You’ll have to forgive me if this post is full of generalizations, inconsistencies, and generally uninformed opinions. I’ve noticed that people from different parts of the world approach table tennis in very different ways. It’s possible to learn something from all these approaches. Let’s start our journey in the U.S. and move on from there.
United States – The U.S. is a melting pot of table tennis styles. As successful as the U.S. has been in other sports, you might think gold medals in table tennis would be plentiful. Unfortunately, table tennis is not taken seriously enough to produce very many truly great players.
Great Britain – My impression is that the UK is a step or so ahead of the U.S. Table tennis is not wildly popular, but there seem to be more serious players, and a greater appreciation and understanding of table tennis as a sport. The Brits I’ve known seem like they play seriously, are well trained, and are generally bloody good sports.
Nigeria – Somebody is playing a lot of table tennis in Nigeria. I usually anticipate a game of maximum spin from African players. There seems to be a real love for playing, and a competitive spirit that is contagious.
Russia – Russia seems to produce a disproportionate number of choppers, pushers, and slow loopers. Having a good feel for the ball is a priority. I like this approach, and feel it’s necessary for players if they hope to advance beyond intermediate level.
Japan – We could learn something about footwork from the Japanese players. Quick and fearless attacks are emphasized.
China – The best players in the world come from China. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the country that has made table tennis it’s national sport would frequently be the best. The Chinese start young, train hard, and most importantly, constantly study every aspect of table tennis.
Sweden – Sweden’s rise to prominence came from learning from several countries. There are still some very good Swedish players. The long dark winters are perfect for long training sessions to help fend off depression, and to help minimize obsessing on how good it is to be Swedish.
India – I’m not sure why, but I keep coming upon Indian players who started playing at a young age, but never played much as teens or adults. There are plenty of good Indian players, but there seems to be a lot of untapped potential as well.
Korea – The Korean players I’ve known are typically eager to learn, and open to coaching. They seem to see benefits beyond just winning more often.
Jamaica – My first coach was Jamaican. He introduced me to Jamaican training, which involved producing topspin primarily with the wrist and hand. The idea was to get a good feel for the ball and promote aggressive looping shots. I never really learned to play Jamaican style, but it was a great training method.
Romania – I never met anyone from Romania until I started playing table tennis. I don’t really know much about Romanian culture, but Romanians seem to be some of the friendliest and most competitive people I know.
I am aware that it’s probably politically incorrect to generalize about players based on where they come from. I also know that I left out some great table tennis countries. Someday I may get to some of these places. Until then, I’ll just be playing table tennis.