July 6, 2020

Tip of the Week
Side-to-Side Training for Improvement and Health.

Subconscious Table Tennis
I noticed an interesting during a session with Navin Kumar on Saturday. (If you Google "Bionic Table Tennis," about a zillion articles on him comes up.) We were about to do a drill where he has to smash (forehands and then backhands) and hit a bottle on the table. The key, as I always point out, is to not consciously aim for it. That's the common mistake most make. Whether it's in a game or practice, the minute the conscious mind takes control, much of your training disappears, since the whole point of training is to make it reflexive, so you are really training your subconscious.

When I demonstrated this, I put the bottle on the far side, bounced a ball on my side, and smacked the bottle with a barrage of forehands, almost never missing. (When it misses, it's by less than an inch.)  I moved the bottle around to show that you can change your target and still have great accuracy. And that's when I noticed something.

When aiming for the bottle, all my conscious mind has to do is look at the target and decide I want to hit it. The subconscious does the rest. But the part that was fascinating, and which I hadn't really focused on before, was how my subconscious would adjust my foot positioning each time. I wasn't consciously aware of it, but each time I went over and moved the bottle to another part of the table, I'd come back, and when I'd look at it, my feet reflexively moved into position to line me up for the shot.

Of course, once I thought about it, it mostly fell apart. The conscious mind can somewhat closely match what the subconscious mind is trained to do, but only somewhat so. And so when I thought about where my feet should be and then tried hitting the target, I could always tell that I wasn't perfectly set, and I'd have to adjust a little with my upper body for this, and suddenly the accuracy wasn't there - the balls sprayed about the area where the bottle was, sometimes hitting, but with nowhere near the precision when I don't think about it. (It's even worse if you think about or try to consciously control your stroke!) Once I blanked my mind out again and let reflexes take over, everything fell back into place, and I smacked the poor bottle ten times in a row.

To show an example of reflexive foot positioning, here's a video (18 sec) I saw recently of Pete May vs. George Cooper from three years ago. As the video says, they have been competing since the early 1970s. Pete turns 80 next year, and is still rated 1868. (George is 73.) Neither has world-class foot speed, but guess what they both have? Reflexive footwork. Watch their feet as they play - it's all subconscious. For example, watch how Pete (the chopper on far side) reflexively reacts to each of George's attacks, putting him in perfect position for each shot. It's all done subconsciously, from years of training and playing.

Here are two videos Navin took of our session.

RIP John Tannehill
Surprisingly, I only really met John once, though I've seen him at a number of tournaments. I played him in the hardbat event at some big tournament in the Midwest (probably late 1990s), best of three to 21. It was a battle, and I could just see him adjusting to me as the match went on. It was a battle of his efficient two-winged attack versus my all-out forehand attack. Alas, after I won the first, he figured a few things out and won a close three-gamer.

New from Samson Dubina
He's been busy!

Butterfly Favorites

Influence: Key to Success in Sports
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Olympic Athlete Lily Zhang Explains What It Takes to Be a Pro at Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:42).

Robot Training with Humanized Robots
Here's the video (15 sec). I've argued for years that the main problem with table tennis robots is that you aren't learning to react to a ball coming off an actual paddle, which is what you face in a real game. Well, this solves that! I hope they will be available in the US soon, at a reasonable price.

Blindfold Training
Here's the video (65 sec). I think the point is to train the player to react not just to the sight of the ball, but its sound as it hits the table. Notice how about halfway through the girls got pretty consistent? (I'm sure there's a really good coronavirus mask joke in here somewhere...)

Q&A with Kevin Nguyen Part 2
Here's the video (4:05).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USATT

Coronavirus: Table Tennis Must Seize the Opportunity to Reinvent Itself, Says World Head of Sport News & Top Stories
Here's the article.

Pandemic Nostalgia has Hetherington Excited for NCTTA 2021
Here's the article by Michael Reff from the National Collegiate TTA.

Bless His Heart …..He Still Plays Ping Pong
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Puerto Rico to Host Inaugural Open International Tournament
Here's the ITTF article.

New from ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Incredible Point, Plus a Hand Switch
Here's the video (55 sec)!

Table Tennis Elf Shirt
Here it is!

So Tell Me About Your Backhand
Here's the cartoon! I think the "psychiatrist" is supposed to be George Brathwaite. The cartoon is from this story in the New York Times from 2011.

Playing with Household Items
Here's the video (28:11) as a father and son have it out with pillows, towels, rolls of tape, scissors, a Ritz crackers box, and whatever else is handy - including their hands! Yes, this is what coronavirus has led us to. (Best viewing is to keep jumping ahead to see what they do next. They are obviously good players - the kid's obviously had some good training.)

Adam in Singapore
Here's the video (7:41)!

Ping Pong Battleship 2
Here's the video 5:18) from Pongfinity!

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