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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 03:33 
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Brett Clarke wrote:
BRS wrote:
I did a test of watching the ball all the way to contact at B75 this summer. During multiball the coach put broken balls in different spots, so very small targets. First I tried to hit them by looking at them as I hit the ball. Only random success. Then I tried it concentrating completely on the moving ball and just mentally picturing the broken ball I wanted to hit. At one point I hit three in a row in different spots.

YMMV, but that convinced me watching the ball to contact is better. I know where the table is, and it's stationary. To use Brett's hunting example, if you were trying to shoot a bird moving around in a tree, how much of your attention would you give to the tree vs the bird?


William Henzell shut his eyes on most shots. It's a true story. It was funny when he had his picture in the newspapers and his eyes were shut every time because they'd show him hitting the ball. It happened around the time of contact, even during multiball training etc and I especially noticed it when he was playing short. People joked that he'd play a lot better if he kept his eyes open. William was aware that it happened only because others told him about it.

The brain makes calculations a long time before the ball is struck. It's amazing how early all decisions are made. It's explained in the podcast a few pages back.


All I know is when I look at where I want the ball to land, bad things often happen. When I just look at the ball it lands in some amazing places that I would never have thought possible, had I thought about it at all. That's what happens to me IRL.

Maybe as I look at the table, I also think consciously "hit the ball there." That is probably not helpful, trying to manually (brainually??) adjust whatever calculations my body made 5 ms earlier. William was clearly not looking at the table placement he desired either, if his eyes were closed.

Thinking of anything during points produces very poor results for me. I'm slowly (six years!) learning how to think usefully between points, and how to not think at all during them.


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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 06:52 
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I'm happy to read these answers Brett, as I've gone crazy thinking about these things before. I've also modified my grip what feels like thousands of times. Finally I feel like I'm putting a few of those thoughts aside and sticking to something.

Regarding placement, I have a habit of going crosscourt too much as many do, when there's little time it's very difficult to go down the line. Funnily enough the coach at my club tells me I'm good at hitting the pocket of players and tells me to do that in matches. The thing is I feel like it's just pure luck and I'm just accidentally hitting the ball there. Even if he tells me to do it when I'm not doing it, I don't think I could just consciously decide to do it in a match.

I've also been told the dreaded just "relax", especially back when I was using my whole arm to loop. I remember I'd then relax my grip completely and could hardly hit the ball, only to tense my arm up even more. There's so much "advice" that is just unhelpful and outright damaging, especially for adults who are learning the sport. There have been times where I've been on the right track, only to hear, read or be told something and then I'd change my technique for the worse.

I tried to bow deeper on the backhand against backspin today. I was missing 9/10 times.. it's going to take some getting used to. I'm not sure if I'm getting in the right position, that I'm too slow or perhaps even too fast and rushing the shot.

I second imagination being a useful tool. I've lost a lot of sleep imagining myself playing TT, I didn't think about it as a way to help me learn at the time, I just did it because I enjoy playing so much I couldn't stop thinking about it. Deliberately imagining the technique we want to learn is probably more effective though.


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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 10:27 
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BRS wrote:
Brett Clarke wrote:
BRS wrote:
I did a test of watching the ball all the way to contact at B75 this summer. During multiball the coach put broken balls in different spots, so very small targets. First I tried to hit them by looking at them as I hit the ball. Only random success. Then I tried it concentrating completely on the moving ball and just mentally picturing the broken ball I wanted to hit. At one point I hit three in a row in different spots.

YMMV, but that convinced me watching the ball to contact is better. I know where the table is, and it's stationary. To use Brett's hunting example, if you were trying to shoot a bird moving around in a tree, how much of your attention would you give to the tree vs the bird?


William Henzell shut his eyes on most shots. It's a true story. It was funny when he had his picture in the newspapers and his eyes were shut every time because they'd show him hitting the ball. It happened around the time of contact, even during multiball training etc and I especially noticed it when he was playing short. People joked that he'd play a lot better if he kept his eyes open. William was aware that it happened only because others told him about it.

The brain makes calculations a long time before the ball is struck. It's amazing how early all decisions are made. It's explained in the podcast a few pages back.


All I know is when I look at where I want the ball to land, bad things often happen. When I just look at the ball it lands in some amazing places that I would never have thought possible, had I thought about it at all. That's what happens to me IRL.

Maybe as I look at the table, I also think consciously "hit the ball there." That is probably not helpful, trying to manually (brainually??) adjust whatever calculations my body made 5 ms earlier. William was clearly not looking at the table placement he desired either, if his eyes were closed.

Thinking of anything during points produces very poor results for me. I'm slowly (six years!) learning how to think usefully between points, and how to not think at all during them.


Two great books are The Inner Game of Tennis, and Inner Tennis - Playing the Game (Timothy Gallwey). Everyone should read them because they are amazing.

In both books, Gallwey writes about how deliberately tracking the ball results in pure concentration and eliminates distraction and so on. During my first 10 years of coaching, I basically taught people to watch/track the ball. Apart from finishing a forehand topspin just above the eyes, tracking the ball was my only tool. I also believed that technique would fix itself if a player learned to non judgmentally observe what they are doing. The latter is absolutely ridiculous, however, deliberately watching the ball is still interesting.

Today I understand concentration and what a "general field of vision" is. It can never be properly explained by words in the same way that you can't explain to someone the process of falling asleep. Falling into concentration and maintaining a general field of vision is something that just happens. When you are in this state, you're definitely spending a lot of time watching / tracking the ball. Other things are happening too and they happen as they happen. Trying to control them is like trying to control the process of falling asleep or driving a car.

When you are driving a car, what do you look at? Do you watch the car in front of you? Are you watching the road? Are you looking around for people to avoid? Are you watching your speedometer? Or are you just driving and trusting that everything will be okay? Why does no one ever ask me what to watch when driving a car? Every time you get behind the wheel, your life is on the line. What should you watch?

Elite table tennis players and competent drivers never talk about where their eyes should be focused. They just play or drive. Babies rarely ask their parents how they should fall asleep.

Getting back to BRS. If you find that tracking the ball is helping you, then I believe you should continue. If you feel that you never actually see the ball, it may well be time for an intervention. I
sometimes deliberately track the ball when I play tennis because I want my brain to learn about the flight path of a tennis ball and it's nice to eliminate distractions. I think there are real benefits in spending time tracking the ball. Just don't expect to be able to consciously do it at 10-10 in the 7th whilst playing for 1000 bucks. Go into hunting mode and just try to beat that guy who is attempting to steal your lunch.

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 11:02 
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Richfs wrote:
I'm happy to read these answers Brett, as I've gone crazy thinking about these things before. I've also modified my grip what feels like thousands of times. Finally I feel like I'm putting a few of those thoughts aside and sticking to something.

Regarding placement, I have a habit of going crosscourt too much as many do, when there's little time it's very difficult to go down the line. Funnily enough the coach at my club tells me I'm good at hitting the pocket of players and tells me to do that in matches. The thing is I feel like it's just pure luck and I'm just accidentally hitting the ball there. Even if he tells me to do it when I'm not doing it, I don't think I could just consciously decide to do it in a match.

I've also been told the dreaded just "relax", especially back when I was using my whole arm to loop. I remember I'd then relax my grip completely and could hardly hit the ball, only to tense my arm up even more. There's so much "advice" that is just unhelpful and outright damaging, especially for adults who are learning the sport. There have been times where I've been on the right track, only to hear, read or be told something and then I'd change my technique for the worse.

I tried to bow deeper on the backhand against backspin today. I was missing 9/10 times.. it's going to take some getting used to. I'm not sure if I'm getting in the right position, that I'm too slow or perhaps even too fast and rushing the shot.

I second imagination being a useful tool. I've lost a lot of sleep imagining myself playing TT, I didn't think about it as a way to help me learn at the time, I just did it because I enjoy playing so much I couldn't stop thinking about it. Deliberately imagining the technique we want to learn is probably more effective though.


Relaxing your grip isn't a good idea, even though I've said it in a serving video. Use your body more to propel your arm and your coaches, critics and arm will suddenly all relax. When a player doesn't use their body they look pretty tense because lots of arm muscles are engaged. The arm should swing from the shoulder joint and it shouldn't be pushed and pulled by small, weak muscles.

Children use their imagination in an unstructured way. No one sits them down and insists they start imagining their forehand. They just daydream about TT and it works pretty well. It's definitely one way they improve so quickly.

Everyone goes through the grip thing you mentioned. Just hold your racket and play. It will go away one day, just like falling into concentration or sleep. After a few months, you'll realize you've forgotten to control your grip for a while.

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 13:18 
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The driver in the video below clearly had no idea of what he was doing. The scientist are about to mess him up by breaking down his eye movements. They'll turn him and others into over-thinkers in no time. He's currently reacting faster than one can think about tactics or where to focus.


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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 13:40 
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The first 10 mins of this podcast are worth understanding https://soundcloud.com/youarenotsosmart ... W0GY73eBR0

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 14:09 
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Brett Clarke wrote:
...

When you are driving a car, what do you look at? Do you watch the car in front of you? Are you watching the road? Are you looking around for people to avoid? Are you watching your speedometer? Or are you just driving and trusting that everything will be okay? Why does no one ever ask me what to watch when driving a car? Every time you get behind the wheel, your life is on the line. What should you watch?

Elite table tennis players and competent drivers never talk about where their eyes should be focused. They just play or drive. Babies rarely ask their parents how they should fall asleep.

...


I have a suspicion that TT is a bit more complex than everyday car driving, from biomechanics and general hand-eye coordination perspective (we can leave F1 aside for now, it's probably much more elite club than TT level we are realistically capable of achieving, let's be honest here). And if anyone remembers their first driving lessons, it was quite nerve-wrecking even in the empty parking lot, then deserted road, and finally in a normal street/highway scenario. That stress and 'need to think' went away with practice - perhaps practice is the answer here as well, it's just we have many more degrees of freedom to deal with in TT.

Yes, elite TT players don't have a clue what exactly they do at a micro level, just as centipede can't tell you how it manages to move all these feet - it's at reflex/instinct level now (not a biology major here, so terminology might be off). With additional practice we probably can get our stuff to instinctive level, but unfortunately it could be ingraining the wrong things.

I was wondering lately how I ended up with a pretty upright FH swing - partially because I used to play with rubbers that did not really have much grip, but I wonder if main reason was that I tend to keep my paddle low in 'ready position' between points (saw that on video). Once you do that, then you only can go up in your swing, right? It was a wrong thing to do, but there was no one to tell me to keep paddle 'up', so I ended up with crappy technique in more ways than one.

Given that most of us don't have enough 1-1 time with coach who could correct our faults, it's tempting to look for simple mental tips that we could actually enforce ourselves - 'keep an eye on the ball' is definitely one of them. Won't solve all problems overnight, but can't be too bad of a habit, and eventually one would stop even thinking about it. Hopefully.

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 20:30 
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pgpg wrote:
Brett Clarke wrote:
...

When you are driving a car, what do you look at? Do you watch the car in front of you? Are you watching the road? Are you looking around for people to avoid? Are you watching your speedometer? Or are you just driving and trusting that everything will be okay? Why does no one ever ask me what to watch when driving a car? Every time you get behind the wheel, your life is on the line. What should you watch?

Elite table tennis players and competent drivers never talk about where their eyes should be focused. They just play or drive. Babies rarely ask their parents how they should fall asleep.

...


I have a suspicion that TT is a bit more complex than everyday car driving, from biomechanics and general hand-eye coordination perspective (we can leave F1 aside for now, it's probably much more elite club than TT level we are realistically capable of achieving, let's be honest here). And if anyone remembers their first driving lessons, it was quite nerve-wrecking even in the empty parking lot, then deserted road, and finally in a normal street/highway scenario. That stress and 'need to think' went away with practice - perhaps practice is the answer here as well, it's just we have many more degrees of freedom to deal with in TT.

Yes, elite TT players don't have a clue what exactly they do at a micro level, just as centipede can't tell you how it manages to move all these feet - it's at reflex/instinct level now (not a biology major here, so terminology might be off). With additional practice we probably can get our stuff to instinctive level, but unfortunately it could be ingraining the wrong things.

I was wondering lately how I ended up with a pretty upright FH swing - partially because I used to play with rubbers that did not really have much grip, but I wonder if main reason was that I tend to keep my paddle low in 'ready position' between points (saw that on video). Once you do that, then you only can go up in your swing, right? It was a wrong thing to do, but there was no one to tell me to keep paddle 'up', so I ended up with crappy technique in more ways than one.

Given that most of us don't have enough 1-1 time with coach who could correct our faults, it's tempting to look for simple mental tips that we could actually enforce ourselves - 'keep an eye on the ball' is definitely one of them. Won't solve all problems overnight, but can't be too bad of a habit, and eventually one would stop even thinking about it. Hopefully.


Getting back to BRS. If you find that tracking the ball is helping you, then I believe you should continue. If you feel that you never actually see the ball, it may well be time for an intervention. I
sometimes deliberately track the ball when I play tennis because I want my brain to learn about the flight path of a tennis ball and it's nice to eliminate distractions. I think there are real benefits in spending time tracking the ball. Just don't expect to be able to consciously do it at 10-10 in the 7th whilst playing for 1000 bucks. Go into hunting mode and just try to beat that guy who is attempting to steal your lunch.

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2018, 21:54 
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LoL, depends where you drive. Everyday driving in Washington DC is way more cutthroat than TT. I can only imagine Bangkok or Mexico City.


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PostPosted: 08 Nov 2018, 02:18 
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On my forehand I used to miss the ball entirely quite a bit. I worked at it a lot with the robot. It helps to focus on the ball all the way to the point of contact for me. It's pretty natural now but if I start missing the ball I know I need to take my time(eyeball time?) and continue to watch the ball. I tend to make a higher spin ball to give myself time.


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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2018, 10:12 
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Regarding this discussion about "thinking"...how do you play against long pimples without thinking. I'm a classic adult overthinker as discussed before, I have little experience Vs long pimples and get myself into knots. This is embarrassing to even admit, but I have genuinely never beaten a long pimples or anti spin player in a competitive match and I have been competing for over a year now. Probably 20+ matches in that time. Aside from Williams great videos any other resources? Any plans to add some to the playing table tennis points series for example. It's been great because of how short and simple it keeps the tactics which is what is best I think. I need something simple for pimples. I know the theory of how they work, but in practice I just miss the table with 60%+ of shots hit to me with pimples so it's impossible to win.


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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2018, 10:27 
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Fruitloop, I have a similar issue with pimples. I actually purchased a new bat with short pimps on one side and long on another. I spent about 4 hours on the robot seeing what the 2 pimple sides could do.

However it completely messed up my game when I went back to inverted for some hours!! :@

I also had a lesson with Brett for about 15 minutes where he used pimples. His advice was to topspin everything. Some coaches suggest to topspin, then push then topspin etc. I actually beat a short pimples player after this lesson where the pimps player usually wins easily with his counterhits to the corners against push.

I really feel I need to get my training partner to use pimples regularly to get used to the pace and the different amount of spin reversal.
If I do 10 hours of practice against pimples I feel I will be much better!!!


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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2018, 10:44 
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FruitLoop wrote:
Regarding this discussion about "thinking"...how do you play against long pimples without thinking. I'm a classic adult overthinker as discussed before, I have little experience Vs long pimples and get myself into knots. This is embarrassing to even admit, but I have genuinely never beaten a long pimples or anti spin player in a competitive match and I have been competing for over a year now. Probably 20+ matches in that time. Aside from Williams great videos any other resources? Any plans to add some to the playing table tennis points series for example. It's been great because of how short and simple it keeps the tactics which is what is best I think. I need something simple for pimples. I know the theory of how they work, but in practice I just miss the table with 60%+ of shots hit to me with pimples so it's impossible to win.


You need more practice. One of my favorite sayings is : "in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is" :).

So, find a player with LP/Anti and practice. MP can be nasty too (but are quite rare), and SP are less so in my opinion, or perhaps mess you up in a more subtle way.

Usually pressing them(well, us...) on BH can be a winning strategy (up to a point), no-spin serves, both short/slow and long/fast are worth a try, and you have to just get used to them in the long run. Keep in mind that it's not only spin that can mess you up (you expect specific type but it's something else), but also timing and trajectory: balls are slower and end up not where you expect them.

If opponent twiddles, that's another wrinkle (note to self - learn to twiddle during the point).

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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2018, 11:02 
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The key is to get exposure against pimples. The list below includes some legitimate ways to approach playing pimples, however, nothing will work if you get zero exposure or training against pips. You need to find a variety of pimple / anti players and play training matches against them.

Furthermore, there are lots of different pimple rubber types. There is also an infinite amount of ways that your opponents will use them. You have to gain experience against a variety of pimple players and do your time.

Here are some generic ways of thinking about playing pimples. Most of these approaches are best used against long pimples and anti:

- Serve without spin to the pips and follow up with strong attacks.
- Push to the pimples and play aggressively against the nospin/topspin returns.
- Play lot of balls to the middle/forehand because opponents will be hoping you play straight to the pimples on the backhand.
- Avoid spinning slowly to the pimples or else you get all your spin back in a weird way.
- Serve more to the forehand to avoid the pimples.
- Play your slower spin to the forehand and fast balls into the long pimples. It's very hard to block fast balls with long pimples.
- Be patient in the rallies if it's not your style to make very strong attacking shots. If your opponent is using long pimples, they are hoping your make easy mistakes.
- Move the ball around a lot. Pimple players are hoping your play to one spot.
- Don't serve with sidespin or else you face a nightmare return.

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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2018, 14:18 
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My last match vs a long pips player was pretty silly. He decided to return with his backhand long pips every single time. So I just gave him the heaviest top spin serves I could. The serve was usually deep coming out of the table. I moved it around and got some errors but mostly I got a high ball return with lots of rather predictable backspin. Sure if he was better he could have started attacking it, of course then I could switch my serve around.

I think the main lesson in my little story is: long pips players often are limited on what they can do with the pips side so find something that gives you a predictable ball and keep doing that until it stops working. Sometimes you won't have the consistency to win the point even if you know what the return will be like...which means the player is better than you. You then have identified something you can work on next time you play a long pips player.


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