players with techniques they'd like to emulate.
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