Friday 28 June 2013

The Fate of Penhold

The recent Shakehand vs. Penhold competition brought to light the decline of popularity in a formally traditional style of the game. Penhold was highly popular in Asia, styles which became frequently used especially in Korea and China. Nowadays the penhold style is not as common, particularly among the young generations of players. Yes we have the likes of Xu Xin and Lee Jungwoo in this middle generation, but looking to Yan An, Fan Zhendong and beyond the art of penhold is certainly becoming less popular.

Xu Xin proving penhold still has the skill

So are the days of this style numbered? I think there will always be a place for penhold in table tennis as long as players have idols like Ma Lin, Wang Hao, Liu Guoliang and others like Ryu Seung Min and Yoshida Kai. In terms of competition worldwide the decrease is evident already. Most of the focus lays on the men's game, but if you observe women's table tennis you find that the number of penhold players have diminished rapidly and shakehand is by far the predominant grip.

Much like shakehand, the penhold game has developed over the decades to cover weaknesses, the reverse pengrip backhand was introduced to reduce the need for a forehand dominant game and intense footwork and also to reduce the limitations of a weak crossover. But perhaps this was the strength of penhold, perhaps the ability to play forehand everywhere is what made Ma Lin and Ryu Seung Min such formidable opponents in their prime, Ma Lin's forehand was renowned and the control they both had on their backhand was unparalleled almost. Who knows. It certainly fits a more traditional game of backhand control, forehand attack.

I'd love some more thoughts, please do comment and include your ideas. Do you like shakehand more or penhold? Do you think penhold is in decline?

A clip from the 2013 Shakehand vs. Penhold Challenge


  1. Excuse the pun, but I think pengrip is written off!

  2. Always good to have a variety of players, so long as they don't use anti, or long pips and play like dickwhads

  3. Unfortunately we have to admit that the number of penholder has been dramatically declining since the Swedish era. There are still quite a few penholder around the world (will list them up later; mainly in Asia), but here in NZ the penholders I am aware of are only:

    - Li Chun-Li (Japanese penhold)

    - Cathrine Zhou (Chinese penhold)

    - Chun-Kiet Vong (Chinese penhold)

    - myself ("modified" Japanese penhold)

    1. haha oh there are more than that :P Leon Jiang, Jong Eub Han, Steven Zhu etc. there are a lot among the older generations in Auckland but hardly ANY in the young generation of players now.

    2. Hi friend from new zeland what pips are using the short pips penhold players?

  4. Ok good to hear that there are still more penhold out there. Perhaps you should create a list of NZ penholder for TTNZ - after all penholders are undeniably facing a high risk of extinction even worldwide.

  5. As a penholder, my advice is don't play penhold.


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