The Easiest Movement and Its Significance

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
By

Ethan Chua

Introduction

Many player movements are made in table tennis.  Movements are made with our hand-wrist axis, our forearm, our upper arm, our upper body, our waist, and our legs.  These movements are made in a coordinated manner in the course of playing the game.  The length and speed of the movements vary depending on a number of variables.  All this being said, there is one movement that is easier than all the others.  In fact, it is the only movement where the level of capability to make this movement is essentially equivalent throughout the many player levels.  No other movement may correctly make this claim.

The Significance of the Easiest Movement

Why does it matter which is the easiest movement?  It is noteworthy because this movement has important implications for playing table tennis at a high level.  The significance is found in the observation that the very large majority of the fastest shots in our sport have topspin.  The faster the shot the greater the time response requirements.  Responding to a topspin shot in a high-quality manner requires the player to contact the top half of the ball.  To do so, the player must create a ball-to-racket relationship that results in this ball contact point.

In contrast, shots with nospin or underspin consistently are slower.  Our time response requirements are much lower for these types of shots than for the faster topspin shots.  Responding to an underspin shot in a high-quality manner requires the player to contact the bottom half of the ball.  To do so, the player must create a ball-to-racket relationship that results in that ball contact point.

The Easiest Movement in Table Tennis

The easiest movement in table tennis is lowering the racket.  In contrast, raising the racket to respond to a fast shot is a very challenging task, given the time response demands.  (Those readers of scientific bent may reflect upon gravity at this point in the argument.)  Therefore, following from the above discussion, the prudent approach would be to use a racket ready position appropriate for the more time-demanding shots.  As previously stated, the most common time-demanding shots have topspin.  The racket ready position suitable for this is a high position, where the racket is held above the height of the elbow.  From this position, the player is most prepared for the demands of topspin shots.

In employing the high racket ready position, the far less challenging counter demand of responding to underspin and nospin shots may be accommodated by employing the easiest movement in table tennis.  (It is more than a bit ironic that the easiest movement available to us is most often applied to the slowest shots within the sport.)

Conclusion

A high racket ready position, one in which the racket is above the elbow, best prepares the player for the most common highly demanding shots in table tennis, the fast topspin shots.  Typical adaptation to the slower shots is accomplished very efficiently by employing the easiest movement in table tennis, lowering the racket.

This article was adapted from a chapter in the book: PATT – A Principles Approach to Table Tennis, available at http://www.thepattinstitute.com.

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