Monday, 14 November 2016

How to Recover Table Tennis Form and Confidence in Training

Table Tennis is a sport of reflexes, speed, delicate techniques and automation along with split-second timing. When one of these things goes out the window it can create a less than pleasing shift in balance and cause errors and flow-on effects like lost confidence. How many times have we played a match and thought or said out loud, "I just can't play a forehand today" or "My backhand just isn't working." This can occur in matches or in training.

You can read my blog on 'How to Deal with Losing Confidence When Your Best Shots Start Going Wrong' or check out more free and useful articles from my Coaching Blog.

The mighty Chinese Team training
Image from TTDaily

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Expectation: A Danger for Athletes in Table Tennis

It's a common phrase, if you expect too much, you will only be disappointed. This blog talks about expectations can adversely effect your match-play and mentality. We have seen plenty of upsets where the pressure got too much for players 'chokes' from substantial leads. Ma Lin had significant leads in a handful of WTTC finals but always ended up losing and as a result never became World Champion.

This is just one example of an incredibly number of issues that can come from expectations and can really harm your game and ability to perform and remain mentally strong in competition.

Wang Hao, three time Olympic Silver Medalist

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Basic Rules of Table Tennis and Common Myths

When I'm coaching in the club I get a lot of social players coming up to me to clarify rules on some basic areas of the game. I figured since I'm trying to branch out and make posts which relate to all levels that it was a good idea to make a post on the most common areas of conflict among new and social players. Here are the basic rules and common conflicts:

Be diplomatic, learn the rules of table tennis to save disputes! 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Why Blocking is a Vital Table Tennis Skill

Not many players talk about their blocking game, most of them are out there focusing on service or forehand and backhand loop, developing kill shots and methods of aggression in their game. Blocking in fact plays a crucial role, not necessarily in your matchplay, but in your value as a training partner. Here I will tell you why being able to block at a high level is necessary and how you can improve your blocking skills by incorporating blocking drills into your practice.

For more advice and tips, visit the rest of my Coaching Blog with dozens of free coaching articles on various areas of the game!

Blocking is a Vital Table Tennis Skill

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

How to Win Crucial Points in Table Tennis Matches

We all have them, moments in matches where the pressure builds to a significant point. Sometimes the point can be the difference between taking a lead, winning a game or even winning a match, sometimes turning from losing to winning momentum. The question is how do you treat these points? The same as other points or differently? And how do you go about preparing yourself to win when the point bears a lot of value? Well that's the topic of today's blog!

For more tips and help be sure to visit the rest of the Coaching Blog

What serve to do in pressure situations?

Monday, 24 October 2016

How to Improve Your Reaction Speed in Table Tennis

It's one of the world's fastest reflex sports, involving the making of decisions in fractions of a second repetitively during a point. This blog will focus on ways you can help improve your reaction speed in order to benefit your table tennis.

Be sure to check out more for tips and advice on improving your table tennis at The Coaching Blog.

One of the great reflex and reaction shot players of all time
Jan-Ove Waldner

Friday, 21 October 2016

Automatism and Servomechanisms: The Science of Training in Sports

This is a topic which can relate to any sport or task, it is a post on brain training and something which was part of a coaching course I did a few years ago and it has stuck with me since. Automatism and Servomechanisms are two brain functions which are activated during regular training leading to conditioned responses. Training in table tennis is very repetitive and here is why:

Servomechanism: The reason service practice is vital!
Image from www.pingskills.com

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Importance of Match Practice in Table Tennis

In any competitive sport at higher levels the main goal is to play well and to win in competition and table tennis is no different. One of the things which can often be overlooked when training to become a good player is an adequate amount of match practice and tournament play. If you aren't putting yourself into match situations then it is going to be difficult to learn how to win and gain important experience. This blog is going to briefly go over what kind of matches you can use to help develop your game.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Devising the Best Practices for a Winning Doubles Combination in Table Tennis

I have been deliberating on this topic for quite a while, so my apologies to Javier Chong who asked me if I could write about useful tactics for playing doubles. Fortunately doubles has always been a strong point for me as I tend to work well in a team pairing and also being left handed I developed fairly strong serve receives. So off the back of my silver medal in the New Zealand Open Men's Doubles event with Adam Hugh, here are some tactics for making the best performances in doubles!

Me and Adam Hugh NZ Open Doubles Semifinal
Photo Courtesy of Murray Finch

Monday, 17 October 2016

Humidity: The Ultimate Pitfall of the Plastic Ball

It's been over 2 years now since the plastic ball was formally introduced into competition and, like most players, I have come to accept the new ball and continue on with playing. Most of my quarrels with the ball have been diminished but there is one which comes back to sting me over and over again. Humidity is probably my biggest pet hate when it comes to table tennis, that feeling of hopelessness in humid conditions when the ball constantly fails to make any kind of quality contact with the rubber at all. As a 5th ball attacker, moisture is my biggest enemy when trying to make a good quality heavy spin opening.



Table Tennis University Back Online!

It was one of the most solid online educational resources for table tennis in its day and now Table Tennis University is back. You can SIGN UP at no cost and get access to the Mastering Basics course absolutely free (usually $97) which features 12 segments on the basic techniques and skills of table tennis.

Table Tennis University Coach Tao Li

Monday, 10 October 2016

Attitude is the Make or Break of Sports

We all train hard and build physical strength and skills in our sports (for us table tennis) but what sets players apart and makes them great? I recently played a handful of tournaments in New Zealand and by the end of it I probably couldn't have been any more disappointed in myself for how things went. I struggled to adapt to the playing conditions and after the first couple of tournaments I was more than a little frustrated at how things had gone. This all served to metaphorically scold me in a lesson which most people take for granted. The role of attitude in becoming an athlete.

Hopefully writing from my own recent experiences can help some of you relate to the situation.

Photo courtesy of Murray Finch

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Maximizing Benefits from Multiball Training in Table Tennis

The topic of multiball came from a good friend of mine and player/coach from New Zealand who wanted to know my thoughts about multiball feeding when coaching. I figured I would take the opportunity to look at it from both sides of the coin as both a player and coach and see how you can get the very best out of multiball sessions as a player and provide the best quality training if you are a coach.

Remember for more tips and blogs on how to improve your table tennis, head to my Coaching Blog.

Liu Guoliang feeds Ma Long multiball

Sunday, 11 September 2016

5 Steps for Mastering Service Deception in Table Tennis

This blog is from another question submission which I received recently and will focus on how to create deception in your service game. The serve is so important in establishing a foothold in a table tennis match that making it as difficult to read as possible is crucially important, this blog will offer some tips as to how you can increase that difficulty level.

Remember for more tips and blogs on how to improve your table tennis, head to my Coaching Blog.

5 Steps for Mastering Service Deception
So here are 5 simple tips to follow in order to improve your service and ability to make the serve more difficult to read.

Step 1: Master the Simple Stroke Contact for Each Spin (Top, Side, Back, No Spin)

It could be the most basic service motion possible but behind every deceptive and difficult to read service is a very simple contact motion. When I work on improving the spin or contact of my serve I strip it back down to the bare essential motion. If you can master the basic contact for each spin and maximize the spin produced in that serve then you can then work forward and put the basic contact into some more creative service motions.

Step 2: Create Simple Service Variations (Spin Combinations)

Once you have the basic contact for each main spin type (top, side, back) it becomes useful for you to combine spins together. By making contacts across the bottom axis of the ball and contacting in different directions you can combine top/side, back/side serves and change from a continuous trajectory to more kick-type serves where the ball path deviates sharply after the second bounce. Having variations in movement as well as just spin can make the ball much more difficult to read.

You can see Jun Mizutani's serve in the video below and see the effect of combining sidespin into top and backspin serves and the movement patterns of the serve trajectory!


Step 3: Control the Speed and Amount of Contact Time

Not only can you cause deception in spin direction and movement but also in changing between spin and no spin. The ability to control the contact of the ball on service can create a huge advantage in a match, particularly when a no spin serve may create the perfect surprise.

In order to master the no spin serve it needs to look like spin is being imparted on the ball, this means you must be able to maintain a level of acceleration into the contact point. If the serve contact and stroke looks too slow and soft it will be easier to read as having less spin.

The best way to execute the serve is to hide a flat sharp contact within a service motion so you are hitting the back of the ball without making a brushing motion on the ball. Another option is to make the service motion angled and then quickly change to a flat contact or switch direction on the ball contact. The second method allows the momentum into the ball contact to stop on the direction change and create less spin on the ball.

Step 4: Put The First 3 Steps into Basic Deceptive Follow-through Motions

The first step up from basic service motions is to make a simple motion with a basic added deception. You can try and do a basic pendulum serve and attempt to change the direction of the follow-through (after ball contact). You can try and make a backspin serve and pull your racket upwards after the contact point to make it look like topspin or vice versa. These motions and follow-through motions are still simple but are important in getting smooth actions and core service motions.

Step 5: Incorporate Everything Together into Match Serves

The final step is to incorporate steps 1-4 together into your final match serves. Once you have mastered the first 4 steps all you need to do is make some creative service motions, changing the spin, trajectory and follow through.

The best part about this process is you can break it down into simple parts and as such working on troubleshooting issues becomes simpler. I may have match serves to use now but if I want to work on the spin amount I will go back and revisit step 1 in service practice, afterall the core motion of the serve is where the spin comes from.

This is a great time to start practicing the serves against training partners and getting feedback on how effective the service is. You can also play games where only one player serves for the whole game which gives you a chance to see how reliable your serves are in a match and whether you get the outcomes that you want from them.

My Coin Serve Trick

So I hope this has been helpful to you all and you can work through the steps to master the art of deceptive table tennis service!

Remember if you have any troubles with your game or want a detailed answer to a question, be sure to email mhtabletennis@gmail.com any time!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

How to Deal with Losing Confidence When Your Best Shots Start Going Wrong

So recently I started a new job with USA Table Tennis as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator, you can read that article here. I had a busy couple of months doing media coverage and PR with the US Olympic Team as well as covering the US Nationals and Super Camp. After finally getting back home I covered the Rio Games.

As you can imagine my blog took a back seat but I'm happy to say I'm hoping to get back on track. Thank you to everyone for their submission replies to my email the other day. I loved this question from Roger, so I decided to go with this one first.

Regaining Confidence
Image from USA Today
Roger's question was 'How do you regain confidence when your best shot starts going wrong?'

Restoring Confidence in Practice

Obviously there are two occasions where you can lose confidence, one is in practice and the other is in the middle of a match. A player's form fluctuates on a regular basis, that is a normal element of playing a sport. With the highs and lows in training also comes movements in confidence. When we are training well our confidence grows, when we are not in good form our confidence depreciates.

One of the main confidence busters in practice is doubt. On occasions when you are putting a lot of hours into practice and your form hits bottom you may start to wonder whether you are wasting your time. It is important to remember that all players experience lapses in form. So when you are lacking confidence in the training hall, how can you restore it?

Employing a Confidence Drill:

This is one of my favourite concepts, the confidence drill. Usually a confidence drill is the one drill you can execute better than any other drill and sometimes centres around your best shots. Successfully repeating a drill helps your confidence build, especially if you begin to feel like you can't possibly miss.

My confidence drill is backhand to backhand and then I choose a ball and pivot to hit a forehand anywhere. The great thing about this drill is that with the forehand going anywhere it is hard for the training partner to anticipate where the ball is going, which leads to a high success rate as long as you can execute the forehand. A high success rate is the best way to build confidence back up.

Whenever training isn't going well I turn to my confidence drill to help me feel more positive.

Increase Focus on Consistency:

Missing simple balls is the easiest way to destroy your confidence. When you miss a ball which you really feel you shouldn't miss then you start to recognise that something is not going right. Often missing easy balls can be frustrating and emotion creeps into play causing you to distract from the practice or game itself.

Again as above, change the drillset to focus on restoring confidence. Simplify drills and strokes, reduce power and focus on more repetitions. Once you get your touch and form right at the basic level then you can build back up from the foundation levels.

Confidence Crucial to Match Success
Image from ITTF.com

Restoring Confidence in a Match

During a match is probably the worst place to have a dip in confidence, this can be caused by a number of different elements such as:

- Losing a string of points in a row
- Losing a lead
- Missing easy balls or simple executions
- Being genuinely outplayed

There are others of course and it is a psychological battle to stay positive. Losing confidence goes hand in hand with negativity but not always. Here are some things you can do when your confidence in a match starts dwindling.

Evaluate Your Shot Selection and Execution:

It is very important not to get caught up in negativity so you are able to focus on the issue at hand. Why are you missing your best shots?

- Are you making the right shot selection for the incoming ball?
- Are you reading the spin correctly?
- Is your body in the best position to execute the shot?
- Is your stroke technique satisfactory?
- Are you trying to do too much with the ball i.e over-swing, overpower

The list could go on. One thing I find important is to constantly focus on why I am missing shots, especially when they are my best ones. Sometimes losing confidence can detract your attention from very easily solved problems. Always be aware of why you are missing.

Stay Relaxed:

This one is very important. Often for some of the reasons stated above, we can start to get too tense. Being too tight can have a massive impact on your touch and can have big repercussions for your matchplay. Here are some pointers:

- Don't stress your strokes too much, fluid motions are the most efficient.
- Take your time, rushing will increase your rate of errors
- Try and keep your head clear of negative thoughts and focus one point at a time
- Try and focus on placement and control ratio over powerful shots until confidence comes back

Utilise Set Plays:

The best thing to do when you are losing confidence is to win points, I don't think anyone can argue with that. So you need to look to the simplest way to win points, set plays.

Set plays are pre-trained, highly probably structured points which give you a high possibility of winning a point. Every set play starts with a good, reliable serve with a pre-determined response.

Essentially a set play is a well trained point structure where the outcomes of every play are predictable to a high percentage, allowing you to preempt your opponents and hopefully win the point.

When I am struggling in a match or at a tight place i.e 10-10, I almost always look to my set plays to make sure I win the point. Each player has their own unique set plays, often more than one.

If You Don't Have Confidence to Attack, Change Tactics:

If I'm missing attacking strokes frequently in a match I like to change tactics and focus more on out-smarting my opponent. I reduce powerful attacks and replace them with short play, control and strong placement.

If you can't win points from doing your usual gameplay tactics then it is important to realise that before the match is over. When I can't attack I try to focus more on forcing errors and stopping my opponent from attacking. If I can do that then sometimes I will be able to reduce their confidence while restoring mine at the same time, a perfect way to turn the tables and scoreline on its head.


So I hope you have found this article somewhat useful and Roger I hope it has done a good job of responding to your question, again thank you for the submission. Keep them coming guys! :)

Friday, 19 August 2016

MHTableTennis Reviews the Butterfly Tiago Apolonia ZLC

As some of you know I recently got my hands on a Tiago Apolonia ZLC from Butterfly after asking Tiago himself about his initial impressions of the blade. Of course he endorsed it beyond question, as he should! I prepared the blade with Butterfly Tenergy 05 on the forehand side and Tenergy 80 on the backhand and set out to the table to see how it handled. Keep in mind that I had been using a Donic Waldner Senso Carbon for years and so the increase in pace took a while to adjust to! I have now played on a number of occasions with the blade, enough so to give a review that a handful of you have been asking for, though not in video format.

Tiago Apolonia ZLC
From MHTableTennis Instagram (Be sure to Follow!)
Visual Impressions:

First of all before I even opened the box I was excited. The box is in Portugal colours which I thought was really cool. Opening the box and the blade design was the same. Red and Green for Portugal. Tiago I know is a real team player so it was cool to see some of his personality captured in the design.

Specs:

Speed: OFF
Composition: Wood Outer (Double Limba Layers), ZLC Fiber Inner layers
Plies: 5+2
Rubber Combo: FH; Tenergy 05 2.1, BH: Tenergy 80 2.1

Impressions:

Speed
Tiago Apolonia had previously been using an Innerforce ZLC so it is no surprise that there are a great deal of similarities to be found between the two blades. Tiago himself said there were many similarities but the Apolonia ZLC was a touch faster.

Moving from a slower blade, the speed of the ZLC was noticeable instantly for me. It took me a little while to close the angle off and adjust. What I really liked about the speed of the Apolonia ZLC was it's great ability to third ball off backspin. Usually with the Waldner Senso I had favoured a slower opening, particularly on my backhand side. With the Apolonia I felt a renewed sense of athleticism as I worked my way around the corner and hit some stunning 3rd ball forehands.

By producing a concise and sharp contact it is possible to achieve a great deal of acceleration in a short amount of time and that shows when playing the 3rd ball attack.

In the topspin rallies I had to close the angle quite a lot, especially when blocking as the catapult effect was a lot more than I was used to and also on the backhand with the marginally longer trajectory of the Tenergy 80 I had to make further adjustments.

video

You can see in the video above from my Instagram that you can produce a lot of power and acceleration against backspin. I felt that it was a key strength which I was impressed with, particularly since I was looking for a faster alternative to my old blade but with reasonable control ratio.

Control and Touch
One of the great qualities about the inner fiber ZLC blades is the carbon layers being closer to the core. Where the Mizutani is a 5 ply blade (3 wood and 2 carbon), the Apolonia is a 7 ply and thus the inner carbon layers are softened by a double layer of outer wood. So what does this do? Well it takes the incredible speed of the classic ZLC blade and cushions it so as to achieve great touch, incredible speed and a good element of control.

Having used an OFF- carbon with a hollow handle for over 5 years, I have become a big fan of more touchy blades with good control without losing the speed effect. While it took me a few sessions to wear the blade in and the rubber, I quickly began to appreciate the balance of speed with control. You can certainly feel that it is not quite as stiff as other ZLC blades which is something I personally like.

This structure helps it balance a powerful spin oriented and accurate attacking game with some intricacies like touch for counterlooping and topspin blocking close to the table etc.

One area I felt improved greatly with the blade was my close table counterlooping. Usually with the Waldner Senso I was able to make some early counterloops and fade inside out forehands but with the Apolonia the control at high speed is incredible, especially so early in the bounce. With a short controlled counter stroke I was able to produce a very high quality counterloop with incredible pace.

I also found that once I got the hang of the angle adjustments I was able to block fast balls more comfortably and also absorb spin better on opening balls allowing me to control my placement better. The blade definitely allows for a lot more variability in what you can and can't do with different incoming balls.

Initial Difficulties
My initial hardships with the first few sessions were playing with too much of an open face when opening and having too long a swing on occasions. Making precise and efficient strokes is important as with any blade, I felt I was much better off making more concise ball contacts and slightly shorter swings to maximize the acceleration and accuracy. The real strength of the ZLC lies in it's ability to produce a high amount of spin even when accelerating forward over the ball.

I also had some trouble with my backhand block and counter, even my loop sometimes. I'm used to having a slightly slower setup so I tend to use a bit more wrist in my stroke, this was something which caused me a few problems as it sent the ball over the end, as you can see on a few occasions below.

video

Serve and Receive
I felt service contact was improved with the Apolonia, as with many elements of the game the double limba layer really plays an important role in increasing the dwell and contact time and gives a softer feel than regular ZLC blades.

On receive again I had to work some wrist adjustments with my flip to make it a little smoother and angle changes with my short push to keep the ball low, but after a number of sessions I'm relatively comfortable with that now.

On receiving faster serves it becomes easier to generate good acceleration with a short controlled stroke which becomes particularly advantageous when you have a little less time to react.

Matchplay
While training has been going pretty well, there are still a number of adjustments I need to make in the heat of a match. Obviously when you are changing blades there are still a lot of automatic responses and learned adjustments so it takes a little time to build new reactions for the new blade. I can see that the blade will bring some great improvements to my game once I make those adjustments.

Final Judgement: Winner!

After a handful of sessions with the blade, where initially I was skeptical that it might be too fast for me, it has worn in and I am convinced that the Butterfly Tiago Apolonia ZLC will be my new blade. I'm very much looking forward to seeing where my game goes with the added speed and soft touch of this blade! :)

Monday, 6 June 2016

How To Make Your Long Push Effective in Matches

When people talk about long pushing what image comes into your head? Do you see a boring and endless rally between two players both scared to attack? The ball floating back and forth over the net? When somebody long pushes to you it can be the perfect opportunity to attack and a lot of long push balls are played too loose in matches. You need to redefine why you long push in a game and how you can turn the stroke into more of a strategic weapon.

You can read more articles like this in my Coaching Blog.

Former US National Team Member Ariel Hsing

Sunday, 5 June 2016

7 Reasons Why Table Tennis is Good for The Body and Mind!

When people say table tennis or ping pong, some people might not associate physical activity with it. Some people might think a table tennis player 'just stands there and hits a ball'. In most levels of the sport (and it is a sport), that's far from the case. Here are 10 super reasons why table tennis is becoming a more popular sport for the body and mind!

1. It's a Reflex Sport!
Table Tennis is one of the world's fastest reaction sports, dealing with speed, spin and forces of immense levels over short measures of time and distance. To improve your hand-eye coordination, anticipation skills and increase your agility, table tennis is a sport for you!

So what exactly can your brain and body learn from such a quick sport. Check out the video below with William Henzell, Oceania's top player of all time and his former teammate Trevor Brown!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Rio Set to Stage a True Clash of Titans: Ma Long vs. Zhang Jike

It's a moment in time we will all eagerly be waiting for. The battle which has really defined great table tennis in this generation. Ma Long vs. Zhang Jike. It was a match we always hoped to see when the two fought head to head in World Tour, Asian Championships and World Cup Finals on numerous occasions. The two best players in the world going up against each other.

ITTF recently posted online that Ma Long and Zhang Jike were the two Chinese players confirmed to be entered in the Singles event for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. This presents an opportunity for a truly epic battle. The two best players in the World on the biggest stage of all.

Titans Set for Rio Singles

A Dream Finally Realised for Mexico's Marcos Madrid!

The Road to Rio is one Mexico's Marcos Madrid will likely never forget in his lifetime. Why you may ask? Because he succeeded in his biggest career goal after falling at the final hurdle on numerous occasions in the past. This year he overcame the odds and will compete in his first Olympic Games. Marcos is a friendly and humble athlete who works incredibly hard, it has been my pleasure to spend some time with him in a handful or tournaments and I'm thrilled that he has reached this goal, he is very deserving of it! Congratulations Marcos! :)

Marcos Madrid on qualifying for Rio

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Table Tennis Could Face An Increased Net Height!

At the recent World Championships there were a number of meetings between the ITTF Board, delegates and other entities like the ETTU. One agenda which ITTF has had over many years now is to make the sport more 'spectator friendly' by constantly trying to slow the game down and make it easier to follow. The latest in the line of discussion is increasing the height of the net which would mean players have to play with more safety and higher trajectory, marginally slowing the shots and rallies down.

Table Tennis Could Face Increase in Net Height

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

MHTT Training Video Blog: Days 5 and 6

The routine is going strong and I'm getting the videos shorter and more focused around single drills and activites. I'd love any feedback you have, you can do that via email to mhtabletennis@gmail.com or on any of my social media platforms! :) Here are the training schedules and commentaries for Days 5 and 6!

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel: MHTableTennis to keep up to date!

Day #5:


Monday, 9 May 2016

MHTT Training Video Blog: Days 3 and 4

So as part of my updates for each 2 days video entries, I will also be including the schedule which I have completed for the whole day. Especially now that I am shortening the videos down and narrowing the focus to a couple of key points. I will also be including my summary of how I performed in some drills or exercises also! :)

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel: MHTableTennis to keep up to date!

Day #3:


Friday, 6 May 2016

MHTT Training Video Blog Kicks Off

Hi guys. For the last couple of months since getting sick (with my autoimmune disorder) after the World Championships in Malaysia, my table tennis has no been the same. Not even close in fact. I started practicing slowly and then more regularly a few weeks ago but my game and matchplay are in a terrible state. So I set about planning my resurrection and figured I may as well create some kind of video diary, so here it is.

For the first ten days I will be making a video blog of each day. After that I will make an update every 3-4 days and we will see how long it stretches on for, hopefully I can stick with it if there is a big enough interest.

So here is Day #1

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Table Tennis Coaching's Dynamic Duo: Interview with Jeff and Alois (PingSkills)

PingSkills has become a household name online for creating quality content to help people of all levels to improve and develop their table tennis skills. The dynamic duo of Alois Rosario and Jeff Plumb have been providing knowledge, learning, humour and entertainment to the table tennis community. It was my privilege to interview these two outstanding gentlemen from down near my corner of the globe. Thanks to you both! :) Make sure you visit www.pingskills.com to see all their fantastic content and check them out on YouTube: Pingskills Channel.

You can check out more interviews with other top players, legends, coaches and stars of the sport at the Interview Page.

PingSkills Alois (left) and Jeff (right)

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pro Tip Blog: Ryu Seung Min on Forehand Footwork (Especially Penhold Players)

Footwork is one of the key elements of high level table tennis and I had the chance for my Pro Tip Blog to get a piece of advice on what you need to focus on to reach the highest levels. Thankfully I went to the best source in my opinion, 2004 Athens Olympic Gold Medalist Ryu Seung Min, the master of footwork. Great advice to help you improve your table tennis footwork!

You can check out my full interview with him here: Interview with Ryu Seung Min and find out what the favourite footwork drills of a handful of international players are in this article: The Most Popular Footwork Drills Among Professional Table Tennis Players.

Ryu Seung Min on Footwork and Penhold

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Beating Your Workmates At Ping Pong

I have had students in the past who have come out of garages and work offices to learn some new skills so that they can emerge at the top of their group of friends or colleagues. Having worked in a sales office with a table tennis table in the past, I know what kind of environment this is. Fortunately I had the ultimate immunity of being a properly trained player. So I decided to prepare this 5 step blog post on what you need to do to get ahead of the game and take down the competition in your garage or office.

1. Learn the Basics and Master Them

You need to assert some technical prowess. A player with more knowledge of how to hit a table tennis ball has an advantage. Learn to understand a little about the basic shots, the forehand and backhand. If you can master even the simpler shots and keep the ball on the table with them, you have landed yourself an advantage in every rally. While your colleagues may be able to hit some hard, the more consistent player in these situations will win the day. Here is a video from Alois and Jeff from Pingskills to help you on your way!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

New Look for Table Tennis' Hottest Social App: PongUniverse Gets a New Look!

PongUniverse is the passionate work of Andrew and Barb Williams who set out on a mission to bring the players around the world together with a unique social app. As a result of sacrifice and hard work, PongUniverse was born. You can use the website at www.ponguniverse.com or download the app here: Download Now and become a part of a great and growing social network of table tennis fans, players, coaches and more. I took a moment to review the revamped and fresh looking updated app and site!

PongUniverse, the World's Top Table Tennis Social App

Monday, 11 April 2016

How to Become a More Powerful Table Tennis Player

Today we ran a Spring Break training camp and I found myself working again with a very short, small player who happens to be the US National 10 and under champion. I wanted to focus on building some more power in his game and so I thought it would be a great time to write a post on some tips for increasing and developing power in your game.

Be sure to check out all the content for helping improve your table tennis at The Coaching Blog.

Wang Liqin, three time world champion

Thursday, 7 April 2016

4 Ping Pong Skills to Take You From Beginner to Winner!

A coach once gave me a piece of advice which has stuck with me for my career as a player and coach. There are 4 key fundamentals in table tennis, master them and you will be a competitive player. Any player with a range of strokes can focus on these 4 areas and turn themselves from a beginner into a winner. So if you are a beginner looking for some important ping pong skills, you came to the right place!

Be sure to check out more articles like this at The Coaching Blog.

Areas of Trouble

Many developing players ask me questions and ask other coaches questions about how they can improve or about things they are struggling with and 90% of those questions fall within these 4 fundamental areas of the game. Master the 4 areas and you will find competitive table tennis gets much easier.

4 Ping Pong Skills to Take You From Beginner to Winner!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

TableTennisDaily Podcast with the Legendary Waldner!

My good friends over at TableTennisDaily have been busy launching a series of new podcasts with some sensational players including the likes of Jorgen Persson and Marcos Freitas among others. The latest and greatest is the #11 in the podcast series with the Mozart of Table Tennis, Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner!

I settled in and listened to the interview which totals 40 minutes of great questions and interesting responses from the grand slam champion. Definitely not one to miss, check it out below and visit
http://www.tabletennisdaily.co.uk/podcast/ to see the growing collection of superb interviews!



Friday, 25 March 2016

The Best Physical Training Exercises for Developing Table Tennis Footwork

Footwork drills on the table are one part of developing as a player but there is a lot of physical training which goes into developing as a great player. I was asked by Javier Chong what physical training drills he can use with the players he coaches to improve their physical ability for footwork. This presented the perfect opportunity to write a new blog! Please be sure to ask any questions you have to keep the content flowing! :)

Be sure to check out all the content for helping improve your table tennis at The Coaching Blog.

The Master of Footwork Ryu Seung Min

Thursday, 24 March 2016

How to Improve Your Table Tennis with MHTableTennis

I have been running my blog since July 2011 and it has more recently started to transform and become more directed in terms of content. As I have transitioned more towards a coaching career I have started writing a little more about elements of the game and learning resources than previously where I conducted more interviews and covered international events. So how can you make the most out of my blog? Well here are some helpful pieces of advice if you are looking for tips on improving your table tennis.

Head to the Coaching Blog:

One of the major updates I have made in the last couple of months is to consolidate all of my 'coaching' style articles into one section of the blog and created links between articles so you can browse across a wider range of topics. This can be found by using the 'coaching blog' tab at the top of the blog or by heading there via this link - Coaching Blog

Get the most out of MHTableTennis with these tips!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Ultimatum in Table Tennis Service Receive: Shut Down or Initiate

After the World Championships in Malaysia it became increasingly more obvious that the long push has a very limited role in the game of table tennis in this generation. There are really two key priorities on serve receive, shut down the opponents attack or initiate. This has come down to two key shots, the banana flick and the dropshot short push. The banana flick is an area I have been less confident in since the introduction of the plastic ball as it has been harder to generate acceleration over a short space. It is definitely an area I will be training hard on in the coming months to improve my serve receive.

Be sure to check out more for tips and advice on improving your table tennis at The Coaching Blog.

Zhang Jike and his iconic banana flick

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Most Popular Table Tennis Footwork Drills Among Professional Players!

Around the time of the World Table Tennis Championships I pondered on what the most popular drills among professional players were, more specificially what drills they liked to repeat the most to improve their footwork. I decided to ask a few players what their favourite footwork drill is and why they think it is the best one that we should all be practicing! Here are their answers :)

What are the professionals' favourite footwork drills?

Monday, 21 March 2016

What I Learnt From Playing My First Table Tennis World Championships

You'll notice things went pretty quiet after the end of the 2016 Perfect World Table Tennis Championships and there will be a blog post about that soon. Now that I have time (more of it than I would like) I felt like it was time to reflect on my trip to my first World Championships. There were some things which were great, some things which I didn't particularly like and some things that I learnt.

Let's start off with the things I experienced which were great. This was a prime opportunity to catch up and meet with a lot of players I had started becoming acquainted with in the past couple of years. I took some time out to catch up with Werner Schlager who I hadn't seen since 2013. I also met up with Petr Korbel just before he left, the fighter Jean Michel Saive and spent some time with the very humble Vladimir Samsonov and Jorgen Persson who I had hung out with last year in Chengdu at the China Open. Being immersed among these professional players is a very valuable experience if you make the most of it.

The 2016 Perfect World Table Tennis Championships, Malaysia

Saturday, 6 February 2016

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Two Weeks to Go!

Just two weeks left till I leave to New Zealand before heading for the World Champs in Malaysia. Still enough time to make some last minute improvements. Overall things have been going reasonably well. I've played 11 matches in the last 3 weeks of the league and won 10, losing the 11th match 3-2 (against a player I beat 3-2 the previous week). My footwork for playing forehands has been much better in matches and I am committing to playing it more so than my backhand which had become my default response.

Table Tennis World Team Championships 2016 Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

8 Tips on Expanding Your Table Tennis Tactics Against Choppers

Playing defensive players is often a thorn in the side of many players, even if they have well developed skills and perform well against offensive players. Most players don't have as many opportunities to practice with defensive players or play matches with them and as a result lack the experience to form good tactics in matches. I always find with my students, particularly younger kids that even if their game is improving a lot they can have trouble with different rubbers or slower styles. Here are 8 simple tips on different tactics which can be useful against defensive players, more specifically choppers. See more from my Coaching Blog.

What are the Goals of Defensive Players?

Defensive players are looking to develop ways of playing less orthodox balls or achieve a lot of variation and consistency. Why? Forcing errors is the most probable outcome which results in them winning a point. They want you to misread the spin, make timing errors, rush or be indecisive and they have weapons to achieve the cause. They are also able to take a long period of time to setup for attacking balls by waiting for the opportune moment where they can get into position.

Tips for Beating Choppers

Saturday, 30 January 2016

How to Develop Top Table Tennis Footwork and Positioning (Topspin Edition)

Positioning is one of the key aspects of keeping up with the speed of table tennis, if you can't get into position to time the ball well then often you will find yourself in a bit of trouble and on the back foot in a point. This article will touch on some things to practice to maximize your ability to get into the right position for every shot! This blog will focus on how to improve your footwork in topspin situations and rallies, developing from basics to mastery! See more from my Coaching Blog.

Steps to Mastering Table Tennis Footwork

Why is it so Important to Develop Good Position and Footwork?

The timing of your ball contact and good solid technique rely a lot on position. If you are late getting to the ball then your timing and weight transfer will suffer. Similarly if you are too far away from the ball or the ball is too close to you then the amount of power and acceleration you can achieve in your stroke is very restricted.

Also if you take a shot out of position it is likely that you will find it more difficult to maintain stability and balance, making it difficult to recover for the next shot or move to even cover the next ball.

What Can We Do to Achieve Good Positioning Footwork?

Well the answer lies in footwork drills whether it be multiball or single ball drills. A lot of repetition is required. So here are my ideas on how to build your footwork from the basics up.

Point 1: Start by always having your knees bent slightly, low and central center of gravity over the hips and a little forward. Be sure to distribute your weight into the front of your foot more on your toes, this allows you to spring more and move quicker.

Point 2: Learn the correct footwork movements, you need to know a single step movement, a shuffle step and a cross-step technique. There are a lot of demonstrations and tutorials, some basic movements can be found here on Pingskills:


Point 3: Always focus on where the ball is relative to your body. You need to try and focus on lining your contact up in the right place relative to you every time. This is the main focus of your footwork drills and the premise behind improving your positioning.

1. Transition Footwork

Backhand side and forehand side alternating footwork is very important for developing smooth transition between backhand and forehand, the middle ground during changeover can be an easy place for the opponent to target.

  • FIXED: Start off with one forehand, one backhand. Gradually move wider as you improve to cover more table space. Next you may change to 2 backhands, one forehand or 2 and 2.

  • SEMI-FIXED: To add an anticipation factor try doing either 1 or 2 strokes on each side, this way you have to be prepared for the change after either the first or second ball in the rally each time.

  • RANDOM: Now add a random element. First start with backhand to backhand and then a switch to the forehand, repetitive drill. Next you can try playing random all to your training partner's backhand.
This list of drills with progression can really help build strong foundations in your game. Remember when you are practicing footwork aim for more control in your strokes so you can repeat the footwork and positioning as many times as possible each ball.

2. Pivot Footwork

See my special blog on developing the pivot forehand and drills to help improve it:





One of the greatest footwork players ever, Ryu Seung Min
3. Forehand Game Footwork

Being able to play forehand all over the table is an incredibly athletic advantage to most professional players. Here are some drills to help you progress with forehand positioning.

  • FIXED: You can start off with a two point forehand, either 1 and 1 or 2 and 2. This can be done forehand and backhand side or middle line and forehand corner for best starting results. This helps build up footwork across a short distance for playing forehands especially across the middle of the table.

  • ADVANCED FIXED: 5 point forehand is the first drill to master, one ball to each of the lines, corner, middle, corner, middle, across the table. This helps build small explosive movements across the table, covering forehand at each point. The real advanced drill, highly common in China is the 3 point forehand. fh corner, middle, bh corner and back to fh corner to start again. This creates a wide movement from the forehand pivot to the forehand wide and helps build explosive footwork over a longer space.

  • SEMI-FIXED: Random across a fixed area. Start by doing 1/2 table forehand random to the backhand. Develop the drill by increasing the forehand area to 2/3 or even 3/4 (most realistic for general play).

  • RANDOM: Full table forehand. If you can master this drill then you are well on your way to becoming a table tennis deity. The combination of random placement and the need to get in very good position for each ball in order to remain balanced and in control is incredibly difficult. This is the ultimate in topspin table tennis drills.
Ma Long doing 3 point forehand movement

3. Incorporate into Game Scenarios

You can play a number of match type games like matches where only long topspin balls are allowed. A good example is a random topspin game starting with a basic serve to the backhand, be sure to keep the score so it becomes competitive!

You can also play backhand side to backhand side games or forehand only matches. There are a lot of ways you can make drills feel more like match situations. These can be great for developing your ability to move for the shots you need to take when under more pressure.

It Doesn't Always Have to Be On the Table

Remember improving footwork is also an aspect of physical training. There are a lot of footwork drills you can do without a bat and ball.

Anything which helps you improve leg power and speed will help with your footwork. You can do rapid flurries on your toes to help strengthen your calves and make you lighter on your feet.

Skipping: If you have a rope handy then make the most of it. Skipping is great for keeping the spring in your toes and light on your feet. It has long been seen as a good way of training for table tennis and also in particular boxing!

Shuttle Runs: You can do things like shuttle runs which involve running to a point and running back then running to a further point and back and so on in intervals. This includes a lot of start and stop motions to help with direction changes and reaction.

Net Post Runs: A great one which is regularly used in my club is the net post challenge. You must touch the net post and then sidestep as quickly as possible around half of the table and touch the other net post with the same hand. You must do as many 'laps' as you can in 1 minute. This must be repeated at least 3 times.


I hope this blog has been extensive enough in helping you with your footwork and positioning, no matter what stage of footwork development you are up to there is a progression upwards to a better level! :D

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

MHTT World Champs Buildup Diary: Matchplay

I'm now 2 weeks into some very serious preparation with a good 3 weeks still remaining. Last Friday I played in the club league and played 4 matches. I was able to win 3 but lost to former US National Team member Adam Hugh who is a very experienced player.

Adam Hugh - US National Team
I played some more practice games with Adam and Joey Cochran today and I'm really realizing how much I have neglected practice matches in my training and playing of table tennis. Essentially I have just completely overlooked it. I generally have the opportunity to play practice matches on Friday nights in the league but now I find myself playing league about once per month. This means I haven't really been playing any matches at all aside from tournaments. This is a big problem and I believe one that has contributed to a big drop in my matchplay level recently.

Fortunately I have the opportunity to play more matches with Adam which is really great for me. Adam was in division 3 with the US team at the 2014 World Champs so he is really the perfect competition for me to be playing against. I managed to push some games to deuce and have some set points but wasn't able to convert any.

Here is what I noticed and learnt:

- Adam told me when playing at a higher level (which div 3 is for me) opportunities don't often arise to win points, you really have to work hard to create opportunities in each point.

- I was able to maintain a relatively good service game throughout but receive still needs some work to stay tight.

- I seem to be hesitating on the long ball, probably through lack of good footwork. Sometimes a long ball will be a perfect opportunity to open but instead of really pushing for position I will return the ball long, giving away the point essentially.

- Because opportunities are harder to create in a tight game, I found when I managed to set the ball up I tended to rush a little too much and miss my opportunities by making simple errors.

Thanks to a small amount of match practice I was able to lock down some key flaws in my game. In short if I can identify these problems after playing a few matches, then I should be practicing matches at least 3-4 times per week in a serious environment.

I had a couple of days of not so great training after recovering from shoveling a ridiculous amount of snow, my body is finally starting to loosen up so hopefully I can get my mentality refocused and get straight back into things.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Some REAL Advice for Buying Your First Table Tennis Bat

A lot of sites and people give you advice on buying your first table tennis bat, a lot of that advice differs and conflicts with each other. In this post I will try and consolidate some ideas and put my spin on them. Of course I'm just another brick in the wall in terms of opinions but I will take a more open view on the different options.

Do I Buy Premade of Assemble My Own?

This is entirely up to you. When I started table tennis at the age of 8 I bought a premade butterfly bat with a Yuki-FL blade and Flextra on both sides. It was a reasonable price and the quality was fairly sound for a beginner. This was really for my first year or so playing and then I upgraded.

What Not to Buy: I think if you are serious about developing your skillset, stay away from sports store pre-mades. Generally it is hard to find quality outside of a specialist table tennis dealer or from an equipment brand website. The exception of course is if you are simply looking for something to play at home once a week with in your garage or at school with in the beginning.

My other piece of advice is not to go too cheap. You want to aim for a first bat that will last at least your first 8-12 months, depending on how regularly you intend to play. You will find that some cheaper pre-made bats are lacking in grip or are incredibly firm. Grip and some softness are important if you are wanting to play with more spin.

I say go for a premade if you want something less expensive and/or if you aren't able to prepare your own bat or have no-one that can help. Some equipment stores like tabletennis11 will assemble bats for you at no charge.

Buying a First Table Tennis Bat is no easy Task!

What Blade Do I Choose When Assembling a New Bat?

If you choose to assemble, you can of course make your own unique combinations and choose things which you think may suit you better.

My first assembled bat was a Butterfly Primorac Off- with Tackifire Drive on both sides. I progressed quickly from the Allround styled Yuki-FL to the Off- and suffered no fallbacks. A lot of people will suggest sticking with ALL or ALL+ blades for your first blade. I think actually it's acceptable to venture a little quicker. Even some of the Off blades like the Butterfly Korbel have great control even if there is extra speed.

Essentially the window can go anywhere from ALL to OFF as long as there is a reasonable ratio of control. Likewise it is possible to try carbon. The reality is that you shouldn't rule out too many options just because a player is starting out. Personally I feel that all wood blades are better for starting out, but carbon is possible as long as it isn't too fast and too stiff. I wouldn't for example recommend for someone to use a Timo Boll ALC as their first blade.

There are plenty of carbon blades out there with good control and with feeling. The moral of the story is maintain the control factor. It has to be a blade that a new player can control.

What Rubber Characteristics Do I Look For?

Fortunately with the slower plastic ball, there is more room for movement here. Extra speed won't hurt as much as before. While it is more advisable to focus more on spin and stroke development, again, don't rule everything out.

In the first 6-12 months of playing the important thing to remember is that you don't need speed as much. If you are focusing on developing your shots and improving techniques then spin and control are more preferable. People suggest rubbers like Yasaka Mark V which I think is a great starting rubber and one I used at an earlier stage of developing my game. People don't frequently suggest it for no reason, it has a great reputation for beginners and intermediate players. Sriver has also always been a classic for starting out with.

I think a new player with a good skillset could even try Yasaka Rakza 7 soft or a more spin oriented 'pro' rubber as long as they can handle some speed. It depends how fast they can learn or what stage of learning they are at. For example my club has bats available which many of the kids use for the first 6-8 months before they buy their first.

However not everyone is looking to develop and focus on technique. Some players are out to learn how to win with the shots they have and in that sense, why not get some added speed. Remember not everyone plays table tennis competitively or has an intense desire to improve. Some people just like to have fun and go for some flashy shots.

Don't rule out a good quality pre-made like a Yasaka Mark V combo

The Bat Must Suit the Purpose

On that previous note, this is the real punchline. Not everyone is looking for the same things, not every beginner is the same.

You may need a bat for a young child looking to learn table tennis from scratch, in which case more control and slower pace would be more beneficial while they learn new strokes. In this case, an allwood blade ranging ALL to OFF- with high control and spinny rubbers would probably be the best fit.

You may be an adult learner coming back to the sport after some years or starting out from playing other sports. In this case some techniques are hard to reverse, you can work on technique and learn how to win. You can afford to potentially find something quicker even through the OFF range or with carbon and to add some more speed in your rubber selection. Being an adult you will adjust quicker to the feel of the rubber and the extra pace. You have more options.

You could be a veteran looking for something to play in your spare time. Perhaps you would go for the defensive blade or allround with a heavy spin or control rubber. Maybe a pimple rubber might help you throw down some cunning shots to trick your opponents.

So What is My Answer?

My answer is that there is no answer. People always ask what the best rubber is for offensive players, what is the best blade I should use? These questions are completely without context. Every player is different, every player is looking for equipment for different reasons.

What I can say is that the more equipment you try the closer you will get to what you are looking for. Equipment selection can be very much trial and error, experiencing the different feel of different products.

As much advice as others can give, you will be the one who learns what your preferences are. Try equipment out whenever you get the chance, especially when deciding what to buy. Get more advice from coaches, friends, store specialists to help you take the first step on the road. Most importantly, give your equipment a chance before deciding whether or not you like it.

One last piece of advice: The frequency you play should determine the quality, if you are intending to play multiple times per week for extended and repetitive training you should look for a higher quality starting bat. A social player playing a couple of times in the week may not necessarily need that. Again meet the needs of the player!

Hopefully this rambling block of text will prove helpful for people who are looking a more relaxed view of what to look for in your first bat.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

6 Amazing Table Tennis Moments When China Didn't Win

Call me a pessimist for such a negatively worded post, but these opportunities are becoming less frequent. As much as I love Chinese players, nothing gets me going more than seeing them get beaten, it's a feeling of success even though I had no part in it whatsoever. I decided to post 6 of my favourite moments in Table Tennis where China were overcome in significant fashion or at a very important time. Of course there are many other occasions but here are my 6 favourites! :) Enjoy reminiscing!

1. Werner Schlager becomes World Champion

2003, the last time a non-Chinese player was World Champion. Schlager, an underdog, comes out on top. A classic moment in time as the Austrian overcame both Wang Liqin and Kong Linghui to reach the final stage where he defeated Joo Se Hyuk.

Schlager vs. Kong Linghui WTTC 2003

Schlager vs. Wang Liqin WTTC 2003

2. Oh Sang Eun Decimates Wang Hao

One of my favourite Oh Sang Eun matches where the Korean player leads an almost embarrassing win over China's Wang Hao in the 2008 Asian Super Circuit event. The smooth and fluid strokes of Oh prove more than formidable, leaving Wang Hao with no answers!

Oh Sang Eun vs. Wang Hao 2008 Super Circuit

3. Michael Maze Returns from No-Man's Land to Defeat Hao Shuai

The match of the 2005 World Championships and one that ultimately laid doom to Hao Shuai's table tennis career as Michael Maze came fighting back from a seemingly impossible deficit. One of the matches for the ages from the Danish great, often labelled the 'best comeback ever'.

Michael Maze vs. Hao Shuai 2005 WTTC

4. Vladimir Samsonov wins the 2009 World Cup

Samsonov proves he still has it in a thrilling clash with Ma Long in the 2009 World Cup semifinal, going on to beat Chen Qi in the final in a show of pure class and fluency.

Samsonov vs. Ma Long 2009 World Cup Semifinal

5. Sweden Beat China at the 2000 World Team Championships

The last true legends of table tennis stood strong for Sweden in 2000, seemingly passing the peak of their careers, but they were not done yet. Persson and Waldner rallied together to produce the last defeat against China beyond the last decade!

Persson vs. Liu Guoliang 2000 WTTTC

6. Timo Boll wins the 2005 World Cup

The ultimate clean sweep. Timo Boll, the king of European Table Tennis, defeats the whole Chinese team at the 2005 World Cup. A quarterfinal win over Wang Liqin, semifinal over Ma Lin and final against Wang Hao to clench what he states in my interview HERE as his best career moment!

QF World Cup 2005 Timo Boll vs. Wang Liqin

SF World Cup 2005 Timo Boll vs. Ma Lin

Final World Cup 2005 Timo Boll vs. Wang Hao

So there you have it. These are my 6 favourite moments of the world beating China. Hold on to these memories until next time it may arise, we can only live in hope! :)