There are basically two things to watch out for in playing ping pong:

1. Where is the ball 2. Where are you On "where is the ball", you should watch: 1.1 Where does it hit your side of the table 1.2 How is it hit by the other guy(direction? speed? spin?) 1.3 Where does it hit the other side of the table in serving On "where you are": 2.1 Have you respond to the change of the ball's trajectory by your opponent? 2.2 Do you know precisely where you are when you hit the ball? 2.3 Are you responding accordingly to the ball's spin? How do you do all that? * Take snap shot with your eyes each time ball bounces or is hit * Move you body each time too, to prepare for the on-coming ball * Touch the ground every time with your foot before you strike the ball, so you know precisely where you are. * Swing the racket in the same or opposite direction of the spin, for anything else means loss of control. The opposite direction is safer since you would be going in the same direction of the outgoing ball, so you would have more interaction time. Furthermore, you are guarrantteed to rub the ball, rather than letting the ball slip on the racket, so you would be redirecting and controlling the spin of the outgoing ball.

Finally, it's always easy said, then done. Although ping pong can be played in any way you want, but if you want to play the way described above and be as good as you could, you should try to pick up as many as you can the ten skills described below. These ten skills are presented in the forms of ten lessons here.

But before we start, you, or your coach or parent, should decide whether you should hold the paddle shakehand or penholder and the kind rubber sheet to cover the paddle. If penholder, be sure just to hold it as if you are writing with the paddle -- like a pen, that is.

You should always remember to use chiefly your brain, eyes and legs to play, rather than the hand and arm. Let the hand and arm take care of themselves. Most any-way-you-want players suffer from a crippling weakness of not seeing the ball and not responding to it because they are distracted by too much concentration on using hand and arm to strike the ball.

In the following descriptions, unless otherwise specified, you should hit the ball flat or with little natural top spin, which is achieved by rubbing the oncoming ball with a upward motion of the paddle.

Lesson One

Two, not one, motions are involved in striking a ball. You should start with a "receiving" backward swing first, then the "sending-off" forward swing. The receiving swing should be the reverse identical of the sending-off swing. The receiving swing serves as an aiming mechanism. It's the skill you would really need to learn to become steady at hitting the ball back.

This skill, however, is the first but the least important. It is presented first because it is the minimum skill you should learn, especially for those any-way-you-want players. For those who want to be continually improving in their ping pong career, please consider this skill as a potential cause of distraction. It's those skills that involve the eyes and the legs are where you should always keep your mind on.

In this lesson, you should try to hit with your partner 100 times without miss on both the right- and left-hand sides. Keep on slowing the ball down until you can make the 100. In this and future practices, the best attitude to take is that when one player misses the ball, it is because the other player fails to send over a easy enough a ball to hit. Also, in all future sparring practice(excluding serve and serve return), any time the shot is missed before 30 exchanges should be considered as practicing to MISS.

Lesson Two

Say out loud, "ping", when the ball bounces on your side of the table and "pong" when it touches your paddle. Do this on both the right and left sides until you reach 100.

Lesson Three

Jump when the ball bounce on your side of the table. Go down to kick the floor and then bounce up exactly the same as the ball. Do 100 on both sides for the combined skills 1 and 2.

Lesson Four

Jump at the moment the other player hit the ball. Get ready and jump at exactly the moment the other player's paddle touches the ball. Do 100, for the combined skills number 1, 2 and 3.

Lesson Five

In returning a serve, jump at the moment the ball bounces on the other side of the table. Notice you need two quick hops now to respond to what happens on the other side of the table. This is the one of the two reasons why returning the serve is the most difficult skill in ping pong. The other one is to be described in Lesson Nine. But if the two-hop motion is too tough, just jump on the ball's bounce on the table.

Pratice until time runs out. This is the practice and attitude that you should take toward serving and its returning. If you want to be good, practice serving and returning until either time or patience runs out.

Lesson Six

Simply move your paddle downward in the same, but reverse, way how you are planning to move it upward to strike the ball, so you will be rubbing the ball in an upward motion at contact.

Do a 100, with one player still hit the ball flat, then alternate. Finally try to both do it, to a 100, but take it ease.

Lesson Seven

This is the reverse of the topspin shot. Your paddle goes up first, then down. But notice the ball in this case floats further out and lands slower than a no spin shot. By the same physics, topspinned balls lands earlier on the table and strike the table harder. To accommodate the spin, you should try to wait longer and lift harder to return a chopped ball and, conversely, to be quick in getting close on top of the bounce and press down harder to return a topspin ball.

Lesson Seven

You should go to the two extremes on this downward-swing serve. First, try to keep you paddle as horizontal as you can and hit the ball lightly to as close to the net as you can, while always keep the ball as low as possible. Next, try to keep the paddle vertical and hit the ball hard and to as close to the end of the table(farest from the net) as possible. Again practice until time runs out.

It is impossible to overemphasis the importance of serve and its return. When your serve is carrying your game, you are on a win streak. Everything you do on the table is now aimed at the final put away. Paddy-caking rallies, however intense and arobatic they may appear, are for the birds. The serves become the nails for the coffin.

Conversely, good returning of serve can stop the bleeding. But returning is so much harder to learn well than the serve. Further more it is difficult to find players with good serves to sacrifice himself and let you learn to disarm his most powerful weapon. Plead with your coach or dad to make this sacrifice.

The quality of various serves span such a wide range, that certain killer serves to one level of players are setup-to-be-killed serves for higher-level players. It is suffice to end this lesson by describing three serves that may still hold no answer to the receiver. When your game seems to hit its limit, you should really dig down into these three serves, piling on top of them all the antiques you can muster, like double motion, hiding the way the ball is struck with your elbow and stump your foot to drown away the strikiing sound of the ball.

The first, and the best, is a "crashing serve". This is the fastest serve you can manage to produce. Three criteria measure the effective of the serve:

(1) You must be able to stay calm in serving this supposedly the most scary serve deliverable,
(2) The contacting of the ball with the paddle and then the table should be so closely that it almost appears to be simultaneous, and
(3) The angle of the paddle should either never be revealed or revealed at the very last split second. This skill is equivalent to the slip of the hand of a card-trick magician.

The second is a "grinding" serve. This is done by grinding the ball into the table by swinging the paddle down on the ball so fast that you actually feel a backward kick. The objective is to throw off the other player's timing. Use it when you anticipate that the other player is going to attack your next serve.

The third is a "floating" serve. This is done by strike ball horizontally in such a way that it become difficult for the other players to estimate the direction and speed of the ball. You almost have to appear as if even you yourself can not tell where the ball is going. But practicing long enough, you will, but not the other guy.

Lesson Eight

Swing the racket: sideways, upward or downward, horizontally and vertically, and you will get the corresponding spin in your serve. But it is all in the practice. Practice each until you feel your paddle actually "bited" into the ball. Trust me, you will!

Lesson Nine

This is very much the last skill you need, for you may never really get it in your life time. For even world class players, it seems most of them stop short at just hopping and jumping in sync with the served ball.

But if you want to become better than world-class, you need learn how to attack the serve. To attack the serve, besides the hopping and jumping, you need to either "rub" the ball or "chase" the spin of the oncoming served ball aggresively. Rubbing means braking the spin by swinging into the ball in the opposite direction of the spin and then send it off in the same direction into which the ball is rolling off the paddle. This, however, should only be applied to side- and top-spin serves.

To rub the ball, your stroke should move your paddle in the same direction, such as left to right, as the direction the server stroke. In so doing, you would not only "brake" the ball, but also following it out in the same direction. The braking gives you the control over the ball, while the following gives you longer contact time. Naturally, once you get used to do it, you would want to be aggresive in your return. Teeing off on a superspinny serve is really entirely possible, if you can rub it right.

A word of caution is due here. When you first try this, you would find your reflex slows down considerably. This is because you are now using the slow-reacting brain, rather than the automatic reflex motor muscle. Luckily most of us ping pong players can still have a lot of fun without this strange skill.

To chase the ball, you swing in the same direction as the spin. This is the only way you can attack a downspin, or chopped, ball. And you achieve this by move your paddle in the opposite way as the server. Be sure to hold the paddle lightly while you are doing it, for you need a lot of speed to chase pass the ball.

Lesson Ten

Except for the anti-social, winning-is-the-only-thing players, most of us would probably follow an approach to ping pong that balance nicely between exercise and improvement. Here is how:

1. Topspin practice(>100 uninterrupted exchanges):

   (1) Hit forehand to forehand(right to right)
   (2) Hit backhand to backhand
   (3) Hit forehand to backhand
   (4) Hit backhand to forehand
   (5) Do figure 8, one down the line, the other cross court
   (6) Reverse figure 8, the other way around
   (7) Randomly left or right

2. Flat shot or blocking

   (1) One player topspins in random direction
       and the other block back close off the table and flat.
   (2) Switch

3. Backspin

   (1) Do it randomly.  Gradually try to move your legs more and your
       hands less to hide the direction of the outgoing ball.

4. Serve, Serve and Serve

   (1) Buy a table or a serve practicing setup and practice on your own
   (2) Warmup before matches by letting each player serve the whole 21 points

5. Return

   (1) Warmup like the serve.

6. Handicap matches

   Except in tournaments, make all practice matches count by playing
   them based on the current handicaps.  The game starts with the
   score equal to the difference in the handicap.  If the difference
   is greater than 20, the lower-handicap player starts with negative
   points.  And, after each game, this difference changes by one point
   depending on who wins.  The weaker player always has the serve.
   Try to play until each player win at least once.

   The winner should report the final handicap standing, making the best
   judgement as to how the handicaps should be updated.  In the next
   encounter, the players should start with the latest handicap standings.

   This silly handicap system is sure to turn off a lot of players out there.
   So why it's there in the first place?  Well, this is one of the many
   attempts AAPPL would try to "glue" all ping pong players together.
   As unappetizing as this ritual may seems, if it should ever become a
   routine practice by all players, just imagine the potential number
   of visitors to our pingpongneters' website.  We really could obtain a lot
   more support from public and private institutions, if we can should
   some numbers.

As you become comfortable with the skills presented above, you should
find youself able to generate power from your waist, initiated by
a kicking-off on the floor.  You should try to keep you body low by bending
your legs and, if you are tall, at the waist.

As you get less nervous on the table, you should try to let go of your
paddle more by holding it lightly.  The only time you can squeeze hard
on your paddle's handle is at the moment of contact of the ball.  But
that is a skill reversed only for the pros.  For most of us, one of
the frequent causes of our missing the ball is holding the paddle too tight,
out of nervousness.

One final piece of reminder must be mentioned here.  You want to spend
your time on the table to get a good sweat, not a big ego.  Winning
is fine, but be careful not to
win te battle but lose the war.





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