It's been a while since I've blogged about ping pong. (Last entry in a series about learning the basic reverse penhold backhand stroke is here.) What hasn't been covered though is the integration of the reverse penhold backhand into the game. This one can do after initial acquisition of the stroke. One can do this with any practice partner who can return or block a ball with reasonable consistency: a basket of balls can make up to some extent for a high-level player or coach (though it is likely more balls of higher quality will be returned by a good coach). A first step towards integration is to be able to do drills where a practice partner will direct one ball to each side of the table in turn. This kind of drill, as opposed to the "static" kind (in which the ball is directed to the same side each time), significantly increases the difficulty level because one is forced to move, adjust and recover in rapid succession. It is one thing to be able to consistently play the ball from one side only, quite another to be able to do it on the fly. Any weakness in set up and balance not apparent during a static drill will be exposed here, manifesting as poorer quality shots as the rally progresses from the first ball to subsequent ones. The following Youtube clip took place in Warabi (蕨) municipal sports center in Saitama prefecture (埼玉県), just outside metropolitan Tokyo but nearly 3000 km from the practice tables of the Century South China Club in Shenzhen. (My friend Hideya Watanabe is my willing practice partner. The drill is to drive the ball back to his backhand side irrespective of whether the ball comes to my forehand or backhand.)
(Direct link: here.)
Viewing a recording of the drill is especially helpful in spotting weaknesses and details that one can earmark for improvement next practice.
(As I'm also using the forehand stroke, I can see that it needs work in setup and followthrough... but that's another topic!)
Of course, having a good coach give immediate and helpful feedback during the drill is even better.
Fitness-wise, having to move from side to side and hit balls at the rate of nearly one per second can be an aerobic challenge. On this drill, I go through one basket of balls in about 5-6 mins. I recuperate by returning the favor to my friend by feeding the ball for him.
BTW, this drill also illustrates the value of the reverse penhold stroke, I simply cannot imagine doing this drill using penhold forehand only: the amount of footwork required would be staggering!
More drills to come...