Thursday, February 17, 2011
Shenzhen Ping Pong: reverse penhold paddle
In this blog entry, I'd like to return to consider the topic of the penhold grip, first introduced here. There are two basic styles of penhold blades: Chinese (round head, flared handle) and Japanese (rectangular head, built-up cork handle with a hook for the index finger). The Japanese blade favors a powerful forehand loop and the Chinese blade perhaps provides for a more flexible wrist in over the table play. Recently, there also has been some interest in developing blades that favor the reverse penhold backhand stroke. The picture on the right shows a penhold blade that I've modified for this very purpose. Some background first. I've been blogging about the reverse penhold stroke for a while now: for example, see entries in December 2010, Feb 2010 and October 2009. The videos show that my reverse backhand stroke has evolved over the course of this time period (and is still evolving). Learning a brand-new backhand isn't easy, especially if you want the new reverse backhand to dominate and supercede the traditional backhand, a stroke developed over many years. There are claims that new grip designs can make the reverse backhand stroke stronger and more consistent. For example, one can convert an existing blade, as in the SuperCPen design here), or build a blade from the ground up, as in the Gushi penhold blade (古氏直拍) (here). Interested in improving my reverse backhand, I purchased a Gushi blade to see what the fuss was about. It has an ingenious cut-out in the handle and an extension to the head to allow the thumb to rest comfortably horizontal with good support. Unfortunately, the Japanese-style blade weigh 106g (vs. about 86g for my current blade), and the blade itself is much slower than my preferred Butterfly Amultart. The extreme weight (for a penhold-style blade) meant I could only hit for about 10 minutes before fatigue set in. In short, I believe the Gushi cannot hold a candle to my Amultart blade; nevertheless I determined that its idea of supporting the length of the thumb had definite merit for grip stability, and consequently the power and reliability of the reverse backhand stroke. If only I could try an Amultart Gushi... Someone suggested the possibility of epoxying a thumb grip (weighing 8g) to a regular penhold blade. Before modifying the rather expensive Amultart, I tried adding a rough thumb grip (sourced from wood scraps from a guitar maker) to an old Sword blade. However, the epoxy attachment wasn't secure, and thumb lever force made it fall off after about 10 mins of reverse backhand play. But the concept seemed sound. I then took a Dremel tool to the thumb grip and reshaped it to custom contour it to the Amultart blade and the length of my thumb. And employed an excess of epoxy to fill in any gaps to make sure it could withstand thumb lever force. Result is shown below: Front and back: In the hand: For me, the extra thumb grip is a definite enhancement to my Butterfly Amultart blade. It's early days yet with the modification, but I can feel my reverse backhand is considerably more stable, powerful and reliable. Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Jiwu Duan and his guitar-maker friend for making this project possible!