April 12, 2011

Chinese vs. European Forehand Loop

David Bernstein emailed me the following question: "In your TTC blog a little while back you mentioned in passing that a Chinese forehand loop is more like a modified drive or smash while a European (or anywhere else) loop is something very different. Could you possibly expound on that a little more in another blog entry?  I want to link to it from my blog (where I'm experimenting with a Chinese style forehand)."

In some ways this might be the biggest difference in Chinese versus European coaching, especially for coaches from the 1990s and before. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but in general, here is how they teach it differently. (And I'm going to use the words "tend" and "in general" a lot here.)

Chinese coaches tend to spend a lot of time with beginning juniors stressing the forehand drive and smash. Many of their juniors start out as hitters because of this. However, when they are advanced enough, they teach the loop, with the idea that it is just an extension of the regular forehand. Against backspin, you just extend the arm down and drop the racket, and hit the ball with an upward grazing motion. (You don't really have to change the racket angle, which stays about perpendicular to the ground.) Against topspin, you just extend the arm more backward, with the racket tip more backward, close the racket more, and contact more on top of the ball. They sink the ball into the sponge, sort of midway between a spinny loop (where you graze the ball) and a regular drive (where the ball sinks more into the sponge, often to the wood), catapulting the ball out with speed and topspin. 

Europeans tend to teach it as a completely separate shot. While Chinese tend to teach the shot relatively close to the table, Europeans tend to teach it from farther back, focusing on spin. With kids, the argument is that looping is more natural since it allows them to let the ball drop down to their level. So European kids often learn the shot earlier, and back off the table to loop, while Chinese kids tend to stay closer. Europeans tend to graze the ball a bit more, but they too sink it into the sponge for more speed. 

In general, Chinese-coached players end up looping closer to the table with great power and consistent loop-kills, while European-trained ones have more topspin and more control, especially off the table.

Scheduling for the ITTF Seminar in Maryland

I spent much of the last week going over the ITTF Level 1 Coaching Manual and the schedule for the upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running the next two weekends at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (Here's the flyer.) We have 13 signed up, but can take another 2-3. There are some topics where I have to do some real studying and preparation. Fortunately, for most of it I don't need to study; I just schedule the topic and go up and talk and demonstrate like I've been doing for three decades.


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