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Ask the Newgy Expert


Unconventional Grip?
ASK THE EXPERT

By Larry Thoman

This column will consist of questions that have been asked of the staff at Newgy or our replies to questions posed on the table tennis newsgroup, rec.sport.table-tennis. This month's question was asked in an e-mail by Jeff Greenberg. We encourage readers to send in your own questions. You may email us at expert@newgy.com or fax or write us. All questions cannot be answered, but we will pick out one of them to answer in this column.

Question:
I have been playing ping pong for over 20 years but only recreationally. I have an unconventional grip (taught to me by my father) in which my forefinger AND thumb are behind the blade. I use the same side of the blade on both sides. It helps me use more topspin on the backhand and quickens the transition (I think).

I play anywhere from 2 to 4 feet from the table. The grip also seems to make blocking easier.

Anyway, I was curious if this style of mine has a name and if there are any blades appropriate to it. In the past, some paddles dug into my middle finger because the bottom wasn't rounded enough.

Make sense? I include a picture of me gripping a large paddle in a similar way.

Answer:
Jeff,

What you are using is a variation of the "Seemiller" grip, named after Dan Seemiller who is 5 times National Champion and who got as high as 18th in the world. Sometimes this grip is also referred to as the "American" grip or "Windshield Wiper" grip. This was a popular grip in the 70's and 80's and was used by both Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan, who are the only American-born players to break into the world top 20 in the last 30+ years. So it is an acceptable grip.

In the last decade or so, however, this grip has slowly gone out of favor. To the best of my knowledge, there is no one currently on the world ranking list that uses this grip and there are only a few in the top 100 or so in the US. There are several reasons for this, but mainly it is because of 3 weaknesses of this grip:

  1. Inability to attack underspin balls placed wide to the backhand.
  2. Inability to defend against attacks to the wide forehand.
  3. Difficulty in sustaining a strong forehand attack when the first attack is counterattacked.

On the other hand, this is a great grip for:

  1. Close to table blocking and counter-driving and smashing.
  2. Use of two different rubber surfaces (usually inverted and either anti or long pips) and flipping between the two for service receive or as a variation in the middle of a rally.
  3. No switch point weakness.

Most players using this grip use a flared style handle and usually a medium or medium fast blade. Dan, Eric, and most everyone else I've seen use this grip let their forefinger wrap around one side of the blade resting the paddle edge in the 1st joint of the forefinger and letting the opposite edge of the blade rest between the 1st and 2nd joints of the thumb. This hand position will prevent the edge of the paddle from digging into your middle finger and give greater stability to your forehand strokes. When returning underspin shots with the backhand, the thumb is moved onto the blade surface in roughly the same position as shown in the picture you sent in of your grip.

Thanks for writing and good luck with your game.

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