Table tennis?
January 29, 2006 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Table tennis?

I'm going to sign up for intramural table tennis at my university. I love playing, but growing up I've developed all kinds of bad habits and I also have very little knowledge outside of generic paddles and spin techniques. I want to take my game to the next level, starting with a solid paddle for my play style. I use a modified pen-hold grip (two fingers in front of the handle, two behind the handle, with the thumb over two fingers on the front). I play a slower game with dramatic spin and very little top spin/hard strikes.

First of all, I want a good paddle. Looking online I determined that there are two variables, and two sides of the spectrum for each variable. The blade, which can either be fast or slow, and the rubber, which can either be spinny/fast (I'm assuming it's sticky and hard) or more control oriented (I'm assuming here it takes spin off the ball and absorbs impact). I am thinking I want a slower blade with spinny/fast rubber and a flared handle(do I?). Also, I don't mind paying 70 dollars for this paddle, but I wanted to know if these are overpriced toys with little return for your money or necessary to a solid game. Are there maybe cheaper places on the 'net to buy them than the first hits on google? Am I confused, and I should be buying a fast blade with control rubber?

Secondly, I need a way to strengthen my backhand. My forehand is strong, and I can put several directions of spin on it, but when the ball gets to the left of me I am only able to put enough top spin on it to return it without it missing the table, and it slows down dramatically. Any ideas, stances/footwork, use the force Luke, etc. would be appreciated.

The only reason I ask such an aggressive question to a seemingly innocent game/intramural activity is that there are a lot of asians at my university. I've seen them play at the rec centers here, and let me tell you, it isn't beer and ping pong in the garage anymore.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think you're being unreasonable at all... The paddle can make all the difference in the world to the game. If you're primarily playing players of equal or greater skill level, you'll simply never win if you don't have a decent paddle.

I used to rock a $50 Stiga that was bad ass. They have a lot of choices, and I've never picked up a paddle of theirs that I didn't like.

As for the backhand, that's always been my problem, too. I think a lot of it just has to do with being able to predict the ball coming there. One thing I tried, with some success, was cheating towards that side by keeping my left leg back (I'm right handed). It took some power and control off my forehand, but let me get over to that side quicker... It also kept my body untwisted and my motion more like throwing a frisbee.
posted by dsword at 6:06 PM on January 29, 2006

I used to play a lot...years ago. I used a similar pen holder grip with a Butterfly paddle...can't believe how the technology ( and price ) has changed ...makes me feel old. Anyway, I always cheated a half step to the left to make up for the lack of backhand, and playing a defensive shot if it was low. If it was higher, I would try to play a swooping half circle to spin it left . I found the left side to be my friend, and tried to force the opponent to play it to my right, where I could slam it. But as good as I thought I was, there was occasionally some guy who could hand me my ass using an old sandpaper paddle. :)
posted by lobstah at 6:30 PM on January 29, 2006

Stiga AllRound Classic blade with Mendo MP rubber. Decent on both speed and spin.
posted by Gyan at 8:12 PM on January 29, 2006

Back in the day when I used to play a lot, the Butterfly paddle was the shiznit. My friends and I dominated to Junior High and High School tables like a gang of vigilantes, and we just used to school's sandpaper paddles. But if you play with a lot of spin, any of the high-end paddles are going to work just fine.

As far as the backhand is concerned, I never played with a pen-grip and cannot envision how you could get any type of speed / topspin in your backhand using that grip. With the 'normal' grip, if I wanted to slam / pick up the pace, I always placed my left foot forward ( I am LEFT handed ) pretty much straight in front of my torso. And then just did a 'wax off' motion starting by my belly button and then doing an arc motion with a little wrist flick. If I wanted to do a little curve ball, I would open up the paddle, and do a slicing motion.

I would bet there are some animated gif's or movies on the web that will get you headed in the right path.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:08 AM on January 30, 2006

I played doubles daily for over a year with 3 Chinese nationals I was working with at the time. I got very good quickly, and fully embraced the pen hold style. Used foot work to compensate for the weak backhand, although I developed a weird reverse backhand for emergencies that worked pretty well. One of these friends bought me a Double Happiness paddle as a gift during a trip to visit her family in Nanjing. It's beautiful. I never thought I'd get choked up over a table tennis paddle.
posted by Scoo at 7:21 AM on January 30, 2006

I've bought 3 blades over the years, and enjoyed each one a little more. You might go to a table-tennis open play in your area and ask to try a few peoples racquets (if they're the friendly sort). I found that there is a significant difference in the feeling of the different styles of handles, rubbers, foam, balance, and total weight that affected my game. And I'm not very good (that is, I'm unrated).
The one I've been happiest with is a Butterfly Sriver-D13-L, but I use handshake grip. You will be fine with a pre-glued paddle, I'm certain.

If you want your rubber to last, get a case to put the paddle in. Yes, you'll look more 'serious', but you'll also save 'money' when your rubber lasts yers instead of months.

You'll find that watching good players and studying thier backhand will be immesurably helpful. Then get a buddy who'll hit the ball to your backhand 50 times, or play a 'backhand only' game, or anything that forces you to use it. Mine was horrible for years because I would run around to avoid using it. Of course, once you face good players, you'll be toast if you can't hit it reasonably well from either side.
posted by Four Flavors at 9:17 AM on January 30, 2006

I would definately recommend a double happiness paddle. Nothing else compares for the penholder grip for me (then again, I used to switch between that and handshake on the fly - advantage of having teeny hands).

I'd personally recommend having a defensive backhand and offensive forehand. Footwork does indeed go a long way though.
posted by Mossy at 12:48 PM on January 30, 2006

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