WETA

October 20, 2014

Tip of the Week

Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament.

Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping Pong Hustler

Here's where you can download the video (60 min) or see the trailer (2:12) about the late Marty Reisman (Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012). "A chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life. A table tennis champion turned hustler. Pursuing notoriety and motivated by his love of fame and ping pong, he has to face his biggest fear: mortality."

Here's the IMDB entry on the film. Here's the full description:

Fact or Fiction: The Life and Times of a Ping Pong Hustler is a chronicle of the final three years of Marty Reisman's life, a former international table tennis champion-turned-money player. Pursuing notoriety through his idiosyncratic lifestyle and motivated by his love of fame and Ping Pong, he inadvertently has to face his biggest fear: mortality. Shot over three years, the film follows Marty - a complex mix of childlike excitement, eccentric narcissism and constant charm - as he negotiates between pride, the denial of old age, past defeats and the decline of his fame and fortune, as well as his devoted wife Yoshiko's health, all while clinging onto the hope that his own life and career are just beginning to blossom. The film's observational style, combined with rare archive footage and interviews with key New York and London society characters such Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson and eminent psychotherapist George Weinberg, work to tell the story of one of America's greatest.

I recently watched the video on my computer, along with Tim Boggan. I knew Marty pretty well. In fact, he's how I got into table tennis! Here's the story.

The video uses both old and recent footage of Reisman, showcasing him from his early years (growing up in the depression, discovering "a different world" in table tennis, and developing as a player in the hardbat era) to his last days, and especially the last three years of his life. Parts of it are rather dark, with much of the video taking place in a hospital after his heart surgery and shortly before Marty died. There's also footage of him running Reisman's Table Tennis Club, which ran from 1958 to the late 1970s.

Marty was perhaps the most flamboyant and stylish table tennis player who ever lived. The video features his many outfits, hats, his tailor and dry cleaner, and even the cane he used - not because he needed it, but for style purposes. Marty quotes poetry, jokes with doctors, talks and sings about mortality, teaches his forehand, shows his microscopes (a hobby of his), demonstrates the cigarette trick, talks about Satoh (the man from Japan who introduced the sponge racket and won the 1952 Worlds, the year Reisman thought he should have won), and talks about how much he was looking forward to a challenge match he had planned with 2009 U.S. Men's Champion Michael Landers. "You'll be in a film with the great Marty Reisman," he explained to Landers. (The film mistakenly credits Landers as being on the U.S. Olympic team.) There's also segments about a planned "Marty's Bar" at Spin TTC in New York.

Yes, Marty was an egomaniac, but he didn't hide this fact - in fact, he wore it on his sleeve, with an almost in-your-face ego. And yet he could be incredibly nice if you played along with it and treated him well. He was a God to many, and enjoyed playing the role. Much of his Godhood came about from the stand he took against sponge rubber, insisting on sticking with hard rubber (and later sandpaper), which he considered a far superior game, where two players had a "dialog" when they rallied.

Near the end there's about 3.5 minutes with USATT Historian Tim Boggan, who gives sort of a fact check to some of the items in the film. (Hence the "Fact or Fiction" part of the title.) He also shows a "Marty as Don Quixote" picture, symbolizing Marty fighting the windmills of sponge.

MDTTC Featured at WETA  and PBS

Here's the video (4 min), which features me, Crystal Wang, and Derek Nie.

First Ever ITTF Level Three Course in USA Staged

Here's the ITTF article on the course just completed in Colorado Springs, taught by Richard McAfee. 

Women's World Cup

In the all-Chinese final held Sunday, world #1 Ding Ning defeated world #4 Liu Xiaoxia. Here's a video of the match highlights (4:04). Here's the ITTF home page for the event with results, articles, photos, and video. Here's the ITTF Press Release on the Final. Here's the Daily Shot of the Day:

iPong Basic Series: Forehand Drive

Here's the video (1:19) of Richard McAfee teaching the stroke.

Kenta Matsudaira's Sidespin Block

Here's the new video (3:56) from PingSkills of the Japanese player (world #27, #16 in January). My students hate it when I throw sidespin or chop blocks at them!

Training at Zhou Xin TTA

Here's the list of videos.

Ask the Coach

Here are two more "Ask the Coach" episodes from PingSkills.

Episode #10 (13:26):

  • Question 1: Usually players follow one style, attack or defense. If I want to change mine to All Around to add some defensive strokes, when is it efficient to start? When the attack style is completely confident or it’s better to study all the strokes at the same time? Olena.
  • Question 2: I realize that in table tennis we use only one part of our hand (upper arm, lower arm, and wrist) so what is the time to use each part of it and can I combined them? Frendy.
  • Question 3: How to reply to a player who simply sends every shot back with push & chop shots? I feel like I am playing the ball against a wall. I start to think that I have to do something to end the rally and then I make the mistake & lose the point. Len Buffey.
  • Question 4: What advice can you give to changing the momentum in a match? I was recently up 2-0 in a match and lost all confidence after losing the 3rd set and continued to go downhill losing in 5.
  • Question 5: Is there difference between a lob and a fish? If yes, what is it? Kaustubh Kulkarni.

Episode #11 (13:05):

  • Question 1: Hi Alois! I have my first tournament of the season in a week and I want to practice my serves. One problem: I don't have any plastic balls. Is it bad to practice my serves with celluloid balls? Yoan Pelletier
  • Question 2: Do you other professionals who play with shakehand, use a specific or specialized grip to serve and then quickly shift to the shakehand for the majority of the point? Do you stay with the special grip after the serve? Cole Mooney
  • Question 3: I recently received advice to engage my thumb and apply pressure onto the rubber when backhand counterhitting. The advice improved my backhand but I don't know if should change especially if the rallies are transitioning BH to FH in a fast manner. Danny Ly
  • Question 4: Due to studies I didn’t play table tennis for 1.5 months. I played today in an interschool tournament and I lost to a player whom I used to defeat every time. What is the reason of my defeat and how can I prepare for my state tournament. Shivam Goenka
  • Question 5: As a penhold player, should I hit with the other side of my bat? I tend to find that I can't have as much control as if I simply move more and use the same side of my bat. Colin Young

Shonie Aki Scholarship Award

Here's the article and info for this annual $1250 scholarship - see last paragraph in particular. Deadline is Nov. 1, 2014. "The Shonie Aki Scholarship award, in the amount of $1250 for one year, will be offered to a young table tennis player who has aspirations to complete a college education, become a better player, and a productive individual who would reflect on Shonie's legacy. In order to be considered to receive this scholarship award, candidates must be expecting to attend college in 2015 (and have at least two years remaining to complete their degree) and have GPAs of at least B or better."

Top 5 Veteran Table Tennis Ladies You Don't Want to Mess With

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis Tournament to Benefit Homeless Portlanders

Here's the article.

The Making of Table Tennis Blades and Rubbers

Here's the video (13:08).

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's the latest episode - Hengdian World Studios! - China Day 48 Part 1 (5:49).

Jorgen Persson and Bill Clinton

Here are five pictures of the two playing golf in 2005. The other player is Brian Laudrup, a Danish soccer player.

Ma Long's Birthday Party

Here's the picture. He just turned 26.

Be So Bold

Here's the video (60 sec) - I think this is a jeans commercial, but I'm not sure. That's one cheap paddle the "star" is using.

Bruce Lee Ping Pong

Here's a new video (3:13) where two hackers flamboyantly play table tennis with various implements, from bottles and paper towel rolls to cheese graters. (Not really a lot to do with Bruce Lee, however, other than the title.)

Cooking Ping-Pong Balls for Breakfast

Here's the video (5 sec) - looks pretty tasty!

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June 2, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing Short pips.

WETA TV

WETA TV came to MDTTC for about four hours yesterday to do a documentary on us online – I'll blog about it when it's up. Here's a picture of two of the crew members (there were three of them) as they film us, and here's a picture of them filming Derek Nie and Crystal Wang.

It was a long day. I normally coach Sunday mornings but I was off due to students studying for final exams, and so I had no coaching until 3PM. So I became their chaperone. We had arranged for them to come Sunday at 11AM so they could see some of our top juniors in a group session, and then our Elite League at 12:30 PM. They filmed Derek and Crystal, as well as Nathan Hsu and many others, often from a distance so the player didn't even know they were being filmed. Other times they'd go out on the court and get close-ups. I was hoping to highlight as many players as possible, from our top juniors to our seniors, including Charlene Liu, who recently returned from New Zealand with a bronze for Over 60 Women's Singles. (She also won Over 60 Women's Title at the Nationals and many more in age groups from over 30 to over 60.) However, they told me they could only focus on one or two players. They also didn't want to interview players and then disappoint the player by not using the interview, which is understandable.

They decided to focus on 13-year-old Derek and 12-year-old Crystal. Most of you probably know them, but here's a short synopsis. Derek, rated 2285 (but recently over 2300) was the 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Singles Champion. Crystal is the youngest player ever to make the USA National Men's or Women's Team, and the youngest ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the Nationals, as well as breaking every record for highest rating for her age, not just for girls but for boys as well. (She's the highest rated under 13 player in the U.S, boys or girls at 2370, and recently over 2400.)

They did interviews with Crystal, Derek, and me. My interview was the longest interview I've ever done. It went on for about an hour as they asked question after question. Part of the reason it took so long as I gave rather long answers. Since they'll end up condensing all this to about four minutes, it'll be interesting which parts they decide to use. In answer to their questions, I elaborated on my background, the kids, MDTTC and its history, our coaches and players, training centers, China, what it takes to be a top player, and much more.

Now the downside. Before they interviewed me they filmed me using the robot. I put it on full speed so the balls were just shooting out as I smashed forehands. I had no trouble doing this at first, but they wanted to get lots of shots from all angles, and so it went on and On and ON!!! Soon my arm and shoulder began to tire, and then hurt, and still they kept filming. I felt my knees and legs begin to go, but still we went on. After the longest time, and after they'd filmed both me and the robot from all possible angles, they said they had enough.

They asked if I had anything else interesting I could show them. They filmed me doing my ball-blowing trick, where I not only blow the ball in the air, but to the side, balancing it in the air by spinning the top of the ball with my breath. Then I demonstrated my 50-foot serve, where I served from 50 feet away from the table, and directly to the side of it (so I'm lined up with the net). I do this by putting a great amount of sidespin on the ball, and made it on the first try. They wanted several more, so I ended up doing about ten of them. The problem – this put more strain on my shoulder, as these 50-foot serves are very physical.

And then I did the interview. I mentioned how long it was, but I didn't mention that I was standing in one spot the whole time in my table tennis shoes, which have little support. Normally when I'm in them I'm moving about, but guess what happens when you stand in one spot in table tennis shoes for an hour? It hurts the feet, calf muscles, and knees. I could barely walk afterwards. (I had to do a lot of stretching to prepare for my upcoming coaching sessions – a private one-hour lesson and then a 90-minute group junior session.)

So now I'm full of these minor injuries – every part of my legs are aching, one knee is bothering me (it was bothering me before, but this aggravated it), and my shoulder is hurting from the robot play. Hopefully it just needs a couple days rest – and fortunately I've got a very light schedule today and tomorrow. We'll see how it is on Wednesday.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. I linked to the first five last week, and there are four more. So I compiled all nine here. Nine down, 91 to go!

  • Day 92: Interview with Mike Babuin, USATT Chair and New ITTF BoD Member
  • Day 93: A Chat with Philippe Saive, the Promoter of the 2014 Legends Tour
  • Day 94: Competing to be Best in the World in Table Tennis
  • Day 95: Introducing Adam Bobrow, “The Voice of Table Tennis”
  • Day 96: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!
  • Day 97: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly
  • Day 98: How the Ravages of War Inspired the Beloved Hikosuke Tamasu
  • Day 99: Why Tokyo Hosted the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships
  • Day 100: Intro

Samson Dubina Demo Tape

Here's a new video (3:25) of Ohio coach and top player Samson Dubina demonstrating the forehand counterdrive, forehand loop, in-out forehand footwork, backhand counterdrive, backhand loop, and footwork. (He's hitting with Sameh Awadalla.)

Table Tennis Tips

No, not the book (though you should buy that!), but the Tips now up at Expert Table Tennis – there are now 25 of them.

How to Predict and React to Table Tennis Tactics

Here's a short article on this.

Susan Sarandon is the Queen of Ping Pong

Here's the article in the New York Post.

Roger Frank Ping-Pong Tourney Raises $3,000 for PCC Foundation scholarships

Here's the article.

Waldner and Persson Tricks

Here's a video (51 sec) of all-time greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson doing some pretty spectacular tricks with the ball and racket. Notice that the second half is all done continuously. Why don't you try to copy some of these tricks? Good luck!!!

House Playing Table Tennis

Here's a screen shot of Dr. House from an episode of the TV show House playing table tennis – with a clipboard!!!

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May 30, 2014

My Table Tennis Books

Just a reminder that if this table tennis blog isn't quite enough to satisfy your table tennis itch, you can buy one of my table tennis books!!! As noted in my blog earlier this week, Table Tennis Tips is now out. Or, if you haven't done so, you absolutely and positively must buy Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!! Here's the Larry Hodges Books page where these and my other books are listed and described.

While you're at it, if you have a liking for history, then check out Tim Boggan's page, where he sells the 14 volumes of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and maintain the web page for him.)

Practical Ways to Overcome Nervousness

Sports psychology is one of the most under-utilized aspects of table tennis. One problem is that it's easy to get bogged down wading into all the literature on the subject. Here are some of the simple methods I use with students to overcome nervousness. Most of these I've done for years, though I've fine-tuned some after reading material and books from Dora Kurimay's table tennis sports psychology page.

  1. Take all the nervousness and ball it up inside your stomach. Then cough it out your mouth, and toss it in the trash. It's surprising how well this simple mental exercise works.
  2. Breathe deep into the stomach through your nose. Hold it for a couple of seconds. Then slowly exhale through the mouth. You'll be surprised at how this relaxes you. It's key that you exhale slowly.
  3. Pick out something on the wall in the distance and just stare at it for 5-10 seconds. This clears the mind.
  4. Watch the ball, both during and between points. This helps you to focus. That and simple tactics is all the conscious mind needs to do while letting the subconscious do the rest.
  5. Imagine you are playing a match back at your club. It's just another match. Have fun!
  6. Remember what Ariel Hsing used to write on her arm before every tournament: "Let go. Have fun." This works.
  7. Focus on a few simple tactics. This gives your mind something else to do other than worry that your fate and the fate of humanity in general will be determined by the next few points.
  8. Learn the three-second rule. Don't let anything in a match bother you for more than three seconds. Don't start another point until those three seconds are up and you are back to being the calm, clear-headed champion inside you that's dying to come out.

WETA TV

This Sunday WETA TV will come to my club (MDTTC) to do a segment on table tennis. They will likely come in around noon, though the exact time is not set. MDTTC has its Elite League on Sundays starting at 12:30, which is why they chose that time. All or most of the top MDTTC players and top juniors should be there.

Ariel Hsing in Chinese League

Here's a picture of her with her new teammates!

96-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!

Here's the article, Day 96 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the previous four in earlier blogs, but they are all linked from the USATT News Page.

Hugh Jackman Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (15 sec) of Hugh Jackman - yes, Wolverine! - playing table tennis, including a little dancing between points!

Dominic Moore Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (59 sec) of hockey star Dominic Moore playing table tennis.

Crazy Shot

Here's video (30 sec) of one of the greatest and craziest shots you'll ever see.

National Spelling Bee and Table Tennis

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation showing the connection between table tennis and spelling at the highest levels of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But could they spell Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

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