I haven't blogged in a while because well I haven't been playing a lot! My new job has required some business travel (a new thing for me) which has caused me to miss about a month of playing since January. That combined with fewer hours at the table (no table at new workplace) means my level has slipped somewhat. I would really like to play more but it's just one of those periods.
In any case, the time away (relatively speaking) from the game has given me a chance to look back on the last eight years of table tennis mania. And while I never became a good player I can honestly say I had a lot of fun and did manage to learn a few things along the way. I'd like to do my civic duty and pass on these few crumbs of knowledge but frankly they're nothing new and if you're anything like me you'll ignore them and go out and learn for yourself.
The first is to get coaching and the second is to not take your coach seriously. By this I mean that many coaches in my experience are pointlessly dogmatic about table tennis technique. They have a total blind spot to the fact that in many cases whatever technical nicety they're teaching you is violated by many top professionals. In table tennis there are only a small set of absolute wrong ways of doing things and by a long period of sifting through many coaching sessions I can probably list all of them on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand are all the fingers representing all the wrong ways of doing things that coaches have taught me over the years which number many dozens or hundreds. E.g., don't hold your wrist this way (but top 10 player X does that), don't do that with your elbow (but these three top 20 players all do that), on your backhand backswing don't hold your racket that way (but current world #7 does that), etc.
By all means listen to your coach, but absolutely don't be afraid to confront them with disconfirming evidence that they're wrong about something. And if something they're trying to teach you doesn't feel right or make sense to you then confront them about it. If they don't budge or don't listen, get another coach.
By the way this is the intersection of all my coaching lessons:
1. Stay on the balls of your feet as much as possible during a point.
2. Try to move your weight forward when striking the ball. This does not have to be a big movement, it might only be a subtle shift of your weight a few inches forward. Your feet don't necessarily have to move to shift your weight.
3. On your forehand rotate your torso, i.e., don't swing with just your arm (unless you really don't have time).
4. On your backhand try to keep the ball in front of you when you make contact.
5. Understand that moving your feet is 75% of whatever shot you're trying to make. Don't get too obsessed over elbows, wrists, fingers, grips, racket angles, etc. In table tennis your feet are the most important body part. I've seen many intermediate level players (better than me) with absolutely cr*ppy technique who nevertheless play at a decent level. I used to puzzle over this until I realized that they all have one thing in common which is that they all move very well and are light on their feet, mobile, and agile.
On the equipment side of the game it's another thing entirely. In this arena I am in all modesty a complete professional. My advice to you, dear beginning or intermediate player is this. First, all wood blades are fine. All that fancy composite stuff that marketing departments try to push so hard can safely be ignored. Second, you can almost not have a blade which is too slow. Defensive blades for a offensive looping game are fine, perhaps even preferable. And third, 1.8 or 1.9 mm thick sponges are fine. Maximum thickness sponges are tough to play with unless you train a lot. And don't get anything too soft, you'll like it at first because of all the spin but in the long run a thinner but firmer sponge will be better all around. Of course all of this is very subjective, something to keep in mind as well.