Table Tennis as an Extreme Martial Art

Rowden May 2019

There are a few extreme martial arts, where the most simple techniques of a number of fighting skills are refined and combined to form a very basic and direct lethal form; modern Arnis with Remy Presas is one, Krav Maga, the Israeli semi-military form another.

Dim-Mak the ancient Chinese system, which disrupts the central nervous system and the body’s ability to function correctly is the most direct of all. When playing table tennis with the plastic ball we need to be equally direct and to cut out all the ‘extras’, the unnecessary bits which don’t, in the final analysis, really add to our arsenal.

When you take part now in our great sport you must look to a basic form which has been stripped down to the very bare essentials. Action without any unnecessary movement or effort, should be the prime aim. Remember too all humans are the same but different, we all have the same tools and must learn to use those tools to best effect. But we all have different strengths and talents and must use these.

Forget too about style, styles only serve to separate people, style then becomes a doctrine and eventually a gospel which rules us and stops us from changing and progressing. Style is a form of crystallisation. Instead think of yourself as a human and ask the question – ‘ How can I, an individual human, express myself totally and completely?’ As soon as you do this you are in a place of continuing growth.

Gather all your energy and turn yourself into a weapon. Express yourself through emotion, whether it be anger or determination. Express yourself through your sport with a combination of natural instinct and control. The two have to be joined in harmony. Too much instinct and you will be unwieldy, too much control and you will be mechanical, ultimately our sport means expressing your individual self.

But also there has to be an overall balance. When you become the very best you can become blinded by just how good you are. Keep your feet on the ground, express yourself with honesty, never lying to your self, and have respect for all opponents regardless of their level.

A good player is like water. Water is insubstantial; you can’t hold it or hurt it. Be soft and flexible like water, let your game be formless, without shape, like water. Refine your sport to the real basic truths, learn the simplest ways to perform and flow all over the table without plan or form.

Players must also be aware of how their bodies work under pressure and what happens. During ‘everyday’ activities, the heart of a healthy person beats at 60 to 80 beats a minute and everything in your sympathetic nervous system performs normally. However when you get nervous or afraid your heart rate generally rises to around 115 beats per minute. In such situations your fine motor skills deteriorate instantly and many usual everyday actions and abilities are affected detrimentally. Even the ability to consider tactics and how to play your opponent is affected. Therefore it’s important that you train in stressful situations so that you can stay calm and handle such scenarios.

Then there is the important question of science. The game has changed dramatically with the plastic ball and you must change to accommodate this factor. Our sport used to consist of 3 aspects, speed, spin and placement – now it consists essentially of 2, speed and placement. Spin plays a much lesser role and is primarily sidespin. How you train too is vital – you compete how you practise, so if you train slow and sloppy that’s how you’ll compete.

SPEED is the KEY, but speed in all its forms, not only fast and early timed, but slow and late timed and above all constantly changing, not predictable. Speed is a variable. So is placement, to play too many balls to the same place at high level is a quick death.