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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 05:31 
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Back in early February, I had asked OOAK Forum members if there was an interest in interviewing Norio Takashima, and the response was very positive,
Importantly, haggisv supported this interview. In March I was able to contact Norio Takashima, and this was his reponse to my question of doing an OOAK Forum interview:

Dear Steven

Hello. How are you?
This is Norio Takashima. I'm sorry for a late reply.
I read your email and decided to accept an email interview.
I will answer their questions as possible as I can.
Please feel free to ask me anything at anytime.
Thank you

Norio Takashima

-----
This is exciting news. Since Norio Takashima speaks English, this interview should be easier than those of Joo SaeHyuk, Seo Hyowon, and Masato Shiono. We are all set for an OOAK Forum of one of the greatest defensive table tennis players in history.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Norio Takashima, through the 1970s and early 1980s, he was the number one defensive player in the world. After the 1975 World Championships in India, in which he reached the semi-finals, his world ranking was number 5. (I may be wrong, but I think that no defensive table tennis attained this ranking until Joo SaeHyuk in 2012.) On the way to the semi-finals, Takashima beat Milan Orlanski, Jacques Secretin, and Kjell Johannson, until losing 3-2 to Anton Stipancic. (This match with Stipancic was also famous for a rain delay!)

I think that it is fair to compare Takashima in the 1970s to Joo SaeHyuk of today, since in those days Takashima epitomized defensive table tennis. He was probably the favourite of every defensive player in the world. He used inverted rubber on both sides (Butterfly Plous). He was capable of beating anyone, including Jonyer and Surbek, who were probably the best players against defense in the world. He chopped the ball rather late, often near floor, and was known amongst his opponents for incredible spin variation. His offense was not like that of modern defenders like Joo, but he could kill any shot that was even slightly loose, and his backhand pick hitting was tremendous.

Takashima both won and lost against all of the top players in the world in the 1970s. Many of those players are amongst the greatest in table tennis players in history, such as Nobuhiko Hasegawa, Stellan Bengtsson, Xi Enting, Guo Yueha, Liang Geliang, Xu Shaofa, Li Zhenshi, Li Jingguang, Tibor Klampar, Gabor Gergeley, and all those other players listed above. I believe that he played on the Japanese team in all the world championships between 1973 and 1981.

Furthermore, I have read that Norio Takashima was the coach of Koji Matsushita. It would be neat to ask him what it was like to coach Koji Matsushita.

Norio Takashima has been associated with table tennis for many years, so he should have unique insight into the history of defensive table tennis over the past 40 years.

There are also a few youtube videos of Takashima (against Stellan Bengtsson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwoejifyt7E , against Guo Yueha http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFzUVyyw_QM and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYZABDTSLlU , against Xi Enting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elIVxQayeow, and Gabor Gergeley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KcmXXZJ-kk )

So if you have any questions for Norio Takashima, please post them here or PM them to me.

I will soon provide my own long list of questions.

Steven

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 06:52 
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This is a great coup - thank you for organizing it birding! Some questions...

1- Who were the most difficult opponents for you - Guo and Stipancic perhaps?

2- could you give us some idea of your training routine, including physical exercise. How many hours a day did you train at your peak? How much did you train as a teenager?

3- Players such as yourself, Hasegawa, Itoh, Guo, and Surbek appeared to be remarkably fit. How would you compare the standard of fitness of these players with today's top players?

4- Do you have one player who you would consider to be the greatest ever in terms of their dominance during their career? Guo perhaps?

5- do you have any thoughts and/or stories to share on Hasegawa, Surbek and Liang Geliang - both in terms of them as players and as persons.

6- Have you kept any long term friendships with any of your old international rivals?


(Btw birding - Schoeler was ranked 2 in the world)


Last edited by carbonman on 31 Mar 2014, 12:30, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 07:03 
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That's fantastic!

I'd like to ask Norio a couple of questions.
1. Do you think you might have reached the World final in '75 if it hadn't been for 'rain stopped play'?
2. In the next two World Championships, you were knocked out in the later stages by Guo Yuehua both times. Was he the best player in your era? if not,who do you consider to be the best in your time?

And Stephen, a couple of factual corrections- Norio played in all the World Championships between 1971 and 1983! quite a feat. And I would think Chen Xinhua was in the world top 5 in the mid-80s, certainly in '87.

EDIT-I see carbonman has beaten me to it and asked a similar question. Well, that's two of us!


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 07:31 
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Is it still possible to be a top level defensive player with inverted rubber on both sides the way you used to play?

Have you tried the new 40+ plastic ball?

How much did the change from 38mm to 40mm affect defensive players?

What do you think of the many recent changes the ITTF has made? Have they helped the sport or hurt the sport?

Do you still play table tennis today? If so, how have you adapted your game for playing at an older age.

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 18:54 
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Awesome to get a interview from such a huge legend! I've made this thread a global announcement.
PS Can anyone find a picture of him... this would be nice to add in the intro.

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2014, 20:41 
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Do we know if he still plays casually?

Would be good to ask him if he does - or when he stopped playing?

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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2014, 07:10 
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Steven, that's GREAT news! This is going to be an epic interview :rock:

I need some time to think of some more specific interview questions, but it would be interesting to know how Norio Takashima has perceived the evolving of table tennis defence and of the defensive equipment (blades and rubbers) and how he thinks about the future of defensive table tennis.

I find it is very interesting to read stories about the history of table tennis defence. Steven, you have already made such a brilliant thread about WTTC 1975 and the 'official' beginning of LPs: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=21384

Next step: a book about the history of table tennis defence? :angel:

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 02:48 
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carbonman wrote:
This is a great coup - thank you for organizing it birding! Some questions...

1- Who were the most difficult opponents for you - Guo and Stipancic perhaps?

2- could you give us some idea of your training routine, including physical exercise. How many hours a day did you train at your peak? How much did you train as a teenager?

3- Players such as yourself, Hasegawa, Itoh, Guo, and Surbek appeared to be remarkably fit. How would you compare the standard of fitness of these players with today's top players?

4- Do you have one player who you would consider to be the greatest ever in terms of their dominance during their career? Guo perhaps?

5- do you have any thoughts and/or stories to share on Hasegawa, Surbek and Liang Geliang - both in terms of them as players and as persons.

6- Have you kept any long term friendships with any of your old international rivals?


(Btw birding - Schoeler was ranked 2 in the world)


carbonman,

Thanks for your questions, which are great.

With regard to Schoeler, I was referring to the rankings of defensive players after 1975, the year when Norio Takashima attained his number 5 ranking. As can be seen at http://www.ittf.com/museum/consolidatedrankings.pdf , Schoeler was ranked number 2 in 1969. I watched the finals between !toh and Schoeler on television of the Wide World of Sports. It was so disappointing that Schoeler was ahead 2 games to 0 and 19-16 in the third and lost the match.

Steven

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Last edited by birding&table.tennis on 03 Apr 2014, 02:55, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 02:55 
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zzzuppp wrote:
That's fantastic!

I'd like to ask Norio a couple of questions.
1. Do you think you might have reached the World final in '75 if it hadn't been for 'rain stopped play'?
2. In the next two World Championships, you were knocked out in the later stages by Guo Yuehua both times. Was he the best player in your era? if not,who do you consider to be the best in your time?

And Stephen, a couple of factual corrections- Norio played in all the World Championships between 1971 and 1983! quite a feat. And I would think Chen Xinhua was in the world top 5 in the mid-80s, certainly in '87.

EDIT-I see carbonman has beaten me to it and asked a similar question. Well, that's two of us!


zzzuppp,

Thanks for these questions. Also, thanks for the corrections. I was too confident in my memory, and should have double checked. I didn't know that Takashima played in the 1971 World Championships. I also checked Chen Xinhua's ranking at http://www.ittf.com/museum/consolidatedrankings.pdf and saw that he was ranked #4 in 1986, which was one position ahead of Takashima in 1975 and Joo Saehyuk in 2012. After my back injury in 1975, and retirement from competitive table tennis, I did not follow international table tennis for many years. Hopefully I will eventually get caught up on much of the history of defensive table tennis that I missed over the years.

Steven

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 03:12 
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Here are my questions. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was away from table tennis for many years. I tried to think of questions on the history of defensive table tennis. I hope that perhaps some people can come up with more and better historical questions, or that they can improve my questions on the history of defensive table tennis. If any of my questions are not good (this is likely since I have been away from table tennis for so long), I'd appreciate if someone can tell me.


1. If you were 20 years old today, how would you play defense? Would you play classical defense as when you were on the Japanese team, or would you play a modern-defensive style with plenty of looping like Joo SaeHyuk?

2. What were some of your best or more memorale matches?

3 Can you describe what it was like to coach Koji Matsushita?

4. Who were the most difficult players for you?

5. Do some of the top players in the world from the 1970s and 1980s keep in contact with each other?

6. If you still play today, what type of equipment do you use?

7. In the 1970s, you used Butterfly Plous. Why did you choose to use that particular rubber? What type of blade did you use?

8. In the early 1970s, the top defenders used a greater variety of equipment on their backhand, i.e., anti-spin, inverted rubber, short pips, long pips, and even regular pimpled rubber without sponge. Nowadays most defenders use either long pips or short pips. Do you feel that these changes make defensive table tennis less interesting?

9. During your career, you had to deal with back and knee injuries. Since many table tennis players have these types of injuries, do you have suggestions for how to reduce the frequency and intensity of injuries?

10. How often do you play table tennis these days? Do you play competitively or mostly for enjoyment?

11. Forty years ago, you were incredbly fast. How fast do you move nowadays?

12. Can you describe what it was like to play against Surbek and Jonyer, probably the first two great loopers in table tennis history. What strategy was necessary to beat them?

13. Do you think that a defensive player will ever win the men's singles world championships?

14. Can you describe chopping against the best offense players today, e.g., Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Wang Hao, compared to chopping against the best players 40 years ago? Do you think that the biggest difference is the modern equipment, or is it something else, e.g., player skill, physical condition, etc.?

15. Forty years ago, the diversity of styles in table tennis was much greater than it is today. These days most table tennis players are loopers. For a defensive player, does this imply that the range of tactics was greater in the past than it is today? In other words, is table tennis simpler today?

16. Why did you play so far from the table, often chopping the ball near the floor? Was it to allow the ball to slow down, which would give you more control, or was there some other reason?

17. What particular tactics did you use against pips out attackers? Nowadays, since there are so few pips out attackers, one rarely has the opportunity to see a pips out attacker against a defensive player.

18. Why did you choose to become a defensive player? Were you perhaps motivated to play defense by the Japanese chopper Kenji Kasai?

19. What do you think would make table tennis more popular? Do you think that reducing the speed and spin of the ball would help? Or, do you think that table tennis is great as it is and changing it to be more popular is not a good idea.

20. I read that you defeated Liang Geliang? As he was excellent at everything, both offense and defense, I would think that it would be extremely hard to defeat him. What tactics did you use to beat him?

21. Compared to forty years ago, in part because of the improvement in equipment, there are now thousands of table tennis players with very fast, heavy topspin loops. What has been the effect of this change on the strategies and the techniques used by defensive players?

22. Forty years ago, attackers would smash chops that were just a little bit too high. One of the best table tennis players at smashing slightly high chops was Klampar. Nowadays, most table tennis players do not smash these balls. Instead, they loop the ball even faster. As a result, would you say that it is less important nowadays, than in the past, to always chop the ball very low?

23. Toward the end of your career, you switched to long pips on your backhand. Why did you make this change?

24. I was once told that you did a lot of running, perhaps as much as 10km per day. Do you feel that a lot of running is an important part of training for a defensive player?

25. Many people feel that Guo Yuehua was the greatest player ever. You have played Guo a number of times, including in the quarter finals of the 1979 world championships in North Korea, and you defeated him in 1976. Can you describe what it was like to play against Guo? What strategy did you use to defeat Guo?

26. Over the years, why has Japan had many great defensive players?

27. Your match in the team competition against Li Jingguang in the 1973 World Championships in Sarajevo was probably one of the greatest matches in table tennis history. Can you please tell us some interesting facts about this incredible match?

28. How have serves of defensive players changed over the years?

29. You have seen defensive table tennis change so much over the years. Can you describe what have been the most important changes, and what changes do you think will take place in the future?

30. Would you like to add one last tip or an inspirational message for other defensive table tennis players?

Steven

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Last edited by birding&table.tennis on 05 Apr 2014, 03:14, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 07:54 
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As an extra to this thread, I thought I'd put in a section from Zdenko Uzorinac's book 'Stolnoteniske Legende' (TT Legends) which was published (in Croatian) in 1999. Much of the book was translated into English and published as 'ITTF TT Legends' a couple of years later, but several of the thumbnail sketches of great players -including Takashima- were omitted in the English version. So I took it upon myself to translate the remaining chapters, using Google Translate and then rendering the Googledegook into something like readable English. I don't speak Croatian! so I apologise for any inaccuracies in translation.

So this is Zdenko Uzorinac's 1999 portrait of Norio:-

"The Japanese Wall"

One of the greatest Japanese defenders and one from the circle of the best defensive players of all time.
Mister Chopper.
"When I was in the best shape, I would do 500 squats, I would run in the country, sometimes up to 30 (!) miles, and I stayed at the table for eight hours a day. But later I realized that eight hours at the table is a bit too much. .. "
A complexion like all Japanese. Boyish face, medium height (173 cm), thin (62 kg). A player with remarkable calmness and persistence. Takashima’s forehand was especially dangerous and uncomfortable as it was a chop with many variations. Impressive and excellent footwork. Great fitness and stamina, each morning he ran along the riverbank near his home.
Norio was born on 17th July 1951 in Tokyo, and graduated from Kinky University. Today he lives in Osaka and is still extensively involved in sport: he teaches physical education students at the Kings University and is one of Japan's national team coaches.
He started playing table tennis at 14 years as ... an attacking penholder! But this was short-lived, because at the urging of an older friend, he went with the classic shakehand grip, and specialised in - defence.
The World Championships held in Sarajevo in ’73 were unforgettable for the exciting and uncertain team competition. In the fight for the glittering medals four teams: Japan, China, Sweden and the USSR were each, at one point, in a position to win the gold! The ambitious Swedes beat the Chinese for the first time 5:4, but then had the same score in losing to the Soviet Union. The Japanese defeated the Soviets, and the Soviet trio Gomozkov-Strelnikov Sarkhojan-led against China with 2:0 and 4:3, on the threshold of winning the title, but did not prevail. In the end the "Tre Krone” triumphed, thanks only to a better ratio of victories and defeats.
However the duel between Japan and China on the night of 8th April 1973 will be writ bold in the history of world championships. Even the famous film director Kurosawa could not devise a better spectacular duel between opponents who battled for five hours in the tense Skenderija hall. The eastern giants demonstrated the highest arts of table tennis in a duel in which every match went to three games and there was excitement and drama to spare. After midnight, in the early hours, with the score 4:4, the Chinese opposed Takashima with Master Li Jingguang, “Tomahawk” for the decider.
31-year-old Norio calmed the barrage of punches from Li’s catapults. The first set was in his pocket, and then he led the second 17:14, very close to overall victory, but a series of tremendous Chinese shots extended the crazy race. All were in a trance, the audience and players. Who will outwit whom in the third set? Li Jingguang, fired up, did not make mistakes and led 20:14. Takashima did not grow weary, and with his miraculously peaceful game he caught up to 20:18. But at that moment expedite is called! The next ball passes the Chinese and it’s 20:19. Now it is up to Takashima to score in the next twelve shots. The room was in silence. The cunning Chinaman constantly played on the backhand side of Norio-and prevents him from hitting his otherwise solid forehand. However Takashima risks, with an outstanding lightning shot, a powerful attacking strikes, but in the momentum he falls to the floor! In an instinctive reaction Li raises his racket and blocks it so the ball very slowly returned to the Japanese side of the table. Takashima lay helpless on the floor: it is a terrible end to the hopes of Japan.
A tragedy for Norio.
In 1973 Takashima was able to catch every ball, every drive, even though he seemed to have been passed, and his returns wereoutstanding. By Calcutta '75 Takashima has improved his already excellent game, standing further back and is attacking far more often. And in India,he qualified among the best four in the world. In the late seventies, before the championship of Japan, he moved to the combined racket (soft on the forehand and "grass" on the backhand), but he injured his knee. Yet he appeared in great style and won the championship in the final beating world champion Ono. This victory was accompanied by the words “I am crazy, because in the past I have not played with a combined racket" Takashima has for years been the backbone of the Japanese team - with an unforgettable performance in Sarajevo, he played in Calcutta (14 wins 1 defeat of four), in Pyongyang (17:5) ... But by his own admission he had his best games in the fall of 1976 in Shanghai. There in a large Friendship tournament he led the Japanese team who did not know defeat. The Japanese defeated the Swedes, Yugoslavs and Chinese. In the final Takashima was awesome, playing the Chinese trio he beat Liang Geliang, Wang Wenhua, and when the score was 4:4 he beat Guo Yuehua!
He has participated in six world championships 1973-1981, winning five medals (-, 1, 4), Japan Cup winner 1972, '78 and '79, and once a student champion (1971). In other significant events, Norio won a great tournament in Tokyo '76 ahead of Kohno and Tasaka, the U.S. Championships in '78 (D. Seemiller 3:1), and in Oklahoma and Shanghai '80.
"Looking at Norio play the game, you have the impression that table tennis is an easy sport," said German national team member Engelbert Hüging."The defender must have particularly strong and swift feet, and must be very patient. This is Takashima. Fast and agile like a cat, he skated around a table, and next to a strong defense and great forehand drive, he was mentally very strong and steadfast. "


Takashima - “At the World Championships in Calcutta '75 I overcame Orlowski, Secretin, and Johansson, three European masters, and reached the singles semifinals. The next fight with Stipancic took an unusual course. With the score 1:2 in sets, the match was abruptly interrupted, because it started to rain outside, the roof of the hall began to leak! After an hour and a half, the organizers were able to continue the game, and I won the fourth set ... but not the fifth. I was always curious later - was the rain stopping the match the reason why I lost? "


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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 10:13 
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Awesome, thank you!

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 13:20 
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zzzuppp,

Thanks so much for obtaining this translation for us. It is fantastic, and very interesting to read. I will clearly have to modify, i.e., improve, some of my questions, which is great. Your article reminds me that I watched the 1973 Takashima/Li Jingguang on the Wide World of Sports. It was an amazing match. It was also neat to read about the Takashima/Stipancic match in the 1975 world championships, since I was there. I still remember watching the water drip down from the ceiling, with lots of people wiping down the floor while Takashima and Stipancic were waiting for what seemed to be quite a long time to resume play. It was interesting to read that Norio Takashima wondered if he might have perhaps won the match if not for the rain delay. Its also neat that Takashima beat Guo Yuehua, an amazing accomplishment for a defensive player.

Thanks again so much,

Steven

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Brickell Balsa/Birch 3-ply Blade
Yasaka Mark V 1.5mm
Joola Toni Hold AntiTopspin 2.5mm


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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2014, 14:52 
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The EJ's Boogyman
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I have read about the 1973 China-Japan match - it must have been truly amazing. The final point was an extraordinary way to end it.

Laing was number one in the world in 1976. I know he was an all-rounder but I still consider him to be primarily a chopper.


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PostPosted: 04 Apr 2014, 07:23 
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Reverse Psychologist
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Blade: BTY Joo Saehyuk
FH: Donic Bluefire JP 02
BH: Donic Spike P1 1.0
What a great collection of questions!

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