February 8, 2017

Learning with Other Grips
Yesterday, during a session with Daniel (12, about 1700), we had a huge breakthrough - and it came in a completely unexpected way. He's always had a problem when forehand looping in that he backs up and then reaches slightly forward to contact the ball, and ends contacting the ball too far in front. This means he loses the natural power of the body rotating (torque), and so most of his power comes from the upper body. The result is a soft loop that's steady but not very powerful. It also puts a strain on his shoulder, which has led to shoulder problems in the past. We've been working on this for a long time, and sometimes he'll start doing it properly, but he generally falls back into the old habit.

Yesterday, when I was blocking to his forehand loop, on the spur of the moment, he suddenly switched to penhold and continued looping. I started to say something, then stopped. With the penhold grip, his stroke was almost textbook! He was contacting the ball to the side of the body, and rotating into it just right, without backing up. What was going on?

Then I realized what was happening. Hold a racket out shakehands and imagine looping. Then, without moving your arm, switch the grip to penhold. Notice how the racket moves backwards and down? By moving backwards, it "forced" Daniel to contact to the ball to the side. By moving downwards, it "forced" him to take the ball higher, and thereby closer to the table. The result was exactly the stroke I'd been trying to get him to do for quite some time.

We spent over half of the 90-minute session on this, where he learned to do this shakehands. Before, he sort of knew what he was supposed to do, but change is difficult. When you change one part of a stroke, it changes the timing of the rest of the stroke, meaning you have to make a lot of changes at the same time, which is why it's so hard to change bad technique. But with the penhold grip stroke as his guide, Daniel was able to make the change to doing so with his normal shakehands grip, and spent the rest of the session looping better than he'd ever looped before.

At the end of the session I pulled out a defensive hardbat and played him games where I chopped. Normally I'd have won easily, but for the first time ever he had enough power to put the ball past me when I gave him a chance, and the result was a series of close games, including one that he won. If he incorporates this "new" loop into his game, he'll be 2000 level this year.

This reminded me of my own experiences in learning with other grips. When I was developing my game in the late 1970s I often practiced with Brian Masters, who used the Seemiller grip, with a very strong backhand blocking/hitting game. I've always had a tendency to be too soft on the backhand. So early on I discovered that a way to fix this was to shadow practice my backhand with the Seemiller grip, copying Brian's stroke - and then, using the same stroke, switch to shakehands. The result was always a more aggressive backhand.

How to Improve at Tennis and Table Tennis Simultaneously
Here's the article and podcast (6:39) from Expert Table Tennis.

Rajul Sheth Elected to USA Board of Directors
Here's the USATT article. He and I are the only two members of the USATT Board (nine people) elected by the membership. Welcome aboard!!! 

Yuxiang (James) Jin Interview
Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya.

Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl Pong
Here are links to four major news media articles (NPR, Rolling Stone, AOL, and ESPN) on the Atlanta Falcons and table tennis, from Fremont TTC. (I think I linked to a couple of these last week.) This was a ping-pong Super Bowl, with Tom Brady (here's an article on him and table tennis, which I linked to last week), and table tennis in the Pizza Hut commercial (which I also linked to).

Susan Sarandon and Why Ping Pong Rocks
Here's the ITTF article and video (65 secs, from 2011), where she gives her top five reasons.

JOOLA North America Named Official Equipment Sponsor of 2018 World Veterans Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Samson Dubina on Sports Extra
Here's the video (3:01).

More of Adam Bobrow Exhibition with "Kai" (in Taiwan)
Here's the video (36 sec). This time they're rolling around on the floor.

They Didn't Teach This in Worm School
Here's the review of this book, which includes this picture of the worm's home, complete with table tennis room! From the text: "Of course there's a table tennis room. Of course there is. The thing is, once you've seen that, you can't help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia's genius."

Animated Kittens Playing Table Tennis - and Obama Watching!
Here's the repeating gif image. Here's another one. And here's Barack Obama watching the game!

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