Table Tennis Tidbits #37

By Robert Ho | Dec. 09, 2018, 9:48 p.m. (ET)

Ma Long forehand loop

TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS # 37  By Robert Ho  1-3-17


The (Ma) “Long and Short of the FH Loop”


The “final common pathway” of the complex chain of joint and bodily movements, presented in Tidbits # 36, is the blade which strikes the ball.  The force imparted to the ball is the product (mathematically speaking) of mass and acceleration.  In this discussion the focus is on maximum acceleration, as suggested by the point-winning FH loop of Ma Long.  Obviously other strokes or situations call for less than maximum acceleration as in pushing, chopping, blocking, etc.


Stroke technique is far more important than body size or body weight in generating maximum force in the FH loop.  To produce the big swing of Ma Long requires the stroking arm to maintain minimal elbow flexion (no more than 10-15 degrees) thru the moment of ball contact with major bodily rotation in following thru.  The associated shoulder rotation may be 180 degrees.  Ma’s technique results in more body mass mobilization combined with very rapid movement to produce major force thru the blade.  This is distinctly different from the technique of much more limited overall movement (shoulder rotation about 100 degrees) illustrated in the video of 5 times U.S. Champion Sean O’Neill.  It is also obviously more aggressive than the bent elbow technique of  German and European Champion Timo Boll plainly visible in their encounter in this video.


The force generated by Ma’s technique allows maximal exploitation of the Chinese rubber on his FH.  The very firm sponge (“harder” than most Japanese and European products) requires more compression to access its maximal elastic potential for speed. Simultaneously the sticky surface rubber imparts major spin to the ball.  So the very forceful stroke exploits the properties of the rubber which harnesses the power of the stroke.


It is dramatically obvious how much more quickly Ma moves than some of his opponents with intimidating effect.  Ma was # 1 in the world at the time the video was made.  Ryu (South Korea), Tokic (Slovenia), Boll (Germany) have each been #1 at one time or another in his respective country.  Few enthusiasts will reach international caliber; yet what a marvelous example of what to strive for in Ma’s performance.


Some tactics inferred from Ma’s performance:

1. Make a powerful stroke as soon as you can in keeping with your level of consistency.

2. “Acting” first, rather than “reacting”, is more likely to win the point.

3. Aggressively counterattack if you can’t attack first.

4. Reserve defensive moves when 1, 2, and 3 aren’t feasible.