Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Vladimir Samson - table tennis questions

Today I was absolutely thrilled that Vladimir Samsonov, one of the world's greatest players, has generously accepted my offer of an interview! OOAK forum members get to make up the list of questions, and once compiled they will be passed onto Vladimir. The final interview will be posted in the OOAK forum as well.

If you have specific questions that you'd like to ask him, you can contribute here:
Interview with Vladimir Samsonov - questions

Friday, May 06, 2011

Butterfly rubber and blades substitutes

Players looking for a cheaper substitute for their favourite Butterfly rubber, and in some cases blades as well, is one of the hot topics around the clubs and online communities.

As most of you know, about a year ago Butterfly Japan decided to raise their prices worldwide. Now this is not unusual, but the size price hike blew me away! Almost all Japan-made products went up by about huge margins, and some products increase by over 100%!

They did not stop there though. Because some countries were getting cheaper prices from the manufacturer than others, many distributors found it cheaper to buy from other distributors rather than the manufacturer, so the manufacturer forbid distributors from selling outside their region, and imposed steep fines for those
that violated this.

But wait... there's more... There are many small distributors around the world that have been selling and
promoting the Butterfly products for many years. Recently many of these have been told that they can no longer be supplied by Butterfly directly, but must now buy from the Butterfly appointed distributor that covers a much larger region.

It seems Butterfly is under new managment, who are more profit focussed. Of course this type of thing happens all the time in business, but in this case it seems they are not only letting down loyal players that have supported their products for many years, but also many of their distributors who have spent money and time promoting the Butterfly products for years! So it's not surprising that many players are fed-up with this, and are looking for alternative products.

Butterfly is arguable the market leader in equipment, and there is no question that they have a  wide range of high quality products used by many players all over the world. However there are many other manufacturers that have a wide range of quality products, and although Butterfly has a few unique and innovative products, the majorty of their equipment has something of similar performance and quality in other brands.

OK, what are they? Well this is something that the whole table tennis community can work on together. OOAK forum recently started making a list of the Butterfly rubber equivalents and blade substitutes. Other major forums like Mytt has also many valuable threads discussing Butterfly alternatives, but I think it best to organise this all in one list, so that it can be kept up to date and checked in a central location.

It would be great if we as individuals or other forums can support this, and all help add to this list, and as a result, many can benefit and save a lot of money spent on equipment. A lot of equipment does not have an identical product in another brand, but many come very close, and to 95% of players this may well be close enough, in that they either (1) cannot feel the difference, or (2) can easily adjust to the minor differences. If you can help, it easiest to simply respond in the OOAK forum, but you can leave comment here as well, and I can make sure it's added to the list.

If you're a Butterfly fan, or you believe the product that you're using has no equivalents and you can affort to keep using it, then go ahead keep using it... I have no problems with this at all, and I understand that changing equipment can be detrimental to people's game. However if you can no longer afford it, or you no longer wish to support the brand, you might just find something on the list that will work just as well, and save you lots of $$$ in the process.

This post is not meant to persuade players to stop using Butterfly products, but merely to offer other (usually cheaper) option, which may well be just as suitable for many of us.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The remarkable Re-Impact blades

It's pretty rare these days for me to come across a new piece of equipment that really impresses me, but new Re-impact Tachi blade, did exactly that!

Although I had tried a Re-Impact Taipan blade before, it did not really suit my game, so I did not persist with it. However I was intrigued by the huge thread on the OOAK forum about Taichi blade. It was the big difference between forehand and backhand that finally convinced me I had to try it.

I chatted to Achim, the owner of Re-Impact in Germany who designs and manufacturers the blade. His knowledge of blades and player's requirments is truly impressive! You can read more about this in the Interview with Achim from Re-Impact.

So I finally got the blade, and when I first held one in my hand I took a liking to it straight away. It was very light at only 60g! The handle was nice and thick and soft, as it was also made of balsa wood. The head shape is different from other blades, so you'll probably need to use a new rubber sheet to cover the whole surface (although if you choose the smallest size of the blade you might manage to fit it).

The big difference in speed between the 2 sides comes from the thick balsa layer on only one side. On thew Tachi blade the Balsa layer on the backhand side is quite thick, whereas the forehand side has multiple plies of other woods. The thick
balsa layer on the back gives it quite a unique property. On low impact (such as a passive block against topspin) the speed is really low, gives a lot of 'braking effect' to the ball, allowing you to block short with easy, and with decent spin reversal. However on high impact (such as an aggressive block or counter-hit) it has quite good speed, at least enough to get your opponent on the back-foot.

The backhand seems to work best with soft long pimples, and the Tibhar Dtecs is the one recommended as ideal for this blade, but other soft ones should work very well too. The outer ply of the backhand is reasonably hard, which helps spin reversal and makes this blade so effective.

The forehand does not really have a balsa feel, and offer decent speed which feels like around OFF- to me, which is pretty much what I'm used to. This is plenty to generate good pace close in, but will need a fast rubber for good high speed away from the table. Since this blade is optimised for close-in play, the speed is good enough for it's purpose. Medium soft and thin sponged Tensors are recommended, but I find that harder sponged Chinese rubbers work very well too.

I could probably go on and on about how I love this blade, but since it suits me so well, I'm obviously biassed. I'm certainly not the only that likes the blade though, as you can judge by the huge thread on OOAK but also on the German forums, where the Tachi with Dtecs is a very popular combination.

Re-impact do make quite a few other blades as well, but I'm most impressed by their combination blades (blades that have different FH and BH characteristics). They all seem to share the light weight, fairly soft and unique feel and high dwell time. If this is what you like, there may well be a Re-Impact blade that suits you really well. They are not cheap, but considering these are not mass produced but hand made one-by-one by Achim in Germany, the price seems much more reasonable.
Anyway prices are always relative... just look at some of the latest Butterfly blades, and these are mass produced!