Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

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deriderj
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My coach who plays an all around game close to the table promotes the use of slower paddles.  He says a fast blade is like a drug because you can hit great shots with it and when struck correctly they also feel wonderful but the speed of a fast blade hurts your all around game (you just don't notice it because you are high on the power shots it makes happen). 

Contrarily I've been reading posts from all around the world and if I came up with a consensus, the consensus is that using a faster paddle has become a requirement now that speed gluing is illegal.  I wasn't playing during the speed glue era so I have no personal knowledge that allows me to distil truth from fiction regarding the gluing era.  It is possible that relating the speed of a blade to today's game has no connection to the speed glue era.

I recently broke my paddle following a loss in a troubling incident that I'm certain wasn't my fault :-) and have now decided to make a change from my broken OFF- blade (speed:84) to a brand new OFF blade (speed:94).  I thought this was a good compromise becuase I bought a faster paddle but definitely not one of the fastest paddles out there (I want to be respectful to my coach and his ideas).  I'm going to try the paddle for a week (about 12 hours of play) to get a feel for it and decide if I like not just the speed of the blade but the other attributes as well.      

For reference I play the modern game as an offensive topspin player with the occasional flat hit forehand and backhand.  I open with spin from both sides but tend to counter drive rather than topspin on my backhand side.  I am moving towards counter topspin on the backhand and away from backhand counter drive as my technique improves.  I'm an average blocker with excellent serves.  My footwork is average, I'm really old and my fitness sucks.  I was 1400-1500 8 months ago before I began getting coaching on modern table tennis techniques.  I'm now playing 1900-2000 with the modern techniques and I am working towards a goal of playing at a 2200 level within the next two years.

Does anyone have thoughts they can share about the speed of the paddle as it relates specifically to today's game and separate of that question, is there actually a distinct difference in the need for a faster paddle when not using speed glue?  I cannot afford the time or the money to try out a dozen paddles to determine this on my own, so I thought I would ask what others have to say on this.

Much obliged,

Joel

 

ttc
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

hats off to deriderj who has written so well about his experiences !

This is a question I have worried about too. But being lower on the ranking scale, I have continued plodding on with a ALL+ rated blade. After reading derider's experiences, I feel I should get myself an OFF rated blade. The only question which remains for me is: which rubber?

Dealing with two different rubbers (for FH and BH) is too much for me to process. So I might go for varying thickness of the same rubber for FH and BH. Maybe Bryce Speed FX rubber?

 

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

I haven't used Byrce Speed FX but one of my practice partner uses it on his backhand and absolutely loves it.  He says it gives him great control and touch but he can still rev up his backhand topspin whenever he wants to.  This same practice partner plays with Tenergy 05 on his forehand and said that Tenergy 05 was much to difficult to control on his backhand.  It's just one players perceptions, so take from it what you will.  My practice partner is young and can generate plenty of paddle speed and spins from both sides...

Good luck on finding your optimal paddle!

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Just a quick update on the impact of my new blade and the change from Tenergy 05 to Stiga Boost TX.  The new paddle has had a profoundly positive effect on my game and on my confidence during play.  This combination of blade and rubber, for whatever reason, has to be very close to optimal for my game.  I originally chose Boost TX 2.0 forehand and Boost TX 1.8 backhand.  The Boost TX 1.8 gives me excellent control, and makes a very cool sound when I hit it correctly, but makes it more difficult for me to spin the ball than the Tenergy 1.9 did so I've ordered a duplicate paddle with Boost TX 2.0 on the backhand to see if that provides similar control to the Boost TX 1.8 but with a bit more spin. 

I'm a shot maker, it's a part of the game that I love, but I always have to temper my zest for shot making vs. my winning as much to my chagrine they do not go hand in hand.  With this new paddle I've hit shots I didn't even think I was capable of at this stage in my life, and I've been able to do it under pressure and as a result I'm starting to play much better, my confidence is high and my rating is moving back up to where I was prior to trying the OFF+ blade for the first time.  I don't want to confuse anyone though, I am still using a fast OFF blade that is considerably faster than my previous blade and I believe the faster blade has helped my game in general.

I'm very surprised if not a bit stunned that the correct combination of blade and rubber makes such a profound difference in my play.  Following my success with this new blade / rubber combination, I am recommending all players strive to find the correct combination of blade / rubber for their game.  The problem is that finding the correct combination can be time consuming (it took me 4 months) and expensive (for me $540), but I don't know of a way around those issues.  I say that because If I had tried the combination that I now love for just 15 minutes, I would never have stayed with it (I hit most of my shots into the net for the first 15 minutes); it took a couple of weeks of play for me to understand how the characteristics of this paddle worked with my game. 

This is what I am using now, and probably will be using for quite some time:

Stiga Carbo 7.6 flared legend, (fh) Boost TX 2.0, (bh) Boost TX 1.8 (but I'm going to try 2.0)

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Hi Deriiderj, glad the new equipment is working out! What I recommend to new (and often intermediate) players is to go through a stage where they essentially try everything out. This allows you to really learn and understand what's out there, and to find the best equipment for yourself. The cheapest way to do this is to ask to try out the rackets of players at your club. Eventually, you'll find the right combo, and then I recommend they stick with that, unless and until their game changes or there's a major equipment breakthrough. The latter happens about once a decade, though of course you'll read about "new breakthroughs" every year. 

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

I'm becoming more comfortable with the faster blade I've been trying (Donic BURN OFF).  The number one problem I've been having is on service return but even that has improved significantly since my first use.  Still loving it, loving it, loving it for the forehand.  

There have been other areas that I've had to make some changes to accommodate the faster blade.  I haven't run into anything that slight changes in technique haven't helped.  I did change from Tenergy 05 2.1 to 1.9 on the backhand which has given me considerably better control especially when blocking.  Tenergy 05 1.9 still has plenty of offensive capabilities that include the ability to spin the ball when I want to.  

If I had to choose right now I would choose the OFF blade (speed = 94) over my previous OFF- blade (speed = 84) not because of what I can with the faster blade today but because of the potential I feel I have with the faster blade in the future.

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

My winning percentage over the last three months since I changed to the faster blade has decreased and my (local) rating has dropped.  Most of my perceptions from my earlier posts regarding the faster blade are still relevant, however, I expected the transition period to be less than three months and the proof is in the pudding and I'm just not as good a player with this blade as I was with my previous slower blade. 

I hate to be a quitter, and I really hate spending money, but the fact is  I have purchased a new paddle rated slightly slower than my current blade (92 vs 94) and changed from Tenergy 05 to STIGA Boost TX.  The rubber change was to try and wean me off of the overly expensive Tenergy 05.

I tried the new blade last night and it was a bit like going from a Ferrari to a pickup truck.  I don't know the reason, blade or rubber, but the combination is significantly slower than my previous blade with Tenergy 05.

It took me about 30 minutes to start hitting the table with the new slower paddle with most of my misses dropping weakly into the net.  I played 4 matches and won all four without losing a game so I didn't hate the new paddle.  I did not feel a loss of control away from the table that I had with my original (slow) blade.  The different weight of the paddle, different type of handle (changed from anatomic to flared) and the thicker width of paddle were all factors and the aggregate changes made it difficult for me to play too aggressively on this night.  I will be giving the new paddle a fair shake over the next month or two and will let you know what my perceptions are.

I should point out that my newest blade rated at 92 is still well above the 84 rating of my original blade.  I'm convinced there are benefits to faster blades but I'm guessing that there is a range of acceptable blade speed unique to each player and a paddle rated at 94 was defintely outside my personal range.

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Separate of those guided practice session, if I was to focus my practice with my peers over the next month in an attempt to minimize the negative impact and optimize the use of the faster blade; are there any specific drills that you can recommend and within those drills what I should focus on (e.g. within a given backhand drill focus on a slightly shorter stroke or try for 100 consecutive shots, etc.)?

My suggestion is not to worry too much about gaining control with the faster blade - the more you think about it, the more it'll get into your head. Instead, just focus on the same type of training you would do, regardless of the blade. However, since the blade has changed your strengths and weaknesses, that might lead you toward focusing on different things. I always tell people to practice everything, but focus on your strengths and weaknesses. You want to make the strengths overpowering while getting rid of the weaknesses. So analyze your strengths and weaknesses with the fast blade, and while you should practice verything, focus on those aspects.

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Great comments Larry! 

I think the best part is that what I'm perceiving is close to what you expected to hear and that you have provided hope moving forward that I will gain control of my faster blade.  It is interesting that short term loss of control wasn't complete which is what I expected.  There are some aspects of my game that were not affected and some that actually improved straight away. 

The most negative and I hope short term issue is service return which is something that I cannot avoid during a match and while you can practice serve / service return I believe the only true service return practice is during match play.  My ability to read serves is average.  When I couple that with the loss of control it got pretty ugly in a couple of my matches against 2000+ players. 

I'm going to be practicing for several hours for the first time with the faster blade against the 2400 player who has tremendous pace and spin on both his forehand and backhand loops.  Because I'm limited in what I can do successfully even in practice against such a strong player, I spend much time blocking his bullets (which he likes) and we spend time on the short game, two things that I know will help me become accustom to this blade.  

I practice twice a week under the guidance of a very good coach but always in group practices (2-14 players) and the coach cannot tweak his drills to specifically help me with integration of the faster blade. 

Separate of those guided practice session, if I was to focus my practice with my peers over the next month in an attempt to minimize the negative impact and optimize the use of the faster blade; are there any specific drills that you can recommend and within those drills what I should focus on (e.g. within a given backhand drill focus on a slightly shorter stroke or try for 100 consecutive shots, etc.)? 

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Interesting analysis. Here are a few comments:

Backhand: You'll probably regain control of the faster blade in fast exchanges, but may have trouble blocking against a good loop. The speed of the blade allows you to hit at the same pace with less motion, so it's just a matter of getting used to that. But blocking spinny loops will take longer to learn to control.

Smash: It's good that you immediately can tell you've mishit when you are hitting it - instant feedback like that will allow you to learn to control the fast blade on smashes. You likely will be able to learn to control the fast blade with smashing, but it might take a while to adjust. Again, a fast blade should be an advantage here once you get used to it.

Forehand Loop: This is where some have trouble with a fast blade, and if you are able to loop better with the fast blade, that's great.

Defense: The reason you have more control fishing and lobbing is that the racket is doing most of the work for you as it rebounds the ball back with topspin. But chopping with a fast blade is difficult.

Counterlooping: A slower blade is easier to counterloop with in terms of consistency, but it's hard to generate power. If you want to counterloop with serious pace, you need a faster blade.

Pushing/Short Game: A faster blade is much harder to control with these, as you saw. You'll learn regular pushes with it, but pushing short will always be a bit trickier. But top players do this all the time. (Of course, they are top players, so of course they can!)

Return of Serve: Definitely easier with a slower blade, but you can learn to control the faster blade with time. It's just a matter of degree.

Serving: Blade speed shouldn't make much difference. When you serve with spin, the ball shouldn't sink into the wood, it's all done with the rubber surface and sponge.

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Thanks for the detailed response Larry.  Here are my thoughts on playing with the faster blade now that I have had it for a week or so (Speed difference was an increase from 84 to 94 on the Paddle Palace rating system). 

  1. BACKHAND: I miss the table, a lot, with my backhand.  It doesn't seem to matter if it is my backhand block, counter, loop or loop drive the result is pretty much the same with the ball going off the end of the table.  Missing into the net is uncommon.
  2. SMASH (FLAT HIT): When I smash (flat hit) a forehand it flies off the end of the table.  I can tell the moment that I am hitting it that there is a problem.  I need to either start higher or close the paddle more to make this a consistent shot again.  I am not too concerned with this but it is a negative short term concern (and has cost me several important points).
  3. FOREHAND LOOP: I have another gear both in terms of spin and speed when looping with my forehand with the fast blade (there's that drug effect).  After one of the matches my 14 year old opponent who knows me very well said, "I thought it was Ma Long hitting forehands out there!".  Even with the added gear I still have maintained my consistency on the forehand.  For the forehand the faster blade is only a positive (so far).
  4. DEFENSE: It is easier to play away from the table.  I seem to have better control when fishing and lobbing but not so much chopping  I have no idea why my control would improve but it has been consistent both in games and in practice.
  5. COUNTER LOOP: I couldn't counter loop worth a damn with the slow paddle and I cannot counter loop with the faster paddle.  The only difference is that I miss the counter loop long with the faster blade vs. into the net with the slower blade.  This is most probably a problem with technique / talent / skill than anything to do with the speed the blade.
  6. PUSHING / SHORT GAME: Like serving (see below) this is all about touch and basically I have none with this paddle.  I think I could learn to push with a tennis shoe if I had to so I don't see this as a problem long term but for the record; when I miss a push it flies off the end of the table and with short pushes I just don't have the same control as I did with the slower paddle (that I was more used to).
  7. SERVICE RETURN: When returning serves I look like a rank amateur.  This is something that I know will improve with practice but my touch which is so important when returning serves is nowhere to be found when using the fast blade.  I am not too concerned with this but it is a negative short term concern.
  8. SERVING: The faster blade hasn't had any negative or positive effects on my own serve.

SUMMARY

I certainly like having my forehand compared positively with Ma Long's but setting that aside for now, there are still enough positives to keep me playing with the faster blade.  I am going to try a thinner sponge ("Tenergy 05" 1.9 vs 2.1) on my backhand to see if I can re-gain control and hit the table again (my shots were so far off that I don't see me "fixing" this with any simple mechanical changes).  My touch will come back on service return with enough repetitions so I'm not too concerned about service return long term.  I'm going to keep playing with the faster blade for at least another month and then decide if there is any reason to make a change to something slower or perhaps even faster (I like to keep my options open).

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

The fact is the speed of play during those sessions with the 2400 player is beyond my current skill level (the focused effort wears me out for the next 24 hours).  If in fact I can with a faster blade, as you wrote, do more with less (and I have plenty of less to offer) then perhaps I will be a better practice partner for the more skilled player when I start using and become familiar with the faster blade and that should eventually translate into being able to compete at a higher level too? 

While a faster blade may cost you control in a game situation, in a drill situation it's almost always an advantage, at least with more or less rote drills. (This changes if you do more game-situation drills.) As to practicing with a stronger player, focus on consistency. Many believe that when playing with a stronger player they need to play faster, and so end up with fast but inconsistent shots. This is irritating to the top player, who would rather you be consistent so he can get real practice. He can get his speed workout with his peers, while working on steadiness with lower-rated players.

Are there any recommendations or changes that I should focus on technique wise when moving to a faster blade?  Here are some questions that come to mind but I don't know that they are relevant when changing to a faster blade (I'm not expecting an answer to each of these unless they are all relevant):

Let's look at these one by one, and remember these are guidelines - there are few absolute rules.

>Focus on shortening strokes (I'm thinking yes)?

>Focus on lengthening strokes (I'm thinking no)?

You probably don't want to change your strokes much at all for any given shot because of the faster blade. Instead, with the extra speed of your racket, use the same stroke, but don't swing as hard. This is assuming you have good strokes already - if they were already too long or too short, that's another matter. Technically, you can get away with a shorter stroke if you have a faster blade, but a shorter stroke is often more "jerky," and so less controlled, plus loops will have less spin then with the longer stroke.

At the higher levels, there are players who rely on using short strokes so they can play very fast rallies right off the bounce. That's great for some, but be careful of this as it can lead to short, uncontrolled shots for many.

>What about timing (hitting the ball earlier or later) or any changes in how I accelerate through the ball? 

I wouldn't change anything. However, with a faster blade, you might find it easier to hit quick off the bounce shots and keep the same pace. This is because you can keep up the same pace with a shorter stroke than with the slower blade. This may seem to contradict what I wrote above about not shortening your stroke, but the idea is that you aren't shortening your stroke for a given shot; the faster blade simply allows you to choose to do a shorter, quicker shot, such as in a fast rally especially when blocking.

>Does a faster paddle require any general changes to the angle of the blade (open/close)? 

You'll have to close it a bit more for faster shots. But don't think in terms of racket angle; think in terms of what hits on the table. If it doesn't hit the table, adjust the angle. (This assumes the miss isn't because of the stroke itself.)

>Anything unique to think about when looping the ball or counter driving?  

For looping, with a faster blade you need to focus on really spinning the ball since there's less contact time. A slower blade is easier to spin, harder to loop with speed. A faster blade is the reverse. You can still spin with a faster blade, but in looping its advantage is in generating speed.

>Should I be considering anything special as it relates to serves or service return?

A faster blade can lower your ball control in return of serve, but not severely. It's one of the tradeoffs with a faster blade. It's also harder to control the depth when serving with a faster blade. It probably won't affect the amount of spin you get when serving since a good spin serve doesn't really sink past the sponge into the wood.

Hope this helps!

deriderj
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Larry, 

Thanks for the blog response!

Your comments were very similar to the "consensus" that I eluded to in my original post.  I never know the quality of the author as I scour the Internet for information but I know that you are well respected Nationally and there is no doubt that I am getting great information when it comes from you. 

I am able to practice with a 2400 player once a week, sometimes twice a week if I am lucky.  The fact is the speed of play during those sessions with the 2400 player is beyond my current skill level (the focused effort wears me out for the next 24 hours).  If in fact I can with a faster blade, as you wrote, do more with less (and I have plenty of less to offer) then perhaps I will be a better practice partner for the more skilled player when I start using and become familiar with the faster blade and that should eventually translate into being able to compete at a higher level too?  Kind of rhetorical but only if I'm making correct assumptions here.

Are there any recommendations or changes that I should focus on technique wise when moving to a faster blade?  Here are some questions that come to mind but I don't know that they are relevant when changing to a faster blade (I'm not expecting an answer to each of these unless they are all relevant):

  1. Focus on shortening strokes (I'm thinking yes)?
  2. Focus on lengthening strokes (I'm thinking no)?
  3. What about timing (hitting the ball earlier or later) or any changes in how I accelerate through the ball? 
  4. Does a faster paddle require any general changes to the angle of the blade (open/close)? 
  5. Anything unique to think about when looping the ball or counter driving?  
  6. Should I be considering anything special as it relates to serves or service return?

I'm excited to give the new faster blade a try.  It should be here today (Thu) and I'll be practicing for a couple of hours in the afternoon then playing 3 or 4 matches in the evening against some of the strongest players in our state in the humbly named "Super League".  That should give me a good feel for the blade and I'll be sure to write back what my perceptions are.

Geez I love table tennis...

 

toxicspin
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

I have for years thought faster is better, but recently found that its not always a good idea for me.  I live in a small town, Wichita Falls, Texas where we have just a hand full of players and only see coached players in Dallas or OKC.  We play three times a week, two days singles and one day doubles.  So I'm trying a DEF Blade now and so far really like it, I can still put pretty good pace on the ball and return mishit type blocks when needed, when before it would just jump off like a hair trigger.  The next question would be rubber, 2.0 or 2.5?  Is it crazy to go with 2.5, I'm around 1572 and trying to improve but I'm thinking I should be using 2.0.  Thanks again, have a great week.

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Hi ToxicSpin, you definitely don't want 2.5. I've tried it and it's too thick for me! Not only do you lose control, but it makes the racket feel like a sledgehammer with all the extra weight. Unless your game is based on counterlooping - the only time you'll need the extra sponge - you don't need 2.5.

Larry Hodges
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Re: Using an OFF/OFF+ blade vs ALL+/OFF-

Hi Joel, this seemed a good topic for my blog, so see my entry this morning! It'll go up shortly.