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.