Sunday, December 7, 2014

Who we are in table tennis

Hi! and then comes a variation of Want to hit with me?

You're in a club or tournament, and someone talks to you. They may ask you your name, but most of the time, not what style you play or how good you are - almost every player would rather find out, and we do find out, pretty quickly, after some strokes.

We may be interested in just warming up, or we may be itching to play anyone, or we might have seen you and we are interested in measuring something (ourselves? your level? how we would handle your chop, your serves?).

One of the things i love about table tennis is that everyone is equal when in front of the table. This is what i mean:

- it doesn't matter what race or sex you are
- to a big extent, it doesn't matter if you seem to be fit or weak, thin or chubby
- it doesn't matter if you are poor, or rich
- to a very big extent, it doesn't matter what paddle or rubbers or shirt/shoes you have (let's assume at least the paddles involved are ittf certified)
- it doesn't matter if you are a 5 year old, a teen, a working adult, a retired person
- even when a person has a disability, they may still beat your butt in table tennis, so you can't assume things

When we play, we aren't who we normally are. We become a person describable with

"a good backhand loop"
"pretty good serves"
"blocks very well"
"can't handle side-spins to his right"
an attacker, a defender, or an all-rounder
a spinner, a hitter, or a person who uses plenty of gears
a trained player, or a "i learned playing" player .

Sure, there are ratings, but that only tells you a range of people who were beaten by this person, and the range of people who this person can't beat, over possibly years. You just won't know until you play; and sometimes, people will show different things over several matches!

This is one of the things I love the most about table tennis. This discovery, this mental exploration using techniques and strategy, knowing the other is doing the same, getting direct feedback on every little test you run! It's exciting, and when you think you are very evenly matched, it's unnerving to think you could lose for just choosing the wrong strategy. Risk and reward are all very direct and intense!

And after playing, especially after things are pretty clear if one is much better than the other... now you can talk. You have a much better idea of where each stands. And this is where I find one of the nicest things about table tennis - people will give you advice, or readily take it. There is no shame in being better or worse, no need to be smug or feel bad. We're all here to be better and we enjoy this game, we all want to get better, and we all know with time things will change.

Who we are in the end, after crossing our wooden blades, is much closer to a friend, than if you had asked me my name. I'll remember you, and you will remember me for a long long time :D

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Denver TT aliance

I've been off the game for easily 15 months, but I want to start playing again this year. I feel the pounds starting to add up again... even though I've been better about my diet.

Luckily, my good friend and trainer Angelo Gandullia is going to open a new club in downtown denver. It's really neat, since he allied with Butterfly and will have top of the line equipment.

In case you are looking for a table tennis club in the denver area, I cannot recommend Angelo enough. He is a fun, technical person who lives and breathes table tennis all day, every day.

He won the state games in 2012 and placed second in 2013, so you know you are in excellent hands :)

There is also Topspin if you live closer to south denver, which has been around for a long time and has monthly or bi-monthly tournaments; and Longmont in the northern part of the denver area has probably some of the best competitive recreational play. Both clubs welcome anyone and it's only a small fee to play.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

when you are so much better than your opponent, and you prove it psychologically

Being much better than someone else at something is a funny thing. It shows your personality, and also allows you to delve into the psychological aspect of the game.

Table tennis is truly a gentleman's sport - the simpleness of the game, and a relative lack of intentional personal injury during play, combine into what is essentially a momentary passion, something that will be finished and then life continues on to normal. Seldom do you see a beaten opponent toss you his prized racket, or try to smash the ball into your eye - at least in my experience.

However, there is a lot of attitude and mind games when playing. Like the moniker of "live action chess" implies, you are constantly using psychological warfare to try to get an edge. But, you can also inspire defeat into your opponent's heart by your attitude when facing their best attempts.

I think some great examples can be seen in the following video, which highlights one of the best that have played the game.

Notice that Jan is not apologetic, nor does he celebrate excessively - he just remains serious like those monster returns mean nothing to him. I particularly like the one where he starts walking away from the table after blocking a shot by a young Timo Boll. You have to wonder, as his opponent, if he isn't just playing with you to entertain the crowd, and his real level is so much higher. He effectively conveys an air of "no matter what you do, i'm not impressed in the least, and you will lose".

Truly one of those "actions are louder than words" moments are captured in that video. Jan wasn't known for a ferocious attack or wild antics - he was just known for pulling shots that no one else could pull, seemingly effortlessly. His demeanor helped a lot in conveying a sense of awe and defeat into his opponent's heart.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Wow! what a final between Ma Long and Fan Zhedong

I have to say this is one of the best matches i've seen in a while. It is a bright future for china if we think how young Fan Zhedong is. This is the link to the match in hd and short form.

Apart from some matches with Zhang Jike, I had never seen an opponent that forced Ma Long into thinking he wasn't the most powerful attacker in the table. Great match.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Really great online table tennis shops

so far the best shops I've found for cheap stuff (and no, paddlepalace is not cheap... although I have bought for them and have no problems with them) are

seems to be chinese - cheap chinese, donic and butterfly, and some items you can't get in US stores.

european? take a look at the ittf dhs table for around $700

I also love; if you live in the us, though, one of the local trainers might be a butterfly seller and they can beat online prices.

Monday, November 19, 2012

how to make watching table tennis in TV really awesome

Unless you're living under a rock, you know all the good matches around the world are transmitted live in the ITTF homepage (terrible quality, by the way) or posted short after in YouTube.

You probably also know the reason why the ball size was increased from 38 to 40 mm was because the ITTF wants table tennis to be easier to follow on video. Also, matches were shortened to 11 points and 2 un-hidden serves per person to accommodate short attention spans and reduce the difficulty of following the game.

Ping Pong (or table tennis) is fast, tactical, and complex. Each paddle motion imparts both directional momentum and rotational speed, not in 8 directions but in all possible combinations of a sphere (360° by 360°!). Reading spin is one of the most important aspects of the game and very difficult to grasp unless you play the sport.

What I want in TV broadcasting (and possibly in game screens for the live public) is a ball that has sensors (or from which data can be measured with optics) and transmits the information so that every stroke has its spin and speed recorded. A minuscule sensor on top of each player's blade could also be used to measure the stroke speed and angle shift.

In real time, I would love to see a live data, in the lower right corner of the screen, telling me the amount of spin and its direction on the ball, and the force applied by the paddle at the moment of contact. This would give fans who play the sport all sorts of insights into how the pro's play and their capabilities and strategies.

Can you imagine? Almost overnight, you would know who has the spiniest and most powerful shots and serves. It would revolutionize the sport for spectators forever - you would know exactly what happened and why, or could deduce it with some time.

I know technology isn't ready for this - but it will be someday. I'm sure within my lifetime.