How to Choose the Best Equipment

How to Choose the Best Equipment

But first of all, this is a very long post. So prepare your coffee, or your cup of tea, and read this tutorial.

Relax and learn the art of table tennis blade, the science behind the rubber with me.
Relax and learn the art of table tennis blade, the science behind the rubber with me.

This tutorial is based on my several years of training, playing and coaching. I also have some occasions to discuss this topic “How to choose a table tennis blade and rubber” with some Chinese coaches.

 This tutorial will be updated gradually, bit by bit. So feel free to come back and check it out.

How to choose the best table tennis blade

In all of the equipment in table tennis, I would say the blade is the most important one!

Table Tennis Blade is the wooden part of the racket.

The blade is considered the soul of your playing style. Defender, Allround, Offensive players choose a different type of blade.

Choosing the right blade is crucial in table tennis because the blade decide:

  • 80% of your playing style. Rubber decides only 20%
  • give you the best feeling when you touch the ball
  • give you the ability to spin, or to accelerate the speed of your shots (due to dwell-time)
  • provide the kick effect (the first speed of the bounce) based on the stiffness of the outer layer
  • the main power for your shots when you play far from the table

Liu Guoliang once said:

“Table tennis blade should be an extend of your hand“, said by Chinese National Team Head coach

Liu Guoliang explained about penhold grip of Ryu Seung-min
Liu Guoliang explained about penhold grip of Ryu Seung-min

That’s the reason that you should focus on your blade! Choose the highest quality possible!

So if you can investigate 120$ for your racket, spend about 80$ for the blade, and 20$ for the rubber (2 sides cost 40$).

The purpose of the blade in table tennis

The main difference between Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy about the blade is: Speed and Spin.

Chinese coach says “The blade should be an extension of your hand”. The blade gives you the feeling, and that’s the blade will help you “SPIN” the ball.

While some Western coaches emphasize on the “Speed” behavior of the blade. So in general, Western players will choose OFF, OFF+ blade to gain speed, and combine with softer rubber. While in China, players prefer OFF- blade, and play with very hard rubbers.

I’ve tried and played with both combination “Fast blade + Soft rubber” and “Flexible blade + Hard Rubber”. And I can confirm with you, the latter setup will help you “Improve faster!”.

If you are still confused, read my own experiences in coaching young and beginner players!

Feeling is crucial in table tennis. Chinese kids spend a lot of time to feel the ball.
The “feeling” is crucial in table tennis. Chinese kids spend a lot of time to feel the ball.

What is a high-quality table tennis blade

The high-quality blade is not the cheap and mass production one. It’s the premium quality professional blade made by the experienced maker.

Best table tennis blade offers more spin and crisper feeling during ball contact.

It is the key to increase your potential of winning. So focus on the quality blade which matches your playing style.

Remember, a good blade can make the same spin with a shorter stroke than the low-quality blade.

Butterfly Acrylate Carbon Viscaria
Butterfly Acrylate Carbon Viscaria

Viscaria is considered one of the very good blade in table tennis. It provides the good balance between “Speed”, and “Spin”. The “spin” quality is good. (This is the word of Zhang Jike during an interview). You can buy Viscaria on Amazon, or buy on Ebay easily.

Or Stiga Infinity VPS? Which one is high quality table tennis blade?
Or Stiga Infinity VPS? Which one is a high-quality table tennis blade?

While Butterfly blade has a huge market in the US, and Europe (because they are faster, and harder). Stiga blade is preferred in China.

There are many reasons:

  • The good relationship between Stiga and the Chinese National Team
  • Stiga blade is in general cheaper than Butterfly blade
  • Chinese players prefer the “good old day of feeling” from Stiga blade
  • Stiga blade is somehow more flexible than Butterfly blade
  • Stiga blade in general used “Ayous” outer-plie. While Butterfly prefers using “Koto outer-plie”.

But nowadays, with the “New Trends In Table Tennis”, players tend to play with harder, and faster blade to deal with the plastic ball. Search on my site “New Trends” to learn about this modern tendency in table tennis.

If you want to keep one blade from the beginning to a very high level, you can stick with Stiga blade. Buy the blade from the Stiga (Amazon Store) here.

What are the characteristics of a good blade

Yes, we want the highest quality blade! But how to know which one has the top-notch quality. There are many things about a good blade, I will make a PingSunday video and explain it on my YouTube channel.

A good, high-quality table tennis paddle must have these typical features:

  1. High quality and old wood
  2. Clear vibration, and good flexibility
  3. Strong power on the blade
  4. Good weight distribution between the handle and the head

Many things that I want to explain to you the “art of table tennis blade making”. But I need time. I will share and explain to you all of this when I have free time.

All wood blade vs carbon blade

….

The best flexible table tennis blade

….

How to choose the best racket handle

New players often don’t know how to choose the type of handle for their new blade. They often wonder

  • “What is the difference between a straight and a flared handle for a table tennis paddle?”
  • Or “How to choose the blade handle Type?”

6 different blade handles in table tennis

Here, I will resume and explain the advantage of each type of blade handles in table tennis. It depends on your playing style, that you can decide to choose the best handle for you. There are 6 main handles in table tennis equipment:

  • Flared handle (FL): best for forehand dominant player, best for looping style. Chinese players prefer FL handle the most.
  • Straight handle (ST), both Round Straight Handle (RST) or Square Straight Handle (SQST), good for control style. Smooth backhand-forehand transition. European players prefer using this type of handle. It provides Balance between Backhand and Forehand Power.
  • Chinese Penhold (CPen), only used by Penhold player. Good to serve, and service return. Freedom of wrist. Good with forehand attack closed to the table. Weak on Backhand side.
  • Anatomic handle (UTCan), preferred by a hitter. Fit very well in the arm. Mostly used in the USA. Provide deep grip (narrow grip for hitting). Weak at looping, weak at long distance.
  • Conical handle (Elcon), similar to Flared handle, but rounder. Not very popular. Something between Straight handles and Flared handles. Good for the all-round style, soft style with spin. Not comfortable on a very big hand.
6 types of table tennis blade handles, from OSP
6 types of table tennis blade handle, from OSP Palatinus

My advice to select the best handle

I don’t like (hate) the handle of several commercial table tennis blade. It’s too small. The handle doesn’t give the “confident feeling” in my hand.

Many players give “thank you” and “positive feedback” about my advice on choosing equipment. They improved a lot faster!

Why is the handle too small now?

I really love the old blade in the years of 1960s to 1980s. The handle is well designed, very comfortable, and gives me so much feeling.

But then, the blade handle nowadays is too small. Why? The manufacturer just wants to reduce the prize of the blade for more competitive, for the business. They reduce the handle size because the handle takes a large portion of the wood material. But it’s not good for us, player.

Best blade handle size

Based on the Chinese coaching, the handle must be thick enough. So you can execute correctly the pressure on your shots. Normally, the pressure is performed on your thumb and your index finger.

  • Use Index finger to increase the quality of your forehand shots.
  • Use both Index, and Thumb finger to increase the quality of the backhand shots.

With the thin handle (especially too thin at the top of the handle), you can’t perform well your shots. It’s very bad!

Choose the handle with the thickness more than 22.5 mm on the edge (the head of the handle where you put your finger).

I have known many cases that a player throw away their racket because of the bad handle.

Blade handle length

The perfect handle length is about 100 to 102 mm. Sometimes, defender (chopper) will prefer a longer handle 103 – 104 mm. A longer handle gives you more torque power. The longer handle is better for mid to long distance playing style: like chopper or two wings looper far from the table.

But don’t choose too short handle if you not Penhold player. Nowadays, the commercial blade, the handle length is just only about 90 to 95 mm. They reduce the production cost to increase gain. But this is bad for the players.

Optimal handle length is about 100 to 102 mm.

Best handle that suits your playing style

Table tennis handle for forehand looping style

If you are the forehand dominant player (who loves to finish the point with Forehand loop), you won’t go wrong with the Flared handle. The flared handle has the bigger flare at the end, which gives you more confidence during your forehand shots.

Handle for backhand dominant player

If you are the backhand favorite player (you stay close to the table and attack with your backhand drive or topspin), you should buy Straight handle. The straight handle allows quick transition from backhand to forehand and inverse. A backhand player doesn’t need to hit hard, but they need “speed”. Straight handle offers this option.

Blade handle for hitting style

If you are the hitter, who hit on the bounce, you can choose an Anatomic handle. The anatomic handle gives a unique feel to your hand. It fit very well your palm. This handle type is used to hit hard. It doesn’t suit to spin oriented player.

Blade handle for defender, chopping style

Defender prefers playing with “long” and “straight handle”. The advantage of long handle is: they give the defender more power, more torque power away from the table. 

And why defensive player love straight handle? Because, in many situations, they need to chop, to defend the ball just in front of their body, or far at corners.

So straight handle gives them the ability, the easy maneuver to transfer between the forehand and the backhand side. The best way to attack the defender is to attack the ball “directly to the body” of the defender. So to deal with that, defender prefers using Straight handle.

My advice: If you are the defender, the best handle for you is: RST (Round Straight Handle).

Many top players,  professional defensive player choose the ST handle.

 


I’m new to table tennis. Which racket should I buy?

I won’t tell you the marques of table tennis racket that you should buy because the racket quality and table tennis evolves with time. Of course, you are new in table tennis, and you may hear about best equipment nowadays like Butterfly, Stiga, DHS, Donic, Tibhar, Joola, Cornilleau, Nittaku, Darker, etc. Each year, there are hundreds of new blade, racket, and rubber are released.

How to choose your best racket as a beginner

But I want to show you the right way, and some mistakes to avoid when choosing your first racket.

  • In your career, you will change/upgrade several rackets. Based on your improvement, you could choose the faster, or harder racket.
  • As a new player, never buy a pre-made racket, with cheap wood quality, and very thin rubbers. This is very bad for your learning. Bad and cheap wood will eliminates all of the good vibration to your hand. Too thin rubber forces you to open more your racket to spin the ball (which is a very bad habit).
  • Never choose a too soft rubber (softer than 40 degree on your forehand side, and softer than 35 degree on backhand side). If you want to improve fast, choose the hardest rubber that you can manage to hit. The harder you choose, the faster you improve. Chinese kids always play with hard rubbers.
  • Never choose a too light blade (Lighter than 80g). Heavy blade is not comfortable to play with at the beginning. But it will prevent you the bad habit of some players: Hit only by the wrist. Some new players just love playing with very light blade, because they have a bad habit, (hit with only the wrist). Heavy blade forces you to use your body, and develop the full mechanism of the stroke.
  • Never choose too thin rubber, thinner than 1.8mm. Some coach just asks new player to play with thin, to very thin rubber (1.5mm). No! Playing with too thin rubber, the new players tend to open more his racket. Thin rubber makes the ball “bottom out” very soon. So the players need to open more the racket to topspin and to compensate this “bottom out”. This is the very bad habit. The ball is weak, and less accuracy. You will not improve fast with this setup.
  • Never choose carbon, too hard, too fast blade. Another big problem of new players, they always want “faster, faster and faster”. But they don’t know how to spin the ball. Chinese philosophy about table tennis “The blade gives feeling, the blade is your hand. That is the rubber and your power will give the speed to the ball”.
  • Never change equipment because they tell you this one is better. For each type of blade and rubber, try to stick with them at least 6 months. Try to discover your equipment. Don’t just buy and try in only 2 hours and conclude. You are wrong! Each type of equipment has his own advantages. Try to figure it out! And understand why you need to change (to have more spin, more speed, low-throw, attack style, more control, etc). Understand your playing style, your technique first, and then change your racket later.
  • And remember, as a new players, feeling and spin is the most important. My best advice if you want to improve fast in table tennis. Believe it! This message is not to promote any equipment. It’s for you! Based on my own experiences of coaching and playing.

 

Equipments of Chinese Professional Players

1. Ma Long’s equipment

  • 2005-2008: Ma Long tried some Nittaku blades: Violin, Acoustic, and Rutis.
  • 2009-2011: Ma Long’s blade is Timo Boll Spirit and Timo Boll ALC.
  • Since 2013: Ma Long uses DHS 968 and DHS 997 table tennis blade.

This is the resume of rxng for the table tennis equipment used by Ma Long.

Which table tennis blade that Ma Long uses? Here you are.
Which table tennis blade that Ma Long uses? Here you are.

2. Zhang Jike’s equipment

Zhang Jike is the one that made Viscaria become famous, even more famous than the Timo Boll Spirit blade. Viscaria is chosen by many professional table tennis players. The main reason is that Viscaria is the best blade for backhand flick, and quick attack over the table.

Due to it’s specific ALC composition, the carbon ALC layer is put very near the outer plie (Koto), which provides the stable but very fast “rebound”. The quick rebound will helps the shots like backhand flick, and fast topspin on the table. Nowadays, the backhand is the main weapon to initiate the first attack in the modern table tennis.

With Fan Zhendong, Zhang Jike is the only one in the top 4 who chooses the ALC Butterfly blade. Xu Xin, Ma Long, Fan Zhendong (DHS Handle) use the DHS and Stiga Sponsored blade. The younger Chinese players also adopted and preferred to use the ALC blade.

Blade EquipmentCustom made Viscaria with larger handle
Forehand RubberNational Version of Hurricane 3 (2.15mm, 40 hardness degree)
Backhand RubberPro version of Butterfly Tenergy 05 (harder sponge Max Thickness 2.25 mm, 38 hardness DHS scale, about 48 hardness ESN scale)

Which blade did Zhang Jike use before he started using Viscaria?

At the young age, Zhang Jike started with all wood 5 plies SWORD blade (Flared handle). Like many other young Chinese kids, he took the cheapest blade on the market. He was trained by his father, and then join the National Team.

Zhang Jike's equipment at the young age
Zhang Jike’s equipment at the young age

3. Xu Xin’s equipment

  • Xu Xin uses a Stiga Offensive NCT Wood blade.
  • Forehand rubber: Hurricane III (Blue sponge) 41.5 hardness, 2.15mm.
  • and a Stiga Boost TX, Tenergy 05, and come back to personal Hurricane 2 on his backhand.
  • Sponsored by Stiga and DHS (China National Team)
Xu Xin's blade and rubber
Xu Xin’s blade and rubber
  • In 2017 CTTSL (Chinese Table Tennis Super League), Xu Xin changed back to DHS Skyline 2. 
  • Note: Skyline series is designed for penholder players before, for example, Malin used skyline 2 and Wanghao used skyline 3, Xuxin used skyline 2 before. It’s more difficult for penholder player against shake hand player nowadays due to the even bigger 40+ ball. Xu Xin changed to Hurricane 3, and then came back to Skyline 2 (Blue Sponge)
  • Xu Xin used the harder and faster blade to get more speed due to the new ball.
  • The current blade of Xu Xin is the customed DHS Blade, model N301.
Xu Xin played with DHS Skyline TG2 in China Super League 2017.
Xu Xin played with DHS Skyline TG2 in China Super League 2017.

The difference between Blue sponge (BS) and Orange Sponge of Chinese Table Tennis Rubber

  • Blue Sponge is harder than the orange sponge. You need to hit harder to use Blue Sponge.
  • Most of them Chinese Top Female players use hurricane orange sponge. And Male Top Chinese player use Blue sponge. But Liu Shiwen, Zhu yulin and Wang manyue are using blue sponge. It depends on your style and what blade you uses. Orange Sponge needs a stiffer and harder blade.

4. Fan Zhendong’s equipment

What is Fan Zhendong’s racket configuration? In fact, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin is sponsored by Stiga. While Zhang Jike is sponsored by Butterfly. Double Happiness DHS sponsors Ma Long.

This is the latest Fan Zhendong’s equipment. The photo is taken at the ITTF Seamaster World Tour Grand Final 2017.

  • Fan Zhendong’s racket: Viscaria with the Stiga Infinity Master handle. Proof: Look at the the ALC outerply of Viscaria. You can call this racket as “Visfinity” 🙂 (Viscaria with Inifinity handle). Why Infinity handle? Because he is sponsored by Stiga. Sometimes Fan Zhendong also used DHS W968. But it’s just a testing blade. In the real major competition, Fan Zhendong uses Butterfly Viscaria, which fits best his playing style (attack and counter attack at 2 sides closed-to mid distance).
  • Fan Zhendong’s forehand rubber: It’s the national blue sponge DHS Hurricane 3. Hardness 40.5 Chinese scale. Thickness 2.15 mm.
  • Backhand rubber: Professional version Butterfly Tenergy 05 (harder version 38-39 degree ESN scale). Thickness 2.20 mm.
Fan Zhendong personal racket
Fan Zhendong personal racket (Viscaria with Infinity handle)
Fan Zhendong forehand rubber: National Hurricane 3 Blue sponge
Fan Zhendong forehand rubber: National Hurricane 3 Blue sponge
Fan Zhendong butterfly backhand rubber: Tenergy 05
Fan Zhendong butterfly backhand rubber: Tenergy 05
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