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More V grip Correspondence, July 03

Hi Mayun,

It's nice to see V grip controversies erupting again.

I have a few footnotes and replies to various comments of yours and others in this thread (, entitled "V (Victory) grip", around July 2003.) I have put this text at for long-term archiving and posting it here also.

I agree that the V grip is experimental; I do not agree that it is inferior. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do think about the issue as I continue to use it, and while I cannot necessarily persuade anyone, I think it's worth continued exploration, because to me it seems to have superior mechanics when done correctly (though there are a thousand ways to do it incorrectly, I can tell you from experience).

My information about Wang Guangyao came from a Korean gentleman named Dong Myn Yim whose website had pictures of him and some Chinese-made paddles and who told me the tournament results and his estimate of the boy's skill level, which I agree is remarkable; however it would seem to be hard to misunderstand numbers and dates. Perhaps something was lost in the translation; anyone is free to be skeptical, and I'm open to correction. (Please correct me!)

In my experience visiting the Cao Yanhua TT school in Shanghai in 2001, I estimated that the USATT rating system equivalent skill level of children playing there was about 200 * age. The 7 year olds seemed to be above 1400; the 9 year olds over 1800, the 10-year-olds over 2000. So 11 years age and 2200+ would not be out of the range of normal, in my opinion. These kids start at age 4 or 5, play 6 hours a day throughout the school year, with world-class coaches (my personal trainer there said he had been among the coaches of Kong Linghui) feeding multiball. Perhaps you will understand what that means. Or as a minor example, some of the kids specialize as choppers so they all have plenty of access to heavy underspin for looping. None had any trouble with my serves and I have strong serves for my level. The kids do know, of course, that it's important to perform well or they will not be able to stay in the school, which may be an important achievement not just for the child but for their whole family and extended family, so it is pretty serious business to put on the shoulders of a child. (At the same time the ambience in the school is very fun and child-supportive and de-emphasizes discussion of rankings; but I'm sure there's some undercurrent of pressure.) So they have deep resources of motivation, time, knowledge, and talent. Also, players who end up being world champion level players start beating world-champions at around age 16 though perhaps inconsistently, so coming into your top form at those ages seems fairly normal. US player Adam Hugh's 2500 level rating at age 15 is not necessarily above the Chinese-trained level, but might be significantly below it.

Mayun asked if John Vander has played me, and yes we do play occasionally. John is coming up quickly.

Mayun also mentioned having written me email, getting no reply; please forgive me and re-send it! I manually delete a lot of spam every day from people I don't know and I may well have accidentally deleted yours -- I am very sorry about that! Talk to me, I do respond, though sometimes slowly.

> No offence but looking at the picture
> it is pretty clear that either HE
> HAS NO IDEA HOW THE V GRIP WORKS, or the grip sucks.
> His forehehand is using his backhand side rubber, if his backhand is
> also using the backhand side rubber, when is the forehand rubber is
> used?
These objections indicate lack of understanding of fundamental facts about the V grip. Unlike shakehand, the V grip does not have a "backhand side rubber" and "forehand side rubber"; it has a "top" or "thumb" side and a "bottom" side, which can both be used on either side. The bottom side is used for topspin, attack, counterdrive, and blocking on both forehand and backhand. The top side is used primarily for service and underspin (though the bottom side can also be used for a quite strong and well-controlled underspin, if away from the body) and the top side is also important in certain grip-problematic strokes such as receive of side-underspin- or corkscrew- serves to the wide forehand and such as attack against heavy underspin especially away from the table, where the closed blade angle for a bottom-side stroke makes steady return of heavy underspin difficult. Especially away from the table and against underspin -- situations in which, in addition to the mechanical suitability of the stroke, you also have time to decide and switch from bottom to top -- the top side can be used effectively to loop on the forehand, though I use the bottom side by default to simplify decision-making.
> How can you possibly third ball attack?
Perhaps you can clarify the objection, I am a strong third-ball attacker using the V grip, and I don't see what might lead you to think it would be difficult. Given my relatively strong service game, I can often control opponents' returns and thus I frequently set up strong third ball attacks with both forehand and backhand. I also try to practice close-to-table looping a lot, as well as 3rd- and 5th ball attacking drills where the serve is short underspin, the 2nd (3rd, 4th, etc.) ball is returned in an attempt to keep the ball unattackably low and short and underspinny, but is attacked when it comes back too long or too high. So I feel pretty comfortable with, focussed on, and even successful at, third ball attack with the V grip.
> How can you put power when most power is from the forehand stroke?
If you're wondering about forehand power with V grip mechanics, compare these:


The V grip forehand is quite strong, actually. Indeed it has more power than spin in my experience; slow-looping is more difficult. So the question seems to miss something, but I'm not sure how to explain it in detail. Perhaps you could point out the mechanical difficulty you're thinking about, and I could respond with reference to that.
> By playing V GRIP one is completely defiling the current technique archieves of present. 
Yes, yes, I've heard this often. How shocking! How unconventional! (If that's the worst that can be said, though, I'm not worried.) More recently, however, I have been hearing from my 2000-level friends that watch me play, that watching me persuades them that all the grip variations, shakehand, penhold, and V grip, use similar fundamental mechanics (probably for forehand looping). I agree that there is a canon of correct technique which is required at higher levels and, emulating them, you become a better player; also I don't know what will be the archive of correct technique for the V grip, but that's okay by me, for now; I'm certainly working on it.
> A.) You are not using the forehand rubber
Not so; top side is used as described above. Indeed, V grip top side play is fundamentally the same as penhold play. V grip top side backhand is the same as (Korean) penhold backhand (and bottom side the same as RPB), and top-side forehand is the same stroke as the penhold forehand stroke. Try it, you'll recognize what I mean immediately. Much of what penholders know transfers directly to the top-side play elements of the V grip. However bottom side play is more aggressive, not just on backhand as penholders able to use RPB will understand, but also on the forehand where the bottom side is more aggressive than the top side, even though the top side is more similar to penhold forehand.
> B.) You are using the wrist more than the arm, which means less power
Wrist and arm are somewhat independent; using one doesn't mean not using another. I am stiffening my wrist a bit more lately, using more arm, if that means anything.
> C.) You lose the benefit of having a strong forehand which is
> generally 70% more effective than the backhand, hence the players
> always go to the far left to expose the backhand.
Opponents alternate in their assessment of whether my backhand is stronger or my forehand. Some like to hit to my backhand because they are afraid of my forehand, some the reverse. Perhaps my skill level on the two sides develops in a leapfrogging fashion, with one side surpassing the other, then the reverse. I don't think the V grip implies losing a strong forehand. I loop forehand a lot; it's my bread-and-butter.
> D.) Arm movement will not be very free
This is a good observation. Try hitting a ball against a wall 300 times with the V grip forehand bottom side; this is the way to develop forehand control at the beginning (anybody listening?!). To do this right, you need to learn to adjust body posture (feet open not square, shoulder down), elbow position (down and in), and palm up. It doesn't feel very free until you start doing it right. On the other hand that's as difficult as it gets. V grip can be thought of as something like shakehand inside out. Instead of hitting neutrally against dead balls and extremely closed against spinny topspin balls, as done in shakehand, dead balls require V grip strokes with the greatest deviation from neutral, while heavy topspin balls are hit with a very-close-to-neutral body/arm/wrist attitude with the V grip. In my experience hitting dead balls is the foundation of the V grip, and a key weakness until it is mastered, but once you master that easy class of stroke, which is difficult in the V grip (but easy to practice), then the harder types of strokes, loops, &c., seem easier to develop.
> The only credit ill give is that the v grip does exist, only a small
> portion of students in Cao Yan Hua table tennis school use it. Only
> one coach teaches this, and only a few students use it.
Thanks for the credit! But here's a picture of a second school in China that teaches V grip, "Tiger City TTC". Can someone tell me where it is? I'd like to contact them and perhaps visit there some day.


Tom Veatch


Original content Copyright © 2000-2002, Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Modified: July 10, 2003