Introduction to Table Tennis: How To Play, Rules Of The Game And Equipment

It is estimated that over 250 million people worldwide play with the small celluloid ball. The small space requirement, low costs, relatively easy to learn basics of the technique combined with a catchy game idea have made it an ideal leisure sport.

There are few sports that can be used in so many ways: as a physical compensation for work and school demands, as a vacation sport on the beach, as a family sport, as a school sport for all ages, as a senior sport for fitness and employment, as a sport for the disabled in the competitive and leisure sector, as a balancing sport and reaction exercise for competitive athletes of other disciplines.

With this detailed introduction to table tennis we would like to make you familiar with the sport of table tennis. You will learn where the sport comes from, which material you used to play with and which racket you should use.

Furthermore you will read how to learn table tennis best. Besides a description of the basic strokes you will also find suggestions, tips and tricks that you can try out. It doesn’t matter if you already know how to play or just want to start.

Once you have read our site, you will be able to discuss the sport with your friends. But reading alone is not enough. By reading the word “rain” you will not get wet. Neither will you be able to play table tennis by reading this article. 

You have to play and practice it!

What is Table Tennis?

Table Tennis is a sport that is played by two people on a table tennis table. The game is played with a smaller, flat ball, called a “ping pong ball”, that is thrown and struck with a paddle.

In a nutshell, table tennis is an incredibly fast-paced and competitive game that requires quick reflexes and great hand-eye coordination. It’s also one of the most commonly played sports around the world today! Although it may sound like a complicated sport to play, table tennis actually only takes minutes to learn. If you’re interested in learning more about this fun and popular game, then keep reading! This article will introduce you to table tennis by explaining what it is, how the game works, and how anyone can get started playing quickly.

Table Tennis and Olympic Sport

Table Tennis was first played as an Olympic sport in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. It is a highly competitive sport that achieves a greater level of competition than ping pong. Ping pong is not recognized as an Olympic sport, while table tennis is.

Is it called table tennis or ping pong?

Table tennis is the term used by the International Table Tennis Federation and English-speaking countries. The name ping pong was originally used in England, while ping-pong has become more common in American English.

Why is it called table tennis?

The word “table” refers to the table-like surface of the game and “tennis” is derived from its French name, jeu de paume. The term was originally applied to the sport of table tennis because it was played on a table-top.

Who made the name ping-pong for table tennis?

The name ping-pong is generally thought to be derived from the French words pong, meaning “to bounce,” and the English word ping, which refers to a sound. However, the name is also thought to have been coined by the Scottish engineer James Wilson who, in 1887, observed players hitting a ball back and forth across a table.Introduction

Introduction to Table tennis

Table tennis is a sport that has been around for centuries. It was first played in England in the 1800s and it gradually grew in popularity. In 1988, table tennis became an Olympic sport and the first gold medals were awarded to Chen Jing of China and Yoo Nam-kyu of Korea. Today, table tennis is enjoyed by people all over the world and there are professional tournaments with large prize pools. Some of the most famous table tennis players include Belgian Jean-Michel Saive, German Timo Boll and Danish Michael Maze

In short, table tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world. There are an estimated 260-million players and the International Table Tennis Federation embraces more than 200 nations with 33-million members. This sport is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities with competitions, club tournaments or championships organised around the world.

introduction to table tennis

The Best Table Tennis Player of All Time

We have to introduce the best table tennis player: Ma Long from China is named the best table tennis player of all time. He has a remarkable record, having held the number one position in the International Table Tennis Federation for a record-breaking 64 months. In the history of Table Tennis, no other male player has risen to this level. He became the first male tennis player in history to win every singles title in Table Tennis and also won two consecutive singles titles at the China National Games.

How can I get started playing table tennis?

There are many ways to get started playing Table Tennis. You can find beginner lessons in your area, watch professional matches to learn from the best players, or explore resources online. There are many different Table Tennis resources available, so be sure to explore and find the ones that work best for you.

Table tennis is a great way to get some exercise and have some fun. It is a sport that can be enjoyed by all ages and fitness levels. If you are new to the sport, David Bruce recommends starting with simple drills before progressing onto more complex games. Table tennis is also a great way to socialize and make friends while improving your physical fitness.

Playing Table tennis

Whether young or old, female or male, disabled or healthy, everyone can play table tennis. If you really have never played table tennis before, you should at least try it once. If you don’t have a tabletop at the beginning, you can help yourself with the kitchen or living room table. 

What is the attraction of playing table tennis? Is it the excitement of competition? Or is it the thrill that you have to decide in a split second how to hit a ball? Only a tiny inattention can cost you a point – and maybe a whole game.

There are also alternative versions of table tennis which makes it more fun to play. Why not try some of them after a hard training?

History of Ping Pong

When, how and where was the game with the little white ball first played? We have to look back several centuries if we want to know the origin of table tennis. And even then we can’t come to a clear conclusion, the opinions and views of the greatest experts differ.

It is generally assumed that table tennis was first played in Asia, England or by the Indians in North and South America in a primitive form. Let’s leave the unsecured data aside! The sport of table tennis became famous around the middle of the 19th century. But how was it played then? People did not even use a table. Some played the game on a spacious outdoor area – from which our modern tennis has developed -, others enjoyed playing a small ball back and forth on the floor in their rooms. Stacked books are said to have served as a net!

Check out the history of table tennis to learn more about how our grand fathers played it.

Rules for table tennis

The success of a game also depends largely on the simplicity of its rules. The more difficult a game is to understand, the less people are willing to engage in it. But because the rules for table tennis are easy to understand, it is understandable that it has soon become the no. 1 leisure sport.

Table Tennis Equipment needed

One of the most important reasons for the popularity of table tennis is the space-saving playing surface (the table), and the light playing equipment. The tables are now easy to transport and quick to set up and dismantle, at least in the higher price ranges. 

A well suited place to set up the table can also quickly be found. In many swimming pools, parks or other playgrounds there are permanently installed stone tables that are weatherproof. For the demanding club player, the poorer bounce of the ball on these tables is certainly hardly reasonable, but for recreational fun they are more than sufficient. Always take your racket, ball and net with you on the outing or for a swim.

You will of course need a racket. The table tennis racket consists essentially of 3 parts:

  1. Blade
  2. Handle
  3. Rubbers

Each part has its special meaning for the playing class of an expert. Today, it is even said that in a match between two equally good players, the player with the better material wins. There are racket blades from different woods up to sevenfold glued, which are adapted to the special requirements of the so-called attack, defense and all-round player.

You also will need a ping pong table, a net, balls and many things to start. What other table tennis equipment do you need? Find out in our article about Ping pong equipments needed.

Table tennis training is necessary

Table tennis requires a general athletic training.

How can you manage to become a little bit athletic? The best recipe: gymnastics.

There are so many exercises you can do. Here are a few suggestions: Circling arms, jumping jacks, trying to get down on the floor with your legs stretched out with your hands. 

If you should develop real ambition during the gymnastics, you will be so agile and flexible that you can do whatever you want with your body. It is ideal for table tennis; at the table you will be agile and fast.

Warming up

Gymnastics is good to get fit. What else is good for? To warm up before table tennis. Before training, the body is usually stiff and immobile. So if you rush to the table right away, it might be a short pleasure. Either you injure yourself, because tendons and muscles cannot yet bear the turns and stretches. Or you play terribly badly because your body has not yet adjusted to movement. 

Basic Table Tennis Technique Guide for Beginners

It is not possible to learn a foreign language without a basic vocabulary. Without properly practiced basic strokes it is not possible to play good table tennis. The technique of the basic strokes is like a multiplication table in table tennis.

With good stroke technique you will have an easier time improving your game. The situation is completely different for players who have gotten used to a wrong stroke technique. They often torture themselves in vain to eliminate their technical deficiencies. A good player is characterized above all by a good technique. 

Racket position

How do you hold your racket? This should be clarified before the first stroke, because the position of the racket influences your playing style and technique.

In Europe and the US players mostly play with the shakehand position. You hold the racket in your hand as if you wanted to shake hands with someone (therefore “shake hand”). 

The thumb and index finger are on the lower edge of the racket blade, the remaining fingers grasp the racket handle. You should start with the shake hand position. There is no other position that allows you to make so many different strokes in a technically clean way.

In Asia people prefer the “penholder”. Pick up the bat once like a penholder or a chopstick. It’s probably a little unusual for you. The penholder is especially suitable for an attacking game that can do without a backhand. But it’s a bit boring to play only with the forehand, isn’t it?

Getting used to the ball

You have had little to do with table tennis so far? Then it would probably be wrong to “go to the table” directly. You would not be satisfied if you could only play the ball back and forth once or twice.

Getting used to the ball is the right way to get in the mood for table tennis. How should you treat the ball? How does it bounce off the racket? By playing ball games you can feel the harmonious interaction of racket, ball and body.

Here you will find games and exercises which should serve as a stimulation. There are no limits to your imagination. Invent some fun and educational games yourself!


  • Let the ball bounce to the forehand side of the racket. Make sure that you keep the racket exactly horizontal, otherwise the ball will bounce off the side of the racket. Over time, you will notice how hard and fast the ball bounces off your racket. This brings considerable advantages for later. Only when you feel relatively safe should you tackle more difficult tasks.
  • Do the same exercise while walking. This will increase your concentration. Now it’s getting hard. Hit the ball with the forehand side up in the air (not in the sky) and then let it “drip” on the club. “Drain” means that you should pick up the descending ball so softly and yieldingly that it bounces up only slightly or not at all. If you can do this, you are top!
  • Juggling is done in the circus. But not only there. Also in table tennis. Put the ball on the racket. Keep the bat so still that the ball doesn’t roll off. Whether standing or walking, the little ball is not so easy to control.

It is clear that you can also play these exercises with backhand!

  • Let the ball bounce either on the forehand or backhand side. This game causes excitement. The continuous turning of the racket takes time and makes it more difficult to control the ball. Nevertheless, try to keep the racket horizontal at all times, otherwise…
  • Another way to improve your feel for the ball is to play on the wall. Whether you hit the ball directly from the air or let it bounce to the ground is up to you. Be careful not to let the ball “wander” too far.
  • We are approaching the actual game of table tennis. Play again with partner, but without the table. As a net you put up some kind of obstacle (rope, books). Now you have to pass the ball to your partner from the air.

Ready position at the table

Does the ball go into the forehand or the backhand? The expectation of the opponent’s ball is done in a special ready position in table tennis. You have to be ready to start at any time, so it is best to stand in a slightly bent position, just a few meters away from the table. The legs are straddled, the knees bent, and the upper body is tilted forward. The racket is positioned at about table height in front of the body. 

Forehand position: For all forehand strokes, you should have a clear lateral position to the baseline of the table. Left leg and left shoulder a little forward!

Backhand position: In backhand play you should stand almost frontal to the table (left foot back a little).


Backhand stroke

Backhand stroke is easy and fast to learn because its motion sequence is not very complicated. It is used to keep the ball in play. Many other strokes are based on the backhanded ball, so you must be able to play it perfectly.

Motion sequence of backhand stroke
  1. From the ready position (bent, straddled, flexed, tilted), you pull your left foot back to a foot length (backhand position). This automatically brings your right side of your body to table height. Afterwards you move your forearm slightly “up and back”, the shoulder blade is opened vertically.
  2. In the stroke phase, move your forearm forward and hit the ball at the highest point. Have you noticed? Your body weight has shifted to your leg near the table.
  3. The final phase of the movement: After you have hit the ball, swing your forearm further until the elbow joint is extended. Arrived? Then back to the ready position.

If it is too hard for the beginning, do some preliminary exercises first. They should lead you towards the ball:

Exercises for backhand stroke

Exercise 1

Drop a ball onto the table from a height of 50 cm and bounce several times. Then try to play it over the net with backhands. The partner catches the approaching ball and plays it back in the same way. Since you know where the ball bounces, you have enough time to concentrate on the movement.

Exercise 2

We make it a little more difficult. Play the previous exercise with the difference that the ball may only bounce once. A little less time!

Exercise 3

The ball is brought into play as in exercise 1 and pushed back directly by the partner. Then the ball is caught and brought back into play by the same player as in exercise 1. After 10 rounds the tasks are changed.

Backhand basic serve 

The basic serve is not a dangerous trick serve, but only a correct serve. You have to be able to serve correctly if you want to play a few at the beginning of your table tennis lessons.

The movement of the backhand serve is pretty much the same as the backhand ball. The ball just has to bounce on your own half of the table first, which means you have to move the bat down a little bit. Some beginners have difficulty hitting the ball on their serve. 

If you have mastered the technique of the backhand stroke and backhand basic serve, you can already make a game. 

Forehand Topspin

So far you have learned the backhand stroke and the backhand basic serve. The topspin is perhaps the most important attacking stroke, at least every good attacking player can master it.

Motion sequence of forehand topspin

  1. Have you taken the ready position? Then take your right foot back and turn your hips and upper body so far that you are almost parallel to the baseline. I hope you don’t look against the wall now! Of course, your eyes will remain focused on the net.
  2. Now swing out; the batting arm swings backwards and downwards with body rotation. Your knees are bent while doing so, the club position is slightly closed.
  3. The following stroke movement runs from the bottom back to the top front. Basically hit the ball in the falling phase, preferably to the side or beside the body.
  4. But this is not the end of the movement. You have to let the hitting arm swing out to the upper left.

The movement description has shown you how to do this, how complicated topspin is. The following series of exercises should make it easier for you to practice the technique – if necessary.

Exercises for forehand topspin

Exercise 1

This exercise can be played alone. In the starting position, stand next to the table on the side and drop a ball onto the playing surface. After bouncing the ball several times, push it over the net with a topspin movement.

Don’t forget to continue the stroke movement after hitting the ball.

Exercise 2

Same again. However, the ball may only bounce once. You have only one option this time.

Exercise 3

Now again in pairs! One makes a backhand basic serve, the other plays back topspin. After twenty tries you can change sides.

The topspin player has a hard time with this exercise, because he doesn’t know where the ball bounces. There is only one thing that helps: observe the trajectory of the ball.

Backhand Block

All attack strokes can be played back with a backhand block. Especially in your case this means you are ready for a forehand topspin.

Motion sequence of backhand block

The backhand position of the block is the same as the ready position. You stand frontal to the table. The incoming ball is picked up with the paddle directly after the jump and played with a short movement of the elbow forward. The paddle is close to vertical.

The backhand block is relatively easy, since you do not have to do any footwork or backswing.

Forehand shot

Compared to the past, the table tennis players are smashing very rarely. They believe that topspin is as good as the forehand shot. Are they right?

It seems to me that many players simply don’t dare to play full risk anymore, i.e. to make the point with a hard stroke. But it is much better to take your “fate” into your own hands than to depend on your opponent’s mistakes.

The Chinese players play powerful attack by hitting everything that moves. A hard smashing ball has the same effect as a knockdown in boxing. The hit person hardly recovers from it; he feels frightened and cannot play calmly anymore.

With the topspin you should prepare the point, with the forehand shot you should make the point. It is a bit like boxing. With the left hand the boxer prepares, with the right hand he puts the knockout punch. 

Which balls should you shoot at now? It goes without saying that you should shoot at high balls.

Can you shoot topspin and chop balls? Make sure you hit the ball at the highest point, then you can do that, too.

It takes a while before you can really hit the ball. But never lose sight of the target because a smash is a clear, straight answer everyone is afraid of.

The art of chopping

Everyone would like to be able to cut a ball as early as possible. It’s also a great thing if you can cut a ball in such a way that the opponent doesn’t know how to hold the club. But it is not so simple.

Most players make the mistake of “tackling the ball too hard”. They want to make the turn with all power. But with force and willpower there is nothing to be done. The little ball wants to be treated with care.

Approach the ball easily and loosely with a lot of feeling. Guide your racket under the ball as if you were putting it on a spoon.

A well undercut ball is like a boomerang It will come back by itself if you “ask it nicely”. Let the ball bounce a few times on your half of the table and then guide the club almost horizontally under the ball. It should then jump back!

How to serve in ping pong

It all starts with the serve. Hide-and-seek and deception are very important on serve. You just have to do the same facial expressions and movements, but always hit the ball in a different place. Your opponent will not know what is being played unless he can look very closely.

Before you serve, you must be clear about which one you want to serve. There are many possibilities, you could fill a whole book with them: short, long, side cut left, side cut right, undercut, without cut, maybe a Chinese serve.

The opponent follows the long flight of the ball with his eyes. He sees the ball rising leisurely, sees the ball stop somewhere in the air and finally decides to come down. The long observation trip finally overtaxes his concentration. He misses the moment when the serve gives the ball a special effect with his wrist. If only he had paid attention to the bat and not to the flight of the ball.