Shadow Practice

August 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Move Up a Level.

TNEO and Table Tennis

This past weekend I returned from "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual eight-day writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, for graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. (I'm a 2006 grad.) This was my fifth TNEO - I went in '07, '08, '09, '13, and now '14. Here's a picture of me during a reading at the local Barnes and Noble. (There were about 30-40 listeners.) Here's a group picture. (If you have trouble seeing these Facebook photos, here are other versions for the reading photo and  for the group photo.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.) 

What does this have to do with table tennis, besides the fact that I'm a table tennis player at a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop? Actually quite a bit. During the workshop I had the first seven chapters of my SF novel "Campaign 2100" critiqued, and soon I will start the final rewrite on it. The novel has lots of table tennis! I blogged about this on June 13, where I even listed the table tennis scenes and changes in the sport, including "Spinsey pinhole sponge." (One of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who, up match point in the semifinals of the national championships, walks off the court to join - and eventually run - a worldwide third-party challenge for president of Earth in the year 2100. He also coaches the son of the presidential contender, and coaches and then does an exhibition for the Chinese leadership with an alien ambassador.) The table tennis scenes have mostly gone over well with readers and critiquers, even though they are not table tennis people. 

Since I was out of town for nine days, here's the question that comes up: What does one do to stay in table tennis shape when on vacation or out of town for an extended period for some reason? Assuming you can't arrange TT times at the new location, the answer is to shadow practice. (Here's my article Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.) I brought my weighted racket to the writing workshop. (I bought it at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.) At least once a day I shadow practiced forehand loops and smashes, backhands, and side-to-side footwork. 

Coaching Camp in Virginia

The writing workshop pretty much kept us on the go all day the entire time, so I was pretty tired when I returned - and with no break, I went right back to full-time coaching. We have a one-time camp in Virginia this week, 9AM-4PM, Mon-Fri, and so I'm leaving each day around 7:30 AM (because of rush hour) to make the journey. There are 15 kids in the camp, ages 6 to 14. Even though the camp was open to boys and girls, for reasons we still don't understand there are no girls in the camp. Only two are Asian (though two others are I believe part Asian). All 15 are right-handed. I'm head coach, assisted by John and Wen Hsu (the latter is the camp administrator as well). Since I have to leave so early, to do this blog I have to either do it the night before or get up very, very early.

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running a camp at MDTTC for disabled veterans, on Aug. 26-29. It's part of a USATT program, which has a grant for such camps. They have seven such camps scheduled - here's a listing. Special thanks goes to Jasna Rather for helping put these together!

Help Wanted - USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

Here's a new volunteer position with USATT - and an important one! 

Help Wanted - Austin Table Tennis Club Coach

Here's the help wanted article

Think Like a Coach

Here's a new coaching article from Oklahoma City coach Britt Salter. (The page is listed as Nov. 27, 2012, but that's when the page was apparently created for the coaching articles. The article just went up.) 

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the video (3:14) from PingSkills.

Which Ball Should I Buy?

Here's the new blog entry from USATT Board Member Kagin Lee.

ITTF Coaching Course in Akron, Ohio

Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Goes Plastic for Future Events

Here's the article.

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, counting downwards from 100. I was posting them all here, but while I was gone they went from #38 to #28. You can find them all on the USATT News page. I'll likely start posting them again tomorrow. 

Kanak Jha and the North American Championships

Here's the highlights video (1:36), by Jim Butler.

Lily Zhang's 2012 Olympic Thoughts

Here's the video (1:41). 

Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the Two-Colored Balls

Here's the article. "More than half of the balls were broken after practice." (Includes picture with the broken balls - looks like about ten broken balls, though there seem to be 11 white halves, 9 orange halves.)

Tampa Tries Free Pingpong in the Park

Here's the article

Table Tennis Touch

Here's a video (2:33) on this table tennis game you can play on your smart phone. 

Pong Was Never Supposed to Be Played By the Public

Here's the article on this revolutionary video game. 

Cartoon Woman Smashes Winner in Front of Big Crowd

Here's the picture - what should the caption be?

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April 9, 2014

No Blog Until Next Tuesday

I leave for my niece's wedding in Oakview, CA, at 7AM on Thursday morning from Dulles Airport. I won't get back until early Monday morning, and then I have to run over to MDTTC for our Spring Break Camp (Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM). So my next blog and Tip of the Week will be Tuesday, April 15.

My niece wanted to arrange a series of fun activities during the three days of wedding activities, and asked if I'd put on a table tennis clinic. So I'm bringing my table tennis stuff, including a half gross of balls in a box for multiball. I'm even bringing a few soccer-colored balls so they can see spin. No one else in my family (including the ones marrying into ours) plays seriously. There's also a wine tasting (I'm a non-drinker, alas), I think hiking, and who knows what else.

Breaking News - Voice of Table Tennis Contest! (Added on Friday morning)

USA's Barbara Wei, who practically grew up at my club, MDTTC, as a top junior (and as a member of the USA Cadet and then Junior Girl's Team) has made the Final Three in the ITTF's Voice of Table Tennis Contest. Here's your chance to vote for her! But so has USA's Adam Bobrow. The third contestent is David Wetherill, who I believe is from England. Voting ends on Monday, so vote now!

Shadow Practice and Weighted Rackets

One of my students (who asked to stay anonymous) thought I should ask readers the following question: What do players imagine shadow practicing when, say, at the office and need to work off some energy? I know for me it's forehands, both loops and smashes. I even keep a weighted racket by my desk, which I use both to work off energy and sometimes as a racket when I'm thinking about a technique while writing. One change: when I was younger I also shadow practiced moving side to side. These days it's more stationary forehands, alas.

However, I also think about backhands. Many years ago while sitting on the subway no doubt on the way to some table tennis event I was thinking about backhands. Suddenly and spontaneously I stroked a backhand, smacking an elderly women sitting next to me in the face. I was very apologetic and she took it pretty well, but I was pretty embarrassed.

I bought the weighted racket in Osaka, Japan at the 2001 World Championships; here's a picture. Butterfly used to sell this very model in the U.S. back in the 1970s. (They also had a thinner metal version.) I bought one around 1979, but someone stole it at some point, which is why I had to buy another in Japan. I don't think they sell them in the U.S., alas. (I just did a search and couldn't find any.) If they did, I'd recommend them to my students. I've seen some players make their own by gluing weights to a racket, or even gluing two rackets together. You can get quite a workout with them, and they build up arm strength while you work on your stroke. You don't want to use them in an actual rally, however, as that would mess up your timing.

Here's an article, Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork. Here's a shorter one, Shadow Practice Your Shots. Along with serve practice and mental training these are the three quickest ways to improve - call them "Get Good Guick" schemes. (To the spelling police: the triple G spelling was intentional.) It won't make you good by themselves, but they'll definitely expedite the process.

North American Tour Update

Here's the article.

Another Table Tennis Scammer

Many table tennis coaches probably received some version of the following email, which I received yesterday. It's a scam, where some very dishonest person is getting the emails from the USATT coaches listing. (I've blogged about this before.) Note how he's coming to a country that's 3000 miles wide and 1500 miles high - that's just the continental part - and is ready to hire you without even knowing where you are located? Anyway, as mentioned before, the scam works this way. After he hires you, he'll send you a check in advance. But then he'll email you saying his assistant/accountant/someone accidentally made the check out for way too much, and asks you to send a check to him with the difference. He even agrees for you to wait until you receive his check. But his check is a fake one. Here's the email I received:

How are you doing today and I hope you're well? My name is Mr. Michel Piaf, my Wife and I are looking to hire a Table Tennis Instructor for our son who's coming over for holidays to get some rest and ready to learn Table Tennis, Since he's going to have nothing doing while he's there we decide to hire him a Table Tennis Teacher to take him through since Table Tennis is he's only sport he loves so very much and wants to get to learn and join school team. His name is Glen and he's is 14yrs old. If you are available and ready, kindly get back to us with your hour rates and hopefully an arrangement can be made. What city you located now?
Mr. Michel Piaf

Playing Out of Position

Here's the article.

Two Surprisingly Easy Ways to Receive Difficult Serves

Here's the article.

Exhibition Points

Here's a video (7:59) that compiles many of the greatest and most hilarious exhibition points ever played.

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June 17, 2013

Tip of the Week

Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.


Starting today we have ten consecutive weeks of camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, each Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a 1-3PM lunch and rest break. Here's info on the camps. I'll write more about them tomorrow.

Crystal Wang at Hopes Week

Here's the home page for Hopes Week in Austria, where the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the world (outside China) gathered after qualifying in national trials. In the tournament held at the end of the camp, 11-year-old Crystal Wang (with a now outdated 2292 rating) made the final of Girls' Singles, losing to a player from Hong Kong in the final. (For some reason, the results and articles have her listed as "Chrystal.") The USA boys' representative, Victor Liu, made the quarterfinals of Boys' Singles. The two teamed up to make the final of the Team event, where they lost to Hong Kong.

Crystal is from my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center; I've watched her develop from a beginner. Jack Huang is her primary coach. I've coached her in a number of tournaments, including the Hopes Trials in the U.S., and I've had many practice sessions and hundreds of practice matches with her. Let's just say playing her is scary; no matter what you do she keeps coming at you with heavy topspin from both wings, often right off the bounce. I don't think I've ever seen anyone that young who was so good at going after the middle or moving the ball around. She may be the best 11-year-old girl in the world outside China, though Korea and Japan might have something to say about that. (Remember that Hong Kong is a territory of China, though it's actually a bit more complicated than that.)

Mikael Andersson, the ITTF Senior Consultant - Development/Education & Training, blogged about Hopes Week in his June 13 blog, including a picture of Crystal. Here's what he had to say about her:

Best of all the Hopes in the venue – in relation to relative skill – at least in training, is the (also) 11 year old Crystal WANG from the deep gold mines of the Maryland Table Tennis Center in the USA. With her – the sky is the limit. "I am training seven times a week said Crystal when I caught her in the hotel lobby early in the week. Three of the sessions are with private coaches/ sparring partners. One is left –handed, one is defensive player and one is a pen-holder. The remaining times I join some group sessions and practice / play with the other players in the center."

No wonder – the perfect technique – the touch and the calm composure that this young USA shooting star is showing us in training.  I beg you Crystal; Spread your wings and fly as far as you can!

China Open

It finished yesterday. Here's the home page with results, articles, photos, etc.

Table Tennista - the Magazine

Here is Issue Three of their new magazine.

Top Spin: The Story of Ariel Hsing

Here's a video (11:46) that chronicles the rise of USA's Ariel Hsing. "With hard work and family sacrifice, a young table tennis champion works towards becoming one of the top players in the world -- Ariel Hsing exudes a quiet confidence and intensity that rivals any young professional athlete working hard to become a promising Olympic champion. However, Ariel's story goes beyond her personal dedication and also reveals the family sacrifices that foster her talent."

Quentin Robinot Bullet Shot at ITTF China Open

Here's the video (35 seconds) of this great counter-kill.

The Darkness of Pong

Here's another artistic table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.) Here's how Jim Short described it: "Wonderful artistic touches: notice how the light draws your eye from upper left to lower right, making the table the centerpiece of the work. And these elements combine to make the figure even more shadowy and mysterious, adding to the dark flair of the art."

Actress Ping Pong

Actress Chace Crawford teaches Anna Kendrick how to play, as brought to you by Table Tennis Nation.

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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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January 27, 2012

Weight training for table tennis

As noted in previous blogs, I started weight training (along with stretching) last fall because of back problems, and it not only fixed the back problems, but raised my level of play. At almost 52, the muscles simply do not move the body around fast enough, and they were breaking down trying to do so. As also noted, I stopped weight training after Christmas, and paid for it.

Now, after two weeks of weight training again, the back is fine again, and once again my level of play has escalated. Now I'm able to run around the court forehand looping better than I had in years. I've even increased the weight on most of the 16 exercises I've been doing.

There are others who also do this. Many are amazed at the exploits of George Braithwaite, a two-winged looper still about 2100 level at age 77. He regularly weight trains as well, and is in better shape than many in their 20s. Take away the weights, and watch how fast he'd fall to earth.

The simple reality is that to play a physical game, your muscles have to move your body around quickly and easily, with fast body rotations in both directions, and you have to practically throw yourself into many shots. If the muscles struggle to do this, then your shots lose power and consistency, or you simply can't do them at all in a fast rally. The measure for me is simple - if I can't react to a fast block to my forehand with a relaxed but strong forehand loop without backing up too much, then I'm too slow. And I can only do this these days if I train physically.

In the words of Mr. TT, "I pity the fool who doesn't weight train for table tennis."

Here are the 16 exercises I do, and the weights I'm currently doing. I do them Mon, Wed, and Fri, three sets of ten each. I increased the weights for several on Wednesday. (I could do more weight on some of the shoulder and leg exercises, but I'm being cautious - I've had shoulder and knee problems.) The whole routine takes about 35 minutes, and then I do about ten minutes of stretching.

  1. Arm Extension (40)
  2. Arm Curl (40)
  3. Chest Press (40)
  4. Pull Down (80)
  5. Row (90)
  6. Overhead Press (40)
  7. Leg Curl (60)
  8. Leg Extensions (60)
  9. Leg Press (140)
  10. Calf Extension (190)
  11. Fly Delts (60)
  12. Rear Delts (40)
  13. Back Extension (150)
  14. Abdominal Machine (90)
  15. Torso Rotation left (60)
  16. Torso Rotation right (60)

Shadow Practice

While we're on the subject of physical training, there's another exercise you can do away from the table that will greatly improve your play - shadow practicing. This means practicing your strokes and footwork without a ball. Here are two articles I wrote on this:

He Zhi Wen's serve

Here's a video from PingSkills that teaches the serve of He Zhi Wen (2:25).

Help Wanted: 2012 Olympic Games Team Leader for USA Table Tennis

Here's your chance to be a part of the Olympic Games!

Wall Street's Ping-Pong Wizards

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal on a ping-pong tournament for Wall Streeters!

100-year-old table tennis player

Here's an article from the ITTF on 100-year-old Alexander Kaptarenko.

Waldner and Persson warming up

With chop kills versus chop lobs (0:37). Yes, that's how Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson warm up, at least sometimes - they do things like this to loosen up before playing serious matches. I once saw them spend half an hour goofing off at the table with things like this at the World Championships a short time before they had to play matches. 

Just one happy family

Here's Tom Nguyen's companions. L-R: Grumpy, Doc, Bashful (hiding behind electrician's tape), Sneezy, Dopey (stuck in his kite string again), Happy, Sleepy, and of course Snow White. She's white, isn't she?


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