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In most of the twentieth century table tennis was played with hard bats ie wooden blades without sponges and with pimples out rubbers. There still are hardbat or 'sandpaper' styles being played, for example click Youtube hardbat table tennis, to watch anachronisms of this game.

The following is copied from Table Tennis ACT:

"In the season 1951-52 all this was changed when the Japanese turned up - or more particularly when Satoh turned up. At this time there was no really standardised table tennis bat; a player could use anything he fancied. Satoh's was one of the most extraordinary ever seen in the game. It was an enormous sponge bat - it looked like an ordinary bath sponge, consisting of a middle of wood with outer facings of pure sponge, two inches thick, on each side. 

 

Satoh

It almost destroyed table tennis. Satoh was not a great player, but with that bat, he was like a 2000 Formula One Grand Prix racing car taking on a 1932 Austin Seven. No one had ever seen such speed. When he hit a ball, nobody could return it. He did not have to develop superlative skills; he simply stuck his bat out, touched the ball - and sheer blinding pace beat everyone in sight. Games became farcical. In the end, the English Table Tennis Association was compelled to ban it. Bats became standardised.

In the old days, a game of table tennis could continue for hours with those who had perfected defensive play generally coming out on top. Barna, Bergmann, Leach were all great defensive players. With the advent of sponge, however, attack and aggression became the norm and instead of long rallies, players went for a quick kill. Rallies became shorter and shorter and the technical skills became more profound. Fitness, dedication, concentration and agility - all the attributes of a natural athlete - counted for more and more. Shots became increasingly spectacular. Players were forced to move further and further away from the table."

At our club we coach modern table tennis. You need to buy quality smooth rubber with sponge and play an aggressive game. There aren't many players at the higher grades or world level not playing aggressive style which includes driving, looping, smashing and blocking aggressively. Although there is small percentage of defensive style players, mainly choppers and using no-spin rubbers or short pimples, these players rely on their opponents being unfamiliar with their style to win, but once you learn how to play defensive styles, you should generally come out on top because your defensive opponent relies on your mistakes to win, or your shots become so soft or ineffective that he smashes the occasional high ball combined with his normal defensive chops.

Ma Long. Even when he is out of position, he will attempt a strong loop or speedy block. These days a soft return to a good opponent will generally result in an unstoppable smash, so why delay the inevitable? Go for your shot - it looks good as well! Just dwell on the picture - the epitomy of determination, never die, focus on the ball and finally it doesn't look out of place in a balletic performance.

I certainly do not recommend reckless shots, but your returns must always have good topspin on the ball and returned long and low on the table.

 

 

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