Table Tennis is an incredibly fast game, especially when played professionally. Yet the one skill that anyone needs in table tennis – and sometimes it comes naturally to the player – is the Block Stroke. In the passage below we look at why is practicing blocking so important in table tennis, how to block and the other tactics related to blocking in table tennis.
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What is the Block Stroke?
The Block Stroke is one of the simplest, yet vital shots in table tennis, and it is more about your body positioning than it is about hitting the ball in a certain way. When a ball is coming towards you that quickly with topspin, you simply block it.
You return it quickly and solidly, in a steadfast way. Your opponent is doing all the hard work by hitting the ball with force and speed, and you are simply, blocking it.
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What Skill Do You Need for the Block Stroke?
You need to have good hand-eye co-ordination, but then, you need this for table tennis anyway. You need to keep your eye on the ball all the way. And you need to keep your body as strong as possible. It is recommended that you:-
- Keep your body close to the table, so you can block the ball quickly as it approaches.
- Move your body so you are in the right position, anticipating the coming shots.
- Adjust your bat angle, depending on the top spin coming your way.
- Think of yourself as a brick wall; nothing is getting past you.
- Keep your shots short.
- Keep defending.
Is a Block Stroke All about Defence?
Not at all.
It does mean that when you block your opponent is attacking and you are defending, but you are defending with style.
Your opponent is doing all the hard work, running from side to side, forwards and backwards, and using his arms and muscles to hit the ball with great strength and spin.
You are standing steadfast in return. Your opponent is going to, hopefully, outplay himself with time, and your return block shots are smart.
Block shots can be practiced, should be practiced in fact, and you will find ways of blocking where you still hit the ball into all corners, low and high, fast and slow, and of course, with spin.
Your block shot rebounds from your opponent’s hard shot.
The beauty of a block shot is you don’t have to work hard. Take a look at this video which really highlights what the table tennis block shot is all about. You consistently return the ball.
The demonstrations in this video, forehand and backhand blocks, are well demonstrated by table tennis pro Paul Drinkhall.
Paul says to stay low and keep your bat high. It’s easy to do drills, as long as you have a partner who is willing to rally with you for as long as possible. You can in fact both block, if you choose, keeping your bodies still, straight and strong.
Block to All Sides and Parts of the Table
A block shot requires skill. If you keep blocking the ball back to the same spot on the table, you are going to get hammered pretty quickly.
But if you use your head smartly, and by that we mean think quickly and in the moment, and block to different spots, you turn your attacker into the defendant.
You can also change your speed with each block, again putting your opponent on the back foot. Blocking can be exceptionally frustrating for your opponent as well, meaning he is far more likely to make an error before you.
Not Everyone Blocks
Table tennis is a fast game and the excitement of the game is often two players who are both hitting hard, fast and with top spin. Generally, these are shorter rallies at great speed.
When one player blocks, the rallies are longer and the game takes on a different feel and speed. Some players like the thrill of fast and furious rallies, and if you take a look at this video you will gasp at the rallies here.
Blocking is not for everyone and it does change and shake up the game. It can however turn you into a winner.
Which are the Different Block Strokes?
There are different types of block strokes one can use in table tennis. They are:
- Steady Block
- Aggressive Block
- Chop Block
The Steady Block
The Steady block is pretty much what we have spoken about above. In the steady block, you remain steadfast. You position your body according to your forehand or backhand, and if you are going to spin the ball, you adjust the angle of your bat.
You keep your shot short and sharp and you do not need to hit the ball hard. Basically, you are using the speed of your opponent’s ball to return the shot.
Table tennis fans love Vladimir Samasanov, and in this game against Timo Boll, you can really start to understand the steady block shot.
The Aggressive Block
This is when you keep blocking the ball, but do it with more speed. Some players call this an assertive defence stroke. You block the ball back to your opponent, quickly, hoping for him to make the mistake.
Block, steadfastly, but aggressively too. Aggressive blocking means you rush your opponent but it is not without its difficulties. You need to stay close to the table (you do this with all blocking) and return the ball quickly, to different spots on the table, making it harder for your attacker to keep attacking.
He is either going to make an error or you are going to hit a winner.
The Chop Block, also known as the Trick Block
This is a bit like a drop shot in tennis, when your opponent is not expecting the shot. You chop down on the ball as you make contact, slowing it and changing the spin.
This is a shock that your opponent is not expecting and he may find it difficult to reach the ball in good time. Note that these trick blocks are not easy to master; the more you play the more you practice.
Here is Craig Bryant with some astonishing chop blocks.
Other trick blocks include the side-spin block, which is when you block the ball and move your bat from one side to the other as you block it. Your ball, hopefully, will land on the other side of the table, and then bounce in the opposite direction. If you have a smart opponent, he may foresee this, but if you can master this shot, you can master the game.
Use Blocking to Change your Tactics
Sometimes, a game is not going the way you want it to go. You might be winning, or losing, but you might not be happy with your game. Shake it up a little bit. If you are not blocking, maybe try it.
If you are blocking, maybe you are blocking too much. If the thrill of the game is not there for you, or you are frustrated with your game, shaking things up.
Try a new spin shot, a different spin, a different kind of blocking, or even, use different equipment. Take your time experimenting with your game. Table tennis is a great game as you can literally play for ten minutes and feel great! Practice, watch, listen and shake up your shots.
How Do I Master the Block Shot?
There are a few things you can do to improve your table tennis in general:
- Practice as much as you can.
- Watch video tutorials.
- Watch other people playing the game.
- Try new shots and new tactics.
- Follow your intuition.
- Get coaching.
- Never give up.
This may all seem very simple but honestly, you learn by watching and practicing. Look at the table tennis professionals that you admire and follow them online.
There are several Youtube channels that are devoted to table tennis, including the International Table Tennis Federation channel. The ITTF is the international body that governs the game, so you will learn everything you need to know about the game, by following them.
A few other table tennis channels to follow:
- Tom Lodziak
- Table Tennis University
- Ben Larcombe
Follow us for more table tennis tips, on forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, smashes and of course, block shots!