How to Choose Your Blade Handle Type

This is Episode 017 of the Ask a Table Tennis Coach podcast. Today’s question comes from John and it’s all about how to choose your blade handle type.

John asks…

“Hi, Ben! I’d like to get your opinion on handles. I’m a beginner at table tennis and I’m struggling to figure out what handle or blade I wish to have. I’ve already spent plenty of money on blades because I can’t determine which handle is best for me. Initially, I like the anatomic handle and found that most comfortable. There are many professionals who play with this handle but then as I’ve played for about a month with my anatomic handle, I’m becoming drawn back to flared. I tried my friend’s flared handle and discovered that’s it’s actually a lot more comfortable. I believe it’s because the flared handle my friend is using is narrower. Is it possible or is this my imagination that handles can vary in the width circumference of the neck? If there is a variation, how can I determine the neck size based on the picture provided by an online store?”

Okay, loads of questions there. Let’s start with anatomical handles, so these are the handles that have a bit of a bump in the middle of them. So you’ve got flared handles that go out to the bottom, you’ve got straight or rounded handles with the same size the whole way down and then there are some anatomic handles as well which have a bulge in the middle of the handle. Professional players playing with them? Not that I know of. I haven’t encountered many, but you do see some recreational players or league players playing with them. But definitely when I’ve played tournaments, all I came up against professional players, I didn’t see, I think most were using flared or straight handles.

I would probably advice most players to go with the flared handle. The reason being is that, well, the idea with it is, it’s less easy for the back to slip out of your hand when you’re holding it loosely because it gets bigger at the bottom. You do want to be holding your racket nice and loosely and feeling like it’s secure in your hand. That’s definitely, I think you’ll find most of the Chinese players go for the flared handles. Now, I mean, perhaps if you’ve got a really big hand, a flared handle might seem a bit small. They can have a slightly smaller neck than a straight handle. I think most players, flared or straight, they’re the ones that they go for.

Now differences between the brands, I mean, who knows. There’s no regulations about what size a blade handle has to be. Even within a brand, just because you’re buying a Butterfly blade doesn’t mean that all the handles are going to be the same size, who knows what they are doing. Some blades have been around for 20 to 30 years, and some of them have just been created last year. So there’s going to be a difference. I would say when it comes to buying a blade, and if you’re treating it like, let’s say my blade, I’m using itat the moment. I’ve been using that for at least 5 years, the same blade. So when it comes to buying a blade, it should be quite a big, long term investment and therefore, I think it’s worth spending the time to actually, go and find one properly.

Maybe, you buy one at a tournament or you go to a physical shop or at least make sure that you’ve tried one before you just randomly pick it from an online store. Because there’s not going to be anyway to actually work out if you like the feel of that, especially if you like the feel on it. It can be a good idea to try out blades you just buy from other players maybe at a club and determine what feels good in your hand and what you like to play with before you go ahead and just buying them.

The other thing is that lots of, if you’re kind of a fairly new player, you’re going for an all round blade, a lot of those all round blades do have slightly smaller handles than the squarer blades. I think the brands assume that more kids are going to be buying them. Like I’ve said a bunch of times, it’s tough being an adult beginner in table tennis because they assume that if you’re a beginner you’re a child and therefore you’re going to end up with this tiny, really thin blade handle that’s not good for you at all. So that’s definitely that you’re going to want to check before you go out and buy.

When it comes to picking a blade, I would just say try and pick one and stick to it for a long period of time. Blades are going to change the whole way that you need to play and they are going to feel completely different. So if you buy a blade, and use it a couple of times and decide that you don’t like it and switch to a new one, you’re starting a cycle where you’re going to find it really difficult to get established. You’re going to keep searching for this perfect blade.

I think you’re much better off to spend a bit of time finding one that you like, and then just stick to it. Give it six months, instead of six days. Make sure that you’ve got used to it, and you’re able to adjust your game to your blade. It becomes part of how you play, before you then start thinking about getting a new one. I think you need to give these things time. If you’re changing all the time, it’s going to really mess up your technique and other stuff and make it more difficult to learn.

So, John, I hope that helps. Loads of questions there. I’d stick with the flared blade, probably. Just try and buy one and keep it for the long term.