Table Tennis has played a huge part in my life and in many ways I owe my success to the sport
Table Tennis Blog
When I tell people 'I play Table Tennis' I often get two reply's: 1. "I used to play when I was younger" while 'waving their hand in the air' ("basically your a ping pong player"). I reply, "Yes, but I play competitively" and their second reply "but its easy you don't have to move much!"
This is where I get frustrated and bombard them with visual proof, that TT requires immense athleticism.
In my younger days I idolised Jan-Ove Waldner and modeled my game around Jean-Philip Gatien (being a lefty myself), both were ahead of their time. Jan-Ove moved so elegantly like Roger Federer (Tennis), making it seem as if he did not move much! Don't be fooled, Waldner possess wonderful anticipation giving him time to move into position, using good footwork which allowed him to execute his magical shots.
Jean-Philip, mainly had one weapon his 'forehand' but due to his lighting footwork he could execute his weapon from almost anywhere giving him an Olympic sliver medal and a World Championship Singles title (1993).
The Chinese took note from both Waldner and Gatien and today the Chinese National Team possess the shot repertoire of Waldner and the footwork of Gatien making them almost unbeatable. The Chinese are table tennis players and athletes and the rest of the world are mainly table tennis players only!
How to improve your footwork:
1. Multi ball: There is no better way to improve your footwork around the table, start slowly and gradually build the speed of balls coming at you. This over time, will naturally increase your speed and explosive power.
2. Irregular training: Getting your opponent to block anywhere on the FH side and you play forehands only. Try to continuously move using the balls of your feet and try not to stretch or lean. There is an endless number of footwork exercises so ask your coach or search it on the net. Note: table tennis footwork includes: Both - in and out movement as well as side to side, so bear that in mind when doing footwork training and not just focusing on side to side movement.
3. Physicals: You need a training regime which includes: Weight Training, for power and strength such as squats. Plyometric Training, such as, jumping on and off a box or bench, try to use cones, self made lines or an exercise ladder for various footwork routines and lastly Isometric Training, using an exercise band to increase fast twitch muscle fibers.
I will never forget when I watched Waldner (past his best) at the Olympic (2004) semi final's stage against Ryu-Seaung Min. Ryu (Penholder Grip) possessed a rocket forehand and probably the fastest footwork I have ever witnessed in table tennis. Ryu was so fast, no matter where Waldner put the ball he could not keep Ryu from playing his forehand and the lack of containment cost Waldner the match.
Ryu, went on to win the Olympic's that year and I quickly realised that if you possess exceptional footwork (you may be limited in your shot repertoire) but you can still compete at the top level. I also predicted that Ryu would never win another major, I was right! This I believe, is because you can not maintain such a high level of fitness and speed for a long period of time. Nevertheless, Ryu has the most prestigious title in table tennis and no one can take it away from him, mainly due to FOOTWORK!. So if you want to be an Olympic Champion start working on your legs :-)
Remember if your blessed with legs, use them...