Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

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lanten
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Joined: 05/27/2011

Here's how I "found" Hardbat -- and I'm very glad that I did!

(PS  Sorry, I also posted this as a reply at first, but didn't know if people would see it (prior post I replied to was in March).

A friend who has a table could barely return a ball when I brought over a couple of sticky, smooth, sponge rackets.

We then each tried a couple of TOTALLY worn out, very old smooth paddles he had around.  You may as well have double coated them with talcum powder, as this was the level of friction the rubber had (or more accurately, didn't have...).

Well, an interesting thing happened.  I couldn't control the "powdered" smooth rubber to save my life (at first).  But the cool thing was that it was actually, all of a sudden COMPETITIVE.  I hadn't gotten much above a 1500 rating in the several tournaments I played (smooth), but he was barely an 800, I would guess.

I was having a BLAST, because the games were actually somewhat close -- and I had to actually concentrate to adjust to the powdered rubber.

So, it was then I researched "Modern Hardbat," got a couple of good quality Stigas with Butterfly Orthodox (I think that was the rubber model) and FELL IN LOVE with hardbat.

It has totally re-energized me and renewed my enthusiasm for the sport.  It is a BLAST!

I have had some legitimately good coaching/lessons from well-know TT coaches, but I have not played many tournaments -- and only with smooth.  I was ultimately disillusioned by how much of an inordinate amount of influence the rubbers (especially the REDICULOUS lack of restrictions on the rubbers) had on the nature of the game.  And like I have read others comment:  the degree of deception and trickery and absurd spin in the smooth game DE-EMPHASIZES the pure skill of hitting a ball and returning a ball predictalbly struck.

No, I'm not trashing the smooth game.  I'm amazed with the level or world-class smooth play.  How the heck they can pretty consistently decipher the varieties of spins is amazing.  So, I am impresssed with the skills and talent of world-class players.

But for me, it's hardbat forever more!  (And maybe some smooth thrown in there just for "old-time sake").

My only disappointment now is that in Florida, where there used to be hardbat divisions in tournaments up until a few years ago,  they have changed over to sandpaper divisions.  No hardbat division.  Hardbat is allowed of course though in sponge divisions.

A question,  for those of you who have tried it:  Is it realistic (and fun) to play hardbat vs. sponge in tournaments?   I don't think I want to go to sandpaper, just to play in that separated division -- it just doesn't seem right (plus again, NO restrictions or controls on the type of surface). 

Should I not feel that way about Sandpaper play and get some of those paddles also?

 

Thanks for any input, suggestions for competition or equipment (my previous research led me to Butterfly Orthodox -- I play an agressive style (could loop and lift off both sides), but can defend comfortably too.

 

Boneman
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Joined: 01/18/2011
Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

As a hardbat player that has yet to be able to attend and participate in a true hardbat event, all my tournament experiences have bee vs. sponge.  I'm no great player but I enjoy the game much more playing hardbat.  Back when I played sponge, I pretty much just used spin to control the path of the ball.. never in a deceptive manner so when I played sponge vs. sponge in a tournament I was at a very distinct DISadvantage.

 

You can ply hardbat vs. sponge quite successfully.  If I had to wait around to play simply hardbat vs. hardbat... I would hardly ever get to play!  Be aware though... hardbat vs. sponge is considerably different than hardbat vs. hardbat.

As to LIHA.... that is where you really discover how much of an immense difference a BLADE can make!  As it were, my LIHA bat is an LKT Toxic 3 with some crazy PURPLE sandpaper on it that I procured from Home Depot... I forget the grit... 180 I think.

Big issue with LIHA is that nobody swinging a sponge bat wants to hit against you... as they feel it will damage their rubber... and they're utterly convinced that the ball ends up being unbalanced.

Anyhow... glad to hear (Apparantly I've not been in here for a while) of another hardbatter joining the ranks.

@Jay:  Yeah.... after playing straight hardbat for who knows how long... Just for fun... I drug out one of the old squishies.... and found myself completely and utterly unable to control it.

 

Too funny...
Later!

Larry "Boneman" Bone
Dingmans Ferry, PA
80421

Larry Hodges
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Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

 

Just for the heck of it I googled "table tennis in South Florida" and got a result for Marty Prager in Hollywood. I imagine you know him.

Very well, for many years. We used to coach against each other regularly at the Junior Olympics and Junior Nationals. I think he's semi-retired now. 

There are some tournaments, periodically, within one and a half to two hours from where I live. But, like I mentioned there are no longer any hardbat divisions. They have gone to sandpaper only. So, would I be better off staying with hardbat exclusively (for developmental purposes) and playing in the sponge divisions? Or, should I play sandpaper also? (Which I really have no desire to do, I don't think -- although I can't say I have a good reason why not, other than the fact that the only thing I remember growing up was that sandpaper was "illegal")?  

It's unfortunate that there aren't more hardbat competitions. The primary ones are at the U.S. Open, USA Nationals, and at some 4-star tournaments, such as the Cary Cup and Badger Opens. There seem to be more sandpaper competitions popping up all over, which I would have found astonishing a few years ago. They are primarily because of a few sandpaper promoters, such as Ty Hoff, Michael Babuin, and (surprisingly) Marty Reisman. Whether to focus on hardbat or sandpaper, that's up to you - I can't really help you with that decision. I can tell you that sandpaper is of course illegal in sponge competition (I'm sure you know that), while hardbat is legal. So if you go sandpaper, you can play in sandpaper competitions; if you go hardbat, you can play in the few hardbat competitions plus any sponge event, though at a disadvantage. Plus you can use either in practice. 

Would sandpaper (...don't even like the thought of it) hurt my development for hardbat, versus staying with hardbat only (against hardbat or sponge)?  The tournament directors tell me sandpaper is a lot of fun and that I would like it. I suppose you have seen this site:  http://www.carytta.net/sandpaperliha.htm

The two are a bit different; with hardbat, you can continually attack, while with sandpaper you are almost forced to play defense. It's difficult to counter-hit with sandpaper, relatively easy with hardbat (though it's tricky against the topspin of a sponge player). Some find it easy to go back and forth, but I had some difficulties, and decided to focus (for now) on hardbat when I wasn't playing sponge. I have no trouble going from sponge to hardbat, but great difficulty going from hardbat to sponge. I'm not sure yet about sandpaper. 

lanten
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Joined: 05/27/2011
Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Thanks very much for taking the time to write, Larry.

Your suggestions about hardbat versus sponge were insightful and helpful.  I will definitely try your recommendations for shot selection and strategy.

I enjoyed your article about "serving in hardbat" and yes, I have been to hardbat.com and looked at everything else I could find about hardbat.  I was especially encouraged to see that there were several articles by some very high level players who also found the same frustrations about the sponge game, and who enjoyed the "purity" of hardbat.

I grew up playing table tennis, but had no actual instruction (although I did have a book by  Dick Miles) written I would guess about 1965.  However for about 20 years, after moving away from home I stopped playing table tennis and focused on tennis. Not that I wanted to stop playing table tennis, but there is nowhere in Gainesville Florida to play. And I do mean literally, NOwhere). There is a club at the University of Florida but it is only open to students and faculty.

I have been a USPTA tennis teaching professional for the past 30 years, so I can relate to all of the study you have put into table tennis and the quality of your articles and books.

I will negotiate you will need I was at a USPTA conference in South Florida about 15 years ago. A couple of years prior to that I had resumed playing after finding someone who was a good player and had a table. Just for the heck of it I googled "table tennis in South Florida" and got a result for Marty Prager in Hollywood. I imagine you know him.

Anyway, I called him, discovered he does private lessons, and ended up doing (and I'm not exaggerating) about 20 hours of lessons over the course of five days! (I hardly went to the conference).  It was great receiving such high-level coaching from someone who also really enjoyed teaching.  (I recently called him and told him about my hardbat experience, but he said that he was not interested in coaching hardbat -- which kind of surprised me because he competed against Marty Reisman. They are about the same age). I thought maybe he would get a kick out of a little hardbat, (at least for old times sake) but I guess not. Too bad…

A few questions please:

There are some tournaments, periodically, within one and a half to two hours from where I live. But, like I mentioned there are no longer any hardbat divisions. They have gone to sandpaper only.

So, would I be better off staying with hardbat exclusively (for developmental purposes) and playing in the sponge divisions? Or, should I play sandpaper also? (Which I really have no desire to do, I don't think -- although I can't say I have a good reason why not, other than the fact that the only thing I remember growing up was that sandpaper was "illegal")?  

Would sandpaper (...don't even like the thought of it) hurt my development for hardbat, versus staying with hardbat only (against hardbat or sponge)?  The tournament directors tell me sandpaper is a lot of fun and that I would like it. I suppose you have seen this site:  http://www.carytta.net/sandpaperliha.htm

Thanks again Larry,
Bob

 

 

 

 

Jay Turberville
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Joined: 01/18/2011
Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

I play with hardbat full time against sponge.  Larry mentioned some of the advantages and disadvantages so I won't go into that.  My observation is that below about 1500, I think hardbat may actually be a net advantage.  In the range between 1500 and 1800, I think it is only a slight disadvantage.  It is only above 1800 or 1900 where I think the net disadvantage really sets in.  The reason is apparent if you look at Larry's list.  It is at about that range that players begin to have steady and fairly powerful loops.

What I have found amusing is that the more I've trained with hardbat and improved my game, the more that my inverted foes seem inclined to see the "advantages" I get from playing hardbat. Of course, they aren't really seeing hardbat advantages as much as they are seeing the results of me training a bit more than them.

As for sandpaper, I find that it is good training for hardbat.  It forces you to stoke with purpose.  I find it easy to go back and forth between the two.  OTOH, I can barely keep the ball on the table with inverted/sponge these days since I play hardbat full time.  I would love it if there were sandpaper tournaments in Arizona.  I think you should at least try one to see how you like it.

 

 

 

gnopgnipster
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Joined: 05/02/2011
Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Valor Table Tennis will be sponsoring a hardbat tournament in February or March of 2012 in Atlanta. The tournament will be in two sections, above 1700 and below 1700. Be on the lookout for a formal announcement on the USATT website tournaments section. 

 

CHEERS!

Larry Hodges
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Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Let me know when you have more info so I can both mention it in my blog, and see if I can make it. Hope I can be there!

gnopgnipster
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Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Hi Larry,

March 3-4 we will have a tournament in Atlanta. Hardbat events will be on Sunday morning and noon and are sponsored by Valor Table Tennis.

Prices for hardbat:

Open   1st $250+ Trophy,   2nd $150      
U-1400  1st $150+ Trophy,   2nd $50 

Saturday there will be a giant RR regular TT event. Sunday afternoon there will be some junior events. Tornament will be listed on the USATT website.

Hope you can make it and bring lots of people. I want to make the hardbat tournament an every 6 months event and every time bigger.

CHEERS and Happy New Year!!

Alberto

gnopgnipster
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Joined: 05/02/2011
Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

CORRECTION!

The 2012 Atlanta Spring Open Table Tennis Tournament will be June 2nd and 3rd. The Hardbat events will be Sunday morning. The tournament is Two Star and has a total price fund of $1,200.00. The tournament is currently listed on the tournament schedule of USATT.org

 

CHEERS! 

Larry Hodges
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Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Hi Alberto, 

Tim Boggan will be moving in with me on March 1 for about two weeks while I do the page layouts of Vol. 13 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, so I won't be able to make that one. (Then we drive down together to the Cary Cup, Mar. 15-18.) So bad timing for me. 

Larry Hodges
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Re: Re-enthused by Hardbat "discovery"

Hi Lanten,

You aren't the only one who had a hardbat renaissance - others have reported a similar experience when they first tried hardbat. (See hardbat.com links below.) It's a different game, and one that many prefer over sponge. I'm one of a few who play both. Though I'm primarily a sponge player (since I'm a full-time coach), I've been playing competitive hardbat for about 20 years, winning a bunch of titles along the way. (National or Open Hardbat singles twice, over 40 four times, doubles ten times, Cary Cup the last two years. I'm the current hardbat over 40 and doubles champion.) I too use Butterfly Orthodox, and attack all-out on the forehand, and both chop and hit on the backhand - these days, mostly chop.

You asked about using hardbat against sponge. You can do that, but you have to accept that you are under a disadvantage. There's a reason sponge dominates, and most use it. However, you can compete against sponge with hardbat - there are even some advantages. Players aren't used to playing hardbat. You can smash against backspin better, and as well or better against many other shots. You can control serve returns better. You can attack short serves better. You can mix in chopping better. You have a better dead block. You can drop the ball short better. However, you will often get overwhelmed by opponent's loops. To deal with that, you generally have three options. 1) Attack first; 2) block; or 3) chop. You will also face problems with deep serves, since if you return them defensively, the opponent often will loop. (So either attack the serve, play defense, or ideally mix it up.)

After a bad sponge tournament dropped my rating to about 2170 back in the mid- or early-1990s, I switched to hardbat for nine tournaments. I never lost anyone under 2100, and actually gained rating points, to 2183. So yes, you can compete against sponge. I found it's often best to favor the extremes, either attack all-out or play pure defense, and move back and forth. I didn't find much success trying to play a counter-hitting game, as sponge is simply better for that. 

Here's an article I wrote on Hardbat Serving Tips. (I also wrote an article on the Hardbat Forehand, and another on playing hardbat in the modern game, but neither is online, alas.) Have you found www.hardbat.com? You might start with the "Why Hardbat?" and "FAQ" segments. 

Hope this helps!