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PostPosted: 10 Mar 2013, 05:56 
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A.D.D.I.C.T.T.
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Blade: BTY Innershield
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BH: TSP Spectol (1.7)
Hi all,

I'm Duncan. I'm 27 years old and I started playing table tennis just 6 months ago.

General introduction
By trade and qualification I'm a web-based systems developer. By day I work for five schools in the North East of England, developing systems for and generally maintaining our Virtual Learning Environment. By night I run the fishkeeping website http://www.seriouslyfish.com and, as of September 2012, play table tennis.

Introduction to table tennis
When I was... hmm, six years old or so... I played a couple of table tennis sessions after school with a well-known local player-come-coach that I'll call DS from here on in. I don't really remember my time playing, but I do remember thinking that my best friend cheated to win a game, which put me in a massive huff and I never went back to another session. Since then, I haven't picked up a bat.

I've played a lot of sport in my life - primarily football, snooker, cricket and golf. I was playing football 4 evenings/week until I injured my knee. Three operations and two misdiagnoses later, I stopped doing any form of sport (or exercise, for that matter) for nearly 4 years. My knee is still injured - it won't straighten fully, and my hamstring may (or may not be) permanently shortened and damaged.

Early August 2012 I went to Berlin and our hotel had a table tennis table. I played with my housemate and loved it - and found it didn't stress my knee too much. When I got back from the holiday, I was fortunate enough to watch some of the London Olympics table tennis. Specifically, I watched Korea vs. Hong Kong China in the semi-finals of the Teams competition. What an incredible introduction to table tennis! Who's this Joo Se-Hyuk guy and why does he play differently to everyone else?!

I google'd my nearest table tennis club and, in hindsight, was fortunate enough to first stumble upon the biggest club in the region - Cramlington Table Tennis Club.

My first club night
One of the guys that founded and runs CTTC is a lovely gentleman called Alan. He played with me briefly then introduced me to one of the other founders, Joe. Again, in hindsight, I was incredibly fortunate. Joe taught me the basic strokes and spent all evening playing with me. Had I spent that time with someone less interested in showing me how to play, I doubt I would've gone back.

The season starts.. eek
Because he did however, I ended up going back. Within a week I was enrolled for league play and after just 4 practice sessions I was due to play my very first competitive game of table tennis.

I registered on http://www.pingskills.com as a Premium Member. Costs a bit of money but you get access to a huge range of tutorials and priority answers from Alois and Jeff. I taught myself a basic pendulum backspin serve and did my utmost to practice it as often as I could before my first game.

My first bat
Having played thus far with a premade no-spin bat, Alan informed me that I could purchase a bat through the club's supplier Thorntons. If I did so, I'd get a 40% discount on STIGA products. I tried a few bats during one practice session and found myself able to hit some fast, accurate drives with Calibra LT on a balsa blade. On an interesting note, the other side was STIGA Destroyer LPs - but at that stage I daren't even try to use them.

It was at this point that I made possibly the stupidest decision of the last six months - I opted for an all-STIGA setup of Calibra LT (2.0mm) and Chop n' Drive (1.5mm) on a Classic Offensive Carbon.

If only I'd known of OOAK back then...

My first competitive game of table tennis
Before I'd even had a chance to play for my own team, I was asked to "play up" for one of the other Cramlington teams in my division. This turned out to be a serious trial by fire - my first opponent was to be the NESLC Codgers, a reputed "yoyo" team who tend to bounce between Division 3 and Division 4. Either way, all three players have been playing the game for a significant number of years or, in two cases, decades.

The first match was a little embarrassing. I lost 13 points across 3 games by messing up serves. 13!!! God knows why I didn't just swap back to a normal forehand or backhand serve, I guess it was pride. I kept trying my pendulum serve and kept failing. I dropped the ball; I served off the end of the table and I served into the net. Even more frustratingly, outside of serves, I actually played quite well! My opponent was Pat, who I now realise plays as a retriever.

For the next matches I swapped back to a really basic serve and at least managed to play the games. My opponents Pauline and Russell were both better players than Pat and it was quite obvious to me that they weren't even trying to play. Every time I won a point, they'd come back at me the next point with a serve I couldn't read or a fast, flat attack. We'll come back to Pauline and Russell in a short while...

At this point I have to say, to Pat in particular, that the Codgers gave me a very enjoyable first game. Pat was really chatty and kind, and taught me (and the other two players on my team who were both playing their first competitive game) about the etiquette and rules of the game, to which I'd had no real introduction. It was quite an intense experience, but instead of walking away feeling battered and intimidated, I walked away a little frustrated with myself and hungry for more!

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


Last edited by dunc on 10 Mar 2013, 07:40, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 10 Mar 2013, 05:56 
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A.D.D.I.C.T.T.
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BH: TSP Spectol (1.7)
Inspirational modern defence
All of this time, I'd been watching a great deal of table tennis on YouTube. Having seen Zhang Jike win the Olympics I'd watched a lot of his games. I also watched a lot of Ryu Seung-Min and Joo Se-Hyuk, as I found their playstyles fascinating. When I watched that team game involving South Korea I didn't realise how fortunate I was - a live game of table tennis involving Joo Se-Hyuk. If only that happened more often, especially on regular TV!

I looked up some of the slightly older Chinese players too - Ma Lin and Wang Liqin are both inspirational characters - and despite being somewhat past their prime, still incredibly talented players.

I watched nobody as often as Joo Se-Hyuk however. What a player! His movement, his defensive play and his steam-train forehand are mesmerising. I investigated him a little further and that's when I came across OOAK. These forums gave me access to a load of other players and gave me an insight into playing with pimple-out rubber.

In addition to Joo, these forums led me to leatherback's awesome modern defence blog. I loved reading about his time in China so much that I approached him and asked if he'd let me re-format it and make a diary-type blog on my own website. He agreed and since then he's been incredibly helpful with my game. More on him later..!

It was around this time that I decided I wanted to play modern defence. I sought advice from Alois at PingSkills, worrying that it might be the wrong approach. He suggested that if I wanted to play in that style, I may as well start now - and that I may as well pick up a bat with long pimples to learn how to play with them.

Borrowing a pimples bat
The main founder of our club is a long pimple player. He's not a chopper particularly, though I suppose he would've been when he was younger. He plays close to the table and both blocks and hits. He's finding it quite difficult in Division 2 but in my eyes it's just a practice thing - he doesn't get to practice too often with running the club.

I digress. Alan uses a TSP balsa blade with Calibra LT on one side and STIGA Destroyer on the other. He kindly lent me his spare bat - an older version TSP Balsa 6.5 with the same rubbers (LT in 2.0mm and Destroyer with ~1.2mm sponge).

Although the bat was still too fast for my forehand, even worse than my first bat actually, it at least gave me the opportunity to get a grasp with pimples and learn how they play.

My second bat
I set out to do some research.

For my forehand rubber, I decided I'd go with something more controllable than the Calibra LT. I used tabletennisdb to find a soft, high control, high spin rubber - and came out with the Xiom Omega IV Elite at a thickness of 1.8mm.

For my backhand rubber, there was little doubt in my mind. I knew that Joo was famed to spend a lot of time using TSP Curl P1-R, and that that rubber was only particularly good for chopping, so that's what I opted for - with the 1.4mm sponge.

The blade was a bit trickier. The only true LP chopper I know in our local league had said a few times to me that there was a defensive version of the Butterfly Innerforce series, and that it was beautiful to chop with. I looked it up - the Innershield ZLF - but its price was fairly enormous, and I couldn't find it locally. The supplier I use via my club didn't stock it and the only other website I could find it on in the UK had it out of stock. I decided to ping the latter an e-mail just on the off-chance, and I was fortunate. They came back to me the next day to say that they did actually have one blade left, but it had been varnished and it had a tiny, non-affecting dint at the top of the blade. The guy on the phone offered it to me for a £40 discount and a full refund guarantee if I thought the dint was too big. I snapped it up, the dint was fine, and even better, my parents decided to pay for it as an early birthday present.

Trying to practice...
For a while I found trying to practice at our club difficult. Most days it was quite busy, which meant a shorter period of time at the table and a rotation system - either 15 minutes of practice or 3 ends. It's not a huge amount of time but if everyone adheres to it, you get a fair chunk of time on the table as you rotate back in quite quickly.

Sadly, be it because of the pressures of this system or for some other reason, the majority of players at my club just don't appear to want to practice - it's games, games, games.

The best I could hope for at this stage was to try and focus on specific aspects of my game whilst playing. I don't mind losing as long as I learn something, but mindless playing with no focus makes me feel like I haven't been playing at all.

Playing at school
I hasten to add that I'm not still at school! I do however work for a federation trust of five schools. I registered an interest in table tennis with our PE department and they asked me to do some lunchtime sessions.

One of my apprentices has an interest in table tennis too (though mostly through me, rather than playing for a club or anything) so we play every Tuesday and Wednesday lunch for 40 minutes, plus after school on Tuesday for as long as we like.

Our lunchtime sessions are always full (10 tables) so next year when I've learnt more about the game I'm hoping I'll be able to start actually coaching some of the students. Right now they just turn up and play with their friends, which is better than nothing, but obviously I'd like to do more.

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


Last edited by dunc on 27 Mar 2013, 02:59, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 23:19 
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Welcome to real Tabletennis Duncan and welcome to blogging about it. It can be a whole lot of fun and can help you reflect on things about your game. If you're lucky, you might also get some tips from experienced players who happen on and read what you write. ;)

_________________
I'm always in the dark, but the Dark sheds lights upon everything!! :twisted: Beauty is only pimple deep! Beauty is in the eye of the pipholder!
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PostPosted: 18 Mar 2013, 23:26 
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A.D.D.I.C.T.T.
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Joined: 09 Nov 2012, 23:15
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BH: TSP Spectol (1.7)
Thanks Reb. I've got loads more to write about, I'm just awful at finding the time to do it. Had some success at our local league closed tournament yesterday and some footage to post too.

Will do my best to get on it this evening :)

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 25 Mar 2013, 18:50 
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Good to have you blogging here WifWafWon! :up: :up: :up:

Didn't realise you've only been playing for 6 months! Look forwards to seeing your progress in this blog. ;) You'll probably find it quite useful yourself, to read back where you were, and how far you've come.

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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2013, 02:59 
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Coaching
On a Friday night, one of our bright young players gets coached by a guy that doesn't play in our local league but plays in a league a little further south. I decided that I'd approach the coach and see if he'd be willing to take me on.

In short, he agreed, and it was up to me to try and source a venue. That I did, but all told, each coaching session (2 hours) was to cost me £50 - hiring the hall that my club plays in on a non-club day is expensive. £50/week is quite a lot of money... 73 Australian Dollars, or thereabouts.

Up until our first session together, I naively thought my forehand was quite strong - it's where I won most of my points and I just didn't "get" the backhand stroke. My new coach changed all of that, letting me know (politely) that my forehand was really quite poor.

We spent a lot of time looking at that, then looking at my backhand and my serve. Oddly, he kept telling me that my backhand "looked natural". It certainly didn't feel natural... I finished this session feeling quite deflated, but looking forward to next week.

My next session was much of the same - let's work on this forehand. My coach was also very worried about my grip, as he was determined that I should grip the bat differently to the way I was. This didn't mean much of a change, just a more "horizontal" approach for my forefinger across the handle of the bat. As we were working on my forehand he came to the conclusion that the main problem with my forehand was that I "looked tense". We tried a huge number of approaches to try and remove the tension in my shoulders and my grip, but nothing seemed to help. Once again I ended that session feeling quite deflated.

In between my sessions, my league play got worse. The confidence I'd gained in my forehand (which, looking back, I realise was simply a smash or drive stroke rather than a loop) had diminished and I was reliant upon winning points with trick serves. Truthfully I expected to get worse before I got better, so the losses themselves didn't worry me too much - the lack of confidence however did.

The next couple of sessions were the same - tension, grip and bodywork. I was using my torso well to power the ball, but my coach kept saying that I needed to use my legs to determine the length of my stroke when playing a topspin stroke. This didn't make a lot of sense to me, at all. In fact, it confused me, and quite upset me. I've never been one to give up at anything, but I usually pick things up quickly, and when I don't, I find it massively frustrating. This was one of those instances, and worse than ever, I ended the session feeling sorely deflated.

Later in the week I was fortunate enough to get a full three hour practice against a Polish long pimple (forehand) player who plays in the division above me. He wanted some chopping practice, which was perfect for me as I'd been told by numerous people - including my coach and PingSkills - that playing against backspin is the perfect way to work on your brushing action. To begin with I tried to take the coach's advice about when to contact the ball, what grip to use and how to brush the ball by moving my shoulders "up and around". It didn't work, and I could see my opponent starting to get a bit frustrated. Stupidly, I sacked it off, and went back to what I felt comfortable with. Astoundingly, and fairly quickly, I found myself being able to loop the ball with a forehand that probably looked nothing like the PingSkills "topspin vs. backspin" video I was trying to visualise.

For the first time in a month I came away from the session feeling invigorated and happy, but also a bit guilty. I was having second thoughts about my coach.

Around this time, work gave me an iPad for developing a couple of websites for mobile devices. I found the incredible Ubersense app, which is free, and I'd strongly recommend. I decided to use this for my sessions and my coach was mightily impressed. He would record me against a robot so I could watch myself back. I started to see what he meant about me looking tense, and frankly, my strokes looked entirely wrong. It certainly wasn't how I'd seen Zhang Jike play a forehand topspin.

The next sessions were more of the same - forehand work. This was mostly my choice, I desperately needed to regain some confidence so that I could truly start enjoying my table tennis again. Sadly, it just never came. I'd hesitated for a while but then decided to send the guys from PingSkills an e-mail. I had plenty of recorded footage of my strokes against backspin so I sent them some links and eagerly awaited their feedback.

Most of me was hoping for a "you're on the right tracks" response, but what they sent me was much more useful. Alois was very polite and respectful about my strokes but showed me the difference between the PingSkills videos and my strokes - there was no brushing action and I was using my body so much that I almost looked unstable.

In response, I then sent them a video that I'd taken of my coach - he was showing me the stroke with shadow play, then played some balls against the robot. The strange thing was, his actual strokes looked entirely different to the shadow play he'd just done. I asked Alois what he thought, and asked if I should consider playing against the robot on my own for a couple of weeks whilst I developed my own forehand. Alois was nothing but respectful toward my coach but agreed that this approach may be the way foreward.

Developing my forehand topspin
Over the next few weeks I hired the hall out just to myself and played against the robot. I downloaded the PingSkills videos on to my iPad and watched them side by side against my own videos using the Ubersense app. I'll tell you now - that's an incredibly useful feature. Within 30 minutes or so I found myself actually brushing the ball rather than driving it. By the end of the first session I had something which nearly approached a topspin stroke! Once again I sent videos back to Alois, whose response was overwhelmingly positive, and by the end of the next session I could already see progress. The stroke in my video nearly looked like the standard topspin stroke you see professional players exhibiting.

Most importantly, it gave me the confidence to use this stroke in practice sessions - and to great avail. Opponents at my level were struggling to deal with the combination of my new found brushing technique and my super-spinny forehand rubber.

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


Last edited by dunc on 27 Mar 2013, 23:20, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2013, 07:42 
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Fun to read.

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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2013, 23:30 
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Bounce by Matthew Syed
For those of you that aren't familiar with the work, Matthew Syed's Bounce aims to debunk myths of God-given talent. He discusses focused and unfocused practice, and claims that 10,000 hours of focused practice in any given activity will make an individual world class. He goes on to give examples of hugely talented people such as Mozart and Tiger Woods.

I found it to be a fascinating read, one that I (possibly wishfully thinking!) could also find myself agreeing with. I do however believe in levels of natural aptitude, for example Bob might have a lower and higher band of potential than Joe, which means that Bob may start out worse than Joe but given the appropriate practice, could rise above Joe's highest level of aptitude.

I'm going to use the word again, as it's a common theme throughout my blog, but I found Syed's book inspiring. It's a really powerful and motivating idea that Joe Average like me can potentially become good at something, as long as the practice is there and it's focused. Obviously I'll never be world class but after reading this book my aim became to play British League table tennis - at whatever level I can, in whichever age group I can. I have a strong mental attitude and I'm happy to say that if I decide to do something, I'll do it wholly and to the best of my ability.

In truth I had already noticed the difference between focused and unfocused practice, possibly without realising it. Weeks spent doing drills and multiball with Terry had a much more positive influence on my progression than the "turn up and play" approach of a lot of players. Saying that, the latter does have its merits too, and sometimes I think it gets too bad a rap. If you're using it as part of a balanced diet, I believe it can help a player at my level to improve serve, receive, tactical play, positioning and the development of those awkward out-of-position shots. It's really important to have a focus though - too many players just want to play to win, which won't help in the long run, especially when you stop winning!

Playing against a robot and finding a practice partner
Having block-booked the hall and temporarily (or potentially permanently) avoiding sessions with the coach, I took the opportunity to play on a Wednesday evening against the club's robot. It's a Newgy affair, I forget the model, but it's quite basic - no programming and to change the spin you have to rotate the head. Despite its flaws, it gave me the opportunity to practice my forehand and my footwork - the random, fast oscillation meant I was forced to get moving.

I tried chopping with the robot too, but that proved problematic. On the very heaviest spin/speed setting (one dial), the machine basically broke - a loud, continuous beep emitted and the machine stopped producing balls. When I turned it down to 8 out of 10 the robot worked, but the topspin being put on the ball wasn't particularly strong. Let's rephrase that - I thought it was, at the time, but then I chopped against a few Division 1 and Premiership players at my club and it's a different ball-game entirely. I got used to the robot pretty quickly, where I'm still adapting to the strong topspins of my compatriots.

I attended one session, feeling a bit naff with the dreaded man flu, and every 15 or so balls the robot would stop - its feeder system was getting clogged somehow and I had to stop play and move the balls around to get it working again. I basically took a huff, it was really winding me up. I spent the remaining 1h15m practising serves which allowed me to get fairly comfortable with both topspin and backspin reverse pendulum serves. Looking back, this wasn't a waste of time - players that had played against me a lot were starting to guess my trick serves quite well, and still now players at my level and a little above are struggling to read the reverse pendulum.

After my strop with the robot, I decided to ask one of my regular practice partners Terry to play with me on the Wednesday. He was more than happy to do so, and I knew that he'd a) take it seriously and b) only want to practice. Terry was promoted to Division 3 last season but has had a really rough time. In practice he's a great counter-attacking player but he isn't entirely comfortable with looping yet, and when he goes into a league game you see a different player entirely - a pusher.

Terry and I had already been trying to schedule practice sessions on a Friday. Monday and Thursday the club only uses a small hall, but on a Friday we have the benefit of both the small hall and the big hall which equates to nearly 30 tables so usually you can play all evening without having to sit out. Sadly we only managed about 3 of these sessions as my local league home games were on a Friday and a few of his away games (against other club teams) were also on a Friday. When we did get a chance though, Terry would bring his multiball kit and we'd do some fairly lame (lame as in.. neither of us are particularly good at feeding!) multiball practice and honestly it was fantastic.

We proceeded to replicate this on a Wednesday and extended it to sessions vs his robot (a less broken Newgy), push drills, serve and receive drills, third ball attack and so on.

Unfortunately we hit a bump in the road when I was asked to play up a division against Terry's team and I managed to win all three of my singles games. It was a little bit awkward after that, then Terry had actual flu (as opposed to man flu) for a couple of weeks. Happy to say we're back on track now.

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 28 Mar 2013, 00:12 
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A.D.D.I.C.T.T.
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Quick, go back to double inverted!
My last post about Terry took us chronologically somewhat out of order. Around the time that my Christmas holidays started (quite early in 2012), I had a panic about my inability to chop or play any form of defensive game. My game was (and still is..) predominantly aggressive forehand-based and through my practice with Terry and the coach, my backhand topspin and counter strokes had developed well too.

I panicked, and started to convince myself that a two wing looper style was better. If Joo Se-Hyuk can't be the World Champion, then I probably shouldn't try to re-enact his style, right?

Half under the guise of buying a bat for my apprentice (budding two wing looper) to use, I bought a DHS Power G7 with max thickness DHS Hurricane 3 Neo and Galaxy Mars v2. Including express shipping from China and building (with plain red edge tape, I hate the branded stuff), via http://www.eacheng.net, everything cost £60. That's half the price of just my Innershield...

I spent a little bit of time playing with it, and it truly is a lovely bat. The weighting, the touch, everything is excellent. The Hurricane 3 Neo is nowhere near as quick as a tensor rubber and I wish I'd bought it on my first bat. It's hugely spinny and the bat's control for short pushes and deep, heavy backspin pushes is just incredible. One thing's for sure - your stroke needs to be right, and your body needs to move, if you want to get any power with it at all.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before the modern defence style firmly re-implanted itself in my desires.

My first "big win"
By this time the first half of the season had come around - I'd played every team in the league once (excluding our club's team called the Ravens, as we played them on my birthday). My results hadn't been too impressive, frankly - I'd picked up only 7 wins out of 21 games, and a few of those were against casual youngsters.

I'd had no "big wins" - and maybe now is the time to qualify that statement. By "big win", I mean any player that at that time I would find it difficult to beat. One of these such players was Pat, who I mentioned in my very first post. Pat has been playing the game for a number of years, and is an excellent retriever. He doesn't have the spinniest serves and he uses double inverted, but returns the ball with a small chopping motion. He has around a 50% average every season in Division 4 and although he's the weakest player in his team, I didn't even take a game off him first time round.

This time round, having played for three months or so, I managed to beat him 3-1. I won a lot of points from serves but I also played well in rallies and gradually managed to overpower him. He didn't return too many of my hard drives. After the game he surprised me by taking the emphasis away from me winning the game. "Someone with different rubbers wouldn't have much of a problem playing against those serves" he said, but then very quickly he caught himself and smiled. "Not taking anything away from you though kid, you played really well". Thanks Pat - that's the first compliment I've ever had in table tennis, and I really appreciate it!

The handicap cup
Spiked throughout the normal schedule of our league season, my local league puts on a Handicap Cup. Your usual league team gets entered into the Cup and you're randomly drawn against other teams from any division.

Every player is given a grade, from which we work out a handicap. You then put your handicap against your opponent and work out if one of you gets a handicap. My pre-season grade was 55, with the lowest being 50.

The Handicap system favoured me this year as the entire Cup is based on your pre-season grading and I'd come a good distance since then. Looking back, I would've estimated myself as a 70 or 75 grade player at this time.

My team got drawn against Ouston B - a Division 3 team. In fact, if you look at the tables, you'll see they're an effective Division 3 team who will likely be promoted to Division 2. The only team better than them is a top Division 2 team who were relegated last season due to problems with player numbers.

All of their players had high grades - between 160 and 180. As such, I had a 12 point lead against Mike and Mark, and a 13 point lead against Neil. All matches are "old school rules", i.e. best of 3 games to 21 points with 5 serves each.

I was absolutely delighted to win all three of my matches in straight sets. My first opponent Mike was getting himself massively wound up until I won against his teammates, at which point he became decidedly lovely. Neil explained afterward that he was having a bit of a rough patch in form and thought that losing to me was just an extension of that. My games against Neil were a lot tighter, and if I'd had the correct grading I suspect I would've lost not just one game but probably the entire match.

At 18-12 up in the second game against Neil, he suddenly turned round to his teammates and declared (with a sigh), "ahhhh, he's using pimples!". That explained it, seemingly - both Mike and Mark were now satisfied as to why they lost against a new Division 4 player.

Already, at this stage in my "playing career", I found it quite obvious when I won what I'd call "pimples points", i.e. an opponent pushing off the table because they weren't aware that the ball they'd just received had been given to them as topspin. I can honestly say that in all three matches against Ouston, I can count on one hand the number of pimples points I won. I won a lot of points on trick serves and setup serves (topspin -> pop up -> smash) and not many in rallies, but similarly few from their misreading of the pimples. Besides, how can three opponents in 60+ points fail to realise that I was using LPs?

Neil took me to one side after the game and asked how long I'd been playing. He then jumped in to asking me why I was using LPs. I explained that I wanted to play a modern defence style, which didn't seem to compute with him, and he hastily added "you'll not be popular with those, mind. Where I play we call those twatbats". Charming.

As I was clearing the table up, a Division 3 player from my club came in to say that he'd just caught Ouston on the way out and they were really impressed with me. Really, I queried? That isn't the way it came across in my conversation with Neil, more that I'd only won because of the LPs! Some strange folk around.

Unfortunately we didn't progress further in the cup as the youngsters in my team were unable to pick up any games.

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
===========================
My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2013, 21:27 
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A.D.D.I.C.T.T.
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leatherback and the swap to short pimples
A short period of time after winning my matches in the Handicap Cup, I saw a post by leatherback about his thoughts on modern defensive players using short pimples. This was accompanied by a video of Yuto Muramatsu, who is another hugely inspiring player for me. I don't particularly enjoy the younger Yuto's mental attitude but his style of play (when he's happy) is superb.

I PM'd leatherback and we got into a deep discussion about my playstyle and what I hoped to achieve in the long term. Having had fairly little experience of actual chopping with LPs at this point, leatherback suggested trying SPs. The OOAK store had just put the TSP Super SpinPips Chop Sponge 2 in stock, so I took the plunge and ordered the 1.4-1.7mm sponge in red.

My main thinking behind going to SPs was threefold.

  • As an eventuality, I preferred the idea of playing SPs to LPs, or at least primarily I liked the idea of being able to win points by deceiving my opponents with spin changes.
  • In the shorter term, I thought SPs would be a better way of learning the game. Serve receive with the SSCS2 in particular is almost identical to serve receive with inverted and around this time I was already starting to become dependent on the LPs for easier serve receives*. I also thought it'd be wise to learn to chop with SPs, but it wouldn't be for some time that I'd find out just how difficult a task I'd set myself.
  • I don't enjoy playing against opponents who don't understand LPs. In Division 4 there are a lot of new players, and a lot of casual players. Truly, I don't think there's more than 6 or 7 players in a league of 40 that have any idea how to play against LPs. As a result, you end up in games with confused and frustrated opponents who either can't understand why they're losing so many strange points or opponents who can't get past their hatred of "junk rubbers". Neither is particularly appealing to me.

If you're reading this post with an interest in SP chopping, here are some players that inspired me:

Yuto Muramatsu

Hou Yingchao

_________________
[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
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My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2013, 21:51 
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I think the move to SP is a great idea wif. As you are just beginning it will allow you learn a wider range of shots than you could with LP. The extra control wont hurt as well for now. You can always switch to LP later if you want to.

btw - there is a fantastic young Chinese chopper called Ma Te who you should check out. I think there is a thread on him somewhere in OOAK. Im sure others can lead you there.

Here you go: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=20553

http://my.tv.sohu.com/u/vw/31610230


Last edited by carbonman on 01 Apr 2013, 22:23, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2013, 22:19 
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Thanks carbo, I'll be sure to check him out as soon as my housemate stops streaming and killing my massive 1.8mbit bandwidth...

Having now played with the SPs for a few months, I'm really glad I made the change. At first my serve receive basically disappeared - I was making tons of mistakes. As a result I've had to work on it and focus on it and it has already paid dividends - my serve receive is far superior to when I was playing with LPs, though it's still probably the least well developed aspect of my game, and as I mentioned in another post, one of the aspects I find most difficult to practice.

The other minor bonus of playing SPs, or at least this SP in particular, is that I can play an inverted-style counter and topspin backhand (albeit to a less effective extent). One of my most enjoyable points this season was against a regular practice partner. We went to deuce in the first game, and I scraped the win. I then overheard one of his teammates coaching him to "give him a topspin serve to his backhand, he's got nothing there". He was partially right - just the evening before I'd PM'd leatherback to ask how to receive topspin serves to the SPs as it was a totally different technique to my old LPs, and in the game before I'd made some silly mistakes by half-playing a chop or trying to just get the ball back on the table. First serve of the second set he gave me a topspin serve to my backhand and I laced it past him crosscourt with the SPs. He didn't try that serve again; I'd managed to effectively hide a weakness by pulling off a (lucky) aggressive backhand drive.

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[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
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My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2013, 00:11 
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WifWafWon wrote:
I'd managed to effectively hide a weakness by pulling off a (lucky) aggressive backhand drive.


I always give an opponent one or two more chances to either destroy or foul up any serve they have ripped on me, just in case the first one was sheer luck. Its amazing how an inexperienced player will assume if you did it once you can do it again! :lol:

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2013, 00:54 
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Yeah indeed Reb! If he'd known I was as surprised as him at making that shot, I think he would've tried it again :lol:

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[Old Gear/Other Setups] DHS Power G7, Adidas P7, Galaxy Mars v2, TSP Curl P1-R, Friendship 802, Butterfly Innershield, Xiom Omega IV Elite, Stiga Chop n' Drive, Butterfly Tenergy 64, Butterfly Tenergy 80, Butterfly Tenergy 05, Stiga Calibra LT Sound, Stiga Calibra Tour S, Tibhar Grass D.TecS
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My blog: "Learning to play: as a modern defender": http://ooakforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=22254


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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2013, 13:27 
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I really enjoyed reading this, well written. I was just wondering, aren't all those blades your using really fast?. I cannot chop with anything faster than ALL at the moment. Not fast enough chops to make the opponent nervous about looping anyway.

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