The game of table tennis is fairly straightforward. There is really not that much you will need in terms of equipment. While some of the professional players really make a meal of their game by buying all kinds of special footwear and clothing, these things are not necessary for the amateur player. The fundamental gear that you will need to start playing table tennis includes a ping pong table and ping pong paddles.
Getting Started with a Ping Pong Table
Selecting the right table will be your biggest decision as you get started in the game of ping pong. All of the other equipment for the game, like paddles and balls, can easily be found at Walmart or on Amazon for reasonable prices. Creating a comfortable playing area can be an important first step into the world of ping pong. A good set of ping pong paddles will be vital to your development as a player.
A Good Set of Ping Pong Paddles
Customized table tennis paddles can differ greatly from player to player in terms of the structure, the blade, the design, and the surfaces. But there are also some common features, which we’ll examine in the next few paragraphs. First, one side of the paddle must be red and the other side must be white. The sponge on the paddle must be no thicker than a certain prescribed amount.
The rubber on each paddle also has some thickness limitations. Even the type of glue used to secure the sponge must be of a certain quality. Although it was very popular at one time, speed glue is no longer allowed for ping pong paddles. Second, the rubber surface of the paddle must have a set of raised pieces of rubber called “pips.” These pips can vary in length, with short pips and long pips.
Generally, longer pips will allow you to have more control of the ball and to produce more and better types of topspin and sidespin for people with different playing styles. Most ping pong players generally use the same type of paddles, such as the blue “sandpaper” bats that are common. These paddles offer slow to medium spin and speed.
Each player has more time between shots and because of this, the length of the rallies in ping pong is generally long. Players often choose their paddles according to which ones are better for penholders and which are better for shake-hand grips.
If you are just starting out, we recommend that you do a basic Amazon search and simply get the paddles that are easiest to find, because they will serve your purposes. In general, most ESN (European rubber paddles), and Japanese (like Butterfly Tenergy and other variants) are good backhand table tennis rubbers. Butterfly table tennis accessories use advanced technology for the best products.
Strategies with Short and Long Pips
Attacking players seem to find the modern game a lot harder than defensive players. Attacking players need to break out a little unless they want to spend the whole game on their back feet, simply hoping their opponent is going to miss the ball.
Modern defensive players often have an attacking rubber on one side of their bat and pips on the other side. So they use a combination paddle instead of one with just long pips on both sides. This allows them to attack and defend, instead of just defending.
As with all table tennis paddles, combination paddles can take some getting used to. Also, there are going to be many advantages and disadvantages of paddles with short and long pips. It will be up to you to decide what works best for you after you have tried a selection of several different types of paddles and strategies.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Short and Long Pips
Starting with short pips, the biggest advantage they offer is the range of options. You can still chop with short pips and you can go back from the table and defend with them but it’s going to be harder to do than when you’re using long pips. You can also loop with short pips, create your own spin on the ball, and smashing.
One disadvantage of short pips is that they are a lot easier to play against. They generally play in a similar way to your standard reverse attacking rubbers. So short pips players aren’t going to be surprised with what’s happening. They might be a bit confused by the ball coming off a bit flatter but that’s about it. You’re not going to get many points by confusing people and being a bit different.
Also, you can chop with any type of paddle. So you don’t need long pimples to be a chopper. It’s going to be more difficult but you can teach yourself to do it. All long pips players do is make it easier and a bit more effective to chop the ball in response to heavy topspin loops. It’s going to be difficult to chop a heavy topspin loop with Tenergy, but it will be easier and more effective with long pips.
When it comes to short pips you should be able to chop well with them. You might look at developing a better feeling for the ball because short pips are going to be a lot less forgiving than long pips. If you are chopping and you get the angle slightly wrong, it could mean losing the point.
You will probably want to master twiddling as well even if you are using short pips. Twiddling is the idea of quickly switching the bat in your hand so that the long pips change from being on the forehand to the backhand. The key is to do the twiddling quickly and effectively. If you’re not good at it, it might mess up those shots even more.
As for long pips, the main advantage is that it’s the easiest to chop and defend with. You’re able to get away with not reading the spin that well and not having the best of feeling. Because if people are giving you loads of heavy spin you can just chop it back and your bat is going to deal with a lot of the incoming spin.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Short and Long Pips (Continued)
Another big advantage is if people are giving you a really heavy top spin when you’re chopping back it’s going to turn into a really heavy backspin, which makes it more difficult for the attacker. That’s something you don’t get so much with the other rubbers.
Finally, you can do weird and different stuff with long pips. If you are up to the table, or close to the table, you can do weird jabs and pokes while attacking your opponent. These shots really confuse other players and they can give you points which you aren’t going to get with other paddles.
The main disadvantage of long pips is that it’s really hard to attack. You’re not going to be doing any loops or open-ups, anything like that. It’s even quite difficult to hit flat, punch, or smash. Long pips are not good for attacking a ball, so you need to be really good at twiddling if you want to use long pips to attack and defend. That’s a real skill and something you will need to develop if you want to use long pips in the modern game.
When you play against long pips, try to basically do float serves and no-spin serves. You should not use spinny loops against long pips because those shots are quite easy to return. You can get away with just rolling the ball and playing flatter instead of just hitting the ball as hard as possible when you want to win a point.
There’s no point feeding long pips spins. The problem is if you have long pips and you are receiving flat serves, it becomes very difficult for you to generate spin yourself. The game becomes a flat/float game, and so your attacking opponent can start smashing you around whenever they want.
Short-pimpled rubbers are the easiest to use when transitioning from grippy inverted rubbers. They have the characteristics of grippy inverted rubbers but with less spin. Short-pimpled rubbers can generate good spin compared to other pimpled rubbers. They can also neutralize spin by using a hitting or punching action. Short-pimpled rubbers are very versatile for both defensive and offensive players.
For offensive players, the strength of short-pimpled rubbers is hitting through heavy topspin. Players like Matthias Falck often smash the opponent’s topspin. Short-pips can also be used to chop defensively, which is what former Chinese National Team player Ding Song does. Start off with a sponge thickness of 1.7 or 1.8mm first before you move up to thicker ones. RITC 802-40 is a very popular choice among beginners and advanced players. Xiom Vega SPO is also a good choice for more advanced players.
Long-pimpled rubbers (LP) are not just for receiving hard serves. It is not the best idea to convert to LPs to compensate if you are weak at receiving. Long-pimpled rubbers are very versatile and they can let you attack and defend, but each style should be specialized on an individual basis.
A good idea is to start with easy-to-use LPs like Butterfly Feint Long II and RITC 837. The Feint Long II can do a little of everything, and the 837 has a soft pimple structure for chopping and blocking. The Yasaka Phantom 0012 Infinity is another popular long-pips rubber and the Xiom Vega LPO is a new product with more sponge thickness and it works well for blocking and attacking.
LPs are versatile and confusing to play against for many beginners, and even advanced players if they misread the type of spin being returned. This is because long-pimpled rubbers can reverse the spin they are being given, neutralize the spin and produce a knuckleball effect, or slow down an incoming ball and destroy the opponent’s tempo. There are even times when a long-pip rubber has a random effect.
Anti-spin Rubbers: An Anomaly
Anti-spin rubbers gained popularity back when rubbers could be the same color on both sides. After the ITTF instituted the two-color rule, their popularity decreased. Anti-spin can be a chopping rubber, but that is very rare. Most people use it as a blocking rubber. Anti-spin can kill spin instantly once it hits the ball whether it is topspin or underspin. It returns little or no spin at all.
The purest form of the knuckleball effect is found with anti-spin rubbers. There are slippery anti-spin rubbers like Butterfly Super Anti or those with a little grip like RITC 804. Each anti-spin rubber has slightly different characteristics. JOOLA Toni Hold Antitop and Yasaka Anti-Power are two other popular anti-spin products. Anti-spin rubbers can be used to chop if paired with a thinner sponge and they can even reverse incoming spin.
Medium pips are a cross between long and short-pimpled rubbers. It is the pimple’s length that makes it different from long-pips and short-pips. These are the hardest paddles to use because they are so specialized. Medium-pips rubbers, like short-pimpled rubbers, neutralize spin. The medium-pips produce a more dead or knuckleball effect that causes opponents to place many returns into the net unless the lack of spin is accounted for.
When playing with medium-pips, hit through the sponge and contact the ball at its peak unless you are just pushing the ball back. Most MP players are offensive players like Ai Fukuhara, but there are defensive, blocking players that block incoming spin effectively or use the knuckleball effect to pop the ball up to set up their smash. A good example of a medium-pips paddle is the RITC 563 Tack Speed with a thicker sponge.
More Advanced Table Tennis Equipment
An advanced piece of equipment to use if you are practicing with different paddles would be a ping pong robot. You can get a table tennis robot that will throw balls at you and allow you to practice your shots. If you have never seen one of these in action, they are machines that shoot ping pong balls at you on a set timer that you can program to go off every few seconds.
Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive ways to practice table tennis alone. To get one of the best practice robots, you can expect to spend a lot of money. However, you’ll also find less fancy models for just a few hundred dollars, which will allow you to buy a practice robot more easily.
You may also consider a table tennis return board, a special board that you hit the ball against. A real return board can cost several hundred dollars, but you can also make your own by using cheaper materials from a table tennis store or directly off Amazon. You can also just make your own return board, which is great if you are on a budget and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Learning More About Ping Pong and Table Tennis
Several styles of table tennis games can be found all across the world like team events, doubles games, and special exhibition events. There are many professional ping pong leagues for men and women of all ages. Table tennis is a serious sport in some countries, requiring a wide range of ping pong equipment to rise to the top. Everyone can learn how to play at a reasonably high level if they practice enough and get in good enough shape.
Professional table tennis players have excellent hand-eye coordination and a natural quickness that can only be appreciated in person because television cannot always capture the close-to-the-table interchange that often dominates many of the points in fast, professional games.