Strokes are the basic building blocks of table tennis. It doesn't matter how good your tactics, footwork or fitness are if you can't hit the ball consistently!
In this Strokes section of the Guide, I am going to show and explain all the different strokes used in table tennis. At first glance, there can seem to be an overwhelming number of strokes to choose from - how is anybody supposed to know what stroke to play at which time?
Don't panic, the ability to select and perform the best stroke for a situation is one that can be learned, and will improve with experience. As you continue to play and start to develop a playing style of your own, you will find that in any given situation there is only a limited number of good stroke choices to play, and you will get better at picking the right one, and be able to do so more quickly. I'll discuss the subject of how best to put your strokes together in detail later on.
In the past, coaches often made a distinction between "basic" and "advanced" strokes. Beginners were expected to master the basic strokes first, before being allowed to start working on more advanced strokes such as the loop or deep chop. This often meant starting with a stroke that used solid contact and little spin, then moving to a medium amount of spin, and finally learning to use heavy amounts of spin. A good example of this would be the progression from a forehand counterhit, to a forehand drive, and finally a forehand loop.
In more recent times, many coaches have changed their approach, and begun teaching many of the advanced strokes right from the start. Some coaches even teach their students the fast forehand loop (traditional considered a very advanced stroke) before any other stroke! The number of children under the age of 10 who possess very good forehand loops (and in recent times, even backhand loops) certainly makes me question whether these advanced strokes are really that difficult to master, if you learn them right from the start.
link: What order to learn the basic strokes of table tennis.
Normal inverted rubber is sometimes called the "king" of rubbers, mainly because it is so versatile, being able to perform every table tennis stroke possible. There are a couple of special cases where other rubber types may do a better job of performing a stroke in certain circumstances, but on the whole, inverted rubber can do it all, and do it better than any other rubber. There is a reason why this type of rubber is used by almost every high level player in the world, and inverted rubber's ability to generate speed and spin with good control is it.
It simply makes sense for me to begin by demonstrating all the basic strokes with inverted rubber.
Despite inverted rubber's popularity, a significant number of people do use other types of rubber (including myself!). These rubbers have different characteristics to inverted rubber, both in their ability to generate spin and speed, and their reaction to the opponent's spin and speed.
Sometimes these rubbers simply cannot perform the same strokes that a inverted rubber can (e.g. it is practically impossible to truly loop a ball with long pimpled rubber), and sometimes a stroke with a special rubber can have a totally different effect to the same stroke performed with inverted rubber (e.g. a push against backspin with antispin will generally produce a topspin return, while a push against backspin with inverted rubber will generally produce a backspin ball).
We'll take a look at the strokes these special rubbers can perform, and explain how they differ from the standard inverted rubber stroke version.
Whereas most special rubbers such as long pips and antispin were developed to counter the dominating effect of inverted rubbers, hardbat rubbers are in a class of their own. Hardbats are simply normal blades covered with a sheet of ordinary pimpled rubber, with no sponge. Hardbats were the most popular form of table tennis paddles in elite play up until the introduction of sponge rackets in the 1950's. Even now, while you'll struggle to find a hardbat among the upper echelons of the sport, there are still many millions of people who play ping-pong with their trusty hardbat. There are several hardbat only competitions, and some die-hards still compete against players using inverted rubbers - and often do very well!
Hardbats are much more limited in their ability to produce spin, and also react less to spin than a normal inverted rubber. This results in some of the modern strokes that rely on extreme spin to be very difficult, if not near impossible, to perform with a hardbat.
That doesn't mean that you can't play good table tennis with a hardbat, or have a lot of fun. It's just very difficult to play a standard modern topspin looping game with hardbats, since the equipment does not suit that playing style.
In this guide, I'll demonstrate what strokes are possible with a hardbat, and how to play them.