Marty Reisman

September 7, 2012

Tournament Season

Tournament season is upon us! After a long summer of practice (right?), you are now ready to take on all those pampered players who didn't train as you did, and make their ratings points yours while gathering a collection of hardware. (And if you are in the Maryland area, don't miss our Sept. 22-23 MDTTC tournament, which I'm running - we've got hardware AND checks just sitting around, waiting for someone to take. Won't you please?)

It's time to focus more on game-type play. All summer you've been doing stroking and footwork drills (right?), physical training (right?), and practicing your both your regular and new serves (right?). Those stroking and footwork drills will take you far, but in matches, most opponents will object if you ask them to hit the ball back and forth between two spots so you can move back and forth and attack with your forehand. So now's the time to introduce game-type drills.

Focus on serve & attack drills and random drills. When possible, start off drills with a serve and attack, and then either play out the points or combine both rote and random footwork. For example, you might serve backspin, partner pushes deep to your backhand, you loop (forehand or backhand, depending on your style), partner blocks to your wide forehand, you forehand loop, and then you play out the point. Or partner pushes your serve back randomly anywhere, and you loop and play out the point. Or partner flips your short serve anywhere (or perhaps the first flip goes to the wide forehand, or perhaps wide backhand), and then play out the point. Be creative in designing drills that match what you face in matches.

This doesn't mean you should stop doing regular stroking and footwork drills - they are important at all times. But the focus needs to switch to more game-like drills.

You should also be honing your serving skills. Can you pull off in tournament conditions the serves you can do in practice? Can you serve with all spins to all parts of the table, both short and long, with deceptive motions? If not, better start practicing. In particular practice your fast and deep serves out of proportion to how often you use them. You may only serve them a couple of times a game, but they need more precision and therefore more practice if you are going to use them at all.

And don't forget your sports psychology! Playing in a tournament is quite different than playing a regular club match, and if you aren't ready for that, you are sunk. Here are some good links on sports psychology.

Below are two articles I wrote on playing in tournaments (which I also linked to a few days ago):

Coaching Articles

While I'm linking to articles, here are many of my online coaching articles. I've also got over 80 Tips of the Week. And here's a complete listing of my 1382 published articles, many linked online.

Ding Ning to Miss World Cup

Here's an article where defending champion and world #1 Ding Ning explains why she'll miss the World Cup. Article includes a link to the video of last year's final between Ding and Li Xiaoxia.

Interview with Allen Wang

Here's an interview with Allen Wang, who just won the North American Cadet Championships. (And he trained for two weeks this summer at MDTTC, my club!)

Marty Reisman Featured in American Way

The article isn't online, so you'll have to fly American Airlines to read the entire thing. But this article from Table Tennis Nation features a number of excerpts from the article, such as: "Even at 82, I'm itching for a good money game…What I really want to do is play a money match against someone who's young enough to be my grandson — ­someone of note, not some Mickey Mouse player. That’s never been done in professional sports before. Sure, I’ve lost some speed, but I still play a very clever, witty game. I’m pretty athletic for someone who's 82. I’ve still got plenty of vinegar left in me." There are also some nice pictures.

iTable Tennis!

Watch this video of this ordinary room becoming a feature table tennis club in just 20 seconds!

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August 13, 2012

Tip of the Week

Racket Tip Angle on the Backhand.

Table Tennis Records

11-year-old Sameer Shaikh, while on break in our camp on Friday, bounced a ball on his paddle 1210 times in a row. Is it a world record? Probably not, but I'll let someone else google it. But it does bring up the question of table tennis records. Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of who did what and when. For example, in our camps I know the record for completely knocking over a pyramid of 10 and 15 cups is 2 and 3 shots, respectively, but I don't remember who did it. These may sound silly, but they are actually great practice. I remember when Sameer couldn't bounce more than a few in a row; now he has good racket control. (When you start a little kid on table tennis, start him with ball bouncing, and see how many he can do. This is how he begins developing the hand-eye coordination to actually rally.) Hitting pyramids of cups may sound frivolous, but it challenges them to be accurate, besides being a fun way to end a three-hour session in a training camp. 

I have a few personal records which may or may not be "records": 2755 backhands in a row (at a Seemiller camp in 1978 when I was 18); 14 consecutive bounces up and down off the edge of my racket; 14 consecutive "come back" serves (i.e. high backspin serves that bounce directly back over the net after hitting the opponent's side of the table); and blowing the ball back 33 consecutive times in a rally. So what are your records?

Busyness

My todo list is bizarrely long. Every five minutes I seem to get another email asking questions (often very involved ones), requesting letters of recommendation for green cards or college (I have two to write today), news interviews or questions, stuff about my blog, MDTTC and USATT stuff, not to mention all the correspondence regarding my outside science fiction writing career and complications with insurance after my car accident last week. Plus all the usual coaching in camps and private sessions. It's getting way out of hand. I was up late last night getting things done, and the result was I woke up with a headache this morning. That's why the blog and weekly tip went up late today.

2016 Paralympic Hopeful Timmy La

Here's an article and video (1:55) from Channel 9 News/WUSA, featuring 2016 Paralympic hopeful Timmy La, who trains at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (I'm interviewed about him throughout the article and video.)

Table Tennis in The Daily Beast

Here are two "dueling" articles in The Daily Beast about the state of modern table tennis in the USA. Most of you know probably know of the flamboyant Marty Reisman, champion player and champion of hardbat (and sandpaper) table tennis. (Here's his U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Profile.) Matt Simon is a former Junior Olympic star who came to a number of my table tennis camps back in the 1990s, when the Maryland Table Tennis Center was known as the National Table Tennis Center in Maryland (as it is referred to in the article).

Coming Soon: Spin LA

There's already a Spin NY, Spin Milwaukee, and Spin Toronto, all courtesy of actress and table tennis entrepreneur Susan Sarandon. Now comes Spin LA, which opens this fall. Here's an article about it in The Huffington Post.

Rhode Island Table Tennis

Here's an article and video (2:44) in "The Rhode Show" about Rhode Island table tennis, which features their club, top player Grant Li, and President Chuck Cavicchio.

Crazy Kids Playing Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:45) of some Japanese show featuring the apparent trash-talking hosts taking on two girls about 4 or 5 years old. The kids are pretty good! If you know Japanese, feel free to post what they are saying!

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March 9, 2012

Shouldn't there be an age limit for backhand looping?

Yesterday I coached one of our 7-year-olds for an hour. That in itself is rare - most at that age do only 30 minutes at a time. But this one was a bit ahead of the curve for the average kid in that age bracket. He loops just about everything on both sides. He regularly backhand loops 5-6 in a row against a block. And he can fish and lob with heavy topspin, often forcing me to miss smashes not because I couldn't handle the spin, but because I was having difficulty believing he was putting that much spin on the ball.

This is how the game is changing. There was a time when few kids would learn to loop before they were 9 or 10, and that would only be against backspin. Looping against topspin wouldn't start until even later. Now, with sponges that practically loop the ball for you, and with more and more full-time training centers with full-time coaches popping up around the country, the level of play is going up dramatically, and players fall behind if they wait until they are 9 or 10 to learn to do what others are doing earlier.

Many of the top sub-10-year-olds still mostly hit in matches, but the better ones are looping more and more in practice, and it's just a matter of time before they incorporate this into matches. It's scary watching a 10-year-old flawlessly backhand looping off the bounce over and over in drills, and knowing you will have to face that in matches.

Hitting the backhand is almost passé at the higher levels. At the world-class level, a hitter very quickly is turned into a blocker by a looping opponent; even smashes are often looped back. Even to me, playing at only a 2200 level, it's not hard to play a hitter - you just take a half step back to give yourself time to react, and then just rally them down, using their own pace against them as you move them around or pin them on their weaker side (usually the backhand), and look for balls to loop back. Against someone who loops everything you can't effectively back up to give yourself time to react (unless you can counterloop), and so you are stuck at the table blocking - and then the pace becomes overwhelming since you have no time to react that close to the table. Add that these kids are now looping right off the bounce on the backhand, and with more and more power on the forehand, and it's a nightmare out there.

Unless, of course, you are the one doing the looping. When I play these up-and-coming kids, the key is to use serve and receive so I'm the one initiating the attack, forcing them to react. It allows you to at least get in a few good shots before facing the inevitable blitzkrieg.

Injury checklist

  • Forearm: I injured that on Sunday, Feb. 26. Since that time I've rested it by not looping or hitting any forehands very hard, and avoiding repetitive forehand shots. (This is not easy since I'm coaching several hours each day, but I've had most students drill into my backhand.) It's coming along fine, and I expect to be back to normal in another week or so. Hopefully. This weekend I'm going to play matches chopping with a hardbat, as I will be doing at the Cary Cup next weekend.
  • Hip: On Tuesday, a few hours after I finished coaching, I began feeling an almost burning pain in my left hip. Since that time I've been hobbling about. I'm hoping this will heal on its own, but we'll see. It doesn't affect my coaching much except I can't move to my wide forehand very well.
  • Back: After spending many months last year partly debilitated by back problems, it's pretty much okay after doing lots of stretching and weight training. However, due to hip injury, I stopped weight training a few days ago, and already there are hints of returning back problems.
  • Knees: I've had knee problems periodically over the years, though never really bad. When I do, I wear knee braces, which really help. After some problems last fall, the knees have been fine for a while. Yippee!
  • Brain: After way too many hours these past ten days working all day with Tim Boggan on the layouts and photos of History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12, and coaching at night, the brain is toast.

Excerpt from Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

This is from Chapter 27 - with USA Team Member Mike Bush writing about fellow teammate Eric Boggan's match with future U.S. Hall of Fame Player (and now fellow coach at MDTTC) Cheng Yinghua  at the 1983 Hungarian Open, when Eric was ranked in the top 20 in the world. Here's the photo of Cheng (by Mal Anderson) that accompanies the article, also from the 1983 Hungarian Open.

Eric played Cheng Yinghua in the last-16 round. Cheng, a righty shakehand topspinner, beat Sweden’s Waldner in five games in the round of 64 [some early match-up that was!]. I remembered Cheng’s versatile game from the German Open three years ago where he’d been spinning every ball against Dvoracek in the final of the Team event. Late in the second game, however, Cheng had gotten severe hamstring cramps and in the third had stayed up to the table and blocked Dvoracek down, sometimes blocking literally more than 40 topspins to win the point.

Eric went into the match with the same strategy that he’d beaten Gergely with. It was amazing what took place. Cheng had no problems moving in or out (or laterally for that matter). He could spin powerfully and with control from both sides, defend, block and counter. Eric blocked and dropped, blocked and dropped, looped and killed. The points were very long but Cheng kept winning them. He just kept putting in one more shot or making one more return than Eric. Match to Cheng, 10, 9, 13.

"A Throwback Player, With a Wardrobe to Match"

That's the subheading of this article yesterday in the New York Times on Marty Reisman.

"Rising from the Slumber, the Sleeping Giant Awakes"

That's the title of this article from the ITTF on Kanak & Prachi Jha, and the rise of American Table Tennis.

Clipboard Table Tennis

This is the Official Clipboard Promotional Video (1:52), featuring Tahl Leibovitz and Al Papp (the lefty) at the start, with Berndt Mann officiating, Wendell Dillon the referee who (humorously) objects to the illegal (i.e. non-Legal sized) clipboards, and then Marty Reisman (in the hat) and Berndt Mann play.

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March 5, 2012

Tip of the Week

For a while I've been bothered by two blog posts that really should have been Tips of the Week. As blog items, they were read and then lost in the avalanche of daily blog postings. As Tips of the Week, they'd be more accessible in the future as coaching articles. Since I'm currently working eight hours a day with Tim Boggan on the page layouts and photo work for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12, as well as my usual coaching and other duties, I'm going to take today and next Monday to put these two items, with some updating/expansion, as Tips. So here is: Proper Use of the Free Arm.

Shadow practice

Do you only practice at your local club, or do you practice whenever the urge hits you? You can practice anywhere by shadow practicing. It's also a great way to exercise and to wake yourself up from long hours sitting at a desk. (It's also a nice to practice proper use of your free arm - see Tip above.)  Here's an article I wrote a while back on shadow-practicing. So get up from your computer and start stroking!

Arm Update

The arm is getting better, but still needs more time to heal. (I injured my forearm about a week ago.) I still can't forehand hit or loop aggressively. Yesterday I coached much of the day, but did almost exclusively backhands and multiball. One student, Kevin Walton, lent me an arm brace which seemed to help, but when using the muscles for certain shots it was like having someone grabbing my arm in mid-stroke. It's great to protect the arm when hitting (tentative) forehands, but when hitting backhands or feeding backspin in multiball, I had to take it off.

I'm supposed to be defending my hardbat titles from 2010 and 2011 at the Cary Cup in eleven days. However, my arm is not going to be ready for my all-out forehand hitting style. So yesterday I borrowed a defensive hardbat from John Olsen (an oversized Hock), and we practiced for a time. I'll almost for certain be chopping at Cary, and hopefully pick-hitting forehands, but not too much.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Expansion Update

The wall is down! The long-awaited expansion of the Maryland Table Tennis Center is happening. They are still working on the new area we're taking over next door, and to protect our side from the dust of the wall going down and other work there's a ceiling-to-floor plastic tarp still dividing the place, but that's temporary. Soon we'll be up to 11,000 square feet, about 18 tables, all-new red flooring, showers, weight room, etc. All should be ready within two weeks.

Here's a picture of the place right now by Barbara Wei. The plastic tarp on the left actually cuts off about 10-15 feet of the current club, so for the next week or so we're actually smaller than normal.

Overheard at the Maryland Table Tennis Center yesterday: "Nobody plays at the Maryland Table Tennis Center anymore. It's too crowded." (Admission: I said it. With proper regards to Yogi Berra.)

Lily Zhang Interview

Here's an interview with Lily Zhang, U.S. Women's Singles Finalist, Women's Team Member, and #1 Cadet Girl.

Sol Schiff in New York Times

Here's Schiff's obit in the NY Times. Most of the story is based on phone interviews by the author with Tim Boggan, who was at my house during the interviews.

The World Economic Forum, Mick Jagger, and Ping-Pong

Here's an excerpt from an article this morning in The New Yorker:

Jagger was there. He had on a pink button-down, black jeans, and snazzy Nike running shoes. There was a Ping-Pong table folded up against the wall; apparently Jagger had been playing when the first guests arrived. Now he was dancing, with one woman, then another, to classic reggae playing at mid-volume.

Tips from Marty Reisman

Here's a two-minute video from Men's Journal and Marty Reisman: "The Hustler's Guide to Ping-Pong: Learn how to impress friends and fleece strangers with these tips from Marty Reisman, the world’s best table-tennis player."

Table Tennis Cartoons

Here are 13 table tennis cartoons by Cartoon Jazz that were published in USA Table Tennis Magazine back when I was editor.

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February 2, 2012

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

This month was a treasure trove, with 19 new celebrities - just look at some of the names below! There are now 1334 pictures of 788 celebrities at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page! (I maintain the page, updating it around the 1st of each month.) New this month:

Musicians

  • John Lennon, rock star
  • George Harrison, rock star
  • Ringo Starr, rock star
  • Paul McCartney, rock star
  • David Bowie, rock star
  • Bob Marley, musician (new picture)
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Keith Jarrett, Jazz Pianist
  • Ennio Morricone, Film Music Composer
  • Manfred Eicher, founder and producer of the Jazz record label ECM

Athletes

  • Minnesota Fats, pool player
  • Vitali Klitschko, Ukrianian WBC World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and leader of the UDAR of Vitaliy Klychko political party (2 pictures)
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian WBA Super, IBF, IBO & Ring Magazine World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (3 new pictures)
  • Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Javier Zanetti, soccer player
  • Lionel Messi, soccer player

Actors & Actresses

  • Liv Tyler, actress (3 pictures)
  • Peggy Diggins, actress
  • Susan Peters, actress
  • Mary Brodel, actress
  • William Powell, actor

Politicians and Leaders

  • Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor
  • John D. Negroponte, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2 pictures)
  • Norm Coleman, former Minnesota senator (new picture)

Other

  • Santa Claus, toy giver (2 pictures)
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian (1 new picture)

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day. As you know, on February 2 every year Pingpongatawney Phil comes out of his hole, and if he sees a ping-pong ball, everyone gains 100 rating points. (And for the love of ping-ping, please click on the Pingpongatawney Phil link - I spent a lot of time creating it! Feel free to distribute.) The ball on the ground is a Nittaku, which is the Official Ball for USA Table Tennis.

Hardbat Day

Today is Groundhogs Day, but yesterday was Hardbat Day. While coaching I had the sudden, inexplicable desire to play hardbat. So I pulled a hardbat racket from my bag and chopped with it, so students could practice their loops. Last night I finally figured what had caused this overwhelming urge - it was Marty Reisman's 84th birthday! (Strangely, according to his Wikipedia entry, he was born on Feb. 1, 1930, which would make him 82. But I'll go with the "official" version.)

Using the hardbat wasn't actually a lark. It really is good practice for students to loop over and over against chop, and I was able to really work on their loop strokes. In each case, we followed that with a serve & loop against push, then loop or hit against block drill (with me back to regular inverted). The key here is that against backspin, you drop the back shoulder and your power goes both forward and up. Against the block, the shoulder stays mostly up (completely up if hitting) with the stroke mostly forward. Beginning/intermediate players need to practice this a lot - its tricky making the adjustment between the two. Here's a short article I wrote on this, with the back shoulder the key.

I regularly use the hardbat racket for students to practice against. I also have one with long pips with sponge so students can practice against long pips chopping. Other rackets I keep around for students to practice against include long pips with no sponge, antispin, and pips-out sponge.

School interview

I was interviewed yesterday by someone from American University, who is doing some sort of graduate project in journalism on table tennis. I filled her with lots of info on table tennis. She also got to talk to Crystal Huang (the 9-year-old girl who last year achieved the highest rating ever for anyone under age 10, boys or girls) and her dad, and other club members.

ITTF's Youth Leadership Camp

Here's an article about the ITTF running a table tennis youth leadership camp in Qatar. There's also a video (4:23).

Behind the back shot

This is probably the best behind the back shot I've ever seen. (And they show it both live and in slow motion.) Because my shoulders have the flexibility of frozen neutronium, this is about the only table tennis trick shot I cannot do. So when I see people do these shots I get very envious.

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January 30, 2012

Tip of the Week

Quick and Variable Blocks.

Revamping the forehand

This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.

Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.

Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was dominated by hitters. We put a rubber cleaning sponge under his arm, forcing him to keep the elbow in. This shortened his stroke, making it easier to rotate the shoulders and stroke more with the elbow. Then we worked on having the same backswing over and over. At this point the stroke really began to come together. Soon he was able to remove the sponge under his arm and he continued to hit with his elbow more in. (You don't want to stroke with the elbow so in that it'll hold a sponge there, but by exaggerating this, it made it easier to adjust to keeping the elbow more in.)

He has a lot of practice ahead of him to undo these bad habits, but he's on his way. The key thing in all this is that when hitting, precision comes mostly from good technique, not just timing. Good technique minimizes the things that can go wrong and make awkward hitting almost difficult.

"The service is the most important stroke in table tennis."

This is what 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager says in his book, "Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion," by Schlager and Bernd-Ulrich Grob. I concur. Why do so few understand this? (Technically, I'd say receive overall may be even more important, but receive is a series of different techniques, no one of which is as important as developing your serve.)

United States National Table Tennis League

I'll probably have more to write about this later, but take the time now to learn about this new upcoming $100,000 nationwide league, and get your club involved!

Playing Ping-Pong for a Passion

Here's an article about basketball's Peter Farnsworth, table tennis, and charity.

Marty Reisman and the Year of the Dragon Paddle

Yes, here's Marty celebrating the Chinese New Year ("Year of the Dragon") with the new Dragon paddle (0:56)!

Forehand loop in multiball

Here's a nice demonstration of the forehand loop (1:22). That's Coach Richard Bowling looping, and Coach Amy Feng (four-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, 1992-95) feeding multiball. Shown at regular speed, slow motion, and at Forrest Gump speed.
UPDATE - the video above, which was public, is now listed as private, and so we can't watch. Alas. 

Table Tennis and Tennis and Badminton, Oh My!

This is one of the strangest music videos I've ever seen (4:55), to the tune of "The Danger Zone." It features table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Table tennis comes and goes, with the best segment coming at 2:45.

Non-Table Tennis: My entry for "Worst Opening"

This was my entry for a "Worst Opening" contest, where you try to write the most absurd and overdone opening to a science fiction story.

I woke and saw the blue eyes gazing into mine. Lush, blue alien eyes, eyes that cried out "I'm blue!" over and over and over . . . and would not stop. I could only gape back as the reptilian eyes locked into mine, I could not look away, could not blink, could not die in those few seconds that lasted a lifetime of pain and ecstasy. If I'd known then what I would then have never known I would have torn my own eyes out and stuffed them into hers, knowing the holes in my face could never match the growing hole in my heart, nor could the blueness of my rapidly unoxygenating blood pouring down my face onto the floor be anything but a melting blueberry to those pounding blue eyes of tomorrow. That was how my day began.

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January 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

Table Tennis Tip: Pushing and Looping Deep Backspin.

Still sick

This is Day Three of the Great Cold of 2012. I'm not sure whether to blame Obama, the Iowa caucuses, or global warming, but if my cold doesn't get better soon I'm going to blame somebody. It looks like another day in bed reading. (Actually, maybe having a cold isn't so bad.)

Celebrities Update

Over the weekend I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 18 new pictures of 9 new celebrities. There are now 1317 pictures of 760 celebrities playing table tennis. The new celebrities are:

  • Tom Cruise, actor
  • Rob Lowe, actor
  • Ralph Macchio, actor
  • Jack Benny, actor and comedian
  • Mary Livingstone, actress and comedian
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Michael Buble, singer (5 pictures)
  • Joe Reeder, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Army and Chairman of the Panama Canal Commission (and a student of mine!)
  • Baron Davis, basketball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (5 pictures)

Christmas Camp

On Saturday we finished our 21st annual Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. There were over 30 players, almost all juniors, ranging from beginners to several over 2300. I blogged about much of this last week. Here are two interesting notes from the last day.

  • I overheard a group of kids, ages 10 or 11, discussing the intricacies of Tenergy 05, 25, and 64, with the FX option. I'm not sure why, but I found this incredibly funny. (By the way, I'm an advocate of kids who train regularly and get good coaching to use advanced sponges like this after they've reached about 1500 or so in level - it really helps in their progress, especially with looping. It's the racket that should not be too fast until they are relatively advanced.)
  • I told a kid I was feeding multiball to that he should try to remember the feel of the good forehand loops. He said, "That's easy. The ones that strain my back are the good ones." Uh oh.

Article on World Champion Zhang Jike

He describes the year as "powerful."

Marty Reisman video feature

Here's a video profile of Marty Reisman (6:36) as part of the "City Series" featuring New York City.

1998 Eastern Open

In my blog on Friday, in pointing out my credentials for promoting major tournaments (in regard to the low turnout at the 2011 USA Nationals), I wrote of the 1998 Easterns I directed, "I promoted the heck out of that tournament." Someone complained that I seemed to be taking all the credit for the record entries at that tournament, when I was just pointing my particular background in this. So to be clear, Richard Lee and others all promoted the heck out of that tournament, leading to the huge entry turnout.

Breaking News - I'm running for U.S. President

I'm running for president of the United States as a member of the Ping-Pong Party. My minions are already moving out through Iowa and New Hampshire, getting the signatures needed to get me on the ballot for their caucuses (in Iowa today, so we're in a bit of a rush) and primaries. I will also be on the Republican ballot, as the conservative alternative to Romney and the moderate alternative to all the rest. I am also running as the Libertarian alternative to Ron Paul by claiming to be a libertarian to libertarian audiences.

I will gladly meet any of my rivals anytime and anywhere in Iowa in a game of ping-pong where I will destroy them, as I will destroy all our nation's foes, except perhaps the Chinese, who are actually very good at ping-pong. Under my leadership, USA will dominate the 21st century as the second best ping-pong power. Altogether now, "We're number two! We're number two! We're number two!"

Platform:

  • I promise to do whatever you want me to do if it will get me your vote. This is a core value with me, and I always stick to my core values.
  • Hardbatters: I will outlaw sponge.
  • Inverted sponge players: I will outlaw hardbat and anything that's not inverted.
  • I will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with a new service rule that can actually be enforced, and then shoot all umpires that do not do so.
  • I will occupy a tea party and serve tea to the occupiers. I will give them cream and sugar in their tea until they give in to my demands. If they do not, I will stuff ping-pong balls down their throat.
  • I will revamp our national educational system, replacing outdated schools with modern table tennis training facilities.
  • I will change the national mascot from a bald eagle to a large ping-pong ball, and solve our economic problems at the same time by bidding out rights to what brand becomes the National Ball. Will it be Nittaku? JOOLA? Stiga? Butterfly? Halex? Double Happiness? Bids are open now, starting at $1 Trillion.
  • I will nuke our country's economic rivals. Why? Because I like saying "nuke."

The Simpsons and Ping-Pong

  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's a recording of Patrick Stewart saying "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong."
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."

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November 18, 2011

Short serves to the forehand

Why do so few intermediate players serve short to the forehand? Perhaps as beginners they couldn't keep it short, and didn't want to serve to the opponent's forehand. And so the habit of serving to the backhand stuck. But a short serve to the forehand, especially with sidespin-topspin, is about the easiest way to get a set-up against most intermediate players. Many or most players will return short serves to the forehand almost always toward the forehand side (for righties), since it's awkward going down the line for many. This makes serve and attack very easy. Why not develop this for your game?

If you have trouble serving short, focus on a low contact point, and just graze the ball toward the bottom. Make the first bounce somewhat near the net. Make sure it crosses the net low. If you serve it crosscourt from the forehand side (most often with a tomahawk serve, i.e. racket tip up, contact the ball with a left-to-right motion), you'll have more table to allow the ball to go short. With the tomahawk serve spin (or a backhand serve or reverse pendulum serve, which all have the same type of sidespin), it'll be even harder for the opponent to take the ball down the line, since the sidespin is pulling it toward your forehand (again, for righties).

Have you practiced your serves today? C'mon, get with it!!!

Video coaching session

This morning I'm off to visit a student for two hours to watch and analyze videos of his play in a recent tournament. We have three matches we plan to watch, more if time permits - one against a much stronger player, one against a peer, and one against a much weaker player that he struggled with. We're going to go over it almost point by point, taking notes, with lots of slow motion and replaying. Have you done this with your game? Why not? (You can do this on your own, or hire a coach to do it with you - yeah, I'm getting paid, it's my job. See the "Video Coaching" tab on the left!)

Tahl Leibovitz Wins Gold, Makes Paralympic Team

Here's an article on Tahl Leibovitz doing the above. He's also gone undefeated in the team competition at the Parapan Ams, and the USA Men's Team plays for the gold later today in Guadalajara (that's in Jalisco, Mexico, since you were wondering).

Kong Linghui getting married

Table tennis great Kong Linghui (now the coach of the Chinese Women's Team) is getting married next year to actress Ma Su - here's the story.

Video of the Day

Here's The Best Table Tennis (3:05).

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life and Other Openings
(Let's hear it for crass commercialism! Buy my books!)

Here is the opening of my book, "Table Tennis Tales & Techniques." It tells how I got started in table tennis. How did you get started?

"Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on 'Track & Field.' I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing 'basement' ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? 'Great ... another life I've ruined.'"

Here's the opening to both Table Tennis: Steps to Success and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis:

"It's the most popular racket sport in the world, and the second most popular participation sport.  A sport with over 20 million active participants in the U.S. alone and, as of 1988, an Olympic sport.  Ask most people to name this sport and they'd immediately name that other well known racket game.  But they'd be wrong."

For Table Tennis: Steps to Success, here's the preface:

"This book is written for both the beginning player and the advanced player, and all those in between.  It is written both for those who have that deep down desire to be a champion and for those who are in it mostly for the fun.  Above all, it is written with the intent that you, the reader, can make the most of his or her abilities whether as a champion or for recreational purposes, or anything in between.  In short, this book is for you."

Here's the opening to "Ping-Pong Ambition," the table tennis story from "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges," which is a collection of my 30 best published short stories - yes, that's what I do outside of table tennis! (Here's my science fiction and fantasy page. Soon I'll have sold enough stories for "More Pings and Pongs!")

"Toby, one half inch tall, screamed and banged his fists on the rounded white walls of his prison. From outside he could hear the fading hysterical laughter of the genie that had imprisoned him in the ping-pong ball. How could this have happened? All he wanted was to be the greatest ping-pong player ever. Instead, he was stuck in this ball, just himself and the thick, red book the genie had given him. He let loose another set of screams."

Here's an excerpt from another short story in "Pings and Pongs," "Defeating Death," which was published in Weird Tales - you can also read it online, but this is the only ping-pong mention:

"Zargo walked to the basement door. It had been boarded up ever since an incident involving a rather unfortunate former assistant and a rather unfortunate game of ping-pong that had gotten out of hand. ('Magic and ping-pong,' Zargo had solemnly said, 'don't mix.')"

And while we're at it, here's the opening to "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," the book I'm working on:

"The purpose of tactics is to mess up your opponent."

Playing alone - with a Returnboard!

Here's an interesting video (9:37) showing a player training by himself with a pair of "return boards." Looks pretty fun!

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November 4, 2011

Vary your serves

I recently played a match against a strong player about my level who basically used three serves: short backspin or no-spin to the middle or backhand, or a deep side-top serve to my backhand that was telegraphed by the delivery. The player never served to my forehand. Since I could see the deep serve coming a mile away (and could just hit it back with my backhand and force a neutral backhand exchange on his serve), all I had to do was worry about the short serves. Since they were so predictable, I hung over the table and returned them right off the bounce, with last-second changes of directions, mostly dropping them short to all parts of the table. Because of the quickness off the bounce, the tweeniness of many of the returns (i.e. second bounce would be near the end-line), and the last-second changes of direction, even when I went long the opponent had great difficulty attacking. And so I completely controlled the match off the opponent's serve. This is the type of thing that happens all the time in matches, where players get into the habit of using the same few serves over and over, thereby making things easy for the opponent. I have one word of advice about this: Don't.

FIT Open in New York City

This morning I'm catching a bus to Manhattan to play in the FIT Open, run by Lily Yip. I'll be staying at Tim Boggan's house, and probably talking table tennis late into the night with him and Eric. Other than playing some hardbat events, I've mostly been retired as a tournament player since 2006. However, recently (after getting into much better physical shape, and actually practicing) I've been playing so well that I decided it would be a crime against humanity if I didn't play in one, and I didn't want to get sent to Gitmo. I'll report on this next week.

Interview Time

The Daily Quarterly did an interview with me, and part 1 should go up sometime this morning. (Part 2 goes up next Friday.) They are the same satirical site that did the spoof of Brad Pitt starring as me in the movie adaptation of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. And so I gave my answers accordingly.

Wang Liqin Multiball

Here's 30 seconds of three-time world men's singles champion Wang Liqin doing multiball at the 2011 World Championships in May in Rotterdam.

The Reverse Pendulum Tomahawk Serve

Here's a video by Pingskills (2:19) on this serve used by Sweden's Par Gerell. (He calls it the "punch serve.") Note all the variety possible from the basic forehand pendulum serve motion - the regular version (with racket moving right to left for a righty), and the reverse pendulum variations (with the racket moving left to right), which can be done two ways - racket tip down or racket tip up (as shown in this video). The video says that you don't use as much wrist with this serve, but I use this serve, and use lots of wrist. I find it most effective served into the middle of the table where it suddenly breaks into the forehand.

Michael Landers now part of Team Kelloggs

Really! Click on his picture to get his bio.

China-Qatar Relations Bolstered by Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's an article in the Huffington Post on Ping-Pong Diplomacy in Qatar.

How to solve the Occupy Wall Street situation

You knew that Marty Reisman had a solution, didn't you? "Table tennis has an incredible diplomatic history," noted Marty Reisman, 23-time National and International ping-pong champion and President of Table Tennis Nation. "Ping Pong Diplomacy opened the doors for relations between China and the US, and can help settle Occupy Wall Street. ... Table Tennis Nation is offering representatives from Wall Street and the Occupy Wall Street $100 per team to play a Table Tennis Nation Brawl to settle their issues once and for all. Over ping-pong."

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October 31, 2011

Tip of the Week

When to React.

Serve Cycling

Many or most players use just a few simple serves, on the theory that if you have too many serve motions, you'll have trouble perfecting any of them, plus you'll have trouble learning and reacting to all the possible returns. (Surprisingly, two serves done with the same spin and placement but a different motion are often returned differently by opponents.) There's nothing wrong with doing it this way. I do urge players like this to have alternate "trick" serves to throw at their opponents as a variation, which both gives them "free" points as well as making their other serves more effective as the receiver has more serves to worry about.

However, there's another way to serve, which I call "cycling." What this means is that you constantly throw different serves at your opponent, essentially cycling through your entire repertoire, often almost in sequence. The goal is never to use the same serve twice in a row, and usually not even the same service motion twice in a row.  Challenge the opponent with every variation you have, with as many service motions, spins, speeds, depths, and placements as possible. Your goal is to make them miss or pop up your serve. Try to fry their brain. Keep track of which serves give the opponent the most trouble, and recycle those serves more often than others. Use the most effective serves not just at the end of a close game, but throughout a game to make sure it isn't a close game. (Or to make a game you would have lost into a close game.)

I've always used this type of serving against some opponents, and recently I've taken to doing it more and more, with surprising effectiveness. Often I play entire games without using the same serve twice. While it's more effective at lower levels, it's surprisingly effective against many advanced players as well, as long as you don't overdo the long serves. One key - you will have to practice your serves a lot to effective cycle your serves in this way. In particular, you need to serve low, and for short serves and serves where the second bounce should be near the end-line, the depth.

The Magic of Table Tennis

Here's a great video of table tennis clips, set to music (7:39). One of the best I've seen.

Fierce ping-pong competition erupts outside Red Wings locker room

Sometimes, in the middle of a fight, a hockey game breaks out. In this case, in the middle of a hockey game (or at least after practice) a bunch of ping-pong games broke out. Here's a video (1:05) and article about the Detroit Red Wings playing table tennis. Players included Ty Conklin, Danny Cleary, Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart, Patrick Eaves, and Nicklas Lidstrom. 

Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, here are three table tennis Halloween videos!

The Official Table Tennis Nation Halloween Costume Guide 2011

Who do you want to be for Halloween? Marty Reisman? Forrest Gump? Christopher Walken? Susan Sarandon? These are all great possibilities, and the site gives step-by-step instructions for each of these costumes.

Susan Sarandon Trick Shot Video

Since some of you might be dressing up as Susan Sarandon for Halloween (see segment above), this is the perfect time to bring you the Susan Sarandon Trick Shot Video (1:08). Yes, it features Susan Sarandon and her ping-pong bag of tricks.

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