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PostPosted: 04 Aug 2021, 16:36 
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I decided to document my progress by making a blog. I had really brief coaching when I was very little, but I took a long break until last year so I really didn't really retain anything. I took interest in defense from watching Joo Sae Hyuk and Kim Song-I during the Olympics when I was younger, along with Richard Gonzales, the best table tennis player in the Philippines.

So, I finally decided to visit clubs after a year of recreational table tennis at home. From April to June, I tried playing at a club an hour away from home. I didn't really go frequently because it was a longer drive back and forth, and I probably went there about 20 times. The club had a friendly atmosphere and population. At first, I felt a little shy because of the language barrier as the vast majority of members were Korean (and there was me who isn't). After repeated visit to the club, I got to know people and they would understand that I was new. I didn't really opt for coaching because of the cost, so just played people at the club just to get exposure to other players. I'm really just an amateur with no real technique, so I was armed with Youtube knowledge and theory.

Fast forward to now, I went back home to San Francisco after the school term ended. I learned that there was a table tennis club that was only 10 miles/~16km from home: . So me being curious, I checked it out and played some casual games with my parents. This club wasn't as big as the previous club mentioned, but it still had a nice atmosphere. The next week, I decided to go alone to the club and try to play some games or so. Similar to the first club experience, I felt intimidated by the language barrier as the majority of players were speaking Cantonese (which rendered my knowledge of Mandarin useless). The owner was nice enough to rally with me when no one was there yet and taught me proper backhand form because I had more of a punchy backhand but it became more of a frisbee throw-like stroke. After this, I had more confidence in my BH than my FH because of the corrected technique.

Eventually after watching some players trickle in and play, I finally found someone to play with: an older gentleman who was a J-pen short pips hitter. It looked like he was one of the original members of the club as the pictures on the wall show. After around 10 minutes of rallying, I asked him for a game and he reluctantly agreed. I lost 0-3, but I didn't really expect much because I felt I barely used my forehand for anything. When I mention he was a short pips hitter, there is a large emphasis on hitter; I would hear a cracking sound on every ball that I gave too high and they would fly past me. I realize my glaring weakness is not being able to read serves very well, probably because my father would only serve topspin when we would play.

I also played with a double inverted attacker who had around 5 years experience and we just rallied the ball for maybe 45 minutes. This was the first time I really experienced the ball popping up after chopping as his loops felt really fast and heavy. Every now and then I would somehow chop heavy and he would net some chops. After rallying, we played around 5 games. As he was an experienced player in my eyes, you guessed it: 0-5. However, he was really nice in giving me encouragement to keep playing. From playing this person, I realize the club is a little smaller space-wise, not really allowing me too much space to back up. Many of his powerloops would just blast by me and then bounce off the wall behind me. I start to grasp the idea of placement a little more playing against him.

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PostPosted: 04 Aug 2021, 17:16 
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Another week passes and I'm visiting regularly on Tuesday and Thursday. I didn't get to play as much as many of the members were watching the Singles matches in the Olympics, so I just watched with them as they supported their favorite players (Fan Zhendong, Chen Meng, etc.).

I played a game after one of the matches were over. My opponent was a middle-aged man who played c-pen with rpb. He asked me if I wanted to play a game and of course I said sure. So similar pattern as before, we rally for 10-15 minutes and then play a game. Although I lost 1-4, the games were closer in points. I felt I attacked with my forehand more than I did the week before.

Another game was with another middle-aged man who played double inverted attacking, I'll call him J. We just rallied for around 30 minutes and then played a game. He was really experienced and just said, yeah you should get coaching before you play more, so you have more fun. I did have more incentive to think about coaching because I think the average level of players is decently high or I'm just really bad lol.

So, today I played with J and another opponent that I'll call L.

So, L is your usual double inverted attacker. I was surprised because I had some weird confidence to use my forehand more to attack high balls. I lost again, but it ended 2-3 with around two deuces like 15-17 or 13-15. I scored multiple points off of serve or me actually using my forehand. I only used my tomahawk serves in the match points for desperate points, thus these longer deuces. I didn't really chop and focused more on serve receive and getting the ball back on the table, but it still was fun.

I played L again, rallying and then playing a game as usual. It was a sweep, 0-4 to no surprise, but I felt I really struggled on reading his service in these games, so I asked him if I could receive his backhand service for a little bit. So we practiced that for a bit. He taught me how to backhand service properly because I had been using variations of a deep, fast no spin ball for all my serves and I didn't know. However, he really said it bluntly that I really should take lessons because my fundamentals are weak. I agree with him wholeheartedly that I need to strengthen my basics.

Afterwards, he just told me to play doubles with the other uncles/middle-aged men. This really showed how bad I was at reading service. The no-spin and underspin balls I could read, but the majority of underspin balls went into the net. The side-topspin service that one of the c-pen players would do, I would receive about 20% of the time and punch it out of reach (I was using short pips on the backhand today). I also learned that my chop had ZERO spin on it as it would pop up when someone would push it back. I understand the concept of placement but I keep receiving their serves right into their strong attacking wing.

So later on, L joins the doubles and he ends up being my partner. After me dropping a majority of points off of service receive, I could see and hear the justified frustration that L had. He ended up lecturing me on how to backhand serve and push properly IN MANDARIN. He spoke perfect English, but I assume he was so frustrated he just machine-gunned all the information about how to contact the ball properly and he would grab my racket and hand to show the proper contact and motion. This went on for the duration of the game, maybe 45 minutes. I said I could take a break, but he insisted that I keep playing, so I play for 15 minutes more. I really felt like a burden or an obstacle at this moment in time, but he is right that my fundamentals were really flawed.

That experience was the straw that broke the camel's back. In other words, I made the decision to schedule a lesson with a coach after all the games. I scheduled for this Saturday afternoon, so I'm pretty excited!
I thought I was gonna get coached by the owner, but I learned he only teaches the younger classes. The other coach was a provincial team member in China and has been undefeated at the club for a while. I heard the strongest parts of her game is her serves to the corners/edges and her perfect placement of her shots. I think she's around my age maybe a few years older (I'm turning 20 for point of reference). I've heard good things about how she teaches which is good. I've also seen her practice footwork and loops while I was waiting to play someone.

So yeah, I'm pretty excited for my first coaching/lesson session this Saturday. Whenever I'm not playing table tennis, I'm just drilling problems for the law admissions test. Brain-numbing stuff LOL. So I guess I'll just work harder on my studying in the meantime and have Saturday as leisure time.

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PostPosted: 09 Aug 2021, 15:14 
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The coaching was pretty fun and pretty interesting! The coach trained me on just basics to see how I play and to correct bad habits. I felt I needed to learn the basic inverted strokes for building fundamentals, so I used a Korbel with spare rubbers (FH: H3 neo, BH: Fastarc G-1). So for the first lesson, the coach had me practice FH and BH drives and I found it funny that the coach thought my backhand had more power than my forehand. To be fair, I think its mostly just confidence in using power to get the ball on the table. I think I was too focused on getting the elbow and wrist snap correct that I kept getting told to relax. Also, she also said that she felt my setup was too heavy, compared to her TBS with T05 both sides. After getting through that practice, I then practiced some footwork drills: 2 BH, 2 FH; FH, Middle, BH; Mid, BH, Mid, FH. I felt that I had acceptable movement and the coach said that I move pretty well. I personally didn't feel too confident with footwork moving to the FH side. Also, the coach commented that I had the bad habit of holding the racket too low, so I worked on that. Then, I had a lot of fun learning and practicing smashing. There were some funny moments during the lesson like when the ball kicked off my racket and hit my face. Main points that I need to work on are: grip, forehand drive racket angle/arm snap, and recovery from each stroke. It was a pretty positive experience that I probably would go in for more lessons in the future.

After taking a break after the lesson, I switched back to my main racket (VKMO/VS) and just rallied with one of the older gentlemen who played c-pen double inverted. He had a really good block so I had good practice with FH footwork. I could definitely see the increase in confidence in my forehand and my footwork. If I'm just rallying with someone, especially the older gentlemen who are there to just hit the ball, I avoid trying to use my long pips and just twiddle to hit/block with both wings. After 10 minutes of rallying, I felt pretty good with varying the spin and power against his blocks.

Afterwards, I made friends with someone who had lessons with the same coach later in the day, I'll call him Jay. He also played with a Korbel but with Vega Pro on both sides. I would say he is a little bit above my level because of his experience and more coaching, and he was around my age too. We just did practice points for an hour like serving to each other twice and just playing it out. I mostly practiced third ball attacks with my backhand for fun, while Jay practiced his flicks. He would give me pointers here and there which was cool. He had to do his lesson after. After he finished his lesson, I ended using my usual racket (VKMO). It was funny, he jokingly felt betrayed that I was a pips out player, and he also jokingly said that he would release his frustrations against choppers on me. He was shocked that I made some quality chops in the first few practice points that he proceeded to net. After playing more practice points for another hour, Jay started practicing his reverse pendulum serve and somehow I ended giving him pointers on the reverse pendulum serve LOL. We ended up getting tired after playing that much, so we started messing around by doing impressions of pro players like imitating Koki Niwa's chop-block or Dima's backhand serve posture. Another player, Felix, joined us in our shenanigans and did his best impressions of Mizutani's forehand flick in the Olympics, Lin Yun-ju's backflick, and Ito's punches. It somehow turned into table tennis charades.

I also realized that the club closing hours were more of suggestions because the official closing hours were at 8:00p.m. but I ended leaving around 11:45p.m. When I left, the club was still full of people playing, which was pretty interesting to me. This was probably the most fun experience I've had so far in terms of going to the table tennis club. The coaching was pretty fun and educational, so I'll probably schedule another lesson with the coach in the next week or sometime in the future. I am looking forward to getting coached on attacking backspin balls because I end up over lifting or netting them, so I don't have the confidence to attack them. I was more confident with pushing the backspin ball back or side swiping it to attack the ball. I gained more confidence in my FH and I felt pretty solid on my BH. I used a twiddle BH smash a la Hashimoto to end the point in a few practice points.

And thus my journey in improving continues...

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PostPosted: 17 Oct 2021, 04:04 
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Here are a couple games I played with people from my university table tennis club. I was already super tired after a couple hours of rallying before these games, so there were some points where I kinda gave up early. For playing for a year and a half, I'm a little happy that I've improved a little bit but I have a long way to go. Also, forgive me for shaky camerawork, recording these games was rather impromptu and I forgot my tripod so yeah... (I'm wearing the white long sleeves)




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PostPosted: 02 Nov 2021, 10:46 
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Some clips from my first tourney at LATTA, the rest of the clips will be edited in when they are available. I usually do well in training but I don't do enough service return practice. The first match was this retired vet who used the Seemiller grip, which was my first experience with it, so I had no idea what spin and how much his serves had. Overall, it was a fun experience and yeah I guess I shouldn't expect too much from the first tourney. I'm considering slowing down my equipment and working on the basics again. Practice, practice, practice!

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PostPosted: 02 Nov 2021, 17:14 
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i think your gear is too fast to be honest.
i would try and keep the ball low on both wings.
Any height on the ball will be smashed away by better players.


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PostPosted: 02 Nov 2021, 20:11 
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Hi Daniel,

I get it about your experience with serve receive and doubles. Likely, the difference in level between you and that gent is 5-10 levels, he would expect to have his doubles partner play at a better level, but it is what it is.

There are California 1800-2000 level players who piss away so many points from poor serve receive and poor control of height, depth, or placement in doubles. There are two I get on all the time about that in Church. (No full time club in Sacramento Metro area of 3 Million) Their singles level is high enough and they can get away with that kind of serve or receive in singles sometimes, but rarely in doubles vs the 2000 crowd. One of them is a Pastor I work with 1-1.5 hrs 2x a week. I think serve is the last thing he will from within want to develop.

At many levels in this sport, serve and receive determine the outcome of a LOT of points. It would make sense to get real good at both. Unfortunately, it is a long process for both. Serve practice by self... and asking someone to serve so you can receive... that is not very glamorous stuff in a TT gym to the untrained eye, but if you really want to grow level, NEVER pass up a chance for someone to try their serves on you.

The number one thing I could say to you for an immediate adjustment to improve your play would be to keep a real loose grip on the bat and do not go for full power swings right now. That will keep a lot more balls on the table.

There are so many things to learn, then develop in TT it is silly. Hang with it. Keep your lessons, practice and toruneys. It is a long, but fun road.

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PostPosted: 02 Nov 2021, 23:05 
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Der_Echte wrote:
Hi Daniel,

I get it about your experience with serve receive and doubles. Likely, the difference in level between you and that gent is 5-10 levels, he would expect to have his doubles partner play at a better level, but it is what it is.

There are California 1800-2000 level players who piss away so many points from poor serve receive and poor control of height, depth, or placement in doubles. There are two I get on all the time about that in Church. (No full time club in Sacramento Metro area of 3 Million) Their singles level is high enough and they can get away with that kind of serve or receive in singles sometimes, but rarely in doubles vs the 2000 crowd. One of them is a Pastor I work with 1-1.5 hrs 2x a week. I think serve is the last thing he will from within want to develop.

At many levels in this sport, serve and receive determine the outcome of a LOT of points. It would make sense to get real good at both. Unfortunately, it is a long process for both. Serve practice by self... and asking someone to serve so you can receive... that is not very glamorous stuff in a TT gym to the untrained eye, but if you really want to grow level, NEVER pass up a chance for someone to try their serves on you.

The number one thing I could say to you for an immediate adjustment to improve your play would be to keep a real loose grip on the bat and do not go for full power swings right now. That will keep a lot more balls on the table.

There are so many things to learn, then develop in TT it is silly. Hang with it. Keep your lessons, practice and toruneys. It is a long, but fun road.

Excellent advice! :clap: :clap: :clap:

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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2021, 17:10 
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I was only causing trouble... funny he mentioned playing in the LA Korean clubs, I visit those clubs all the time I am in LA, which is every couple years. I get along with Koreans just fine.

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PostPosted: 08 Nov 2021, 21:53 
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Learning how to receive serve is far and away the biggest barrier to improving in table tennis, IMO. It's something that you can't really practice - you certainly can't do it alone, and if you have a regular practice partner, you'll get used to their serves but not others'.

It's important that you learn the theory of spin with regard to serves - e.g. understand that brushing up the back of the ball will generate topspin; a right-handed player swiping across the ball with a BH serve will generate sidespin which will encourage your return to travel toward their forehand, etc.

This can then be applied when you're watching other players serve, but in my experience it's almost impossible to do when you're playing against them.

If you can find someone with good serves to practice against, it's also useful to learn how to return each of the serves - e.g. pendulum topspin serves are very common, so get someone to serve these to you forehand and backhand, and make sure you know how to return them consistently (e.g. chop on your LPs, soft-block or loop on your FH). This way, if you then come up against a pendulum serve, you'll have a better idea of what to expect - obviously you'll see a lot of variation (backspin and topspin, but also the amount of back/top and sidespin that a player can generate) but it'll mean you only need to make small adaptations instead of having 0 idea.

The good news is that over time, typically by playing lots of match play (practice and competition), you'll start to almost subconsciously read serves. The ball will come over the net, and based on its bounce, you'll have a good idea of which stroke to play without even really thinking about it. It's rare these days that I misread a serve entirely. Don't get me wrong, I still lose plenty of points against someone who serves well, but it's because my returns aren't good enough (can't control the spin well enough) or I make marginal errors resulting in me netting the serve etc.

Great to see you learning how to play; I think you're doing well. I took a similar journey, and am a few years further on than you, so might be able to offer you some basic advice on the way :)

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[Other gear I've used]
Blades: Butterfly Defence 3, Butterfly Defence Pro, Butterfly Innerforce ZLC, Butterfly Innershield, Butterfly Joo Saehyuk, DHS Power G7, Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon
SPs: Friendship 802 (1.5), TSP Spectol (1.3, 1.8, 2.1), TSP Spectol Speed (1.3), TSP Super Spinpips Chop Sponge 2 (0.5, 1.3)
LPs: Butterfly Feint Long II (1), Butterfly Feint Long III (0.5, 1.3), Tibhar Grass D.TecS (OX), TSP Curl P1-R (0.5, 1, 1.3), TSP Curl P4 (1.3)


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PostPosted: 08 Nov 2021, 21:55 
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Oh yeah and a massive +1million for using slower equipment. If you're struggling to keep serves on the table, a bouncy tensor rubber will certainly not help. Learn how to receive serve and learn how to loop with spin before progressing to faster equipment.

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[Other gear I've used]
Blades: Butterfly Defence 3, Butterfly Defence Pro, Butterfly Innerforce ZLC, Butterfly Innershield, Butterfly Joo Saehyuk, DHS Power G7, Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon
SPs: Friendship 802 (1.5), TSP Spectol (1.3, 1.8, 2.1), TSP Spectol Speed (1.3), TSP Super Spinpips Chop Sponge 2 (0.5, 1.3)
LPs: Butterfly Feint Long II (1), Butterfly Feint Long III (0.5, 1.3), Tibhar Grass D.TecS (OX), TSP Curl P1-R (0.5, 1, 1.3), TSP Curl P4 (1.3)


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PostPosted: 09 Nov 2021, 08:37 
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Der_Echte wrote:
There are so many things to learn, then develop in TT it is silly. Hang with it. Keep your lessons, practice and toruneys. It is a long, but fun road.

dunc wrote:
Great to see you learning how to play; I think you're doing well. I took a similar journey, and am a few years further on than you, so might be able to offer you some basic advice on the way :)


Thank you for the detailed advice and the words of encouragement! I really appreciate the comments and input coming from experienced players such as yourselves. :D

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