Erica Wu

December 6, 2013

Seeing Doctor

I'm one of those people who hates seeing doctors. But alas, my arm not only didn't heal during the week I had off playing at the Teams, it somehow got worse. So I finally made an appointment with an orthopedist/sports medicine doctor, for 1PM today. I'll report on this on Monday. I'm pretty sure I have tendinitis.

I'm also considering possible scenarios if I can't do any serious playing for a while, which mostly affects private coaching. I already do a number of group coaching sessions, but I have a number of private students as well. One scenario is I group them in two-hour segments, and bring in one of our practice partners for the middle hour - the second half of the first one-hour session, the first half hour of the second one-hour session. Then I focus on multiball and serve & receive in my thirty minutes, and just coach (while practice partner does the playing) in the other thirty minutes. In an ideal world, I'd have the practice partner do all the hitting the entire hour, but I'd have to pay him for it. This 50-50 arrangements lowers that cost 50%, and should be workable as I can still feed multiball and do most serve & receive drills as long as we don't play out the point.

Jorg Rosskopf and Me

At the about.com forum, Jim Butler quotes German coach and former star Jorg Rosskopf as saying, "When I play with the German Team I only practice playing the first ball against them.  After this I just let the ball go." This was because he's older and so not as fast as before, and so can't rally as fast as he used to. This is exactly what I sometimes do with the top juniors at my club. I don't play at the level I used to, but my serve and receive is still very strong, and so often I let them practice against just that, and don't continue the rally.

Returning Short Serves (and Playing Penholders)

Tuesday's USATT Tip of the Day was "Returning Serves Short." This was one of the 171 tips I wrote for USATT back in 1999-2003. Nearly all of them are still pertinent, as is this one, but the opening line says, "At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push..."  While it is still important to learn the short push if you want to reach a very high level, and you will be handicapping yourself at even a moderately high level if you don't develop it, it is no longer the "most common return of a short serve." In the last ten years we've seen the rise of the backhand banana flip, and that is now the most common return of a short serve. 

The best players all have excellent short pushes, but these days more and more top players look to return many or most short serves by attacking with their backhands with a banana flip.

When I coach high-level players, much of the receive tactics against short serves is the proportion of flipping, pushing short, and pushing long. Against some players it's best to mostly push long to the backhand over and over, a nice safe return if they can't attack it effectively. Against others you have to find ways to stop their attack, or to take the attack, and that's where pushing short and flipping come in. Most often a player should choose two of these three returns as the main two, and the third as an occasional variation. 

At lower levels it's all about consistency and placement. It's also about reading the serve as many players at the beginning/intermediate levels still find themselves pushing topspin serves. 

And yet, the foundation of a good receive is good fundamentals, i.e. good technique and footwork. If you have those, then it gets a lot easier. Many players think they are misreading the spin when they push topspin serves high or off the end, but often they have actually read the spin, but don't have confidence in driving or flipping the ball, whether forehand or backhand, and so fall back on "safe" pushing - which, against a topspin serve, isn't so safe.

So develop those fundamentals and they'll greatly help your receive. 

NOTE - today's Tip of the Day, "General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking," also has one thing I might want to expand on now. Against penholders, it says, "They are less vulnerable in the middle, but still have to choose between forehand and backhand, and so are still weak there. Most penholders tend to be weak on one corner." This was aimed more at conventional penholders, but since that time we've seen the rise of the reverse penhold backhand, which plays pretty much like a shakehander, and is typically as strong in the corners and weak in the middle as a shakehander.

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Wednesday, when I left for the North American Teams. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Dec 05, 2013 General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking
Key places to land the ball to win your next match!

Dec 04, 2013 Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?
The situation: Your best shot is missing, and you are losing because of this. Should you keep using it, or abandon it?

Dec 03, 2013 Returning Serves Short
At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push, even against a sidespin serve. At the lower levels, most players just push them deep, giving opponents the chance to loop.

Dec 02, 2013 Playing Against Seemiller Style Players
No two players play alike, and this applies to those with the Seemiller grip as well.

Dec 01, 2013 Tournament Experience vs. Practice
Many players practice for many months, not playing in any tournaments until they feel they are completely ready. They then enter a tournament … and flop.

Nov 30, 2013 Power Player Control Shots
There’s nothing an experienced and tactical player likes better than facing a player with big shots but little else. On the other hand, there’s little more scary than an opponent with big shots and ball control to set the big shots up and withstand opponent’s attacks.

Nov 29, 2013 In a Lopsided Match, What Should the Higher-Rated Player Do?
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 28, 2013 Increase Forearm Snap to Increase Smashing Speed
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 27, 2013 Flat Flip vs. Topspin Flip
Suppose you face an opponent who serves short, and loops your long returns, even if you flip them. 

Nominations for USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the notice from USATT.

What is the Effect of Sponge Thickness in Table Tennis Rubber?

Here's a series of answers to this question by top coaches, including Stellan Bengtsson, Massimo Constantini, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Scott Lurty, and Sara Fu.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's the new video (12:24), covering November.

Kanak Jha Interview

Here's the article and video interview (2:28) with USA's Kanak Jha at the World Junior Championships.

Erica Wu Interview

Here's the article and video interview (1:45) with USA's Erica Wu at the World Junior Championships. She had just upset Laura Pfefer of France.

Liu Shiwen is Technically Flawed

Here's the article.

"Ping Pong Summer" to Premiere at Sundance

Here's the article. The movie stars Susan Sarandon as well as Judah Friedlander.

Mike Mezyan's Newest Table Tennis Artwork

Here's "Be Bruce," as in Bruce Lee. It's a "…huge 8 foot by 11 foot wall mural at the new Bruce Lee lounge in Chicago. (Here are other table tennis artworks by Mike.)

More of Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I posted a short video of basketball star Yao Ming playing table tennis with the Chinese National Team in China. Here's a better and longer video (4:23).

Table Tennis Jokes

Here's a collection!

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October 16, 2013

RGIII Response Video

We're up to 689 views (as of 10AM EST) on the RGIII Response Video (1:15). Let's make it go viral!!! (I blogged about this yesterday.)

Last night I posted it two Washington Redskins forums, The Hogs forum and Extreme Redskins forum. I also posted it several times on Facebook, on my page and on the pages of the four players, with requests for others to repost, and it's been reposted by a number of people. (So should you.) It's also on the USATT web page and on the USOC web page. Today I plan to send it to some local media.

Video Review Before Tournaments

On Oct. 26-27 I'll be coaching at the 4-star South Shore Butterfly Open in Indiana. This means lots of practice for the players going there over the next ten days. For me, it means video review. I'll be coaching three top players, so I'm spending more and more time watching them in practice so I'm ready to coach them. More importantly, I'm about to hit the video screen soon to study video of their recent tournament matches. This is where you really learn a lot about a player. You can learn a lot by watching them play locals, but they are used to playing those locals, and so it's not the same thing. To properly prepare to coach someone in a tournament you need to see what they do against players they are not used to playing.

For example, one of our local top players tends to do a lot of very short serves. Players get used to this and expect it, and so are comfortable against it. Another likes to serve long a lot, and again, players are used to it and are ready for it. But against a player they are not used to, they have no clue what's coming next, at least at the start, and so their comfort zone is lower. Often they fall back on something simple like flipping all the serves, or pushing all the backspin serves back long. (When coaching top juniors, the first thing that goes when they play a new player is their short game - they may do it well against players whose serves they are used to, but they aren't so comfortable doing it against a new player. So I usually have to remind them to bring that receive into play.)

There are also rallying tendencies. A player may not hesitate to counterloop against players they are used to playing, where they probably react very quickly to shots since they are so used to the opponent. But there's often some hesitation when playing a new player. Often you have to remind the player to play "free," and just let himself go and do what he does in practice. There are also the never-ending reminders to attack an opponent's middle. (I think players forget this in matches because so many practice drills involve going into the practice partner's backhand or forehand corner, and so they naturally do that in matches as well. They all do drills to the middle as well, but the majority of practice shots generally go to a corner.)

I also watch videos of likely opponents, but for a tournament like this, there are just too many possible opponents, and so I instead will mostly rely there on memory of past matches, watching them at the tournament, and my rather lengthy file of notes from past matches.

Great Rally at Japan Open

Here's a video (35 sec) showing a great rally at the Japan Open between Japan's Jun Mizutani and Taiwan's Chen Chien-An.

Ping-Pong Ball Fire Pit

Here's a video (2:09) of what happens when you fill a fire pit with ping-pong balls and light it. Wait'll you see how high the flames go!

Hold On to Your Racket

Here's a video (56 sec) of USA's Erica Wu and Lily Zhang at the worlds against Ai Fukuhara and Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan. As Erica goes for a shot, her racket hits Lily in the leg and goes flying! She gets great distance. (I may have posted this once before, but let's watch it again.) 

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September 18, 2012

Learn From Others

Something that's always bothered me as weird is that often I'll play someone who absolutely cannot return my serves. If the player is a beginner, they'll often ask how I do the serve and how to return it. But starting at the intermediate and advanced levels, almost nobody asks, even if they struggle with my serve, even if it's someone I coach. This is especially bothersome with up-and-coming juniors, who presumably are striving for a high level. Don't they want to learn?

The same is true of other aspects of the game, but a player can better see what's happening with most other techniques. If they struggle with my short receive, they can see I'm just dropping the ball short. If they can't see the direction of my forehand, they can see that I'm changing directions at the last second by turning my shoulders. But they usually cannot see how, for example, I'm serving topspin when I'm stroking downward with an open racket, hitting the bottom of the ball, and continuing downward. (Short answer - the racket is rotating about an axis centered over the hitting surface, and so the near side of the blade is actually rotating upward at contact, though only for a split second if done properly.) They can't see how it's done, and can't figure out how to read it (since they don't know where the topspin is coming from), and yet they never ask! (Well, rarely.)

Next time you're playing me or someone else and struggling to react to spins that don't look like they should be there, ask how it's done. I'll show you, as will most top players, most of whom you'll find love to talk about their craft. There are multiple ways to create these deceptions (serving is the "trick" part of table tennis), and are much easier to show in person than in an article, even with a photo sequence. Tricky serves are subtle, and subtlety doesn't show up well in photo sequences. 

I mentioned above that intermediate and advanced players rarely ask how these serves are done. Yes, while advanced players are experts at the specific techniques they use, many have large holes in their knowledge and skills.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook and the Most Interesting Criticism I Received This Week

A few years ago I wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. The purpose was to show table tennis coaches the professional side of coaching - how to attract and keep students, run programs, maximize profits so they could make a good living, etc. A few days ago I was criticized for not including yoga in the Handbook - really!!!

I've been toying for a while with starting up a Coaches Academy, where I'd recruit and train players and coaches to be professional table tennis coaches, where they'd make a living as a coach while running large junior programs. I've argued for years that USA Table Tennis should be doing this (as is done in many other sports organizations, such as the U.S. Tennis Association), but to no avail. If I ever do this, the PTTCH would be the Handbook. (If only table tennis were played on slabs of ice instead of a table, then we'd call it ice tennis, and the Handbook would be the Professional Ice Tennis Coaches Handbook, or PITCH, and then I could pitch PITCH to everyone!)

Four Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? There will be a surprise guest appearance by everyone's favorite table tennis player - YOU!!! Unless, of course, you disappoint all your fans and don't show. That would be despicable. (Deadline to enter is 5PM Thursday.)

Liu Guoliang on Zhang Jike Missing World Cup

Here's an article where Chinese Men's Coach Liu Guoliang discusses why Zhang Jike will miss the World Cup.

Erica Wu and Barack Obama

Here's a picture of Olympian Erica Wu with President Obama outside the White House. (Yesterday we had Lily Zhang with Obama. I haven't found any with Ariel Hsing or Timothy Wang with Obama.)

Strange Table Tennis Pictures

Here's a page full of strange and weird table tennis pictures.

Transcending Table Tennis

Here's the Transcending Table Tennis page, with seven table tennis videos.

Interspecies Table Tennis

I believe we have humans, cats, and mice playing in this cartoon. Yes, the cat is playing with its food.

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August 06, 2012

Tip of the Week

The Feel of Good Technique.

Sore arm and shoulder

After a week of coaching at the Southern Open and Junior Olympics in Houston, where I barely hit any balls myself - the players matched up evenly, and so I wasn't really needed - my body is about as stiff as diamond neutronium in a black hole. (Physicists, please do not comment.) Unfortunately, this meant that when I began coaching again upon my return, the muscles rebelled. We're talking full-scale rebellion of the Syria and Libya kind, where the muscles are fighting a civil war that'll make us all forget about Gettysburg. If Assad is facing anything like this, he's history.

On top of that, I mistakenly used my multiball racket, with old, deader sponge, while coaching a drill where I was looping, and this meant I felt myself straining harder than usual to loop.

Net result is my arm and shoulder are pretty sore. I've been icing it, and I think they'll be okay in a few days. Fortunately, most of my coaching this week is in the MDTTC camp where I mostly do multiball, so the arm will get to rest. Of course, this means my muscles will get even tighter.

How dense are my muscles? While down in Houston we went swimming in a pool one time. Nathan Hsu took pictures of me showing off as I lay down on the bottom of the pool, and then did pushups. Yes, I sink that fast. I may post the pictures later, but don't have them right now.

Surprisingly, I think I need to go back to weight training combined with stretching to get them back in shape. The muscles not only are tight but don't feel as strong - I sometime find myself straining to create power that used to be easy to do. The weight training strengthens and loosens the muscles, if I stretch afterwards. Or that's what it seems like. (I'd always thought weight training would tighten the muscles, but that seems to be the case only if you do very heavy weights and don't stretch. Anyone care to enlighten us on this topic?)

If I do weight training again, I will only use light weights for my arm and shoulder. I used weights to recover from back problems and to get back in table tennis shape last fall, but earlier this year I hurt my arm doing so and stopped. I need to remember which parts of me injure easily (light weights) and which don't.

MDTTC a National Center of Excellence

USATT has a program where clubs that fulfill certain criteria become a National Center of Excellence. Last Tuesday the Maryland Table Tennis Center became the seventh club to so named. (We would have applied a while ago but decided to wait until after the recent expansion and renovation.) We had applied back on May 23, so it was a nerve-biting ten weeks. Here is the listing; at some point presumably they'll add our name to the list and do the press release.

MDTTC Featured in Asian Fortune

The Maryland Table Tennis Center and Timmy La are featured in an article in Asian Fortune Magazine. The article went online on Saturday, and will be in the upcoming print edition. That's him pictured at the top; the second picture is from one of our recent camps.

Airport Pong, Part 2

Here's another episode of Airport Pong (2:48). I posted Part 1 in my blog on Friday.) As noted last week, this is what happens when our flight back from the Junior Olympics in Houston is delayed four hours. The two girls are Lilly Lin (righty), Amy Lu (lefty), with Nathan Hsu and I the other players. (I come in at 1:14; Nathan I hit for about half an hour.) Nathan did a lot of lobbing in this video - his arm was sore from five days of playing at the Southern Open and Junior Olympics, and so I didn't want him to do any serious smashing or looping. This episode was put together by Nathan, who flew the following day to Hong Kong where he's currently in a two week training camp. (And is currently Facebook messaging me - as I write this - about a fantasy story he's working on. Yes, I've gotten him hooked on writing SF & fantasy!) The singing at the end was in the "echo chamber" at Houston International Airport.

How to Maximize Your Forehand Power

Here's a video from Table Tennis University (5:03, though the last 90 seconds is an advertisement) on maximizing forehand power. When he demonstrates it early on I think he's exaggerating the forward body movement to make it more obvious; see the looping demo that starts at 3:03, where he moves more in a circle (though of course forward as well), creating great torque.

Table Tennis in The New Yorker

Here's an article in The New Yorker that covers that gamut of table tennis issues - the Olympics; Ariel Hsing and her Bill Gates/Warren Buffet (Uncle Bill and Uncle Warren); octogenarians; China, Chuang Tse-tung and Chairman Mao; and Fred Astaire’s tap shoes

Mary Carillo Plays Table Tennis

Broadcaster and former tennis star Mary Carillo gets a table tennis lesson from comedian and "World Table Tennis Champion" Judah Friedlander in this video (3:30). And here's where I gratuitously mention that I've given Judah several private lessons.

Erica Wu Assaults Umpire at Olympics

Okay, during her swing she apparently hit doubles partner Lily Zhang, with the result that the racket went flying at said umpire. Here's a picture of the racket flying away (see it on right) and the aftermath.

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July 19, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Three

Yesterday's focus was on the forehand loop. I gave my usual lecture and demo on the subject, with Nathan Hsu as my demo partner. To demonstrate the loop against backspin I alternately forehand looped and forehand chopped while Nathan blocked and pushed.

There were two new players in my multiball group who had just started out on Monday, so this was only their third day of playing. When the first one's turn came for multiball, a 9-year-old boy, right up until the last second I was thinking we should just focus on the basic forehand and backhand drives. Then, for some reason, I changed my mind and asked if he'd like to try looping. He said "Yes!" About two minutes later he'd picked it up and was doing it pretty consistently, still more of a roll, but with pretty good topspin! I was rather surprised.

So I did the same with the next beginner, a 12-year-old girl. Same result! (Many other beginners are not able to pick looping up this quickly.) As I told the two of them, either they are very talented or I'm a really good coach! (We jokingly argued over which it was all morning, with me taking the "very good coach" side.)

Looping and I have a long-term love-hate relationship. I was a late starter to table tennis, starting when I was 16, and right from the start I was a natural hitter. I found looping much more difficult, probably due to tight muscles (even then). However, I was determined to be a looper (just as many natural loopers were determined to be hitters before that style sort of died out at the higher levels), and practiced constantly. Eventually I developed a pretty efficient, if somewhat stiff forehand loop. When I play matches I loop and smash equally, but my hitting is definitely more natural - but I still focus on looping, because, gosh darn it, I wanna be a looper!!!

In the afternoon I introduced the Adjustable Height Device. I blogged about this back on July 20, 2011, when I first used it in camps last summer. It was created by a player I coach, John Olsen, and the kids love it. Here it is in its high and low settings. The challenge is to serve under the bar. The key is to ignore the bar and simply serve low. We also use it sometimes in regular rallies to see if the players can rally under the bar, which in rallies would be set a bit higher than for serves.

I also introduced Froggy (no pictures available, sorry), a large rubber frog, about the size of a soccer ball (but wider, not as tall). I put it on the table, divide players into two teams, and they take turns trying to hit it, two shots each. First team to hit it 20 times wins. I'll try to get a picture today.

Slurpee fever has stuck the camp. During lunch break each day I'm now taking two car trips to the local 7-11 where the kids load up on slurpees. (The kids were shocked to learn that both 7-11 and slurpees were around when I was their age 40 years ago, when I too used to get 7-11 slurpees, back when 7-11 opened at 7AM and closed at 11PM - hence the name. I just looked it up - 7-11 slurpees came out in 1967, when I was seven.) It's not like I'm not compensated for the taxi service; Allen Wang treats me to a Planters Peanut Bar each time. They are my favorite candy bar; if you want to be my friend, you will bring them to me.

Washington Post to MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Friday at 11AM for a story on Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Champion) and other MDTTC players. Locals, feel free to come in! Ironically, the player Derek defeated in the final, Gal Alguetti of New Jersey, is here this week for our training camp.

Wang Hao and a Short History of the Penhold Grip

Here's an interesting story on the ITTF web page about the modernization of the penhold grip, which at one point was dying out at the higher levels until the development of the reverse penhold backhand brought it back.

Kalinikos Kreanga vs. Michael Maze

Here are some great points from a video (2:53) of a match between these two from five years ago. Still great play - and notice how tactically they keep attacking the other's middle both to score points and to open up the wide angles?

The Way Table Tennis Should Be Played

Olympian Trick Shots

Lily Zhang and Erica Wu demonstrate their trick shots (1:19) - hilarious!

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June 1, 2012

Easterns

I'm off for the Eastern Open this afternoon, where I'll primarily be coaching Derek Nie, one of the top 11 and under players in the U.S. with a rating of 2136. If you are there, stop by and say hello! 

Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats by Fred Danner

Review by Larry Hodges

If you're a history buff, and enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes happenings in Ping-Pong Diplomacy; war (Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War); China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.; table tennis in the U.S., and even the aerospace industry during the Apollo era, then you'll find this book fascinating. The book is really four short books in one.

Chapters 1-3 (pages 1-86) covers the history that led up to, and the actual events of, the 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy trip to China. The three chapters are titled "Setting the Stage for Ping-Pong Diplomacy," "The 1971 World Team's China Trip," and "Who Won the Nobel Peace Prize for Ping-Pong Diplomacy?" These chapters include fascinating background on the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and all the political infighting taking place in these countries, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.  The three wars were related in numerous ways, and all led to the eventual Ping-Pong Diplomacy of 1971-72. We also learn how it could have happened in 1961, but the U.S. blew it. The answer to the question posed in the last chapter is nobody won the Novel Peace Prize for any of this, but it goes over the possible recipients and explains why nobody ever did win for it. And here's a hilarious quote from Chairman Mao: "Regard a ping-pong ball as the head of your capitalist enemy. Hit it with your socialist bat, and you have won the point for the fatherland."

Chapters 4 and 6 (pages 89-125 and 162-170, "The Growth of Long Island Table Tennis" and "Table Tennis Becomes a Family Affair") cover the growth of Long Island Table Tennis, as well as how it became a family affair for the Danners. Slowly but inexorably Fred found himself running more and bigger events in Long Island (clubs, leagues, and tournaments) and for USTTA (now USATT), until it led to the U.S. Open (he was Operations Director) and the Long Island stop for Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1972. He also begins to travel to tournaments with his son Carl, now a prominent player and coach in the bay area in California. Did you know that the 1972 U.S. Open in Long Island, forty years ago, had 725 entries? (A few years later these numbers would break a thousand in Houston and Oklahoma City.) For perspective, last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee had 607. Fred also shows how the world has changed since those days, explaining how USTTA kept records in those non-computer days: "Each membership application required writing or typing the player's name and address nine times."

Chapter 5 (pages 126-161, "Life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry") is about life in the Long Island Aerospace Industry in the '60s, where Fred worked during the many years he was also working with Long Island Table Tennis. In some ways this seemed a bit off-topic, but it was related in various ways to Fred's continuing table tennis endeavors, in particular since all the corporate infighting both interfered with and somewhat mirrored what was going on in the world of table tennis, both in Long Island and the political intrigues in the background of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the various wars and countries involved. Much of the chapter was about infighting and politics at Grumman Aviation, including their fights with GE and other companies as they bid for various aspects of the Apollo 11 trip to the moon. We also learn about the theft of atom bomb designs by the Soviets, how we could have avoided the Korean War, and how we outwitted the Soviets by helping to bring table tennis and China into the Olympics.

Chapter 7 (pages 171-204, "LITTA's Big Year: The U.S.-China Matches") is about the Chinese National Team's U.S. trip, covering primarily their stop in Long Island, and how that came to be, rather than it being in the New York City's Madison Square Garden, as New York City Mayor John Lindsey wanted. (He doesn't come off very well in the book.)

Now who is Fred Danner? He's not only one of the 134 members of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame (inducted as a contributor in 1993), but he's also one of the 14 recipients of the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). Fred has a long career promoting table tennis both in Long Island and with USATT. He was instrumental in getting table tennis in the Olympics. He was president of the Long Island Table Tennis Association, founded the National Junior Table Tennis Foundation, wrote the National School Table Tennis Guide, and was at various times USTTA's Junior Development Chair, Membership Chair, Treasurer, Corresponding Secretary, and Vice President. He also got USTTA its tax exempt status.

You'll note this is Volume 1. Volume 2 will cover what Fred calls "$7,000,000 worth of favorable publicity" as a result of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, and the various contrasting ideas on how USTTA should proceed, and the resulting successes and failures. (A third volume is also planned.)

The book has a catchy cover, with USA's D-J Lee (6-time U.S. Men's Champion) serving to a Chinese opponent against a background made up of the U.S. and Chinese flags and the earth as seen from space. It is available at amazon.com for $29.59 (hardcover), $13.22 (soft cover), and $3.99 (ebook). 

This is the third book I know of in English that covers Ping-Pong Diplomacy, at least from the table tennis angle. The other two are "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 5," by Tim Boggan, $40, which covers the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, 1971-72, available at timboggantabletennis.com (along with his other eleven books on U.S. Table Tennis History); and "The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Forgotten Architect of Sino-U.S. Rapprochement" by Shigeo Itoh (1969 World Men's Champion from Japan), available at amazon.com for $90 or $65 used.

Backhand Loop

Here's a new video from Coach Brian Pace from Dynamic Table Tennis on Setting up the Backhand Loop in Competition (8:38).

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Returning a Drop Shot (1:41)

Celebrating 40 Years of U.S.-China Exchanges

Here's a video that highlights 40 years of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" (2:36).

Erica Wu in LA Times

Here's an article in yesterday's LA Times on U.S. Table Tennis Olympian Erica Wu.

Spelling Bee Ping-Pong Champion

Table Tennis Nation explains why Nicholas Rushlow, ping-pong player, will win the National Spelling Bee. (He didn't.)

Non-Table Tennis - How to Kill a Dragon

My fantasy story "In the Belly of the Beast" (6600 words) went up on Electric Spec yesterday. A sorcerer with a unique method for slaying dragons is swallowed by his dragon prey. While in the dragon's stomach, he uses a force field to protect himself, his daughter, and others, all of whom have also been swallowed. He abandoned his daughter when she was a child to go to sorcery school, and she doesn't recognize him. To her, there is the inept sorcerer in the dragon's stomach; the father who abandoned her; and the famous dragonslayer on the way to rescue them. She doesn't know that all three are the same. Most of the story takes place in the stomach of the dragon, which features the only battle between a wizard and a warrior in the belly of a dragon in history.

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May 30, 2012

Summer Table Tennis Training

Now's the time to start seriously thinking about your summer training, especially for those out of school, but also for the rest of you. There are training camps all over the USA. My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, will be running eleven consecutive weeks of camps, Mon-Fri every week from June 18 to Aug. 24. Here is info on the camps. I will be coaching along with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Xeng Xun. We will also have several 2400-2600 practice partners.

Don't have time to come to a camp? Or don't feel comfortable training with a bunch of juniors? (Most camps are dominated by kids, though all ages are welcome.) Here's the list of USATT coaches, or if you are in the Maryland area, here's info on private coaching at MDTTC.

Many players practice for years and never improve as much as they'd like. The problem is that they rarely go through a period of intense training, which is where you can maximize improvement. Set aside a week or so for a training camp, arrange a couple months afterwards with both private coaching and a regular practice schedule, and it'll pay off for years to come.

Before undergoing any training, take some time to think about your game. What are your current or potential strengths? What are your weaknesses? How to you envision yourself playing later on? One thing I tell all of my students is that you should be able to write a book about your game, at least in your head. If you can't, then either you don't know your game or you don't have a game. In most cases, players have a game but haven't really thought it through. Do some thinking, perhaps consult with a coach or top player, and decide where you want to go in terms of style, level, and/or goals. Then start your journey. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and your journey to reach your table tennis goals starts with your next practice session.

"As One" movie

This is the first major "real" table tennis movie (as opposed to comedies that poke fun at the sport), about the joint Korean women's team that won the Worlds in 1991, upsetting China in the final. It opens tomorrow in three U.S. cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia), as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. It opens in Los Angeles one week later. Here is info on the theaters and times, as well as a link to the trailer. Here's info on the movie from the ITTF. Here's a photo gallery from U.S. umpire Michael Meier, who had a major role in the movie authentically playing a U.S. umpire. Here's the IMDB page on the movie.

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Backhand Counterhit (4:54)

USA Olympic Table Tennis Team

Here's an article with photo slideshow of the USA Olympic Team, with pictures and info on all four - Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu.

Mike Mezyan Table Tennis Art

Here's the page for Mike's table tennis artworks. Or you can go directly to the Album.

Jan-Ove Waldner: The Power of Blocking

Here's a highlights video showing the blocking skills of the great Jan-Ove Waldner. Watch the change of pace and placements he uses. Note how he often sidespin blocks.

Turning Trash into Table Tennis

Really!

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May 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Play and Practice with Weaker Players.

Returning the tomahawk serve

This is the serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side, so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent's paddle. It's awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to the right, especially if the ball is short - try it and you'll see why. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve toward the forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to the left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side. (This is for two righties; lefties make the usual adjustments. Sorry.)

Now think about this. Have you ever missed returning this serve by returning off the right side? Probably not. So just take it down the line, to the (righty's) backhand, knowing the sidespin will keep you from going off the side. Contact the back of the ball, perhaps slightly on the left side, so that the ball goes to the right, down the line.

Keep the racket relatively high - don't lower it as you chase after it as it bounces and spins away from you, or you'll end up lifting the ball high or off the end. Better still, don't chase after it - anticipate the ball jumping away from you and be waiting for it, like a hunter ambushing his prey. It's often this last-second reaching for the ball that both loses control and forces the receiver to hit the ball on the right side, thereby making down-the-line returns impossible. (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 3  of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Making Your Service Count; 2) Ball Placement; and 3) Staying Low. It's given both in text form and video (2:05). (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)

ITTF Global Junior Circuit

Here's info on the Global Junior Circuit Events to be held at the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4.

Ariel Hsing takes on Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill

To find out who won in the Olympian's match-ups against the two richest people in the world (depending on the date - the rankings change regularly but Gates and Buffet usually lead the list), see the article, which includes a video of them playing (1:18). Here are some pictures. And here's an article about it in Chinese!

U.S. Olympian Erica Wu

Here's an article and video (2:28) on new U.S. Olympian Erica Wu from a demonstration at her school. (Here's another article about it, which I posted on Friday.)

Tara Profitt and the Paralympics

Here's a Fox New Video of wheelchair player Tara Profitt (4:33), who will be playing the 2012 Paralympics.

Trek Stemp and baseball

He's not in the big leagues yet, but here's an article about the young phenom, which includes the following quote: "A big thing that helps playing infield — it may sound weird — pingpong," Stemp said. "Me and my friends play a lot of pingpong. A big part of pingpong is hand-eye coordination. That ball comes at you so fast."

The first table tennis political ad

Now they are using table tennis officiating to criticize political opponents! Now they've gone too far....

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April 18, 2012

Cancellations and a needed rest

Yesterday I was scheduled to coach from 5-7 and 8-9 PM. Late in the afternoon the 5-7 sessions were cancelled - it was a family of three, a father and two sons, and one of the sons was sick and they couldn't leave him at home alone. Then the 8 PM cancelled for unknown reasons. Suddenly I had the day off, my first in a while. Let's just say I needed it - my back and forearm were starting to go, and every muscle in my body was beginning to feel like five-year-old sponge that had blocked a few too many power loops. So I got to stay home and watch NCIS and the Orioles defeat the White Sox 3-2.

Today I'm tutoring Calculus from 10AM to noon for one of the local table tennis stars, who is taking the AP exam in late May. I do this every Wednesday, and with the exam coming up soon we may be doing it twice a week. I've got a 5-7PM session tonight. Rather than come home between noon and 5PM I'm going to head out to MDTTC and spend the afternoon there working on the rewrite of Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide. We've got wireless now so I'll be connected - but not sure if that's a good thing while working on a project. (I'm also editing a short SF story written by another local junior, who emailed it to me. It's not for school, he just likes to write.)

I was going to write something about chop blocks this morning, but it seemed more of a Tip of the Week. So I'll keep it to this for now - do you ever chop block? If you are playing someone who beats you in topspin rallies (either blocking, counter-hitting, or looping), perhaps this would be a way to change things up? It's an especially good changeup on the backhand, and can be done with sidespin as well.

Erica Wu, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang battling for Olympic Spots

Here's the ESPN story. Also note that USA Table Tennis tweeted that top seeded Gao Jun has withdrawn (no reason given), and her spot in the North American Olympic Trials (this weekend) has been taken by Judy Hugh. (What player took Gao's spot? Hugh. Who? That is correct. Who took Gao's spot?!!! Yes. And so on, with apologies to Abbott and Costello.) 

Timo Boll Video

Here's a tribute video to German star Timo Boll (7:37).

Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators battle over ping-pong

The Predators hockey team just wanted to play, but the Todd Bertuzzi of the Red Wings said no, get your own table. Here's the story

Online table tennis jigsaw puzzles

I've always liked doing jigsaw puzzles (I collect ones with dragons and wizards), and last night I had a brainstorm - why not find a table tennis themed jigsaw puzzle and bring it to the club? Alas, I was unable to find one - but I found two online ones! Here's the Jigzone Table Tennis Puzzle, and here's the Free Online Games Virtual Ping Pong Puzzle (the latter starts with a 15-second commercial, alas). I solved the latter; the first one looks tougher.

Non-Table Tennis: Top Twelve Reasons the Orioles are the Best Hitters in Baseball

My Top Twelve list was published on Orioles Hangout. See the listing there, or go directly to it. I'm actually somewhat notorious there for my semi-regular "Top Ten" lists, which I post on their forum every now and then under the pseudonym larrytt. This time one of the editors/owners/managers really liked it and so published it as a Hangout article. (In the past I'd have asked you to pity me for being an Orioles fan, but we're in first place in the AL East at 7-4, and lead or are near the lead in most hitting and pitching categories.)

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