My backhand is finally becoming stable. My forehand counter-drive is getting closer to stable, and the forehand loop is really starting to work (this is meaningful mostly because I had never had a real loop before).
I'm pretty unhappy about the coming service-rule change, because the hidden serve is a lot of my own personal advantage in this game (whether playing as a penholder or with the V grip), and I've spent a lot of time and effort learning to do it effectively. But on the other hand taking service points can be like taking candy from babies, it really is kind of unfair, so I can't really complain that I'll have to learn another style of serves. See here for my first take on what changes I'll need to make.
My newly stabilizing backhand involves counterrotating my body, swinging my free arm back, while stroking from a handle-down, blade-up, wrist-cocked-back windup endpoint. Wierdly, the body rotates the *same* direction as with the forehand counter-drive, namely, the paddle side moves forward, similar to the Chinese penhold backhand block. The stroke originates from relatively high on the body, from somewhere between my sternum and my free-side armpit. A backhand block was the first stroke to become stable, and it is done with the wrist cocked back and the handle down and the blade up, and with the body counter-rotated, paddle elbow lowered, free arm back.
Posture has changed in two ways. I use a more forward-leaning posture now than the jai-alai back-leaning posture I saw in China and advocated in earlier-written discussions. Secondly, I get set in a football-linebacker, resting, ready posture with elbows on knees, before recieving service, then as the server tosses the ball, I rise about 4-6 inches to ready position. This helps me get down to the right altitude, otherwise usually I stand too high. Another posture change I'm working on is to keep my paddle-side shoulder lowered several inches all the time; this saves lowering it in anticipation of either a forehand stroke or a backhand stroke, in either case the windup endpoint has the paddle shoulder significantly lowered.
The grip itself has changed slightly. The forefinger on top of the blade is no longer curved around the top finger posts but rather is extended straight up the paddle blade, on the top surface but close to the side of the paddle. This makes for a better sense of touch: you can feel the direction of the axis of the paddle very clearly with that finger. Also a better sense of touch comes from having the middle finger perpendicular to the forefinger, on the bottom of the paddle; this gives a good feeling for the degree of rotation of the blade around its long axis. This same sense is yet further improved if the thumb lightly presses the top of the blade, squeezing the blade between thumbprint and middle finger. With many strokes, using this straight-finger-on-top and perpendicularly-extended-finger-on-bottom with the thumb squeezing the blade against the middle finger, provides a feeling that there is a huge sweet spot almost as big as the entire paddle blade.
Relaxed dinking play can sometimes be more frustrating for me than serious competition. The V grip is brittle in the sense that as you get away from a sweet-spot stroke, at some point there is a discontinuity and to hit a ball that comes just another inch to the backhand (for example) I have to completely change to a different stroke. That is, adjustments to incoming balls that I would formerly make as a penhold player using just the wrist or arm now require footwork or body movements, so when I'm just dinking around I often come up against these discontinuities and end up missing really easy balls. On the other hand when I'm playing competitively I have more control and power over bigger sweet spots, and I can afford the energy to do the footwork to put the sweet spot of my stroke in front of where the ball is going. So it's a wierd combination of making what's hard easy and making what's easy hard.
Lobbing or retrieving with the V grip is pretty fun, too; you can reach a little farther, and with the top of the paddle horizontal, you don't have to adjust your posture to scoop up a short ball or to reach far for it. I could never do it as a penholder, but I do it for fun with the V grip. Also the longer reach gives you extra power if you want to attack from far away.
I'm not sure how much better I'll get. I do think that my finally developing a loop is going to help my competitive game over time. I played at the Pac Rim Open and I think I lost some rating points. But then I didn't sleep the night before either, but who needs excuses. It'll be a longer record than one tournament to show everyone that this is valuable. What's nice is starting to feel like I'm getting athletic in my play, it feels good to feel like I look like the big boys when I play, even if it's only once in a while. Every time I play I seem to surpass some milestone, so it's really been satisfying doing this. I took a game from a local 2100-level player yesterday, he was so frustrated with me. I enjoyed that a lot.
I'll continue to write more as I feel come to a feeling of confidence that the technical points I'm making are really stable. Keep checking back, and thanks for your interest!