European Loop vs. Chinese Loop

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There are a few but nonetheless distinct differences in the way Chinese players perform the forehand loop stroke compared to European players. In most regards the strokes are similar, requiring the legs and torso as the powertrain; however, they diverge in the usage of the arm and its joints. The Chinese stroke implements a straighter arm for generating more power; whereas, the European stroke implements a bent arm, which facilitates a quicker recovery.



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Differences in the Forehand Loop Stroke Text Section

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Arm extension:  Both the European and Chinese loops rely on the legs, hips, and torso for proper upper body rotation, which in turn drives the arm. However, the Chinese style implements a fuller extension of the arm, which generates greater power. Any significant bending of the elbow occurs only during the follow through of the swing. Using the Chinese style, the arm's axis of rotation is primarily at the shoulder; whereas, using the European style, the arm's axis of rotation is primarily at the elbow, keeping the racket closer to the body and potentially facilitating a quicker recovery.

"Whip" arm:  Both the Chinese and European styles "whip" the arm through the stroke. Due to the full arm extension in the Chinese stroke, this can give the illusion of having a "stiff" arm through the stroke; however, both styles require a degree of relaxation in the arm in order to achieve the proper "whipping" effect and maximum velocity. That is, the arm should never be "stiff", as muscle tension will slow the swing, interrupt proper contact timing, and decrease reaction time. The European style whips primarily the forearm and the Chinese style whips the whole arm.

Legs and Body requirements:  Both styles require the legs and hips to drive upper body rotation to achieve the maximum efficiency of both power and control. For example, attempting to loop heavy backspin without driving the stroke with the legs will often result in failure, i.e., a netted ball.

Follow-through:  Follow through is very important with any stroke, offensive or defensive. The European and Chinese strokes are not exceptions. They require a full follow-through, which maximizes dwell time and has a direct effect on control and placement. Where the follow-through "ends" depends on the type of ball being looped. High, spinny loops, or those against heavy backspin, will generally have a diagonal swing relative to the table and a follow-through with a higher end-point (e.g. above the eyes, like a military salute). Counter loops against topspin will generally have a slightly more horizontal swing relative to the table with a lower end-point that is usually below the eye line, around shoulder level. Follow through in both strokes should have a forward feel, rather than just side-to-side.

A final point on follow through: Although a good follow-through is vital to a good shot, it should be obvious that any major energy spent on swinging after the ball has been hit is wasted energy. That is, a good follow-through is necessary, but the bulk of the energy expenditure in the swing should be toward the very beginning, peaking at contact with the ball, and quickly diminishing thereafter so as to recover to the ready position in anticipation of the next shot. The Chinese stroke does require the use of the entire arm, and therefore feels like a "bigger" swing. In reality, if effort is applied quickly and explosively, yet diminishing just as quickly after contact with the ball, a player should not find his- or herself over committed or off-balance. 

Wrist movement:  Wrist movement can be incorporated in both strokes to add power to the shot.

Caveats:  Although there are distinctions between the Chinese and European styles, it should not be assumed that a player need choose one particular style of stroke or the other. Indeed, the strokes are more similar than they are dissimilar. The distinctions between the two strokes are not absolute and there is overlap in their applications. Rarely do any players use a Chinese stroke "all the time", nor does any player use the European stroke "all the time". Different situations require differents responses. The explanations here are describing the differences between the two strokes in their "pure" or "ideal" form, isolated and under ideal conditions.



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