May 4, 2017

Star Wars Table Tennis
Today is Star Wars Day. How did that happen? It is May the Fourth, as in, “May the Fourth Be With You!” And, of course, Star Wars and Table Tennis go together like ketchup and fries, chocolate and nuts, and table tennis and nets. (Seriously – my club has 18 tables and so 18 nets, plus about 12 ball pickup nets, plus the robot net.)

What does Yoda say to Luke Skywalker? Among other things, Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” At first glance (and perhaps many glances after that), this is rather unhelpful. Do we really want to tell our table tennis students not to try, that they should either do or do not? Everyone starts out as a beginner, unable to do proper shots, so that means they all “do not.” Does that mean they should not try? Perhaps a student should stop “trying” and instead just “do or do not.” At first there’ll be a lot of “do not,” but gradually there’ll be more and more “do.” Technically, they are “trying” to “do,” but you can think of each attempt as “do or do not,” since that’s essentially what happens. (We’ll ignore those gray areas where the shot is pretty good but not perfect – is that “do” or “do not”?)

In the same clip above, Yoda also says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This applies directly to table tennis as most coaching is not teaching a student to do something – it’s getting rid of bad habits and unwanted movements, i.e. unlearning what they have learned. Yoda might have made a fine table tennis coach!

Now let’s look at the Jedi Code.

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Grammatically, this is awful, but then while the rest of us were learning proper writing and speaking, Yoda (with his backward speech) and the rest of the Jedi gang were out practicing their “sad devotion to that ancient religion.” But what this seems to say is that the five items listed first do not really exist, that there is only the second item. Does this help us in table tennis? Let’s see:

  • No emotion, only peace. This will greatly help you when you play, especially in a close match!
  • No ignorance, only knowledge. Well, duh, this will help all table tennis players who use their knowledge to play smart tactics and develop their game strategically. However, just as important as knowledge is wisdom, and the Jedi seem to leave that out.
  • No passion, only serenity. This is a tricky one, as you need passion to give you that driving force (snicker) to practice to get better. Those with a passion for the sport will practice longer and harder than those that don’t. On the other hand, once you are at the table, serenity is your friend.
  • No chaos, only harmony. I think this refers to chaotic thinking, and it greatly helps a table tennis player if he replaces this with harmony – but this seems redundant with the previous item, serenity. I guess the Jedi want to emphasize this.
  • No death, only the Force. The only “death” in table tennis comes when you lose, though of course if your opponent does a lot of kills that could imply some sort of death. But if you think of losing when you play (i.e. “death”), then you’ll be nervous about it and not play as well. But to play well means relying on your training, i.e. muscle memory, and basically letting go and playing at a mostly subconscious level, other than tactical thinking. That’s basically relying on the Force.

Should adopt the Jedi Code for our table tennis selves? But perhaps cheat a little and allow passion? Or maybe we should go the other way, and fall to the Dark Side? After all, most of us “don’t understand the power of the dark side.” (I use black on my forehand, and I’m primarily a forehand attacker, so I regularly use the power of the dark side – but that’s just me.) Perhaps we should look at the Dark Side (don’t they have cookies?) and the Code of the Sith?

Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are Broken.
The Force shall free me.

Now we’re told to forget about peace (of mind?), that it’s a lie, and that the passion that the Jedi says we should not have is all we have. How does this apply to table tennis? Basically, the Sith are saying Passion => Strength => Power => Victory => Chains are Broken, and that the Force (your subconscious muscle memory) will set you free. Somehow this seems to fit table tennis better than the passionless Jedi Code. So guess what? If we want to be good at table tennis, perhaps it’s time for us all to take a trip on the Dark Side!

And now for some Star Wars Table Tennis!

“Ladder Drills”: Chinese Table Tennis Footwork Training Methods
Here’s the video (8:11) from EmRatThich.

How to Get More Spin on Serves
Here’s the video (2:37) – a neat trick for teaching spin.

How To Play Defensive – Important Tips For You To Protect Your Score
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark.

Table Tennis Resort for Highest Ambitions
Here’s info from Butterfly on training camps at this club in Germany.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletters
Here are links to all ten of the newsletters from this club in Australia. They have lots of interesting content, such as an article on lefties in the May 2017 issue.

World Table Tennis Day Celebration
Here’s the highlights video (3:32).

World Champs Top 10 Moments: Ding Ning Recovery
Here’s the ITTF video (58 sec).

Hina Hayata vs Kim Kyung Ah: ITTF Asian Championships 2017, Women's Team
Here’s the video (22:12).

U.S. Men’s Champion Kanak Jha Hitting with School Children
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Jealous Ping-Pong Paddle?
Here’s the cartoon!

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