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    1. Top | #1
      AndyCouchman is offline
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      Use of observational learning

      I just if anyone has intentionally used observational learning as part of their table tennis training programme.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observational_learning

      If yes, it's effect on your progress ?
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    2. Top | #2
      fais is offline
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      I built my entire foundation off of YouTube. Asides from a few tweaks my couch didn't really have to correct my form.

      Though, I did/do watch Ma Long and Xu Xin religiously, constantly studying their form. I feel I've had several breakthroughs in the process.

      More than videos, what has really helped me internalize technique is watching good form in action up close. (I really dislike the traditional camera angle when watching TT, but side views of games come in second as they really help capture footwork, speed and positioninsg in action, 90% of which is lost from the behind the player view!)

      To be fair, I'm also very studious by nature and cross training in several other sports has helped me formalize my approach like a coach. My emphasis is also on form rather than winning (which will come later), and My approach is analyse, tweak and practice till it clicks.

    3. Top | #3
      shinhyun is offline
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      I use that with self-criticizing since the beginning (ie last year) it works for me, i have a good level but it seems i can't become better or slower than this last year. I need to train more often and get some advise from someone else (or simply recording myself while playing to see my errors). I use to train once or twice a week (about 4-6hours per week).

    4. Top | #4
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      I think the term observational learning refers to something different than what you guys are thinking.

      It is sort of like, you are with your father when you are a kid and he says things with a certain accent and in a certain way and you start duplicating that kind of behavior. If he has a speech impediment, you may learn to speak in the same way without your having the same circumstances that caused his speech impediment.

      I do think, in TT kids learn like sponges and get better in a way that almost seems like osmosis. I think if a kid is surrounded by players with good form, he is much more likely to develop good from. But what is going on there is much more than what is being referred to here as observational learning.

      And, for an adult, very unlikely that you will end up with good form in your strokes from hanging around Ma Long and watching him train in person. It is definitely not going to happen by watching YouTube Videos.

      Look at Siva Shopenhaur's videos of his forehand. He thinks he is emulating Ma Long's form. Nothing could be further from the truth.



      For the thread where he posted this and reveals that he thinks he is Emulating Ma Long's form on Forehand:

      http://www.tabletennisdaily.co.uk/fo...verse+pendulum
      Last edited by UpSideDownCarl; 12-25-2015 at 06:03 AM.
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    6. Top | #5
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      I think that there is a lot to be gained by watching better players. That said, what they do is usually not transparent so any proper emulation is often accidental. What is likely though is that watching them encourages us to see new possibilities in the sport so that we are more emboldened to try things that we wouldn't have tried before. Such experimentation is important and part of the healthy growth of any TT player with aspirations.
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    8. Top | #6
      fais is offline
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      I think there is definitely enough information online to grasp basic mechanics. My point was not about merely emulating top tier players. I was very specific in choosing ML and XX, because of sound technique, solid fundamentals and their shared/relatable style and characteristics with me (not because of their rankings). Dima as well is an amazing candidate to observe as he maintains very solid technique during game play. If one is pedantic enough, one can extrapolate whys just as much as hows, extend and apply those whys (not just hows), rinse and repeat.

      It is impossible of me coming close to any of the top tier players (not only do we differ on how much we invest, but our roi differ drastically as well), but the question is about incorporating something to improve (not play like them), and seeing those improvements with time?. The mistake however as you noted Carl, is to assume you have achieved a particular level when you haven't.

      In the above video, Siva feels the way he does because he is trying something different than what comes naturally to him. If he were to continue tweaking and re-tweaking I would imagine there would be improvement provided he know what to look for and has an above average TY IQ.

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    10. Top | #7
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      Use of observational learning

      I think there are a few things going on with why it is hard to learn and duplicate what you see from a high rated player just by watching.

      The better your technique is, the more you can learn from just watching because you have done and felt enough of what you are seeing.

      I actually remember, before I could loop, not being able to see the difference between a loop and a drive in what happens on the blade face from the rubber to the ball. The extended dwell time and that pull-ball effect, I remember not understanding what I was seeing and not seeing it properly.

      Anyway, the biggest things that make it hard to sort out what is happening just from observation if your level isn't already decently high are:

      1) The movement of the strokes are pretty darn complicated. The timing of the breaking of the elbow with the very small explosive movement from the hips and legs to pop into the ball all at the precise timing just before contact, is one example of the complication. If you look at Siva's first backhand in that video where the "multiball" switches from Siva feeding to him being fed, you can see he is trying to imitate a banana flip and it is pretty decent but it is much more circular than it should be and his followthrough is off to the side instead of forward. He did a pretty decent job of figuring some of what to do out but the movement is fairly inefficient in comparison to the stroke of a higher level player. However, his attempt to duplicate the technique of a forehand from observation has many more mechanical issues from a technical standing.

      2) This, I think is even bigger: a person watching another person play, will usually tend to watch and pay attention to the flight and arc of the ball too. That makes it SOOOOO MUCH harder to actually see what the body movement actually was.

      3) The last thing is that most of us are not really that highly skilled at watching someone else move and actually seeing what is happening. It is very hard to accurately see which joints move and which don't in a movement that happens so fast. To see what plane a particular joint moves a limb in is not easy either.

      So a lower level player will invariably make a forehand swing that is much too large with a followthrough across the body and not high enough. This is because, in watching the FH, the stroke is so fast that it is sort of hard to see how much of a role the forearm and the timing of the wrist and hips play in the movement, and how much more stable the upper arm is and how much less movement happens from the shoulder than most people would realize unless their technique was already fairly decent.

      This information is also why Brett Clarke's instructional videos are so particularly useful for helping people--especially adults--learn good technique.

      Brett is particularly skilled at breaking down all the separate actions that happen in a stroke, and showing ways to help you learn how to isolate different joints.

      That video where he uses the broom stick handle to show how to isolate the wrist and forearm and keep the upper arm from moving is actually total genius.

      In the movie Topspin there is a scene where Ariel Hsing has a belt with a bungee strapped from her waist to her upper arm. When asked what it is she answers: "forehand fixing machine". For a high level forehand, you may not always keep your upper arm stable and only swing from the forearm and wrist. But a high level player will be able to isolate the movement from the forearm for the more compact strokes closer to the table. They will be able to do that whenever they choose.

      Now, part of what I do in my work is actually movement analysis. Like, when I see someone replacing a movement from the acetabulum (main hip joint) with a movement of the spine to move the whole pelvic structure for walking, it tells me some good information about things that are going on with their hips and things that will help the person. Sometimes I see a person doing a movement with their arm that should come from the gleno-humeral joint but instead is coming from elevation of the scapula as a result of movement in the acromio-clavicular joint and the sterno-clavicular joint, and this will tell me about something going on with their shoulder and things that will help them.

      Same kind of things with movements of the spine. Sometimes a movement that should happen in the thoracic spine happens in the cervical or lumbar spine instead.

      Most people don't have training like that. I do.

      And I can tell you for sure, that when my technique was worse, it was really hard for me to understand and break down the movements that go into making a good forehand or backhand stroke. In fact, despite my training, the complexity of the strokes, particularly the forehand stroke was not possible to sort out without decent training from someone who could see what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.

      Using Siva's videos as an example one more time, he has been particularly good at learning how to get excellent spin on his serves. But, if you look at his body positioning, he is way more upright in those serves than the pros whose serves he feels he is duplicating. If you watch his forehand, his weight is too far back and he is too upright there too.

      Those are hard things to change. Especially if you can't see that you are doing them.

      So, none of this is to disrespect Siva. He is pretty darn good, especially for someone who is almost entirely self taught. But there are several things you can see that instantly tell you that he is a fast learner but that he taught himself a lot of things and that there are a few mechanical issues that cause his strokes to be more than a bit inefficient.

      I have a few of those things in my strokes too. So, this is not a criticism. But I am using his videos as a useful example of how hard it would be to learn table tennis just by observing.

      And you can forget about learning how to make brush contact from simply watching others.


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      Last edited by UpSideDownCarl; 12-25-2015 at 09:51 PM.

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    12. Top | #8
      NextLevel is online now
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      Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl View Post
      I think there are a few things going on with why it is hard to learn and duplicate what you see from a high rated player just by watching.

      The better your technique is, the more you can learn from just watching because you have done and felt enough of what you are seeing.

      I actually remember, before I could loop, not being able to see the difference between a loop and a drive in what happens on the blade face from the rubber to the ball. The extended dwell time and that pull-ball effect, I remember not understanding what I was seeing and not seeing it properly.

      Anyway, the biggest things that make it hard to sort out what is happening just from observation if your level isn't already fairly high are:

      1) the movement of the strokes are pretty darn complicated. The timing of the breaking of the elbow with the very small explosive movement from the hips and legs to pop into the ball all at the precise timing just before contact, is one example of the complication. If you look at Siva's first backhand in that video where the "multiball" switches from Siva feeding to him being fed, you can see he is trying to imitate a banana flip and it is pretty decent but it is much more circular than it should be and his followthrough is off to the side instead of forward. He did a much better job of figuring some of what to do out but the movement is fairly inefficient in comparison to the stroke of a higher level player. However, his attempt to duplicate a forehand from observation is much worse from a technical standing.

      2) This, I think is even bigger: a person watching another person play, will usually tend to watch and pay attention to the flight and arc of the ball too. That makes it SOOOOO MUCH harder to actually see what the movement actually was.

      3) The last thing is that most of us are not really that highly skilled at watching someone else move and actually seeing what is happening, actually seeing which joints move and which don't.

      So a lower level player will invariably make a forehand swing that is much too large with a followthrough across the body and not high enough because, in watching the FH stroke, the stroke is so fast that it is sort of hard to see how much of a role the forearm and the timing of the wrist play a role in the movement and how much more stable the upper arm is and how much less movement happens from the shoulder than most people would realize unless their technique was already fairly decent.

      This information is also why Brett Clarke's instructional videos are so particularly useful for helping people--especially adults--learn good technique.

      Brett is particularly skilled at breaking down all the separate actions that happen in a stroke down and showing ways to help you learn how to isolate different joints.

      That video where he uses the broom stick handle to show how to isolate the wrist and forearm and keep the upper arm from moving is actually total genius.

      In the movie Topspin there is a scene where Ariel Hsing has a belt with a bungee strapped from her waist to her upper arm. When asked what it is she answers: "forehand fixing machine". For a high level forehand, you may not always keep your upper arm stable and only swing from the forearm and wrist. But a high level player will be able to isolate the movement from the forearm for the more compact strokes closer to the table.

      Now, part of what I do in my work is actually movement analysis. Like, when I see someone replacing a movement from the acetabulum (main hip joint) and replaced that with a movement of the spine to move the whole pelvic structure for walking, it tells me some good information about things that are going on with their hips and things that will help the person. Sometimes I see a person doing a movement with their arm that should come from the glenohumeral joint but instead is coming from elevation of the scapula as a result of movement in the acromio-clavicular joint and the sterno-clavicular joint, and this will tell me about something going on with their shoulder and things that will help them.

      Same kind of things with movements of the spine. Sometimes a movement that should happen in the thoracic spine happens in the cervical or lumbar spine instead.

      Most people don't have training like that. I do.

      And I can tell you for sure, that when my technique was worse, it was really hard for me to understand and break down the movements that go into making a good forehand or backhand stroke. In fact, despite my training, the complexity of the strokes, particularly the forehand stroke was not possible to sort out without decent training from someone who could see what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.

      Using Siva's videos as an example one more time, he has been particularly good at learning how to get excellent spin on his serves. But, if you look at his body positioning, he is way more upright in those serves than the pros whose serves he feels he is duplicating. If you watch his forehand, his weight is too far back and he is too upright there too.

      Those are hard things to change. Especially if you can't see that you are doing them.

      So, none of this is to disrespect Siva. He is pretty darn good, especially for someone who is entirely self taught. But there are several things you can see that instantly tell you that he is a fast learner but that he taught himself a lot of things and that there are a few mechanical issues that cause his strokes to be more than a bit inefficient.

      I have a few of those things in my strokes too. So, not a criticism. But a useful example of how hard it would be to learn table tennis just by observing.

      And you can forget about learning how to make brush contact from simply watching others.


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      Excellent post, Carl. FWIW, the occasions I speak to Brett about stuff like this, or even my current coach about such stuff, the more I learn how little I really understand. But as you pointed out with people who have an understanding of some of this having practiced it with guided coaching, because I try a lot of stuff out and put in a lot of hours however inefficiently, I correlate a lot of stuff reasonably well.

      But I did my own version of what Andy is trying to do and I know a couple of other people who did it - after all, I broke USATT 2000 within 3 years of coached tournament play, 3.5 yrs after my first formal coaching session and 3.75 years after becoming a USATT member and my first tournament (I spent 3 months not playing before I started getting coaching and until the second half of 2014, I didn't play every day or invest myself as heavily in TT as I do now). It's fun to read aspects of Andy's blog in that context because there is so much in TT you can't know unless you are forced to figure it out yourself. So what I largely try to do is enjoy watching Andy figure this out because it will be interesting in a year whether he still has the same views that he has now.

      I am really thankful that Marc Burnham is working with Andy in person. Coaches like Marc who have developed a lot of players and have experience developing serious adults to a high level are pretty rare. What I have noticed is that immediately I see one of such coaches, he tends to sound like all the other ones that I have met. They generally know how to reason with adults and keep telling adults to play slower, not faster, until they get the basics down and even after.

      Andy also hasn't hit a real wall yet. He thinks he has because of what he views the growth curve in TT to be like but he hasn't. He is still on the easy upward part of the growth curve. While he might not hit one as serious as the one I hit because he got good balanced and technical coaching from the start, he is still improving largely because of things like hitting the ball more and becoming more consistent. It's when he has to consistently face players with technical basics like the ones he is acquiring and he has to figure out ways to outwit them since he will not be able to be consistently faster and more athletic than they are that things will get really interesting. And of course, I will be watching with interest. Because when you acquire good technical basics and are able to outhit players you couldn't out hit before, the temptation sets in to believe that you can win every match that way.

      Nothing could be further from the truth. But only experience will tell you that.

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    14. Top | #9
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      Carl took it to a whole different level. Here, I'm talking about a 900 level player aspiring to be about 1500+ (USATT). The videos I watched didn't help me nearly as much in the earlier years than they do now, and can be simply yet powerfully surmised by Carl's statement "the better your technique is, the more you can learn from just watching".

      Even the outliers will plateau without technical mentoring. I tell people who have this view that they can figure it out on their own (some of them haven't watched a single game) that at best (still impossible) you will reinvent the wheel. 100% gaurantee that whatever technique you devise will pale in comparison to the evolution of this game as brought about by TT geniuses. A person who plays less yet has learned merely from observation/emulation stands a much better chance of beating someone who hasn't watched the game yet "plays" a lot.

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    16. Top | #10
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      Quote Originally Posted by fais View Post
      Carl took it to a whole different level. Here, I'm talking about a 900 level player aspiring to be about 1500+ (USATT). The videos I watched didn't help me nearly as much in the earlier years than they do now, and can be simply yet powerfully surmised by Carl's statement "the better your technique is, the more you can learn from just watching".

      Even the outliers will plateau without technical mentoring. I tell people who have this view that they can figure it out on their own (some of them haven't watched a single game) that at best (still impossible) you will reinvent the wheel. 100% gaurantee that whatever technique you devise will pale in comparison to the evolution of this game as brought about by TT geniuses. A person who plays less yet has learned merely from observation/emulation stands a much better chance of beating someone who hasn't watched the game yet "plays" a lot.
      You make a great point, fais, and that is in part what I meant when I wrote that any proper emulation is purely accidental. Anyone who wants to get better will always do something like what Siva and Andy doing - it is their awareness of what they are doing wrong that is missing.

      I am a believer that sound looping technique almost automatically makes you a 1600 player. So I find your estimate of getting to 1500 USATT with bad but copied technique without being helped a lot by better players pretty reasonable if a player plays long enough. That said, ball control can be done in a variety of ways and is what table tennis is about. I used a servicable form of a FH like Siva's all the way to USATT 2000 - that said, even my bad forehand went through a lot of coaching.

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    18. Top | #11
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      Great posts by fais and NextLevel. Thanks.

      And just to be clear, in spite of what I have said, you do have to watch and keep watching table tennis to learn and get better. You just shouldn't expect to get better just by watching.

      Stuff you watch will be hard to understand and seem beyond your abilities. And then all of a sudden, you will see yourself do something you previously didn't understand and then a little piece of the puzzle will click into place and you will understand that and the next time you see it, you will see it more clearly and go, "Oh, now I get it."

      So, yeah, you have to watch. Even watching players your own level helps. You start seeing all the things you do wrong in their playing. But watching someone 2200-2800 is very valuable.

      It is just more valuable to have someone 2200-2800 watching you!!!! And you get more value from watching a high level player when you also have a high level player helping you improve.

      The good news is, Andy is looking for any and every way to improve possible. So, from that perspective, play on the table, shadow drills, coaching, training with someone your own level and trying to work on drills you get from coaches, ladder drills to cross train footwork coordination, etc etc, yeah, add watching pros and elite level players to the list.

      It is much better to watch in person, but it is valuable to watch in any way you can. You just may not learn what you think you will learn from watching. But you will learn something and your brain will process some things you never even would have considered.

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    20. Top | #12
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      Interesting to read everybody's thoughts. Let me share an anecdote with you all... Related to watching Top Tier Players.

      In more than one occasion I have spent the previous night, of training watching videos for about an hour. The next day my level is significantly higher, so much so that whenever this happens I joke that I'm possessed. What is it? Observation? Inspiration? Both... I don't know. What I do know is: if I do it again (watch videos, the previous night) my level sky rockets... Sadly the effect is not permanent, solid improvement only comes thru practice and putting in time...


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      Quote Originally Posted by mquevedof View Post
      Interesting to read everybody's thoughts. Let me share an anecdote with you all... Related to watching Top Tier Players.

      In more than one occasion I have spent the previous night, of training watching videos for about an hour. The next day my level is significantly higher, so much so that whenever this happens I joke that I'm possessed. What is it? Observation? Inspiration? Both... I don't know. What I do know is: if I do it again (watch videos, the previous night) my level sky rockets... Sadly the effect is not permanent, solid improvement only comes thru practice and putting in time...

      I don't have an explanation for this, but it was something I did experience much earlier on when I first began learning. I imagine the experience is akin to motivational talks coaches give before critical games to inspire you and mentally rile you up to give it your best. So much of table tennis is a mental thing, that one can't discount even the slightest mental edge. (The greatest TT player, JOW was renowned for his mental strength and inability to get phased!).

      I would also guess (but probably less likely), since so much of this game is timings as well, watching proper techniques executed with correct timings can help you also prematurely acquaint your self with the tempo of this sport.

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    23. Top | #14
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      Quote Originally Posted by fais View Post
      I don't have an explanation for this, but it was something I did experience much earlier on when I first began learning. I imagine the experience is akin to motivational talks coaches give before critical games to inspire you and mentally rile you up to give it your best. So much of table tennis is a mental thing, that one can't discount even the slightest mental edge. (The greatest TT player, JOW was renowned for his mental strength and inability to get phased!).

      I would also guess (but probably less likely), since so much of this game is timings as well, watching proper techniques executed with correct timings can help you also prematurely acquaint your self with the tempo of this sport.
      Sports psychologists recommend such things to you, especially if you can do it with your own matches/points.

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    25. Top | #15
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      Visualization actually also helps. But these things help in ways that are hard to explain.


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      I have found that if you play a top match in slow motion, you notice so many more things. You can watch the technique of the lower body and upper body because you have more time. You notice little things like last minute opening of the racquet or moving early in anticipation that I would not notice in a fullspeed match. Luckily youtube now has a feature to make videos in slow motion. I highly recommend it.

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      Quote Originally Posted by agold View Post
      I have found that if you play a top match in slow motion, you notice so many more things. You can watch the technique of the lower body and upper body because you have more time. You notice little things like last minute opening of the racquet or moving early in anticipation that I would not notice in a fullspeed match. Luckily youtube now has a feature to make videos in slow motion. I highly recommend it.
      This is good and very important, but it can also be dangerous if you think that people are always consciously doing those things. Some of the larger changes are trained (grip switches), but things like opening the paddle might just be the natural outcome of the swing trajectory or an unconscious adjustment to an evaluation of the spin on the ball and can get misinterpreted as other things unless you have an idea of how to test and weed out the bad ideas.

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    31. Top | #18
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      Quote Originally Posted by NextLevel View Post
      This is good and very important, but it can also be dangerous if you think that people are always consciously doing those things. Some of the larger changes are trained (grip switches), but things like opening the paddle might just be the natural outcome of the swing trajectory or an unconscious adjustment to an evaluation of the spin on the ball and can get misinterpreted as other things unless you have an idea of how to test and weed out the bad ideas.
      What I meant was that for these players even until the last millisecond you could not tell if they were going down the line or cross court

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      Quote Originally Posted by agold View Post
      What I meant was that for these players even until the last millisecond you could not tell if they were going down the line or cross court

      Ah, okay. Yeah, at that level, on serve return especially, they get pretty good at withholding such information. But a huge part of that is their choice of grip for those kinds of strokes as some grips don't give you that flexibility. Good luck with figuring that out on video analysis.

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      I see where Abe is coming from and I gotta agree with NL... grip pressure at impact is an invisible force that is unseen and undetected until too late even if then.

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