Time to Relax - Table Tennis for When You are Not Playing Table Tennis

Table tennis has become my addiction. I play it wherever and whenever I can. Bad quality or good quality with anyone and everyone who is willing to hit that tiny ball with that small bat. If I could I would sleep with a bat under my pillow and make breakfast using the bat as my spoon. It consumes my thoughts and probably makes me insanely boring to talk to. I apologise to my girlfriend and all my friends and family affected by my table tennis 'chat'.

Sadly, I have found out it isn't quite possible to play table tennis for every waking hour of the day. Firstly, I don't know anyone who plays a much as I can or want to. As we all know I at
tend multiple clubs and get extra coaching as well as practice serving and bits and pieces on my own table virtually every day. I also go to the gym twice a week which is now incorporating some of the footwork and movement components of table tennis. My addiction, however, goes further. It goes into videos and websites dedicated to making me a better player. In this blog I will put some links of the places I have looked for information and what I have got from each of the places I have looked. It is probably an incomplete list but it will give you and idea of what I do in my free time.

First of all, it would be hard to mention any website without mentioning Ben's website: experttabletennis.com . With or without Ben at the helm this website started a lot of things for me. It recommended my first table and my first bat  it basically got me started. I mean, as an beginner with no experience, it simplified everything for me. It gave me logic behind why I need certain bats as a beginner and why some are better than others. 

However, now I am of a different calibre it provides something different, entirely. Most people will go hunting for the pages I have linked above. Yet, as you get more advanced I think it is easy to become more arrogant, to feel like you know it all. Yet, there is so much to learn, from so many perspectives. The issue is with this blog is it provides one perspective, mine. Ben's website provides a thousand perspectives from that of a coach to that of a parent. Guides for everyone involved in coaching. Yes, still from his point of view, but combined with a real diversity. If you haven't listened before then I can really recommend his podcasts. Try not to get bogged down by the fact that a few of his guests lack a little....pzazz. What they tell you can not only help you understand table tennis but also help you find someone who relates to what you are doing and provides expert advice without you needing to get up off the sofa. 

My newest and best subscription is to a website called Table Tennis University. It is the big daddy of all online learning. Video after video with precise coaching and expert advice. Your two main coaches are Tom Lodziak and Coach Tao Li. They are the guides on a very long journey that takes you from a beginner holding a bat to the most advanced drills such as the counter loop. All are explained with pin point accuracy, though you might have to get over the fact that in the early days the small child with Coach Li isn't able to do almost any drill. It does serve to show us all how difficult even the most simple things can be in table tennis.

If you are new to the sport I highly recommend Tom Lodziak's Table Tennis For Beginners series. He is the most easy to listen to guy out of all the courses and creates really simple and effective videos for basic shots such as the forehand and backhand drive. Likewise, there is a number of drills to follow. If you are looking for some amusement there is a movement video where Tom shows some of the wrong things to do, including the worlds most hilarious 'forehand-backhand' drill.

I had a discussion with both Ben and Karl after I noticed that I had started doing the same mistakes as Karl. Karl obviously being a much higher level than me. Ben noted how you get batches of good table tennis playing children coming out of the same places in China. The reason for this is usually because you end up copying your peers and the people you respect. I copy Karl as he coaches me, he's of a similar age and one of the more orthodox club players I have around me. Likewise, I copy Ben because he is my coach, he tells me to copy him and he is awesome at table tennis! I have played table tennis with Ben, however, for half the time I have played with Karl so I have picked up a few bad habits along the way. The Table Tennis University guys are doing things right. Therefore, they are great people to copy. Even if you are just watching the video I think there is a process of osmosis that allows the "best practice" to sink in. Therefore, the more you watch the more you will learn but above all you will also understand what is not "best practice" and how to avoid it. It can be too easy, as I have said before, to take on any piece of advice that anyone gives you. Table Tennis University will give you the tools to "cherry pick" the information you need and discard the rest.

My final teaching find is a guy called EmRatThich (pronounce that if you dare) on youtube. A lot of his videos are pretty crazy. The thing is they are also some of the cleverest table tennis videos on the web. I think both me and Ben would recommend the Ma Long "power from the ground video as a particular highlight but the third ball attack is also a classic. The great thing about the EmRatThich videos are they use real footage of top players, therefore you get a good idea of how these shots work in practice and how the top competitors train. He is a bit wacky and sometimes the English is a little stilted but the the coaching techniques are great. He seems to also just be a massive fan of table tennis which also helps!

My other big web based table tennis hobby is simply the short videos you get of pros. The highlight reels so to speak. If you are short of time or have too much time on your hands a quick dip into the world of professional table tennis can satisfy most fans. It is not like you won't learn anything either, from the movement to where they strike the ball to how they stand, all of it is something to observe and learn from. I have to admit, these guys won't be teaching you the basics any time soon but they will be absolutely smashing (often literally) some of the most advanced shots in table tennis. If you follow people like Table Tennis Daily, the Ittf (International Table Tennis Federation) or pingpong_channel then you will get hundred if not thousands of little clips to watch the best players do the best points and the best shots. Just remember to also follow me (epictabletennis!!!).

My last tips are to all to do with what you should do if you are on your own. The first thing to do, if you have a bat and a ball is to practice contact with backspin. It is great for learning to serve to just serve the ball with backspin onto the floor. It also shows how good the backspin you are generating is. I also do side spin serves around the island unit in my kitchen to see if I can get it to do a full circle (with the help of the walls!). My second tip is to shadow play. Shadowing, you may have seen in my early videos, is basically playing table tennis without the ball. It turns out you can still learn that way and its much easier to win when there's no opponent or ball. Sometimes in the shower I shadow without even having a bat! The forehand, backhand switch is so key to table tennis at a decent level, therefore playing without having to think about a ball as well can really help. I will do another post on gym work but I wanted to give it a quick mention as things like fast feet on ladders or med-ball twists etc. can really help your precision and power as well as making you fitter for a long hard season.

If you are lucky and have a table at home but no friends and no robot (like me), there is still a lot you can do. I practice my serves almost every day. A lot of people say my serves are really good in games and when I am nervous and not playing well they often get my out of trouble. Practicing serves gives you such a big advantage in games from cheap points to setting up attacks that I would advise everybody to take time to practice them as much as possible. My last tip is all about self multiballing. You may have seen my instagram videos with me dropping a ball on the table for me to smash and hit a forehand for. However, it can be done for practically any shot from a smash to a push (maybe excluding looping). It isn't perfect and no substitute for other humans or a robot but it does the job if you need it to keep both your eye in and perfect bits and pieces of technique. I do bits of it most days just so I am at least thinking about my technique during the day. My big piece of advice is to do a fair bit of this sort of work but not too much. Aside from being a bit mind numbing, it can also create bad habits as there is nobody watching you. Balls will also not have the correct spin or any movement so you will naturally strike a stationary ball in a different way.

In summary, we cannot replicate table tennis without any of the facilities of table tennis very easily. What we can do is provide some fantastic accessories to help all styles of player from the dedicated player who will stand outside practicing services and religiously learn from Table Tennis University to the beginner looking for some expert advice from experttabletennis.com and practicing serves on the lounge floor. We all are in different points on our journey and we don't always have a buddy, a table and a bat handy but maybe, just maybe, we can still become better table tennis players just sitting at our desks. Now there's a thought.



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