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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 08:30 
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Didn't notice there's a blog section until now. I will record some playing experiences and thoughts here. Any comments welcome!

As a first post, taking bits from my intro and adding stuff: :rofl:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm Thomas, 32 yo from USA. I came from China originally.

The first time I played was in first grade. Those rackets with only one side of rubber left a big impression on me. I had several rackets that I would number 1, 2, 3, 4 on the back and bring to school to lend to other kids. We played on concrete tables after school. As someone who's pretty unathletic and failed PE, I could beat most kids by making fewer mistakes. Maybe my hand-eye coordination is good...I rarely smashed though.

In 4th grade I started getting into soccer and rarely ping pong. In 6th grade I got a bit of FH counter training, but it was still just a casual hobby not as big as soccer. I played off and on for many years till I was 18.

Started playing again 2 years ago due to a 'midlife crisis', robot every day, played at a church, etc. My uncle in China who was #1 in his city also gave me some pointers this summer. (He's 70, so it was old-school low-throw serves, one-sided fast attack :lol: )

As my user name suggests I'm a big fan of Ma Lin and Xu Xin, haha. I'm a penhold player with a style similar to Ma Lin, a lot of FH 'amateur loops', TPB, and pushing, but my focus is on power and not trickery, so more like Xu Xin in that regard. I have a big FH for an untrained person and I try to use it whenever possible. Block on BH, don't get many points there, just like ML. My RPB's form is not bad but I only use it to attack high balls and some balls close to the net, and sometimes to cover wide BH.

I'm around probably 1350-1400 USATT, an embarrassing place between recreational and 'real' club players. Can usually beat the guys at my company who play every day, but I'm not used to playing certain styles and I'm not good at receiving. There was a semi chopper who also plays weird high loops sometimes (now I know he's a 'retriever' :lol: ), and it messed up my rhythm...I also have trouble looping heavy underspin. I can loop fine at home with the robot, but I guess I'm more tense in a match and my footwork probably isn't there.

Fortunately, there are some pretty nice clubs around with Gerflor and good players. The other day I walked in and stumbled on an unsanctioned tournament. Of course, I got a beating from most except two first-timers (and I won by push-blocking).

My goals for now are:
* Play more players better than me and learn to read/receive serves better.
* Improve footwork - e.g. I don't move enough when I step around.
* Increase RPB use... probably not realistic to do full-table FH against decent players
* Pay more attention to placement.

In a couple months, I'll try to play a sanctioned tournament and see what my official rating looks like.

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Blog (Ramblings of an ordinary penholder...): viewtopic.php?f=58&t=32694


Last edited by Ma_Xin on 31 Mar 2018, 08:43, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 08:38 
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And hopefully post a video of you playing too please. Much easier to develop empathy and understanding of your game if we can see it. optional of course but helpful too.


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 09:45 
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Debater wrote:
And hopefully post a video of you playing too please. Much easier to develop empathy and understanding of your game if we can see it. optional of course but helpful too.


Practicing against robot. Taken too close.. :rofl:


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PostPosted: 31 Mar 2018, 16:42 
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Need more arm speed on your fh. Try whipping though a bit and a bit more upper body twist against the robot and experiment on your form. Some people can accelerate with a small swing, some need more space.

I’d probably ditch the fh-bh movement right now on videos taken. Didn’t really add anything for this video. Zoom out if possible and speed the robot up a bit between shots

Good work otherwise. Rpb looks ok at the moment

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PostPosted: 01 Apr 2018, 08:30 
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Silver wrote:
Need more arm speed on your fh. Try whipping though a bit and a bit more upper body twist against the robot and experiment on your form. Some people can accelerate with a small swing, some need more space.

I’d probably ditch the fh-bh movement right now on videos taken. Didn’t really add anything for this video. Zoom out if possible and speed the robot up a bit between shots

Good work otherwise. Rpb looks ok at the moment


Appreciate the input.

Yeah I need more speed on my fh against better players. About a year or so ago my body wobbled more...but I wasn't able to convert that into shot power. The current form is relatively stable. There are 3 different modes of fh for me:

* Straighter arm Chinese loops: most of the power comes from the body moving forward and the shoulder. I usually use these for loop-killing backspin semi-high balls that aren't too long. Definitely powerful but stress my shoulder if I don't do it right. (I know I need to relax and whip it)

* Curling arm: obviously if I don't have the space or time I have to curl my arm. With topspin balls and most balls in real matches I don't...I whip mainly the forearm here. If I improve my footwork I may be able to do straight arm more.

* Wrist movement: whipping the wrist, for some over-the-table loops or when I'm playing casual at work. These are less likely to make mistakes, but recently my consistency has improved so I don't need these often.

In the video I'm between straight arm and curling arm. I'll try to do more videos with straight arm and against backspin, etc. Also, I would say maybe 30% of my power comes from the waist/legs.

My RPB has looked okay since around the first time I tried it, so probably a natural. :) The small movement of the BH makes the form easier I think. Need to work on consistency.

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

Today I went to the club where I played a tournament, but it wasn't open...so I went to the other one nearby. Again, the problem there is that most people either come with partners or have a coach, so it's hard to find someone new to play with. Both times I've been there, I played with recreational-level players.

The guy today said he used to come a lot on Saturdays and got coaching from different coaches, but now he just plays at work. His strokes are not very consistent, and these recreational players have the issue that they are pretty gentle with high balls. :lol: Nevertheless, tried to get a good workout out of it...He keeps commenting on how much sidespin my loops have. I have one more thing in common with Xu Xin!

I believe the sidespin makes the shot slower since I'm not hitting it through, but this is during counter-looping and attack-defense sequences in practice... in real matches I don't get into these often.

There's another great-looking penholder behind me and his coach keeps telling him to whip his arm more. I imitated and I can see how I can be more explosive; it's dependent on athleticism and we'll see.

I practiced my RPB trying to hit different corners, as I always hit down the line in matches. My consistency has gotten better. But I need to see if I can replicate that with faster ball speed from opponent.

Need to look into the league thing that many here talk about, or bring someone good I met online to the club next time.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 10:05 
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Took two videos of my only good serve:





The first video I was TRYING to do a mix of backspin/topspin, mostly the former. Recently they often turn out to be topspin (or only sidespin) tho, and I'm surprised when my opponent sends the ball flying. :lol: I'm not a good returner, even at 1/2 playback speed I can't tell what spin I put on.

The reason for lack of backspin is because I'm not cutting the base of the ball correctly. When I do it in the second video, I make sure my blade angle is more horizontal and "brake" after contact, and all those serves should be backspin. But also easier to read.

I had really strong backspin when my semi-pro uncle trained me on this serve. Later on I tried to add deception, and it works sometimes in matches, but overall I can't vary the deception at will yet. There's also the nervous factor in matches that affects serves more than other strokes.

I believe my form for this serve is good, and I was able to impart good spin. Most people around my level have at least some trouble at the beginning.

A couple other issues are:
* Serve height: e.g. the first few balls in the first video are too high. Usually gets better with warm-up
* Most of the serves are long. I think I'll get the deception working first tho.
* I don't toss high enough, but no one has ever complained.


P.S. I have also practiced many other serves: pendulum, reverse pendulum, tomahawk, etc. I don't use them a lot because of 1) lack of feel for "cutting the ball" on pendulum; 2) FH serves require getting back to the ready position; 3) seems easier to produce strong spin on BH overall.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 10:42 
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ooh, definitely too high, those serves, in general. Of course, the same could be said for me, lol, :P :oops: So I guess we both need to work on that :lol:

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 12:15 
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A few notes:
1) your serves are bouncing high because you're hitting them into the table. Good if you're trying to a long fast serve. If you're aiming for short or half long, need to contact more parallel to the table.
2) I prefer using the back of the blade for bh serves. It's easier to disguise and do topspin serves.
3) If you toss higher you'll get more spin.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 12:19 
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Danthespearton HQ wrote:
ooh, definitely too high, those serves, in general. Of course, the same could be said for me, lol, :P :oops: So I guess we both need to work on that :lol:


Rewatched it...I think the camera angle (chest height) makes it appear higher than it is. From the first net ball onward most serves are probably ok, hence a few nets.

Do need to keep working on it tho.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 12:35 
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Silver wrote:
A few notes:
1) your serves are bouncing high because you're hitting them into the table. Good if you're trying to a long fast serve. If you're aiming for short or half long, need to contact more parallel to the table.
2) I prefer using the back of the blade for bh serves. It's easier to disguise and do topspin serves.
3) If you toss higher you'll get more spin.


1) True. I will pratice for short too.
2) You mean penhold? It's pretty hard. This front side serve is an old school serve that lots of amateurs use. Probably can't disguise too well. But I figure will do for now since I can't master FH serves.

Another thing, tacky rubber on FH.

Refer back to what I said earlier. Wonder if anyone can tell me If i serve some mix of top/under in first video.
3) I think it depends. The low toss makes the spin weirder sometimes, less likely to mishit etc. I haven't seen high toss for this ameteur serve. :lol: can experiment

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 13:09 
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2) yep as an RPB penhold. It's super easy. Roll your hand over so the back of the hand is facing up.
If you're running a TPB grip with your fingers curled (as opposed to fingertips) it's very difficult. But if you're planning to use RPB frequently you should stop using TPB grip.

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PostPosted: 02 Apr 2018, 14:49 
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Silver wrote:
2) yep as an RPB penhold. It's super easy. Roll your hand over so the back of the hand is facing up.
If you're running a TPB grip with your fingers curled (as opposed to fingertips) it's very difficult. But if you're planning to use RPB frequently you should stop using TPB grip.


I basically have Ma Lin's grip with two fingertips touching the back. More forehand-oriented but still flexible.

It's my goal to have his percentage of RPB use, namely for backspin, receive, and one-shot RPB loop.

Edit: Not necessarily his percentage..I shouldn't constrain myself, if RPB works then I'll use more of it, whatever wins points. I need to start combating my conservative mindset.

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PostPosted: 03 Apr 2018, 12:21 
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Played doubles today at work. I been playing with the same group 2-3 times a week for 5 months. Either singles or doubles.

Question: How much value do you think it has playing against weaker players?

NOTE: Long post, because my knee is acting up again (no pingpong for a while ;( ) and I have too much time. Read after the line "--------------" if you wish.

Players as follows with estimated rating (assuming I'm 1350 based on recent unsanctioned tourney):

A (1100): Short guy that plays mid-distance, with ability to loop both wings. Average aggression. I can usually just wait for a semi high and power-loop him, but he can take a few loops.

B (1150-1200): Top basement player. Quick hands with premade bat. All flat hits. Pretty dangerous if I let him take initiative. Bit afraid of backspin. Knows my loops well by now and getting more dangerous.

C (1000-1200?): Mid-distance, mainly BH loops, not a lot of power but always goes for good placement in doubles (and succeeds). Probably too slow in singles playing as 'retriever'.

D (800): Decent top-sidespin serve, 'peaceful balls' otherwise, smash = lose usually :D

E (1100-1200): Chopper/retriever, nice custom setup, occasional loop, doesn't make many errors. Serves short with some odd spin. Lost to him only time we played singles when I was nervous and couldn't adjust to his rhythm.

A/B/C all serve fast/long with negligible spin if my looping is on. C is weakest with no variation.

Me (1350) in doubles: Aggressive attack in returns (success varies) and third ball. Basically full table FH. Weak TPB or decent push if no FH, but okay with this group just keeping it in. Serves not very effective by now due to familiarity/half-table limitation.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matches are best 2 out of 3, first two to 21, third game to 11.

First match (Me/D vs A/B):
One of the most frequent match-ups. A/B usually play together. Probably 50% wins.

The dynamics is I need to attack whenever possible. If the ball gets to D it won't come back easy to deal with...and I'm not a good defender. But if D does well and keeps it low, I can get in my looping rhythm as my partner isn't competing for winners.

First game: D serves. I hit first 3 loops with 70% power, but too predictable, B blocks them all back nicely. :o 4th loop I hit with 85% and scored. Trailed 1-4. B is in good shape.

Then we still trailed until I looped a few returns past them, and D hit a winner somewhere, we up 17-11...At this time, I was a bit off guard, but also somewhat nervous because I didn't think I could hit 5 return winners in a row. Botched the next two. (Maybe blocked one back passively.)

Then I served. I don't serve good in doubles anymore, and I'm out of position when it's my turn to hit next. This is often when I resort to RPB. Having D as my partner...we lost next 5. I got more nervous and missed couple TPBs. Next thing we know it was 18-20. Saved one game point but 19-21.

Kinda roller coaster game. My mental lapse played a role.

Second game: Can't remember much. Still hitting many winners to keep it close, but B smashed away lots of D's balls. Lost again.

Second match (Me/C vs A/B):
Quick 2-0 win. I usually play well with C because his placement can set me up. Not a bad way to end the session.

Seems like an odd way to end the post...

I guess the main takeaway is the mental side. I had only one loss the last week we played, so part of me didn't take it too seriously. But when the pressure of wanting to win sets in, it still affects things. When I'm expecting to win and am a bit bored/unchallenged, things can go downhill.

The best mentality is either when I'm so confident that my moves flow, or when I feel a bit of an underdog, but trying hard for shots.

That's it for tonight :rock:

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PostPosted: 15 Apr 2018, 09:19 
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After a week's rest (for my right knee) and some light practice against robot, today I played at a new club with someone I met online.

He played a lot for his colleges and company in India but has not played in two years. I assumed he must have been quite good tho. He was not very consistent in practice (but neither was I :lol: ). I noticed he liked to practice his FH on the BH corner the whole time. I often ended the FH rallies with a strong shot loaded with decent spin, or to the BH sideline (I didn't intend it, but penhold can do these things...)

I tried to practice hitting RPB consistently, but as always, I couldn't keep up with the speed, and would TPB block when the ball was fast, or when it landed not where I expected. I'm not sure how to fix this. I suspect my self-learned technique is more of a looping motion, and it requires stepping back. Actually this is also a problem with my FH - it's hard to practice like the pros!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Then we played many games. The first two I got off to somewhat easy wins. He had some trouble with my serves, and I was able to attack sometimes with FH. He was understandably a bit rusty. When he attacked with FH (loop low backspin, or flat hit pretty hard if ball is higher) he missed a lot.

His serving motion is pretty decent, but mostly some backspin, which I could easily push back, or even TPB it back lightly for the sake of variation. I think he served mainly short to my FH and middle. Could definitely tell he used to play at a higher level. Rarely long serves tho. He also has a punch serve, but it's always just sidepin, and I TPB it with some force to an awkward angle, which often caught him a bit off guard.

Anyway, things got way tougher from Game 3 on. He was back to his old self I guess...in addition to getting used to my game. I lost 3 in a row after leading in most of them, won Game 6, then lost maybe 5 or 6 in a row. (Mentally, I considered it a loss overall at 3-4, so maybe lacking the fighting spirit afterwards. But for penholders it seems the long haul is rarely good.) A few things kept happening:

* I served backspin to different areas, we got in a pushing rally. He was surprisingly good at it. Although I think I did a better-than-usual job of varying the placement, keeping it very low and also making him move sometimes, he still didn't make many mistakes. Sometimes the ball came back with even stronger spin, and I missed. Overall, I lost maybe 60% of these points.

I mixed in some topspin sometimes which did get him. Even when I botched up the serve his BH missed often. I tried to do more topspin than backspin, but I can't remember why...it didn't work out.

* He sometimes FH looped one of these backspin balls, and I was unable to return. As the match wore on he started looping some 3rd ball either FH or step-around, and I had no answer. His percentage was very good (when he chose to loop), spin quite strong, so that I couldn't keep the ball down even tho I reached it. His form is pretty good. (He's a guy in his 30s that does a bunch of other sports too.) Reminded me of the 1500 player I lost 1-3 to...and from what I can tell only lacking in speed and the ability to loop more often, compared to the 1800+ crowd.

I may just have to practice blocking these loops both FH/BH to get the hang of it.

* I tried fast FH serves and they worked wonders initially, but he quickly got used to them. He adjusts well to situations. I need deceptive FH serves but they have been hard to master.

* My FH was again pretty crappy today. First two games it was okay, but WAY NOT OKAY after. There is definitely an inherent problem in my loop - the lack of curves. I lost count of how many balls I sent to the net or over the baseline even against semi-highs. Most of the issue is with looping backspin (even tho I can tell the backspin isn't that strong). Paradoxically, it is a great weapon against recreational players. Well...I'm afraid with better players, their placement/spin is just a tad stronger such that my loops won't land anymore. Bummer.

This is also why I have to stick with a soft-ish 5-ply blade, as harder blades just exacerbated the problem. I never really practiced slow spinny loops, and transitioned from FH drives to loops by making the motion bigger and adding wrist friction. Lately I do focus on spin rather than speed, but in matches against strong guys it feels entirely different.

It does get better for a while if I practice heavily against robot, but then my feel looping topspin balls will suffer, which the recreational players at work play a lot...my knee also won't like these drills very much. Just a fine line I have to figure out, trying not to be shortsighted. I'll try to post some video of this.

* His serves to my FH tended to be a bit high, but my flip was bad also...I just had no confidence with my FH today.

* On a good note, I started trying to RPB loop more later on and it worked well. A piece of advice another player gave before was don't be too aggressive, make it land. My percentage today was very good. I RPB-returned his serves (not too hard to read) and also looped at the right time in a pushing rally. I didn't loop hard, and it tended to be a little high, but it landed close enough to the baseline and had some spin, and he often just missed it. There may also be a surprise factor. These "opening loops" are probably okay this way.

My stance was near the middle by then..I also loopkilled some balls, often down-the-line which is natural to me. It worked well since I guess he stood near his BH side. I did manage to hit crosscourt too a few times.

Won 3 games (not in a row) because of RPB, one of them 11-5 and the other two by 2. Power of adjustments :)


He was also great at defense, retrieving a few unthinkable balls, not just once but a few times in a row. :clap: ... and still kept it nice and low.

He did flat hit a lot of backspin balls into the net (that seemed high to him). I'm not sure why he didn't loop them - maybe he hasn't mastered over-the-table loops. His BH I can't remember much.

In the end, it was probably like 6 games for me and 12 for him. I'm happy since losing to better players is a much better learning opportunity technique-wise than beating weaker players.

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PostPosted: 16 Apr 2018, 06:14 
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Hi there. Love reading your ramblings since I am a penholder myself so I love reading anything to do with the subject. I watched the first video in which you were doping the fh/bh returns to the robot, and then the video in which you were doing serves. I know others have already given you a lot of input so perhaps what I am going to say is redundant but I will say it anyway. :)

The first video, against the robot. Yes, you need to get a bit of whip in your arm action, which will come with practice but I wanted to mention something else. You obviously know where the next ball is going to land so I see you shuffling across and then waiting. I would advise speeding the robot up so you don't have time to do that even if you know where the next ball is coming. This will make it more realistic and a better workout and practice. Either that, or set the motion to random if the robot has it so you don't where the next ball is coming.

Now for the serves vid. Two things I noticed, and I could be wrong so I apologize in advance if that is the case.
1. I felt you are serving over the table - it appeared that way to me - and I would advise that you move back so that what you practice is not only legal, but it will also let you lower the point of contact.
2. Hold only one ball in your hand, on the palm, and toss it higher - right now your toss is not high enough - so again, you practice what you will be doing in a game and also what is legal. You can place the extra balls on a stool next to the table on your side so you can reach in without moving if you want.

Good luck and keep the posts coming. :clap:

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