Joo Se Hyuk

April 3, 2013

Update on the Plastic Ball

As some of you know, the ITTF has plans to replace the celluloid ball with a new plastic one. (Yes, celluloid is a type of plastic, but let's not get technical.) This is apparently because they believe the celluloid ball is too flammable, causing problems in shipping. (Put in "Plastic ball" in the search engine on the left to see previous articles on this topic.)

Readers, feel free to comment below with your opinions and any links you have on this topic. This could be a big change to our sport.

ITTF Coach John Olsen was able to try them out this past week. Below is his report, and here's the picture he took of the "new" plastic ball, where you can see the seam.

I recently attending the March 2013 Stellan and Angie Bengtsson training camp at the Willamette Table Tennis Club in Salem, Oregon. The subject of the new plastic balls came up, and Stellan had a surprise for us. Not only did he have one of the plastic balls passed out at the 2012 Worlds, there was also a new one he had received from Japan just a couple of months ago.

First up was the "old" plastic ball. The first thing you notice is that this ball is seamless. There were no markings on it, but Stellan said it had come from DHS. As others have described, the sound it makes when it bounces was just awful, like it was badly cracked. The surface was very smooth, similar to how a Nittaku will get after much playing. Stellan couldn't remember if it was just worn or had always been that way. The ball was also fractionally larger than the current balls, what we play with now is just under 40 mm and Stellan said these plastic balls are slightly over 40mm. We didn't have any way to measure them accurately, but if you held a regular and a plastic ball in your hand, you could see a small difference in size. Hitting with the seamless ball felt like playing at high altitude, spin had significantly less effect on bringing it down. I couldn't tell if it was the size difference, the lack of texture or some other factor like weight that was causing the lack of spin effect. It also felt slower, but this could just be a subjective opinion on my part. One surprise was that, even with the terrible sound, it did bounce higher. We did some side-by-side drop tests, and the "old" seamless ball had a significantly higher bounce than a regular ball. I can't comment on how fragile it was, I mostly hit medium speed loops against a block.

The "new" plastic ball has a seam! There were no markings on this ball either, and Stellan did not know which company in Japan had manufactured it. Both plastic balls appeared to be the same size. The "new" one had a much more normal texture on the surface and sounded similar to a normal ball. The new plastic ball played closer to a celluloid ball than the seamless did, but still seemed to have less spin and felt a little slower. We didn't do a bounce test, but I didn't notice anything unusual when I was hitting, unlike with the seamless ball.

ITTF Presidency

Long-time ITTF President Adham Sharara has competition. Stefano Bosi of Italy, the current president of the European Table Tennis Union, announced plans to run against him in the upcoming ITTF election. Here's an article from Table Tennista on this, which says that "Bosi criticized the lack of transparency and the strategy of ITTF to help continents to improve their level."

Amazingly, the ITTF has had only six presidents since its founding in 1926 - see list below. Here's info on all six. I met the last two. President Xu's son, Xu Huazhang, was a member of the Chinese National Team when he came to the U.S. for most of the 1990s, achieving a rating at one point of 2777 while getting a degree in computer science at University of Maryland. He and I shared a house for a few years. When Huazhang introduced me to his father at the Worlds in China one year, President Xu gave me a watch with his picture on it! (I just spent 20 minutes trying to find that watch, but couldn't. I've got table tennis mementos lying about all over the place; I just put it on my todo list to organize them. I'll find that watch.) I believe Xu is still president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association.

  1. Ivor Montagu, 1926-1967
  2. H. Roy Evans, 1967-1987
  3. Ichiro Ogimura, 1987-1994
  4. Lollo Hammarlund, 1994-1995
  5. Xu Yinsheng, 1995-1999
  6. Adham Sharara, 1999-present

2013 USA College Table Tennis National Championships

Here's the home page for the upcoming College Championships, to be held in Rockford, IL, April 12-14.

Table Tennis Played with the Foot

Here's a picture of an armless player who plays with his racket held in his foot. Caption: "Never give up on your dreams."

Interview with Joo Se Hyuk

Here's an interview with Joo Se Hyuk of South Korea (just out this morning), the best defensive player in the world. He was a Men's Singles finalist at the 2003 World Championships. Currently ranked #12 in the world, he's been as high as #5.

Chris O'Dowd Plays Ping Pong

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on actor Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids, This is 40) and his table tennis. Unfortunately, it includes this statement from O'Dowd: "Ping-Pong is one of those sports where you don't have to have any fitness level." I hope to get him into one of my training camps and see how long that attitude lasts!!!

World Team Classic Top 10 Shots

Here's the video (3:46). Some of the shots and rallies are replayed in slow motion.

Crazy Japanese Table Tennis Stuff

Here's a video (9:47) showing Japanese players doing crazy things, such as using human faces as targets, spinny serves that curve around objects, playing on improvised tables (small roughly one-foot square tables about 6-8 feet apart with a net in between - here's a picture), and lots of other stuff.

Non-Table Tennis - After Death Anthology

"After Death," an anthology of fantasy and horror stories about what happens after death, is out, and on sale at Amazon. It includes my story, "The Devil's Backbone." It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape? (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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December 7, 2012

Breaking News - Marty Reisman Passes Away

(Added Friday afternoon)  He will be missed. 

Warming Up

When players warm up at a club or tournament, they invariably start out by hitting forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. And there's nothing wrong with that as it gets the timing going while loosening the muscles a bit. However, often they do this for a long time. There's no reason to do this more than a few minutes. Instead, after about two minutes, why not do some footwork, which will really get you warmed up?

If you are just warming up, then 1-1 footwork is plenty. Your partner hits the ball alternately to your forehand and the middle of the table, and you move side to side, hitting (or looping) your forehand. You'll find moving and hitting not only is more like what you'll do in a game, it'll get you warmed up much faster.

Some will argue that it'll also tire them out quicker. Then hit less! What's better, spending 30 minutes trying to get warmed up, or getting a better warm-up in 15? But it's not that tiring since half the time your partner will be doing the footwork. That's where you not only rest, but work on your ball control. You'll get more practice on that hitting side to side then repetitively hitting to one spot.

Now do the same thing on the backhand. Don't just hit backhand to backhand - have your partner move you side to side some! Yes, a backhand footwork drill. In a match, you wouldn't just stand there and expect your opponent to hit to one spot, so why warm up for that? Have your partner hit one to your wide backhand, and one toward the middle. You might only want to cover, say, 1/3 of the table when you do backhand footwork, if that's what you'd do in a match. On the other hand, 2001 USA National Men's Singles Champion Eric Owens told me that he attributed his winning the title to his improved backhand, and he attributed that to doing drills where he'd cover over half the table with his backhand loop in footwork drills - saying that after doing that, covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the table with his backhand in a real match was easy.

Make sure to use the shot you'd use in a match. If you are a looper, go to looping once your drives are warmed up.

MDTTC Shirt on 30 Rock!

At the very start of 30 Rock last night at 8PM on NBC, Judah Friedlander ("Frank Rossitano") wore a blue Maryland Table Tennis Center shirt! I'd given him the shirt a few months ago. Judah is from Gaithersburg, Maryland (near MDTTC), and comes to MDTTC semi-regularly. I've given him a few lessons, though of course he's the World Champion, so nobody really gives him a lesson! Here are pictures I have of Judah playing table tennis, from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page:

photo1 photo2 photo3 (with Spider-man) photo4 (Anna Kournikova on right) photo5 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Judah Friedlander, Actress Susan Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner)

Table Tennis Robots

In my blog on December 5 (Wednesday), I wrote about table tennis robots. I've since done some updates - added a couple videos for Newgy and Butterfly. So I thought I'd link to it again so you can have a second chance to go out and buy these robots for Christmas!

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the forehand push in this short video (41 seconds).

Forehand Pivot Footwork

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:25) on Forehand Pivot Footwork. "The key to all footwork is balance." I say the same thing in all my footwork lectures. This is one of the more valuable coaching videos to watch. Too many players don't pivot correctly, and they pay for it in balance and recovery. (Often players have no trouble stepping around to attack with the forehand, but cannot recover for the next shot because of a poor pivot move.)

PingPod #34

Here's a PingPod video from PingSkills (7:23). "In this episode of the PingPod, Alois and Jeff discuss the Ping Pong Zone. This zone is what you enter into the first time you venture into a club. There are often unorthodox players who don't look very good but are extremely difficult to beat. Watch this video to see what we are talking about and how to overcome the Ping Pong Zone."

Attack vs. Defense

Here's a video (8:28) of Tan Ruiwu (Croatia, formerly of China) vs. Joo See Hyuk (KOR) in a vintage attack vs. defense/offense match-up in the first round of the ITTF Grand Finals. Time between points has been removed so it's non-stop action.

Animals Playing Table Tennis

In my collection of Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures, I've just added an orangutan. He's not actually playing, but waving a ping-pong paddle about is good enough for me. It's called shadow practice. He's going to be good! (So who wins between him and the chimp?)

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April 17, 2012

"Close the racket!!!"

These three words are the most common ones spoken to kids when they first learn to play. I've come to understand the millions of years ago our ancestors carried around ping-pong paddles to fend off arial attacks from large man-eating eagles. And so it is in our genes to aim the paddle upward to defend against avian attacks. Adults can overcome this ingrained instinct, but kids, being smaller, apparently are more afraid of eagles. No matter how many times I lead them through the proper stroke and have them shadow-practice the shot, as soon as I feed them a ball multiball style most invariably flip their wrist back and aim the paddle up, and hit the ball high into the air, apparently in an attempt to shoot down those ferocious eagles. (Okay, it's usually not that bad, but most kids start with this tendency, and some have great difficulty breaking it. I have one 5-year-old girl who after two lessons still can't stop herself from launching eagle-bound ping-pong balls toward the ceiling.)

Exhibition at MDTTC Open House

Here's a video (8:44) of the exhibition I did with Derek Nie at the MDTTC Open House on April 7. (Derek, 11, is rated 2090 and was a finalist in 10 and under at the 2011 USA Nationals. That's Crystal Wang umpiring and standing up to me no matter how much I harass and bribe her.) I do humorous exhibitions with lots of trick shots and props. This one went decently, but I missed too many times with the clipboard and big paddle. Also, the video cuts off before the game is over. (We played one game to 15, since one 11-point game is too short to get all the tricks in.) In the unseen video afterwards I blew one ball back, aced Derek with a backspin come-back-over-the-net serve, led the crowd in the world's first table tennis wave (I've done that about 200 times), and did a bunch of lobbing while lying on the floor as I "almost" come back. (Derek knew in advance that he gets to win.)  Later on we had another "straight" exhibition between Han Xiao and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (Here are pictures from another exhibition I did at nearby Lake Forrest Mall.)

French Hardbat

Here's a poster that appears to promote a French Hardbat tournament. (I don't read French, sorry.)

Joo Se Hyuk's sidespin chop

Here's an interesting video from PingSkills that teaches world #8 (and the #1 chopper) Joo Se Hyuk's curving sidespin chop against a smash (1:53).

Lobbing video

Here's a video (7:53) that showcases great lobbing points by many of the best players in the world, both in real matches and exhibitions.

Cat playing table tennis

Here's a new video of a cat playing table tennis (1:49). He doesn't just hit forepaws, he has four paws. And things get really interesting when the net goes down.

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January 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Forcing an Opponent Out of Position.

Changing tactics

I had an interesting practice match this weekend - a best four out of seven. My opponent was an extremely steady blocker without a strong attack, rated about 2100. When I say "extremely steady blocker," I mean she hasn't missed a backhand since the Reagan Administration. So how to play her?

I started out well, winning the first game easily on third ball loops, attacking her forehand, and steady countering, taking advantage of the fact that in any rally I could suddenly attack hard, while she mostly just blocked side to side. She often served deep, and I was often able to loop those. 

However, three things began to happen. First, she began wear me down to the point that I felt like I'd just run a marathon - and we were only into the second game. Second, her forehand, which has only missed twice since the Reagan Administration, wasn't missing. Third, she was pinning me down to my backhand, and while I can hit a hundred backhands in a row when needed, she hasn't missed a backhand since the Reagan Administration. Like Romney, what I was hoping would be a quick run to victory instead turned into a war of attrition. And she wasn't attritioning.

And so I found myself down 2-3 in games. At this point I simply was too tired to continuously attack forehands when needed or to run around and loop her serves (I don't have a strong backhand loop, alas), and my 1% backhand miss rate was way too high against a backhand with a 0% miss rate. So I began to look for chances to chop to get out of these backhand rallies. I chopped her deep topspin serves back (so I didn't have to run around to forehand loop them, and because I get more spin when looping backspin), and if we got into a fast rally, after a few shots I'd find a ball to chop on the backhand. She'd push, and I'd get to loop, usually to her forehand or middle, about 2/3 of the time going for slow, spinny and deep loops, about 1/3 of the time going for rips, usually to the forehand side. 

And lo and behold, it through off her rhythm, and I started getting balls to smash or loop kill when she blocked my loops! I won game six. I started game seven with a barrage of attacks that put me in a 1-4 hole. So I went back to mixing in chopping and looping, and finally won, 11-8 in the seventh. If I'd stuck with my normal steady backhand countering game in rallies, and continued to attack the deep serve (as I'm always coaching players to do, since 90% of the time it's the right strategy), I'd have lost. 

This strategy was reminiscent of how Dan Seemiller won the men's singles at the USA Nationals one year over Eric Boggan.

Beginners learning forehand and backhand

Recently I've coached a lot of beginners, especially new kids. I've noticed an interesting dynamic. In nearly every case, by the end of the first session they had picked up either the forehand or backhand pretty well, but struggled on the other side. None had trouble on both; none were good on both. In each case, they so mastered the proper technique on one side that by the end of the session I was able to challenge them to see how many they could hit in a row - something I never do until I'm confident they'll do so with good technique. But on the other side we never got to that stage. In most cases they got it down in the second or third session, but even then it was obvious they were more comfortable on the other side. I wonder if this is something that'll be true the rest of their table tennis playing days?

Twelve Tips to Table Tennis Perfection

Here's the latest coaching article by Samson Dubina. They are all great items; I find #1 (goals) and #10 (visualizing) the two that players most overlook. Until you set specific goals (and then work out what you need to do to achieve those goals), it's hard to improve. It's like going on a journey without a destination. As to visualizing, it's the most underused way to improve.

Returning the forehand pendulum serve

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:53) that shows how to return a forehand pendulum serve into the backhand.

2012 Hungarian Men's Singles Final

This was a great match from this past weekend, where shakehand attacker Ma Long of China (#1 in the world) barely defeats South Korea's chopper/looper Joo Se Hyuk (2003 World Men's Singles Finalist), -7,4,-4,4,-7,7,8, in the final of the Hungarian Open. Time between points is taken out so you can see the entire match in about ten minutes. Joo upset current World Men's Singles Champion Zhang Jike (also of China) in the quarterfinals by the unlikely scores of 5,7,7,4. (Here's that match on youtube, but it's shown continuously, so takes about 30 minutes.) Here are articles, pictures, and results.

Liu Guoliang teaching his one-year-old daughter table tennis!

Yes, former World and Olympic Champion and current Chinese Men's Coach Liu Guoliang is already teaching the next generation the family business (1:09).

The bearded Liv Tyler paddle

Here's actress Liv Tyler with her bearded paddle! And the sixth picture down shows her playing with the paddle. She's promoting her upcoming movie "Robot and Frank," but is probably best known for her roles in Lord of the Rings (she's Arwen!), Armageddon, and The Incredible Hulk.

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