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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2018, 14:25 
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Hello!

I've seemingly been lurking around this forum for the better part of two years now, and honestly I may have been content to lurk forever if I hadn't decided that a blog could be an incredible form of motivation and pace setting.

I imagine that 'octopus thoughts' on the whole might not seem very related to table tennis, so I'll go ahead and explain that first.

To me the octopus is representative of a number of characteristics that I want my table tennis game to resemble, with three key characteristics seemingly being paramount.

-Flexible
-Patient
-Predatory (Maybe opportunistic would sound better)

There are more, mainly because I am fascinated by octopuses on the whole, but a post full of octopus compliments wouldn't really be much of a table tennis blog, so I'll use those three as my focus for now.

While 'octopus thoughts' might be my focus now, it certainly didn't start that way!

History:

I believe that I picked up a table tennis paddle for the first time when I was a child - I'm sure of it in fact, but only in passing. Instead it was some seven or eight years ago while in my second year of college that I actually began to play table tennis. In those early stages, I just used whatever racket I could find or borrow and cared very about rules, or competitive play. Humorously, I think I was appalled the first time I saw inverted rubber, it just didn't mesh with my understanding of what table tennis even was.

Somehow, someway, I started to play a bit more seriously, a bit more often - mostly due to how poor I played and how much I hate losing at my core - and I stumbled upon a local group that meets once a week and was full with a variety of players and styles. At first I was simply blown away by it all. I wasn't even fit to stand at the same table as these folks. That was probably the start of my table tennis obsession.

Throughout the rest of my college years I played a huge amount of table tennis in my dorm lobby. It wouldn't be unusual at all to see my friends and I hitting at 2 in the morning most nights of the week (I won't pretend I was a great student.) Unfortunately - while we were playing more and being more serious, we still lacked fundamental understanding of how the game is played, or how to improve. I had a ton of fun, but those years probably didn't aide much in my overall development as a player.

I struggled from day one to figure out how to best hold a table tennis racket, this too is a common theme that has followed me since. I tried gripping the paddle in so many ways, you might not even be able to imagine them all. It was a natural curiosity for me.

Eventually thought I somehow settled in on the pen grip, which I used with a cheap premade racket for the next few years. I eventually got to the point, still playing once a week with a group of players much better than me, that it was suggested I look into ordering a custom racket of my own. The world has never seemed so vast as when I realized how deep the rubber well runs.

After what felt like a lifetime of soul searching, I settled on a nice DHS PG8 with Dragonow on the forehand and Hurricane 8 for the RPB. I played with that racket straight up to the start of 2017, which in many ways is the true start of my foray into competitive table tennis.

At some point my best friend and I decided that table tennis was something we enjoyed, cared about, and wanted to take more seriously. To that end we decided that in 2017 we would focus much of our time and energy on practice, and enter USTAA tournaments in our 'area'.

We began practicing each day for a minimum of an hour, while continuing to play three hours on Saturday. We structured our practice time, we did drills, we took video - anything we could think to do, we did. And honestly, it paid off in terms of our ability go grow. We found another club an hour away and started taking once a week trips to play there - singles experience is hard to come by as we play almost exclusively doubles on Saturday nights.

I decided I was going to get a faster blade, so I moved to the DHS PG7 with Andro Hexer Pips, and DHS Hurricane 2 NEO. It was probably faster than I needed or could control, and maybe I'm fortunate. My very first tournament I managed to snap that poor blade right at the handle. I had adjusted to that speed, I had adjusted to that inverted angle, and falling back on the G8 didn't go very well. I also started to realize that my natural tendency in table tennis isn't all that attacking.

The next month of practice I decided I was going to try something odd that I'd read about, and so I jokingly hit with the Seemiller grip for a bit. I was amazed at how interesting it was, and I liked how versatile it seemed to me at the time. I ended up using it full time after some great debate with my training partner, and then somehow I talked myself into becoming a chopper with it. So there I was, using the penhold PG8 with a Seemiller grip, stepping back and trying to chop off my backhand wing to find good opportunities to attack....

It didn't' take long before I decided a new racket was in order. I fell in love with the Donic Alligator Combi which I outfitted with some DHS C7 and Hurricane 3. I played the style for the remainder of 2017 (which had some serious setbacks physically due to a hernia) and honestly thought I was set moving forward.

I didn't improve very quickly as a singles player in that time, but I did find good synergy with my training partner in doubles. That was enjoyable, but I was starting to miss short pips to a great degree.

Enter last month. I managed to break my Alligator Combi at the handle as well (I have an agitated habit of thwapping my thigh that I'm working on correcting to save future blades...)

"This is a sign!" I thought! And so I moved back to my trusted PG8 all while thinking that I would probably need to replace my Alligator - but i wasn't in a hurry.

Because I had already tried so many styles, I decided that I would also take this chance to give a JPen a try. I got a fairly cheap JPen premade, removed the stock rubber, turned it into a two sided monster, and put my old Dragonow on it with another Hurricane 3. This is the blade I used at my last two tournaments, actually, and I do have regrets... Still it was fun for the time I used it, but I found myself backing away, trying to chop, wanting to chop, really.

So I decided it was time to move back to my Alligator blade, but in the meantime I'd been here, reading, and reading. Kees more or less single handily sold me on the idea of moving from the C7 or any other pip, to an anti rubber. The idea had me hooked, but I didn't want to pair it with inverted as I just genuinely don't enjoy inverted play. So instead I decided on my trusted Dragonow to pair with the well written on Ellen Def.

Still, it didn't seem odd enough, so I wanted to Seemiller it up as well. That was the plan I set out with coming into today. And today is supremely important.

Now:

Today the blade and rubber arrived, and today I put her together as lovingly as one can. Today I also got my first few hours of hitting in. It's hard to put into words how excited I am moving forward with this, and I also have many worries as well. Tonight I've already had some pretty important feedback - and I'll be moving forward with a shakehand grip, which while I haven't focused on much in the past, is still something I've swung enough to feel ok about doing. I think it offers the best long term success for this setup.

I made a promise to myself that whatever my next setup was, would be it for a while. Lack of focus and much diversity has created a decent amount of experiences, but I know that consistency in style and approach is going to be key to my improvement from here on out.

(It's actually a bit scary, because I'm pretty sure there's too much balsa in this blade, and unfortunately I read that much too late!)

Moving Forward:

I didn't feel like I played enough tonight to give any real feedback on the setup or what I feel is most lacking (though that's easy as it's the whole 'completely new to using anti' bit.) But I hope to update this quite often with my experiences and with video feedback as well. Currently I play two-three times a week for maybe a total of 8 hours, so I'm hoping to quickly adjust and move forward!

I suppose I'm aiming for something along the lines of modern defense, and I suppose this blog is going to reflect that moving forward too~

(I have a feeling that this post is currently a bit of a mess, I'll maybe try to break things up better in the future with some editing and such, and honestly the history might be unnecessary too, but I wanted to convey that while I've been playing a while now, this is in many ways my new starting point)

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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2018, 16:33 
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Great first post, welcome to the forum Reniculous! :rock: :rock: :rock:

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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2018, 17:10 
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Welcome. Maybe you should swap Ellen Def for Joola Octopus. ;) :lol:


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 07:02 
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Then he'd truly be armed and dangerous!

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 14:52 
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haggisv wrote:
Great first post, welcome to the forum Reniculous! :rock: :rock: :rock:


Thank you! I'm very excited about this. When and where I can, I look forward to contributing!

Dusty054 wrote:
Welcome. Maybe you should swap Ellen Def for Joola Octopus. ;) :lol:


Honestly, I had no idea such a thing existed! If I had known I may have been forced to rethink my entire approach to rubbers! (Probably for the best that I didn't allow myself to be swayed by something so frivolous, but still!)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anyhow!

I've gotten in two nights of general practice with the setup now, and tonight I took video as well, it's a bit lengthy and I believe that in the future I'll try to shorten things a bit. That'll be a learning curve for later, however, as tonight is for a brief dissection.

The place I have been able to play the last two practices is a bowling alley/pool hall that happens to have one extremely bad table with a fairly poor location, but I'll take odd table tennis over no table tennis any day (and especially days where I'm really revved up to test and work on things.)




So the breakdown is as follows:

0:00 General Hitting
14:17 Forehand
29:09 Backhand
32:47 Chopping
47:38 Games

First and foremost, a few notes in general that I currently feel strongly about:
1.) I have not really felt like myself since last years hernia repair, and I've steadily gained weight as well. This is
something that I'm really starting to focus on and I think that just getting back to the level of health I had is going to be amazing.
2.) Sleeves are stupid, honestly. I really dislike that as a male I have to have a sleeved shirt to play table tennis. I don't fully understand why, and I just generally don't like how they feel, ever. Not for tennis, not for running, not for pickleball, none of it. Ugh. Still, rules are rules so I'm going to start practicing with sleeves more often. Maybe I'll invest in a proper table tennis shirt or two so I feel better about it....

General Hitting:
There's not very much that needs to be said about this, other than I look terribly awkward to myself and clearly I'm not really moving or in any groove yet at this point. Lazy feet, lazy strokes, lots of swiping. I should focus more, even early, as mentally I think working on an 'at the table' mentality could be pretty important for me as I move forward.

I can see early in this that my toss isn't as good as it feels, the side view really illustrates the point well and I can easily focus on that tomorrow night when I practice again.

There are signs of whats to come in terms of the awkwardness on the forehand as well, that's going to be two parts gaining comfort with a shakehand grip and two parts moving and taking the ball further to my right I think.

Forehand:
This is gonna take some work, some really focused work. I definitely feel like I didn't let the ball get into me enough, which made for more of a blocking stroke early, beyond that I had issues with the timing, and then I had issues with my follow through - maybe stemming from where I keep my elbow. These 15 minutes are a small sample size, so I'm not going to bet the farm or be too drastic (it's just day two after all) but I can see this as an immediate area of concern that I can structure future practice around.

Backhand:
So short! This is one of two times my phone and I got into an argument tonight (insufficient storage space!) This was probably actually another 15 minutes or so and I felt like as I worked at it a few things started to make more sense to me. Finding a good controlled speed to sustain a one ball rally will be slightly challenging I think, but I'm sure my hitting partner and I will figure it out in time.
Footwork was extremely lazy, it's far too easy to reach and still keep a ball alive, and while that works for right now - the habits are bad and I should try putting myself into a position for a more consistent stroke.
Angle control is going to be a fun thing to work on and learn, I already see that I'm going to enjoy this a ton!

Chopping:
Some good and some bad here, mostly bad to be honest~
I would have liked to not have that wall behind me, I think an extra foot or so would have been excellent in helping me consistently take the ball in the same place. The angle adjustments will come in time, and later in the gym space I'll be able to chop against stronger loops and more varied hitting speeds.
The forehand felt a bit better than the backhand, but I do have infinitely more familiarity with the Dragonow than I do the Ellen.
The seeds are there, I liked most of what I saw and felt. Another area to not let poor footwork creep in and create bad reaching habits.
Also: I look so tense! What's going on with those shoulders??? I have no idea, myself...

Games:
This is the second area where my phone ran out of the space that I had made for it previously.
We played three games, I won two, somehow.
I'm generally unsatisfied with my serves at the moment, coming over from pen it just feels like a harsh adjustment so far.
The ability to move the ball around the table feels nice, I could definitely get used to this.
I'm not using the forehand enough right now, partially because it's uncomfortable, partially because it was a bad area. The final point of the night (likely not captured) I actually hit the women working the register just behind us.

Other Other Thoughts:
When space is available, getting both sides of the table will provide more and better feedback about shot quality and blade angle.
Thank goodness I didn't eat it on those chairs while chopping, that was close!
I need to keep my weight forward better, all around.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't believe I ever stated, and I think the guidelines suggested I should, so:
I appreciate any and all of the feedback, honestly.
My training partner and I do what we can to coach each other, but there are severe limitations in that. I'm still just getting into this grip, so I haven't had time yet to create tooooo many bad habits, it would be cool to stay that way~

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tomorrow night is a solid two-four hours of mostly doubles match play, with maybe some singles at the end when everyone is exhausted, and some random hitting in between. It'll depend pretty heavily on whom all shows up on the given night. I plan to take match play videos and really anything else I can.

I may decide to edit it, I may post it raw like this. I'm not really sure what's easiest for others to digest, haha.

In any case,

That'll be all for today!

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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2018, 18:33 
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Saturday Night! (Or at least it was, I guess it's nearly 4 in the morning now, huh...)

The following videos were taken in what I'd call my home court, haha. This is where I've spent just about every Saturday night for the last six to seven years. In all I'd say tonight was about three hours of total table time and most of that didn't get caught, be that table position, camera issues, or what have you.

Most if not all of these videos have the most annoying possible background music to them, that's because I let Photos do whatever it wanted in an attempt to cover/muffle most of the conversations going on around my phone. Eventually I'm going to need to upgrade or at least rethink how I go about recording things.


Serving:


The first thing to note here: I still don't have a great way, or the patience to edit out the time I'm wandering and collecting balls. So the time spent at table is not as full as one would like.

Most of this time was spent working on ideas or concepts and trying to get used to this pendulum/reverse pendulum with the shakehand grip. I'm happier overall with my tossing tonight that I was yesterday, but I still feel like the video is telling me that I'm wayyyy too stiff.

I feel like I have access to more serves than I did before, but I also feel like that means I just have more dull arrows, so to speak, rather than anything sharp and piercing. I'd like to get back to feeling like I have at least one serve that I can rely on to start the point right in clutch/pressure moments...


Doubles:


Tonight is a bit of an outlier, as I played nearly an even amount of doubles and singles in terms of matches played! On the night I played four matches, two of which didn't get recorded, and two of which are in this video. I'll break down both a bit below, but first just a few general statements:
- I was very uncomfortable in doubles tonight, my partner and I usually synergize much better, but I couldn't create the types of points that I normally would, or finish points the way I would have liked.
- The poor footwork that has been bothering me of late was ever present here as well, seemingly I lacked focus in many moments. I leaned way too often instead of actually getting away after my own shot. I was a terrible teamate, mostly.
- Frustrations with my own form got me out the game a number of times, points where I don't get down and ready are way more prevalent than I would like to see. Need to work on my mental game.

Match One:
So this one is going to end up as a loss, which is not terribly unusually in and of itself, but the way we lost is. Both of us were working on things tonight and it shows. One thing I can say for sure, I need to do a better job of keeping both of my feet on the ground, so much leaning, so much lack of movement, so many cross-over steps.

At some point in this match I did somewhat start to figure out a good way to get my partner some forehands, but it was a tad too late.

I missed a ton of forehands... and I stopped taking forehands the way I would if I had confidence in the stroke. I think this played a major role in my inability to set up points the way I enjoy.

Using the backhand as the main form of return actually seemed to get me more in the way, and I don't think that's ever going to be the way I want to return at all times, but I was trying to get a better feel for the anti against different services, so I really forced the issue tonight.

Mentally the frustration kind of mounted and the obvious body language is rough, I need to disguise that better so I can at least not let opponents know things are getting to me.

---

Match Two:
This one was a one sided victory for us for a number of reasons, and as such I'm not going take much from it in terms of 'positives' as they're slightly artificial. It was just a good matchup for us. I'm mostly satisfied with my tossing and serving as well as general readiness, but it's much easier to be upbeat when you're winning...

(Apparently the annoying music goes away in the second match, so that's kinda nice for viewers I guess, but a relatively big oops on my part!)

This is where I first notice that I have this... odd leg kick.. when serving. Gonna need to stop that, ayup.

As the match got more out of hand, I seemingly lost interest. I might be a terrible sportsman.. Sorry...

One thing I noticed though, is that someone else set on chopping, isn't currently troubled by me at all. That'll be interesting down the road if it shows up in a tournament setting.


Singles:


My opponent is the same in all three of these matches. He is the only person who stays that late to practice with us, and he's genuinely much better than me. I don't know that I've ever pushed him to play his actual game, but at my level he can basically do whatever it is that I don't want to play against, no matter what style/plan/rubbers I come in with.

That is to say, he's great to practice against!

In the very first game, I come out firing, and everything looks like it's going to go well!
Then it's just a slowly building trainwreck, where my decision making, form, and general plan just degrades and worsens.
I'm sure I'm going to spend time going over these videos to look for more technical issues in the future, but mostly right now I'm focused on the overall trend, and to me it seems like after the first game, I started losing time and feeling like I needed to hit harder or faster than I can currently control. Most of it was mental, some of it fatigue, some of it the transition.

There were some positives too though, I feel good about my ability to move in and out of the table to build points. If that can be built upon I can envision a ton of fun, and success with this playstyle.


-------------------------------------------------------

Conclusions:
Honestly, tonight was hard on me. While table tennis is a rock for me right now, and my mental health, it's been a week to forget and I didn't come in with the right attitude. It really shows throughout and I think I need to work at that mental aspect above all else. Yes, my forehand is a mess and there are soooo many ugly strokes - but why wouldn't there be? I've only been using this blade, this grip, for three days. Realistic expectations pave the way to a better time.

It's kinda unfortunate to have a night like this so early into blogging, as it paints me in a light that is hopefully false! And yet, part of the appeal of blogging will be to look back on nights like this and see if I've been able to grow from it. I never really feel like I'm showing as strongly as I am, and the video evidence is somewhat jarring - I think that'll be a good thing.

My partner and I sat down and had a pretty good conversation about how to use each point and find the good and the bad, mentally note it, and then move on. His strength in terms of mental fortitude is many many levels above mine and I'm hoping that I can learn from him since I'm now forcing myself to admit that there's a very real, very visible issue.

I promised myself when I started this style change that I was going to stick with it for a length of time long enough to really feel it out. I'd like that to be at least the rest of the year (though you do have me thinking mighty hard about that Joola Octopus!)

I also have some real concern about the balsa in the blade, and even if the balsa isn't actually effecting me, it's almost like the concern has grown into it's own doubt. Still, I think I will persevere for a time with that as well. It's just too early to tell (and I do really like the blade on the whole!)

-------------------------------------------------------

I was gonna talk a bit about footwear/gear tonight as well, but it's getting early, and I'd like to fall asleep before the sun!

It -sounds- like tomorrow will be multi-ball training and solid general practice. I hope to take some good videos of that and really work on form in a way that's difficult during match play.

So, maybe I'll write some more then! If not it'll be next Thursday I think before any substation table time. (Four days without! The horror!)

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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2018, 23:04 
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Keep at it! Get a good coach. Probably a long pip would be easier to chop with but octopus is super expensive. Just pick one with a thin sponge and keep practicing with players who can loop to you and work with the backhand.

Learn to attack with the forehand. Learn to block and push well. Learn all the basics wel and improvement will come with time. Just get someone to help you like a coach to focus where you should be improving.

Immediate results don’t just happen with this sport. Everyone works hard and it is gratifying no matter what level you are.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 15:26 
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tabesamis wrote:
Keep at it! Get a good coach. Probably a long pip would be easier to chop with but octopus is super expensive. Just pick one with a thin sponge and keep practicing with players who can loop to you and work with the backhand.

Learn to attack with the forehand. Learn to block and push well. Learn all the basics wel and improvement will come with time. Just get someone to help you like a coach to focus where you should be improving.

Immediate results don’t just happen with this sport. Everyone works hard and it is gratifying no matter what level you are.


Keeping at it is the easy part, the coaching a tad more difficult. I drive quite a bit for playing opportunities and make do with what's available for now. Who knows where this long life will lead, maybe I'll live in an area with a strong TT presence down the road!

I hear and agree completely on the gratification that comes from working at it! Possibly my favorite sport right now, and that's saying a ton!


------------------------------------------------------

Today is April 1st! (It was when I was practicing at least, another late post after video processing....)

Unfortunately, the biggest joke of the day for me was the sorry state of my forehand. I've basically done nothing but think about it and watch videos about it since getting in last night.

Today though, was a day to work on that form! I drove out to my partner's place and we proceeded to put in a solid amount of focused work on the forehand, just trying to get my brain and body to sync up in terms of what I wanted the stroke to be. I'd say we spent an hour or just under doing multiball this way, and while it's not at all perfect - the place it is in now is at least playable!

All of today's videos include the audio that was going on in the background, including the music that I was playing. You could argue either way about if music is fit for training or not, and my taste in music is surely not for everyone. Sorry for that if it bothers you. The audio doesn't really add much though, so it can easily be muted at least!
(Self memo: music could give you issues with uploading and CR though)

Also: The floor here was kinda slick, which was surely troubling but also understandable given the circumstances. I don't believe this impacted my decision making at all, but there were a few frightening moments!

Forehand:



This is a video with one of the very first rounds we did, followed by the final round we did. As I said above, I'm really happy with the progress, because now there's at least something to polish, as opposed to yesterday were I couldn't even understand what plane I should be swinging on.

Aside: I took front and side view video during every session today, which is very useful I think - and I was super excited about using multicam, getting into LightWorks, and setting that up - but my phone camera decided to start randomly using different FPS and so there's not a great way to sync it for now. I'll have to put more effort into that later!

To arrive at that version of the forehand took no small amount of patience on the help on my partner. I had to switch to the pengrip a number of times and really analyze what I was doing with the face and the place in those swings so I could bring it into the shakehand.

Following that there was also some multiball drilling to my backhand working on the correct response to underspin or topspin, but I didn't film that~ I think that it went fairly well, there's an even larger learning curve there so I'm not under as much internal pressure. But wow, once again it's nice to see how much control and placement potential this is going to have!

Point Simulation:

The end of the overall day featured a large dose of point play with no score keeping as seen below:



The key focus here fore me was supposed to be engaging in each point, and especially moving back into a ready position after each serve. In all I didn't do well, but I still feel like I was moving much better today that I was last night, so that feels good.

I'll have to consider the best camera angle moving forward for sessions like this, perhaps introduce a third camera to get the table and see spin effect a bit better.

I'd like to work more on looking for the forehand first in points, rather than looking for the safe shot first.

Once I get through with building back up the basic strokes at the table, I'm going to really focus in on the chopping with this set up. I intentionally left the pips at 1.8 hoping to aide in my ability to create good forehand chop when necessary.

There are a ton of points to dissect here - some good, some bad, but I'm coming out of today in a much better headspace. I just need to build on it!

------------------------------------------------------

The Week to Come:

I'm fairly anxious, because there's a large U1450 Giant RR coming up Saturday morning that I'm hoping to do well in. That'll be challenging as it's so soon after the change, but I have two opportunities to get in multiple hours of quality practice this Tuesday and Thursday. It's too soon to say for sure if I will go both days - as each of those trips equates to roughly 1.5 hours of driving for 3 hours of play, but I'm positive I'll go at least once.

I also might actually get around to cataloging my thoughts on shoes and eye ware tomorrow or Wednesday, maybe even find the right place in the forum to seek out answers to those burning questions as well!

Feedback on the forehand in particular is appreciated! (Though if you go down the rabbit hole of technique, I will surely have questions for you!)

Until then~

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 22:57 
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Reniculous wrote:
...

The Week to Come:

I'm fairly anxious, because there's a large U1450 Giant RR coming up Saturday morning that I'm hoping to do well in. That'll be challenging as it's so soon after the change, but I have two opportunities to get in multiple hours of quality practice this Tuesday and Thursday. It's too soon to say for sure if I will go both days - as each of those trips equates to roughly 1.5 hours of driving for 3 hours of play, but I'm positive I'll go at least once.

I also might actually get around to cataloging my thoughts on shoes and eye ware tomorrow or Wednesday, maybe even find the right place in the forum to seek out answers to those burning questions as well!...
...



I would treat upcoming tournament as a 'practice' one more or less, in other words, don't have high expectations - you probably have not played enough of them yet, and given all the changes you are trying to make, there is a good chance you are going to revert to old habits the moment matches starts. It takes quite a bit of time to incorporate new skills/technique into the match play.

It's also easier to play when you don't put extra pressure on yourself, does wonders to reduce anxiety. Play like you don't care.

As far as shoes - don't overthink it, not your main problem right now. Just get something inexpensive and well-made, volleyball shoes from Asics are quite good, I have Gel Rocket VII, very happy so far.

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PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 14:49 
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pgpg wrote:
I would treat upcoming tournament as a 'practice' one more or less, in other words, don't have high expectations - you probably have not played enough of them yet, and given all the changes you are trying to make, there is a good chance you are going to revert to old habits the moment matches starts. It takes quite a bit of time to incorporate new skills/technique into the match play.

It's also easier to play when you don't put extra pressure on yourself, does wonders to reduce anxiety. Play like you don't care.

As far as shoes - don't overthink it, not your main problem right now. Just get something inexpensive and well-made, volleyball shoes from Asics are quite good, I have Gel Rocket VII, very happy so far.


That's honestly very sound advice, and while I hope I can follow it, I still have trouble being loose when playing matches that matter. It will be good practice regardless though, and I'm very excited about it.

(I definitely want to revert back to the penhold forehand, fortunately that's not something you can easily slip into from shakehand, xD)

As for the shoes: It's more a matter of choosing between two things I already have. Ironically, one pair is volleyball shoes - but they aren't my preference. Instead, I usually roll around in mid/high ankle wrestling shoes. My concern though is that it is probably slowly killing my arches. I'd like something in-between the two for weight, but i'm not feeling pressured about it.


------------------------------------------------------

Tonight I took the hour ride to a nearby city for some quality singles practice.

I believe in total I played matches against six different opponents, 2-4 matches per person. And overall, I have to say that I had a wonderful night. Below I'm going to outline some of the good and bad things I think I saw from myself tonight - I was unable to take video due to the setup of the area they play in.

The Bad:
Starting with the bad will make the overall tone of this post seem happier!
(Which is good, because that's how I feel too!)

1) My feet still aren't active enough in any phase of the game. I believe that I had a higher percentage of points where I was active in resetting and taking the right steps, but I also know that laterally I did far too much leaning about. Another interesting bad habit that I see in myself: when I bring my right foot ahead a bit to dig into a chop, I almost never remember to bring it back. I slowly fade over and start waiting on backhands rather than continuing to look for attacking opportunities with the forehand. This is probably gonna take a fair bit of drilling to break myself of, because it's a hold over from tennis to some extent.

2) The forehand is far and away better than last week, but it's still not something that feels natural for me. That's expected, and I'm not upset about it, but I do recognize now how important it's going to be to warm-up with some good repetition while the stroke is still new to me. Tonight I started off with another defensive type player, and his preferred method to warm-up is to just jump into point practice. I think that set the tone for the night and really led me to being quite backhand oriented, where as I'm hoping to be closer to 50-50 when it's all told.

3) Serving was a bit of a challenge tonight in terms of getting the expected return. I tried to work around the table and find ways to build a 3rd ball attack pattern, but I was mostly unsuccessful. I do have a handful of serves that I'm very happy with in terms of starting the point on my terms - so to speak - but they seem to feed into my backhand. This may end up being beneficial in the long run, but since I was trying for the opposite wing, I have to see it as a bit of a failure.

Generally, I'm chalking all of this up to just not being used to the way I'm playing right now. Two of the three things are definitely directly related, and the third comes in part from a lack of understanding of where to be for what. I'm optimistic that these are things that will improve with time. Though honestly, they're three fundamental pieces, so I shouldn't ever be totally satisfied with them anyway~


The Good:
I feel very good about tonight. I didn't come away with many wins, but I wasn't playing to win as much as I was playing to practice important pieces of the puzzle - and from that outlook; tonight was a mission success.

1) Backhand work galore tonight. I feel into hitting more and more different backhands with the anti, and thus I got to use it to receive against a number of different spins, speeds, depths, etc. This makes me very happy, as it is currently the most foreign of all in terms of the transition.

Particularly, I'm happy with my aided reversal. I was able to attack underspin with placement fairly well - though the pace is still a bit underwhelming. I was able to respond to side spin in various ways as well. Most importantly, I was able to get some really nice chopping practice in from short to mid distance. (There is nothing truly mid or long distance there, as it's played in an odd narrow gym area.)

I'm happy with my ability to vary depth and steal pace, and I'm excited again about the long term potential as I get more experience. I can't claim I was doing any of this 'well' but I'm starting to feel the differences and understand the mechanics I think. Practice, practice, practice from here!

2) Mentally, I did a good job tonight of not getting down, not getting fixated on winning, and really just enjoying the game as I was playing it. Some of this is because I'm starting to feel less out of place at this particular club, and part of it is because I really approached it with the right mindset.

3) I don't regret my changes, and I'm not really looking for more change. The important part from the previous paragraph kinda shines through for me tonight. I had a ton of fun, even losing. While I was playing attacking pengrip, I felt like I was on the edge all the time. Even when I played well it still kinda stressed me out. This is much more enjoyable. I may be less successful now, and probably for some time - but that's not as important as this feeling refreshed after playing. As I improve the stress may come back, but I'm hopeful for now!


------------------------------------------------------


Two days to go before another nice full morning of table tennis!

My usual Saturday evening group isn't on due to the gym we play in being booked, so it won't be a full day, but it should be nice.

We're discussing going to a new club to play on Sunday as a small group to make up for it, that's exciting and makes me slightly nervous. (I'm actually quite awkward around people I'm just meeting.)

I was able to acquire a phone tripod stand today, and that's exciting too. I hope for some good video on Saturday!

Tomorrow I doubt I do much related to table tennis, at least physically. I'm sure I'll be lurking here. (I feel like I'm always here lately...)

That's about all the scattered thoughts I have for tonight I think!

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PostPosted: 08 Apr 2018, 09:00 
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Today was the day! (Or maybe just a day, depends on your perspective!)

We woke up this morning at around 5:30 and set out for a Giant Round Robin.
By far, this is the closest tournament we've been to - AND - it wasn't even snowing on the drive. Excellent all around.

I think I enjoy the giant round robin format, because it seemingly does a good job of telling you how accurate a ranking is by comparing you directly to those with similar ranking.
(Mine seems fairly close, a bit high? Hard to judge things after a complete style change.)

We were lucky in that the events filled up entirely, so my friend and I were able to play 7 matches each, and the added bonus was that his ranking was high enough to put him in a different grouping, so we didn't even have to play each other.
(This will probably happen at some point though, can't avoid it forever!)

I was able to take video of each match, though to make that possible I also had to upload them all unedited so that I could continue to reuse the limited space on my phone. I can probably better plan for that next time.
(Very happy with the tripod, it wasn't too large to bother anyone or make the aisle hard to traverse!)

I think today I'll go ahead and do the match breakdowns first, and then do some overall thoughts at the end, just to see how that format feels.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Match 1:



Historically, I don't play well in my first match up. Be it because of nerves, or because I mostly hate being moving in the morning. Today though, I can't really point to this video and say that I played particularly bad.

Of my losses for today, this is the one that felt like it got away - and yet I think that's just how if felt because in review I don't necessarily see how I would have come out of this victorious without my strokes magically improving beyond where they actually are right now.

That's somewhat the theme of the day as well. I played within the strokes I felt capable of and didn't try to force much. I lost when the strokes weren't good enough, or when I wasn't consistent enough. It's important to me to be able to admit that I was beaten though, I didn't beat myself. Credit to my opponents on the day whom were able to deal with the things I was trying. I got to learn a ton as a result.

I was pretty happy with how I could attack his serves early on, but I couldn't quite do enough with them to stop him from continuing the point. One bad thing that I can see here already, is I don't stay focused after I hit a good shot. Breaking out of that is going to be paramount to future success. Always be ready for the ball to come back. That'll be a mantra for a bit.

I never really get my forehand going again, and not necessarily because I don't have opportunities. I may have played too safe in that regard, I don't believe I ran around a single backhand.

In all a good opening match. I played about how I thought I would, and it wasn't enough. This is going to serve as a real benchmark for moving forward.

Match 2:



There isn't very much to say here, I had to stay really focused in the second game because I felt bad.

I think it was his first tournament, though he takes part in some league play it seems. I'm sure as he ages he'll be much better than me, but he just seemed very nervous and stiff.

I guess it's good that I was able to win when I should have, but I'm not really sure how to deal with situations like these...

Match 3:



In this match, I had no answers. Looking over it, I still don't.

I have struggled, and will continue to struggle with players who cover the table well. I can't power through them yet, and we didn't give me much spin to work off of.

I think I could have done a better job extending points if I had moved in and out of the table better.

This is the only match that I got beaten 3-0.

When I get down I seem to get a bit frantic and rush a bit. That's something that I can work on and take away, so I'm still happy about the match.

Through three matches, I don't think I hit a quality full chop. In fact I might not hit a full stroke on the day. It was a bit lower on my list in terms of strokes to work on, so I'm not surprised by this. It might be time to put in some work on that though, especially in the next two weeks.

Match 4:



This was the start of a three match marathon. Somehow I was at the table for three in a row. That's not really a complaint, but it was a bit odd.

She played with long pips, so this turned into a very interesting game.

I was able to take a quick lead, and then a shift occurred and I steadily lost ground. In no small part I think this is because she was more consistent and played within herself the whole time.

At some point I shifted away from attacking the long pips, and instead tried the forehand, and she made me pay for it. I got tentative then and went away from my game plan. Once we were playing her game I was flustered.

I think I moved fairly well in this match, but I still wish I had taken more forehand opportunities. I must have an inherent lack of faith it the stroke right now, because I feel like in watching these I may have been avoiding it, even.

Match 5:



This was a rematch!
(I lost then, and now, haha!)

I played against this opponent two weeks ago while I was still using the jpen. I was able to trouble him a bit then, but he kinda beat me down by pushing me off the table at that time.

Here I was able to apply the strategy that I've seen beat him in the past, and I kept the match even early. Once again the lack of patience was my biggest flaw.

This is a good time to point out that my right foot kept sliding out into the front. Another clear indicator that I was thinking backhand all the way.

My favorite point of the day is at the 8 minute mark. It wasn't pretty, but I was able to quickly cover a lot of ground to salvage a point that honestly I didn't deserve. Range-y, that's what I want to be.

Too many high forehand pushes, not enough swinging. I probably don't even need to keep saying it.

Match 6:



This was my favorite match of the day. I got completely thrashed, but each point was quite a bit of fun.

My footwork was a bit erratic, but I tried to stay in as many points as I could. I feel like this was my best moving in and out, paired with some of my worst near table touch, haha.

This match was the most revealing in terms of how poor my chop is right now. I couldn't keep it low enough, deep enough, or heavy enough to trouble him at all. It's good to know, and I'm looking forward to working on it.

He also troubled me a bit with his serves in ways I didn't expect. It wasn't a particularly great service return day for me anyway. Still learning, still growing, and still really easy to trick~

Match 7:



This was interesting, because it was once again a match where I should have won, and did.
It was also a match where my opponent wasn't in high spirits at all.

I could tell his forehand was dangerous, but I didn't really let him use it. He struggled with the same sequence for the entirety of the match.

I'm happy to have found a winning pattern and been able to execute, but at the same time it feels a tad empty.

I think he too will grow to be a much better player than me in short order, playing the youths always makes me feel good about the future.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Overall:

1) Focus! - Stay in the point until it's finished, think about your footwork and execute your gameplan. It might not work, but I should at least be able to -try- and see what happens.

2) Patience! - I made enough questionable backhand attacks today to last me the month I hope. All while ignoring almost every forehand. Build the point and use the opportunities to hold onto the flow, but don't rush.

3) Serve Lower! - The videos reveal that so many serves were higher than I thought while playing. Serving as a practice focus has already been a thing, but this goes back to focus in some ways too.

4) Take Full Strokes! - Or maybe, take the correct stroke, I think some of those backhand strokes at the table are actually far to long... It isn't about winning right now, it's about building a solid foundation. Take the right swing and use it until it works.

Those are the four big points that I can think of right now. There's plenty to pick out of each video in addition, and that's nice because I have plenty to look over in the coming weeks and use to structure my practices before what should be my last tournament for a few months.

Oh!

I can also happily report that while I did want to win, my mental attitude towards the day was very positive. Not nearly as much negative body language even while losing, and I really tried to think about it as a day of taking in different styles and getting very good practice where everyone was giving their best. Match 6 really exemplifies this to me, because while I got crushed, I really had fun.

Obviously there were still some negative moments, but I'm still very happy with my overall approach and attitude.

Which actually brings me to my closing question:

Is feeling too friendly at a match a dangerous approach?
(I feel like most people I've met are genuinely likable and this disarms me a bit. I have zero killer instinct when playing that type of match. Maybe an on/off the table mental switch is in order?)

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PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 12:59 
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Tonight was yet another lovely night of table tennis action~

My usual Saturday evening group couldn't play this week due to conflict with the gym availability.
(I say conflict, but we knew well in advance, so really it was fine - happens every year around this time.)

However! Ever the industrious folk that we are, we decided to venture out and do some dojo crashing!
(Which also wasn't nearly as aggressive, because we called ahead, etc.)

I didn't take any video tonight, because I failed to charge my phone ahead of time - extremely sad mistake on my part. That said, I feel like I was able to take the key points from yesterday and apply them tonight.

I played a total of six singles matches, and snuck in one doubles as well.

It is worth mentioning, that the overall average player level at the club we were visiting is much higher than our own. This was probably beneficial to me, as I have come to find that I do better against players who spin more heavily.

Anyhow, the doubles went favorably for my usual partner and I. It was a match that we should have won, so it's good that we did, but the important part was we really settled in on the design of how we'd like to build points as a team. We'd been having a slight issue since my style change, but it seems we've got a blueprint now. Hopefully we'll get in some more quality practice before our first ever doubles tournament match in two weeks.
(I'm really excited about that, it should be great fun.)

As the weakest player there tonight, I didn't do much winning - but I did plenty of moving around! I was able to get my feet going very nicely and really hung around in points. I also took way more forehand shots than I did yesterday. That was a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness, but it was a good sign in terms of paradigm shift.

Without video I can't say for sure if my serves were actually lower, but I was really thinking about height and depth as I served, so at the least it was a solid conscious effort!

I also did a much better job on the whole of keeping myself centered to the ball and not being afraid to chop on the forehand side. I found that I need to let the ball drop even lower on that wing if I hope to control it. With time I hope I can develop better touch on those shots, but for now I'm happy just to be remembering to hit them - as opposed to lobbing everything back.

All in all it was a nice night, and I think we're going to make these Sunday night trips fairly regular in the future. If so that should easily push me back to 3-4 days at 3-4 hours per day, per week. An exciting prospect.

It's not all sunshine though, the last two days have left me with a right knee that feels oddly numb and doesn't want to fully support weight... the next few days of rest should clear it up without issue, but it's a strong reminder that I need to grab my fitness by the horns and get back to where I want to be.

I am unsure when I'll next play, though it will be no later than Saturday, so I know not when my next update will be.

Until then!

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PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 13:41 
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Reniculous wrote:

3) Serve Lower! - The videos reveal that so many serves were higher than I thought while playing. Serving as a practice focus has already been a thing, but this goes back to focus in some ways too.

Your serve is high partially because you are bobbing up and down with your ball toss. You are tossing up, moving your entire body up, then trying to bob down with the ball to strike it.

(Which, by the way, makes your serve illegal. But that doesn't really matter at the moment.)

Toss the ball up and let it come back down to you.

Reniculous wrote:
Which actually brings me to my closing question:

Is feeling too friendly at a match a dangerous approach?
(I feel like most people I've met are genuinely likable and this disarms me a bit. I have zero killer instinct when playing that type of match. Maybe an on/off the table mental switch is in order?)


No. Unless you are friendly to the point of letting them win points...

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PostPosted: 14 Apr 2018, 09:30 
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Silver wrote:
Reniculous wrote:

3) Serve Lower! - The videos reveal that so many serves were higher than I thought while playing. Serving as a practice focus has already been a thing, but this goes back to focus in some ways too.

Your serve is high partially because you are bobbing up and down with your ball toss. You are tossing up, moving your entire body up, then trying to bob down with the ball to strike it.

(Which, by the way, makes your serve illegal. But that doesn't really matter at the moment.)

Toss the ball up and let it come back down to you.

Reniculous wrote:
Which actually brings me to my closing question:

Is feeling too friendly at a match a dangerous approach?
(I feel like most people I've met are genuinely likable and this disarms me a bit. I have zero killer instinct when playing that type of match. Maybe an on/off the table mental switch is in order?)


No. Unless you are friendly to the point of letting them win points...


Per our conversation I have been working diligently on this, and the change has produced a bit of awkwardness thus far, but I think it's getting better. I should be able to take some quality video tomorrow night when I play, that'll be the real test.

I don't think I ever let anyone win a point, but I might not outright win them myself in those situations. I get into the mindset of letting them hit themselves out rather than jumping on every opportunity. It's not something I've ever really run into in matches that mattered, but I could see it happening with the volatile nature of low level round robins.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

A brief update after last night's trip and two and half hours of play:

The location certainly does matter, because when I can't step back the way I want my game does suffer. I think that working to be strong in all phases is important and I like to think of it as an opportunity to work on my near table game - but it can be a bit disheartening to be hit through and be unable to do much about it.

My forehand still feels very foreign to me, and it's got me thinking some crazy thoughts about how I want to play and what I can do to get the best of all worlds. The jury is a bit out on that right now. Tonight I'm planning to try a few silly things in a light practice session - and depending on how the feels I may have more feedback on here tonight, or I may come up with even more silly ideas for tomorrow night when I'll have all the space I need.

I've been putting a ton of thought into different equipment choices - but it's not because I'm currently dissatisfied, it's mostly just because I love reading about different rubbers and combinations. In the long life ahead I imagine I'll amass a decent collection of table tennis things, and I won't really regret it (in time maybe this will change, but right now it's still one of my cheaper hobbies/interests.)

One positive from last night was I did a noticeably better job of keeping forehand orientation with my feet throughout the point!

There's eight days until the next tournament I'm traveling for, and then a very long break. I hope to cement a plan for the next few months in that time. August 3rd is the date that I'd like to have most of my fitness goals in place, and hopefully by then I'll accrue a good amount of experience in the style. That'll be a much better litmus test!

(Tonight is more scattered than normal, but that's just how my head feels right now. Hopefully I can reign in some focus between now and playing!)

Until next time!

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Saturday has come and gone, and I do believe it was a very good evening - in terms of enjoyment and exercise, if not results.

Equipment and Style:

Perhaps one of the first things to be noticed is, is I flipped my grip back to a penhold - but I didn't flip my style back to the hyper aggressive hitting that had been how I would use it in the past. I'd been toying with this idea for a bit, ever since the first time I stumbled across David Kang videos here on the forum, and I'm glad that I tried it.

It's certainly not conventional, and I understand that there are probably some hardships that come from this that wouldn't be present otherwise, but I'm still currently of the mind to continue with this for a bit until I can better feel out how those limitations actually effect me.

The forehand for me is much more 'natural' at this point, though early in the night my stroke was a mess, and while I can see that chopping on the backhand requires more time and isn't so nice a stroke as the shakehand - it's basically just trading one wing for the other. I'll get into how some of that effected me through the night in the video breakdown below.

Currently I'm still rolling the Alligator Combi, and I might continue to do some for some time, but longer term a switch to a penhold blade again is probably in order. I am quite fond of my PG8 but I do think it might be a bit fast for what I'm trying to do here. I've heard so many good things about Appelgren Allplay on this forum, and I notice that I can get it in a penhold style, so I'm heavily leaning going that route (if I go for this play-style.) The other big change is I don't think there's anything to gain from keeping shortpips on that RPB with this, and there should be plenty to gain from inverted both in the service game, and in the ability to work on the twiddle and mid-distance game. (Not to mention resting the fingers against pips is a quick recipe for sore fingers.)

Overview:

Throughout the doubles I never really got my feet under me, it was a short warm-up and I hadn't quite figured out what kind of positioning I needed to make myself a good team-ate. Eventually I broke out of my habit of sliding to the right and focusing on backhands, and then my play improved, but I also didn't spend much time working on doubles serves this week, so I wasn't able to set anything up in that manner either. Those are the two biggest trends, game by game there are some other things that crop up, and I'll address those in the video section.

The singles were very interesting, all of my video is matches against the same person, as usual. I did, however, play two other matches for a total of six on the night. Late in the videos you'll see me make some very real changes to what I'm doing with my free arm, and I think that body balance is going to be a key focus in my next week of practice. I don't think the arm solution I used is the best, but it definitely helped. It's very easy to become lazy with that awkward backhand chopping motion, but I also feel like it 'can' be a good shot if done well. I will say that it seems a lot of them turned into more of a push on plenty of points, and it's not something that I can do quickly yet, but I'm not yet convinced that it's not possible to do consistently.

It was fun too! Which continues to be important to me. Shoulder isn't as sore today as I expected either!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

I highly advise not listening to the audio, my phone has something broken internally so there's an incredibly annoying buzzing to all of these videos. (Phone replacement in transit, should be fixed by Tuesday.)

Doubles:



First match of the night, and in all the worst match of the night as well. Neither I or my partner were able to put anything together in this match. Quick and brutal losses don't usually have as many key points to hone in on, as basically 'play better' is the biggest key. I do feel that my strokes weren't nearly flat enough in this game, its almost like I completely forgot about using the sponge. The positioning and movement problems mentioned above show up here as well, and I just generally didn't feel focused. Hips often coming up too high.

I need to find a better way of getting into the first game of the day/night. Once I get my body moving I usually move much better and with far less straight-legged movement. Maybe I should push myself harder in warm-up to get my body thinking about scrambling around. Maybe jogging to wake up the legs? I'm unsure.




We had a strong start in this one, and in many ways I feel like we could have won it. A majority of the worst errors came off of me leaving shots that were easily killed back to my partner. I also struggles with my returns and still hadn't fixed my swing plan at this point.

On the flip side our opponents were able to hit into my partner a number of times, which is just something that's going to happen in a match like this.

Mostly satisfied with my toss height and focus, and I think I moved in and out of the table well. One thing that I did in this match, and most of the night, is leave balls high after moving in for that short push. It's not enough to get to that ball, I still have to use my wrist to get good action on the ball and not get my partner blasted as a result of being content just to hit the table.




This was a challenging matchup, with one person whom can seemingly hit a powerloop out of nowhere, and the other a very flat hitter. Looking at this match, there are many similarities to the last. I think I ended up flat footed too often. I think that stems from being content to watch and react, but ended up on your heels is never a good thing.

I took a number of chances, and missed the table with strong frequency. Lots of poor footwork moving around backhands to attempt forehand hitting.

I don't see anything different enough from the previous two doubles to really need to say anything further on this match. Maybe future viewings will reveal something I'm not seeing now.


Singles:



I worked on a serve for two or three days this week, and tonight I tried it. It was extremely effective! So I used it to storm my way through game one. In hindsight, I should have mixed my serves better instead of letting him learn the serve by using it so many times right away.

Once we changed sides, the fact that I'm a bit of a headcase started to show. The table is a bit skewed, as was the net, because we have a bent bolt (we hope, because that's easier to fix than a number of other things.) Looking back at it, I should have taken it on myself to adjust, instead of blaming the table and getting frustrated. My immaturity as a player is something I'll have to work on.

After the first game I wasn't really in the others. I moved well enough, but I couldn't put it all together.





Match 2! I attempted to make some adjustments and mix in different serves, but I still wasn't able to keep any momentum going. When I could get him to be aggressive early I was able to do well in the point, but mostly I just get run around left and right and his consistency was better than mine.

After this match I watched the video while waiting to play again, and this is where I noticed that my tosses were starting to drop and that my left arm was just... all over the place. I would use this information to make adjustments for the final two matches.




Right off the bat, my choice to focus strongly on where my free arm was seemed like a good choice. I was able to capitalize on hitting opportunities, and keep my weight forward to keep my chops and pushes lower. Still some oddness in where that arm went at times, but I felt like it was a move in the right direction.

The tossing was much better as I was thinking about it, but my service wasn't quite as strong as a result. That'll continue to be a work in progress. Finding a good balance and figuring out the best timing to attack, and stop attacking, will be crucial.




In this match I tried to continue working on the points from the previous game, but at this point I realized my night was basically over. I no longer did a good job resetting after hits, my legs felt mostly like led, and it became a case of flail ball. I moved well enough in spurts, but I didn't have enough to play the way I wanted, and I couldn't think of a good way to adjust to tired legs.

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Final Thoughts:

I need to be careful about not hurting my groin with the amount that I'm playing recently. I'm fairly certain that table tennis wasn't what caused the initial hernia, but I do know that the scar tissue is usually very angry after a long session such as this. I had to work pretty hard to get back to being able to drop into the squat position with and without weight, and I'm fully a year removed, but it's not something to make light of. I'll want to listen to my body, and not force anything. Especially next weekend.

I won't be playing today due to some family commitment, and that's for the best, but I should be playing against on Thursday, and then Saturday, in preparation for Sunday.

Feedback greatly appreciated!

Until then!

_________________
Blog: Thinking Octopus Thoughts
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