My last observation – of everything from boxing to circus skills – is that competition between beginners is a mug’s game
It was shortly after the table tennis, in which Chinese player battled Chinese player to the final victory of Ma Long in the Tokyo Olympics, when Sophy, my informal instructor, taught me and my son some basics. Everyone was obsessed by Ma’s grip: the champion has your classic bat grip, where you grab it with all your fingers like a regular person. Everyone else has a quirk. My son tried out a frankly idiosyncratic hold, with only two fingers holding the stem and his index and middle finger straight up the bat like a short-order chef getting ready to fry with it.
This is my final fitness column, so I may be imparting more wisdom about trying new things than advice on table tennis, which I suck at. First thing I’ve learned? Don’t get too fancy the first time you try something. Second, if you take your kid to anything, they are guaranteed to be better at it than you, unless it relates to their cardiovascular fitness, which is hopeless. Third, the easier something looks when professionals do it, the harder it will be for the novice.