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PostPosted: 20 Jun 2021, 23:23 
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Dr.Pivot wrote:
After I played my first tournament after 9 months, I wanted to quit sport right away.


That was your main mistake :D - playing a tournament after such a long break. My first visit to the club after 15 months break was equally hilarious - missed FH balls completely, serves go into the net, pips shots go anywhere but the table. It's getting better, though. Slowly.

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2021, 00:34 
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pgpg wrote:
Dr.Pivot wrote:
After I played my first tournament after 9 months, I wanted to quit sport right away.


That was your main mistake :D - playing a tournament after such a long break. My first visit to the club after 15 months break was equally hilarious - missed FH balls completely, serves go into the net, pips shots go anywhere but the table. It's getting better, though. Slowly.


Well, I practiced a few times before that, and I thought I was fine...

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2021, 09:42 
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I took about 9 months off TT in 2018. When I came back to play, I was playing like an 1800 player. It disabused me of the notion that my skills were mostly intellectual. It took me about 3 months of intense practice to begin feeling like my old self again. Even then, there were things I had to work on to feel like my old game would be there for me under pressure. It was closer to a year before my playing level became something I could build on.

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2021, 11:48 
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Well that's discouraging. I'm playing around 1400 - 1500 so far. Missing many serves every game is hurting me a lot, so if that goes away maybe I'd be closer to 1800. I was only 1900 before, so 1800 would be just dandy.

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PostPosted: 21 Jun 2021, 23:06 
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Before 2021, I hadn't played competitively for 15 years. During the last 15 years, I've played less tt that I'd like to admit. I've done a lot of coaching at times but I haven't played myself. When I was coaching India, I didn't play for the entire time. A few years ago, I had some training sessions in Thailand (maybe 10) and I played some bad practice matches against lower ranked players. I was relatively bad and knew it.

Late last year, I did quite a lot of coaching and began some of my own match play. It was pretty bad to be honest. In Feb this year, I moved interstate and started training approximately 15-20 hours a week with the intention of playing decent table tennis again. I also started playing random tournaments in my state. My goal was to be very competitive against the top 10 players in Australia.

I'll tell you now that it was a slow and painful start. My training wasn't converting into match play and I started to believe that I'd never be 50% of what I once was. I actually accepted this reality and I was almost comfortable with all of this. Besides, I'm an international coach, right? I can get a job almost anywhere, right????

I played 3-4 tournaments and did "okay". I didn't totally embarrass myself and had the odd win against very good players. I even made money out of almost every tournament as I bluffed my way through with some close calls etc and pretended to try in semis and finals. I also play "Super League" and I am currently leading player in a field of many of the best players in my state.

Here's the thing though - I knew I was playing like crap regardless of what anyone said. It wasn't about the results so much, but it was how I felt on the court. Here is a list of my of what I was experiencing:
- fear
- self doubt
- nervousness
- shaking
- fading out during points
- lack of confidence
- embarrassment
- missing easy shots
- fill in the blank yourself

The above led to me playing tentatively and often not trying in matches near the end of tournaments. I was protecting my ego and my entire brain. In private, I'd tell people that I'm hopeless now and that's all there is to it. It actually made certain people mad because they though I was just saying it to be funny or weird. They'd say things like "you're almost 50 years old and you haven't played for 15 years...give yourself a break. You're actually doing really well." I'd say, "I feel like I've had a stroke at some stage and there is something serious wrong with my brain."

I couldn't even write about all of this here on the forum because I needed to start playing better and feeling better. It's not much fun to write about how s*** you play now.

I've had all the time in the world to think about the above and lots of time to train. I've also learned a lot technically that I want to share. I'm a bit stunned at how much I've worked out by really playing myself. Although I'm not coaching much atm, I'm the best coach I've ever been. Also, I never stopped the training even though it wasn't helping much. I've enjoyed training more than ever. I was working on new technical stuff that I'm really fond of and I know it will help others.

A few weeks ago, I decide to work on my "mental game" by taking the principals from Video LTT58 and putting them on serious steroids. I threw everything I could at my completely failing mental game. I started to visualize success in close matches with a still mind and, more importantly, errors from my imaginary opponents. I did it everywhere. I'm talking bath tub, shopping, training and in real matches. I was doing imagery at 4am every night and completely ruining my sleep patterns.

This mental training has turned the ship around in a pretty serious way, hence my desire to write about it after a long break. I've seen myself playing real tt again without the long list of negative stuff above. I've played some really decent matches lately in comp and I truly feel like I'm back to where I was before I stopped. To put it simply - I trained confidence when all else was relatively failing. I'm now mostly happy regardless of whether I win or lose because I'm playing the tt I want to play. I'm now comfortable playing in front of people in tight matches, even in matches I "should" be winning easily. If you concentrate properly, the losses don't hurt as much. When the mind is unsure and nervous, every loss makes you want to quit. Being nervous sucks and it's the result of a floating mind approach.

I'm sure all of my real training has helped me, but I was going nowhere with just on-table training. I now combine the mental stuff with all on-table training. It has made my training sessions like heaven. I have to convince my self to stop after 3-4 hours.

I'm not a neuroscientist, so my understanding of the brain is simple and it only really exists in my own imagination. When you are confident, it means you lack doubt. This confidence allows your right hemisphere to operate unimpeded by the parts of your brain that worry and shut you down. When you haven't played for a long time, how can you be confident? Then your lack of confidence results in bad results and a vicious cycle or downward spiral. Some people gain confidence from lots of training, but I believe this is partially placebo and/or randomness.

That's right, I'm calling physical training placebo and mental training real, in this context. Physical training is very necessary to improve your long term level, but it's not so important for your immediate performance. If I could do a week of physical training or mental training before an event, I'm taking mental training every time. Better yet, I'll combine the 2 together on the table.

I'm playing in the Australia Championships in 2 weeks. I don't care what happens to me. I'll do my on-court mental exercises and leave the rest in the hands of the universe.

I'll make some videos about some of the stuff I've alluded to above.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 00:49 
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Brett Clarke wrote:
I'm playing in the Australia Championships in 2 weeks.


Will it be broadcasted somewhere? We must see it.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 13:03 
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Brett Clarke wrote:
It's not much fun to write about how s*** you play now.

Depends on your personality. Some of us have the most fun that way. Ok, maybe only me.

Brett Clarke wrote:
I have to convince my self to stop after 3-4 hours.

You don't really have to stop, you know. I bet you could do six hours. Maybe wait until after your nationals to test my theory though.

Brett Clarke wrote:
I'm playing in the Australia Championships in 2 weeks. I don't care what happens to me. I'll do my on-court mental exercises and leave the rest in the hands of the universe.

Awesome! Letting the universe decide tends to work out.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 20:48 
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BRS wrote:
Brett Clarke wrote:
It's not much fun to write about how s*** you play now.

Depends on your personality. Some of us have the most fun that way. Ok, maybe only me.

Brett Clarke wrote:
I have to convince my self to stop after 3-4 hours.

You don't really have to stop, you know. I bet you could do six hours. Maybe wait until after your nationals to test my theory though.

Brett Clarke wrote:
I'm playing in the Australia Championships in 2 weeks. I don't care what happens to me. I'll do my on-court mental exercises and leave the rest in the hands of the universe.

Awesome! Letting the universe decide tends to work out.


I mostly stop training sessions because I have golf elbow, tennis elbow and biceps tendinitis all running concurrently.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 20:49 
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Dr.Pivot wrote:
Brett Clarke wrote:
I'm playing in the Australia Championships in 2 weeks.


Will it be broadcasted somewhere? We must see it.


Some tables will be streamed. I'll be commentating the finals, assuming I lose.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 22:01 
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Consider this a continuation of the long post above.

Over the last 5 or so months, I tried some things to improve my tt/mental state.

First of all, I decided I would play Buddhist table tennis and it went something like this: My only job was to watch the ball during points and focus on my breathing between points. I turned it into a religion and believed it would lead to enlightenment on the court. I'd be so focus on "real" stuff that I wouldn't have the bandwidth to focus on distractions such as winning/losing, score, ego, money, embarrassment etc. Then I'd come onto this forum to announce that I'm fully enlightened and a true Zen Master. There are books written about this stuff and I was all in with a long term commitment to reach the promised land.

As you've probably already guessed, my Zen journey didn't work in the slightest and I think it probably made me worse. In hindsight, it was a really unenjoyable strain and I am now shocked that I have to confess this. I honestly thought I'd be greater than Buddha Himself by June 2021. Instead I'm reporting that tt meditation completely sucked...at least for me.

I also turned to off-court traditional meditation to make my mind calmer so I'd experience stillness of the mind on and off the court. This logic fit in very well with my Zen tt journey, so I threw it into the strategy. I forced myself to meditate when I didn't really want to. I understand what traditional meditation is and I think I'm over it. It's interesting enough to potentially be able to immediately heighten your awareness by focusing on small parts of reality, but I don't think there are proven benefits to one's sporting performance. Perhaps it's a bit better than being a complete nervous wreck, but I'm not betting on that either.

The problem with all of the Zen stuff is, it doesn't lead to confidence. My personal observation is confidence is built via a series of successes. Every time you play a winning shot, your confidence increases. Every time your opponent counters you with authority, you confidence decreases. When you don't think you have the "goods", your confidence also decreases. All the breathing in the world doesn't change this. You can sit meditating on the side of a mountain for 10 years, but you'll still tense up when somebody starts blocking you down like a boss. Every time someone blocks you down, you lose confidence and immediately start using suboptimal parts of your brain to play tt. If the opponent never misses a block then you'll inevitably start missing all your loops at some stage. By the end of the match your confidence will be at rock bottom. In some ways, you just became a worse tt player, at least in the short term.

When you play against the robot or multiball, you'll mostly use optimal parts of your brain after you hit 10 loops in a row. The robot gives no resistance and you are free to play the 11th loop uninhibited. There is no disturbance in the mind > body because there is no concern or resistance. Your shots happen free and easy. If only you could hit the ball this well in a match, right. Most people who have used a robot understand this phenomena pretty well.

When you have a lot of doubt (lack of confidence), the first thing you'll notice is you can't return serves in comp. Even crappy serves with a little spin will trouble you. This is because your brain is disturbed and serves are surprising complex. Even crap serves are still good enough to trouble a good player with a disturbed brain. You need a still and confident brain to deal with serves, regardless of your skill level.

Once you start getting served off/down under pressure, your first reaction is to think you need to practice your serve return for a million hours. Although training serve return for a million hours is a quality idea, you'll be surprise to know that you still won't be able to return serves in matches when you lack confidence. Even bad serves will still be too good if you are in a constant state of doubt and panic. On the flip side, great serves become easy to return when your mind is truly relaxed and confident, even if you aren't training much.

Getting back to the topic, I hated playing competition a few months ago. I was sick and afraid before tournaments and I felt horrible on the court. I decided to keep playing because lots of people feel the same way and they keep playing. Henzell mostly hated competition and he played for a long time. I too become one of those players who only played tournaments to justify all the hard work and training that I was putting in. This is a ridiculous perspective, but what if it's the only choice? Should one just quit comp if he/she prefers practice now? It wasn't like this for me before but the years had changed things up, or so I thought.

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PostPosted: 22 Jun 2021, 23:47 
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Brett Clarke wrote:
Should one just quit comp if he/she prefers practice now?

Yes, if one is playing washed-up (or never-was) TT for fun, and comps aren't fun, don't play comps. I reached that conclusion a few years ago and redirected all my comp money to lessons. Why take lessons if I don't compete? Because they are fun.

Your playing confidence may be in tatters, but your forum-posting confidence should be at an all-time high. These long-form posts are excellent. And really, which skill is more valuable at this stage in your career?

Observing and reacting instead of thinking and judging seems to be the Holy Grail of playing to one's potential. I confess to being relieved that meditation is useless in this regard, because I despise meditating.

Taking 16 months off and dropping ~500 points in level has done more to change my mental approach than anything else I ever tried. It has only been three sessions so far, and maybe when I get back closer to where I was the old expectations will return, and bring shame and disappointment with them. I hope not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

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PostPosted: 23 Jun 2021, 01:18 
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Love these posts Brett.
The problem with meditation as I see it is that it's mostly practiced when you're already in a pretty good state, like at home or something.
It's when you're in the situation that you need it that you need to practice it.. and that's the situation where it's most likely not to be seen and most difficult to practice.
When I practice TT I feel like I'm in a meditative state, I'm just doing the stuff I think I need to do with my body, mostly free from thought and negative emotion. It's one reason TT is so addictive to me.
Match play is often a different story because there's so much randomness that's difficult to prepare for and all you can do is read the play the best to your ability and execute the technical stuff as well as your body is able to.

As you've seen in some of my matches in the past I tend to show very negative body language and when I do, I often tell myself to be calm - but this never works.
Instead I've been trying to tell myself "body language" as that's something I can actually focus on and do something about and let whatever frustration that's there be there. My negative body language is of no use to my mental state and gives my opponents confidence.
And that's the difficulty.. once you start getting frustrated over bad mistakes, how do you get back again?
At best, I feel meditation can help you realize you're in this state and that might allow you to accept the frustration, but as you say, it won't give you confidence.
When I've felt a knock of confidence I often try less and appear apathetic, which doesn't lend itself to playing well. When the opponent is the underdog it's especially difficult, because they have no pressure and you're the one expected to pull everything off, failing to do that can lead to spiraling out of control. And even if you did pull off the win you won't feel good about it because you know you "should've" done better.


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PostPosted: 23 Jun 2021, 18:33 
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Richfs wrote:
And that's the difficulty.. once you start getting frustrated over bad mistakes, how do you get back again?


Perhaps this was a rhetorical question, however, I'm going to take a shot at it.

You should start programming your brain to make very accurate calculations and to send detailed messages to your nervous system and muscles in order to start playing well again. In other words, you need to start programming confidence.

About a month ago, I decided to start training confidence in my desperate attempt to feel better and more real on the court. I briefly wrote about this in my first long post. Despite reasonable results at the start of the year, I knew I was playing horrible and it was unenjoyable. To be honest, I was almost okay playing at a lower level. The bigger problem was, I didn't like feeling worried and embarrassed on the court whilst perpetually dreading competition. I also hated the way I was seeing and striking the ball because it felt like had had a stroke somewhere along the way. It's amazing I beat anyone really.

I was always a little nervous 15 years ago, but I wasn't the mess I was in the early stages of my tournament play this year.

In recent times, I've turned things around 180 degrees and I'm now feeling fine in comp and it's more enjoyable than training again, even though training is still very enjoyable. This doesn't mean that you'll see me winning matches against internationals again...it just means that you can actually see me playing. I'm not going to quit because I'm totally enjoying competition again and I now incidentally have a good chance of beating very decent players from time to time. I would choose being focused and happy on the court over being great and miserable. The good news is if you are focused and happy, results should incidentally follow.

My methods for training confidence are vaguely explained in video LTT58 though I've now simplified it for portability. I've been using this positive visualization before and during matches. Visualizing is a powerful language for everything that is important for tt performance. I don't have time to be depressed between points now because I have a lot of programming to do for the next point. I'm too busy to be miserable with poor body language.

Here is an article about breaking boards which is completely applicable to this post https://dailyinspirationandgratitude.co ... provement/ This article is about training confidence. Okay, it feels like some kind of scam by the end, but I can assure you the content in the body is completely relevant to playing better tt.

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PostPosted: 24 Jun 2021, 23:17 
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Richfs wrote:
Love these posts Brett.
The problem with meditation as I see it is that it's mostly practiced when you're already in a pretty good state, like at home or something.
It's when you're in the situation that you need it that you need to practice it.. and that's the situation where it's most likely not to be seen and most difficult to practice.
When I practice TT I feel like I'm in a meditative state, I'm just doing the stuff I think I need to do with my body, mostly free from thought and negative emotion. It's one reason TT is so addictive to me.
Match play is often a different story because there's so much randomness that's difficult to prepare for and all you can do is read the play the best to your ability and execute the technical stuff as well as your body is able to.

As you've seen in some of my matches in the past I tend to show very negative body language and when I do, I often tell myself to be calm - but this never works.
Instead I've been trying to tell myself "body language" as that's something I can actually focus on and do something about and let whatever frustration that's there be there. My negative body language is of no use to my mental state and gives my opponents confidence.
And that's the difficulty.. once you start getting frustrated over bad mistakes, how do you get back again?
At best, I feel meditation can help you realize you're in this state and that might allow you to accept the frustration, but as you say, it won't give you confidence.
When I've felt a knock of confidence I often try less and appear apathetic, which doesn't lend itself to playing well. When the opponent is the underdog it's especially difficult, because they have no pressure and you're the one expected to pull everything off, failing to do that can lead to spiraling out of control. And even if you did pull off the win you won't feel good about it because you know you "should've" done better.


I think this is true with respect to the common philosophy of meditation, but not as relevant when you realize that nothing stops you in meditation from bringing up the situations that you want to fix your mental attitude to and then practice fixing them. It takes more advanced and deliberate practice but it isn't outside the realm of meditation/mindfulness practice if that practice is properly structured. I suspect Brett will end up close to the same place, he is just isn't calling it meditation.

Calling up mindfulness practice deliberately at random points throughout the day is an important aspect of advanced meditation and it isn't necessarily to put you in a relaxed state.

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PostPosted: 25 Jun 2021, 06:32 
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Never mind

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