Balance Your Game
With 30 years of world-class Karate background and experience, below is a Quick analysis and summary, of concepts I see being taught these days worldwide, that goes against all basic fundamentals of general body action when committing to any action in table tennis:
When contacting the ball and follow-through, the heals of the feet come up; and when retreating from ball contact, the heals go down feet flat. This is actually “ass backwards.” When contacting the ball, and through follow-through, the feet should be flat, then immediately raise the heal of the foot to allow mobility. Like a coil spring bouncing off the ground – this prevents the body from becoming off-balanced or forced backwards, and allows better mobility because you are mobile on recovery to get to the next shot.
In Traditional Karate, it is not the art of always being in balance, but how to become balanced and centered from an imbalanced position… In application to table tennis, most players “lean” to get those out of balanced position balls – this is an imbalanced state. There is a technique in karate called “shifting.” This is where the lower body, generated from the lower stomach area, quickly contracts and shifts the entire body forward, and at the same time, your stance narrows to within 2 shoulder lengths max in width – both toes are pointing towards the table target area, both feet flat to the ground, knees slightly bent, knees with pressure outwards, for a momentary second, then the body totally relaxes to move to the next shot. You are in balance at this time and ready for whatever comes your way.
Most players think “shoulders” when rotating or shifting into ball contact position. This is totally an incorrect concept – although the by-product is that the shoulders do rotate.. “Thinking” shoulders, mentally translates to upper body arm strength, shoulder tension and raising, and results lower body off balanced due to heals of the feet coming up and leaning with the upper body - as well as a much slower body movement and over extended follow-through.
Follow-through of shots commonly extend past the half way point of the stroke, or past the 90 degree point in relation to the edge of the table to center of table during the shot. When the follow-through goes past this point, the body is seriously off balanced, and almost all players raise the heal of one of both feet and bend legs and knees. Then when opponent punch blocks that shot, the player is already over extended, off balanced, and almost never recovers in time to get the returned shot. Also, this is a sign of shoulder focus, and not lower body focus. When “snapping” or “shifting” into position, and not going past half way, and when you relax you are already in position to accept the next shot – meaning not having to first recover from the out of balanced over extension in the first place because you never over-extended in the first place.
General body movement from one position to the next appears to be a primary focus from trainers. Although this is an important factor, too much focus is on robot like movements and stances, when movement should be natural and relaxed until the exact moment of ball contact – with ready tension applied to the stance. “Walking or running to the ball” should be natural and continual movement and not committing to a stance until you reach the ball and actually make ball contact. At this exact moment, you quickly “plant” both feet flat, knees slightly bent (not past front toes), and immediately release tension to your ball of the feet for quick recovery, mobilization, and positioning for the next shot. It’s not as important how you move to a position, but how you are able to immediately become balanced at the moment of actual ball contact – meaning to plant into position as in item 4 above.
I feel there needs to be some drastic changes in table tennis in regards to the continual mis-training of improper body action that is not taught or truly misunderstood to the level that it is taught in traditional karate. Regularly in traditional karate (JKA), these concepts are taught in extreme depth for team and international training. Body action perfection becomes a must. I also feel table tennis may benefit from my experience, and I also feel I need to pass this information on before my days come and this information is lost for good…