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Playing with Non-Dominant Hand -- 6 Months Later

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    Posted: 01/08/2020 at 11:24pm
Just posting my experience of playing with my non-dominant hand (left) after 6 months of practice.

In this old ATT Thread the question of whether or not one can attain the same level in their non-dominant hand as their dominant hand (i.e. can one play at, or near, the same level with both hands) is asked.

The answers given were generally: not anywhere close.

I'm an intermediate level player. In high school in the States I played non-tournament hardbat with friends and became a decent blocker and counter attacker. After high school I forgot about table tennis...for 30 years, and picked it up again this summer with a friend who's around the same level as myself.

Now, while I'm right hand dominant, I write, eat, brush teeth, etc. with my left hand, so it's not a useless appendage in the way it is for most right handed people :) Perhaps because of this I was able to switch hit in baseball, and could do things like play pool, table tennis, and basketball with my left hand with some degree of skill.

Ok, so while playing with my friend and finding my right handed table tennis stroke again, I would from time-to-time switch to playing left handed just for fun. As most people have pointed out the biggest weakness when playing with the non-dominant hand is lack of power on the FH side (AKA the straight armed frankenstein FH). It was the same for me at first, although I could still pull off the super spinny hook FH that I was able to hit when I was younger.

At any rate, for the past 6 months I've played about half the time left handed, and the progression has been amazing. At some point while doing FH warmup drill with my friend something clicked, and I realized how easy it is to hit the left hand FH using the enitre body; from there I really started being able to put tons of spin on the FH, and place it to the corners -- so much fun! Still lack the caveman power of the right hand, but there's enough pace to give intermediate players a lot of trouble.

Otherwise, the BH is straightforward (most people can pick that up in a couple of days when playing with the non-dominant hand), basically a mirror of the right hand, and the short game isn't that tough to get the hang of with push/chop.

What's probably most interesting is that my footwork is much better when playing lefty; in fact, when playing games I'm now more competitive left handed. Quite bizarre, and my coach is baffled as well, but for some reason the power of my right hand lacks the touch and precision of my left hand, so I wind up playing better in matches with the non-dominant hand.

We'll see, in future my right hand should catch up, as that's where my highest level as a TT player likely is, but for now it is so much fun playing lefty, loving it.


Edited by virtualeyes - 01/08/2020 at 11:25pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Egghead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 12:00am
People says XX is right handed, but he plays left handed Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote doraemon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 2:59am
Nadal is right handed but was trained by his coach to play left handed.  And he does it well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 7:37am
Writing left-handed means you don't have a strongly dominant hand.   Unless your writing is completely illegible you have fine motor skills with your left.  So I doubt very much you will reach a higher level playing tt righthanded.  There are advantages to playing lefty and not only in doubles. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 8:32am
> So I doubt very much you will reach a higher level playing tt righthanded

Depends, if I transition to real non-hardback play like I have with my left hand, then just the sheer pace and spin alone with my right hand will improve my level beyond what I'll ever be able to achieve with my off hand.

We'll see, for now I'm somehow definitely a better TT player with these fast/spinny rubbers with my left hand, but given enough time/practice I think I can reach a higher level with my right hand.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 8:35am
XX has that insane sweeping hook FH with a PH grip; that's never gonna happen playing with my off hand with a SH grip (well, I can hit a hook shot with a ton of spin if everything lines up just right to hit the shot, but that's not often the case :))
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitigoi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 9:29am
Many see me hitting with my left hand and blocking chicken-wing with my right hand long pips and comment that I play better with my left hand. And exactly once, recently, I did won in a club match one guy I previously lost with my right hand (both very close matches).

Nevertheless, I lack both power on smashes and touch on pushes with my left hand. Counters (active blocks) are the easiest to practice and with no bad habits for my left hand/arm I reached in two years the level I can give a 1600 a decent warm-up.

Back to the original issue: depends on the interpretation of "not even close". Is Khanak Jha "close" to FZD?

As for Xu Xin or Mizutani writing with the right hand - it is just due to where they grew up. What hand holds the tissue paper - that's the dominant one.

Edited by pitigoi - 01/09/2020 at 9:31am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 10:55pm
Yes, the lack of power on FH smash is notable, particularly with high balls. With lower balls I can generate more pace and spin. Sometimes I'll switch to the right hand to put a high ball away, but I often forget that I'm right handed while playing lefty :)

I think it's possible to reach a decent level playing with the non-dominant hand, at least enough to, as you say, warm up players at a higher level than your own.

It's great fun, and I'm progressing much more than with my dominant hand for now so will continue playing with both for the time being.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 10:58pm
> Nadal is right handed but was trained by his coach to play left handed.  And he does it well.

That he does it weill is quite an understatement :) Starting with the non-dominant hand at a very young age obviously makes a huge difference.

Would be curious to see Nadal play table tennis with his right hand. Is it still the dominant hand? Or better, throw a baseball with each hand and see which one he throws harder with.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/09/2020 at 11:26pm
While watching this Timo Boll practice session from 10 years ago it's quite clear that TB is in fact a natural lefty (surprise), but if you watch his hitting partner closely, it looks like he's actually right handed, but plays really well with his off hand.

In terms of improving one's off hand game TB's a good act to follow if you're right hand dominant: wide stance, compact strokes, and generate power from legs/hips as much as possible (obviously this applies to TT in general, but for the off hand you have to really concsiously apply the basics vs. the dominant hand where thse things tend to come naturally).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Simas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/11/2020 at 7:00pm
Originally posted by virtualeyes virtualeyes wrote:

While watching this Timo Boll practice session from 10 years ago it's quite clear that TB is in fact a natural lefty (surprise), but if you watch his hitting partner closely, it looks like he's actually right handed, but plays really well with his off hand.

In terms of improving one's off hand game TB's a good act to follow if you're right hand dominant: wide stance, compact strokes, and generate power from legs/hips as much as possible (obviously this applies to TT in general, but for the off hand you have to really concsiously apply the basics vs. the dominant hand where thse things tend to come naturally).
Drop here!

there is a video somewhere with Timo training with his right hand and it looks good. If I find it, will post it here
By the way, Timo Boll looks quite young in the video Smile

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wturber Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/12/2020 at 12:47pm
You can train almost anything.  People without arms learn to use their feet and legs as though they were hands and arms. Focused effort and repetition simply works. Human beans are very adaptable. 

The problem with comparing one person's right and left handedness is that the starting points are seldom the same.  For instance the OP is atypical in his mix of tasks and their handedness compared to most.  Also, it is hard to measure quantitatively and qualitatively if both sides are getting equal training when making comparisons.  And the training of both sides brings up the point that a person training both sides cannot train either side as much as a person who commits an equal amount of total training to one side.  So as a practical matter players who stick with one side are more likely for a given amount of training to reach a higher level. 

But we amateurs who play for sport and fun certainly can choose approaches that make no sense for the elite.  We aren't obliged to pursue "optimum" and it may not actually make sense to do so from the standpoint of getting the most out of the sport.   I can see how being able to play nearly equally well with either hand could be fun.


Edited by wturber - 01/12/2020 at 12:51pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote virtualeyes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01/13/2020 at 1:58am
> You can train almost anything...Human beans are very adaptable.

Yes, and so are human beings, but a young bean is more adaptable than an old bean. It's probably the case that training a child of say, 8 years old, to play with their non-dominant hand would result in a very talented player vs. the adult version of said child training with their non-dominant hand; the latter will never approach the level they reached playing with their dominant hand during their formative years, even after 10 years of practice.

In my case I never played table tennis, I played hardbat ping pong, which lacks all the subtleties of the supper fast/spinny game that is table tennis, so have much less to unlearn than someone who played many years of proper TT.

As you say for amateurs it's for fun, and being able to see my game progress in many dimensions with the non-dominant hand while the dominant hand improves (if at all) at a much slower rate, leads to more and more fun. It would be amazing to somehow play myself lefty vs. righty; would be a close match, but I think the non-dominant hand has the edge currently :)
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