The secrets of the Chinese National Team

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Oct 2010
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Rare video of the Chinese National team training from physical training to statistical analysis to equipment. It is non speaking English however there is some translation below from another forum user.

Cool video or what?

Each coach trains each player individually. Ma Long has very thin fingers, thin and soft, like a woman's, a pianist's hands. But TT requires strong fingers and strong wrists. Ma Long is intent on improving his backhand. If his fingers/wrist aren’t strong enough, he will get injuries if he insists on changing his backhand technique. Currently, we are trying to improve Ma Long’s lower body strength and explosiveness, in addition to finger and wrist strength. When training Ma Long’s physical ability, emphasis is placed on strength and explosiveness (silences critics who think Ma Long’s play style revolves around power). For Zhang Jike, however, it is speed and endurance. Zhang Jike has one of the best bodies in the team, but his biggest problem is the number of injuries he has, especially his shoulder injury. During closed training (for those who don’t know, closed training is when all team members are required to follow an extremely strict regimen with barely any freedom to do anything not on the schedule) , Zhang Jike will train his shoulder by doing “X” motions (as seen in video) to improve his shoulder strength, and thus decrease the possibility of shoulder problems in the future. Physical training is extremely important in TT (obviously). For most professional TT players, the forearm of the player’s playing arm is longer than the forearm of the other arm. Yan An sprained his ankle during closed training. While doing rehab exercises, the fitness coach told him that both success and failure can become “habits” and encourages him to succeed on his balance/foot exercise to recover his foot more quickly. Some of the rehab treatments include submerging his foot into 0 degrees water for 10-15 minutes, massage therapy, and balancing on one foot. Quick tip on being a coach/trainer: you must let your student see/feel changes/improvements. Before the WTTCs, the men’s team always has their closed trainings in Xiamen. During these closed trainings, there is a secret. For 3 days, the main players (those who will participate in the singles) do not do any actual training. Instead, they hold a conference with Liu Guoliang and their coaches to discuss mental/emotional factors that may affect their results in the WTTC. All coaches and players give their input on all the players. So for example, Xu Xin will say what he thinks about Zhang Jike’s playing, etc. Due to the nature of this type of discussion, which may include the main players’ technical abilities (ie. Ma Long’s interpretation on how to do a particular loop in a particular situation) and other special secrets, the details are never disclosed to the public. In this video, there is a discussion on why Zhang Jike’s results keep fluctuating after winning the Olympics. Zhang Jike says that in theory, he should have much less pressure during team competitions. But somehow he always fails to get into the right state of mind during matches quickly enough. One key point that he says is that due to the fewer number of games in a team competition (best of 5 games instead of best of 7), he often feels that the match is already over before he has even gotten into the right state of mind. Even when he wins, he says that he is not comfortable. LGL then talks about how his rebellious nature and over self-centeredness could be the root of his inability to manage pressure during team competitions. Xu Xin says that Zhang Jike plays his best when he feels lots of pressure. LGL is also proud of the fact that the Chinese team can work together as a team during these conferences to truly help out any main player so that the team gets the glory. He says that if it were any other country with the world’s top 5 players in a single room, they would not be able to do what the Chinese team can do – which is to give truthful and honest insights to maximally help a teammate. The reason is simple: everybody wants to be the champion.

In the video, Ma Long went to find Li Xiaodong (who is the most experienced coach on the team) to ask him about his rhythm control during his matches, specifically on whether his rhythm is too fast or too slow when he wins/loses matches. The research team also helps out on this. For example, they will calculate the “ball-picking” time of Ma Long. The “ball-picking” time is the time Ma Long spends to pick the ball up between each point during a match. One match, among many that they calculated, was the one against Timo Boll during the finals of the 2010 WTTTC (which Ma Long lost). From what they discovered, the average ball-picking time is 26-27 seconds when Ma Long wins, and 22 seconds when he loses. The best matches he plays are when his ball-picking time is 31 seconds (such as during the Asian Championships against Zhang Jike). Apparently the ball-picking time is 17 seconds when he plays his worst. Ma Long is stunned when he hears that he takes up to 30-40 seconds between each point. But what Li Xiaodong says is that his ball-picking time fluctuates too much, and wishes him to control his rhythm more. He wants him to use his “winning” rhythm more, and that when he is trailing behind, to slow the rhythm down so that he has ample time to think and grasp the momentum.
Research team:

Analyzing Boll: from nerves to overall summary and play style and personality
His match with Fan Zhendong was used in the video. For the particular point that was shown in the video, Boll primarily won the point from the down-the-line shot he executed with his backhand. They make “trajectory graphs” that the Chinese players study often before playing the match. Comments such as “average short game ability” are also common. It takes about 7-8 hours to finish analyzing one match. Every shot is recorded, discussed, and analyzed. Li Xiaodong commends the research team, saying that they are able to persist and do such a boring job that earns them no fame or accomplishments.


CNT members are extremely selective about their equipment. Tens of types of blades are given to the CNT every year to try. It often takes 2-3 modifications to satisfy them. Hundreds of thousands of blades are given to the CNT each year (wtf mind-blowing). Each blade in the CNT is “vastly different” in feel. At the time the video is taken, Zhang Jike uses 40.5 degrees on his Hurricane. Even though the DHS machines already have very low uncertainty values, Zhang Jike can still feel it when the hardness isn’t perfectly even or when the hardness isn’t what he wants. CNT main players are also extremely picky about the shoes. Different shoes can be made for different footwork characteristics or different shapes. Modifications for grip and even appearance can also be done. For instance, Zhang Jike wants his left shoe to have the letter J on the back of his shoe, with 3 stars underneath it to symbolize Grand Slam winner LOL, and his right shoe to have the letter “K” but with only one star underneath it, accompanied by 2 question marks that symbolize future goals. Zhang Jike’s feet is also unique in that size 25.5 is too small for him while size 26 is too big. So the team buys 25.5 for him, but also buys an expander in which they put the shoe for 3 days to have it expanded to 25.75.

Li Sun:

He believes that world champions, and especially Grand Slam winners, are people with such talent and something in them that cannot be taught. Wang Nan, Zhang Yining, and Li Xiaoxia are all his students who have gotten Grand Slams. Li Xiaoxia says that Li Sun not only taught her table tennis, but also taught her how to surmount difficulties, and the state of mind she should have to do so.