If Your Game Has Gone Astray Add Yiddish Movements to Your Play
By Harvey Gotliffe
Yiddish has become part of our language and you probably have heard, read or used words like nosh (snack), shmues (chat) and kibitz (interfere or gossip) among others. Now Yiddish is becoming part of table tennis lingo, helping players better express themselves before, during and after matches.
The Oy Way book offers thirty-six expressions that help readers engage in a “restorative, meditative, moving exercise experience.”
Of these thirty-six, many can be readily used during table tennis action, and here are five you can easily incorporate into your verbal game. They will bring a bit more joy into your matches, and help eliminate the oy, or negativity, that sometimes arises during intensely played games.
“Oy Vey!” is the ultimate lament, and its “oh woe!” meaning can be prompted by many unwanted actions on the part of an opponent, or it could even be self-inflicted. In a close game, when you are missing easy shots or an opponent wins numerous points with lucky net balls, instead of screaming profanities, go into the Oy Vey movement. Respected coach and four times world champion Li Zhen Shi demonstrates the Oy Vey pose in Figure One below.
After a disastrous game, take your paddle in your hand and shrug your shoulders to relieve some tension. Then bend your body and head to one side, and gently but firmly hit your head with the paddle three times and moan “Oy Vey!” with each slap. Repeat this action until you have satisfactorily expressed your feelings, or your headache becomes too severe.
The gentle but demonstrative “Hu Ha” movement —I am amazed — can replace the shrill, disturbing sound of an opponent screaming the meaningless word “Cho!” This opponent usually displays an accompanying and challenging clenched fist to let everyone within reach of the “Cho” sound, know that he or she has won a toughly played point.
That cacophonic, abusively loud scream could be replaced when a player gently emits an equally powerful “Hu Ha” which means, “I am amazed.” This means that a player is amazed at his or her performance. These latter words should not be shouted at your opponent for fear of a paddle against paddle battle. This movement is easily accomplished when a player plants his or her right foot forward and left foot back, raises the right hand, extends her or his paddle, smiles and chants “Hu Ha!” three times.
Srivatsav Tangirala is in the “Hu Ha!” pose in Figure Two. Sri’s amazing play in July, helped elevate his rating from 1515 to 1741.
At times you may be troubled by another player’s seemingly obnoxious actions to distract you from your game. Rather than trying to find an official and plead for some corrective action, the “Gey Avek!” expression and movement may be an easier way for you to resolve the situation. “Gey Avek!” or “get out of here!” is quite useful on the table or in life. Whenever any sort of negative situation arises and you want to dissipate it, use the “Gey Avek” expression and movement.
You can do it with a stern look, or as former four-time world champion Zhang Li shows in Figure Three, you can do with a smile. Place one foot forward and your other foot back. Hold your paddle firmly in one hand, and extend your other hand forward and strongly utter “Gey Avek.”
Your opponent will be influenced by your words and your pose, especially when you hold a paddle in the ready.
It’s difficult to win every time you play a point, a game or a match. If you are bothered by every loss, whether it’s large or small, you will not be deriving pleasure from playing table tennis. By incorporating the “Nisht Geferlekh (geh-fair-lekh)” — no big deal — movement into your game, you will be able to deal with the adversities that come on the table and in life.
In 2012, Kunal Chodri made the US Mini-Cadet, Cadet & Junior National Team, and has a rating of 2418. Like everyone else, he knows that a setback now and then is inevitable. Instead of getting flustered when things go awry, it’s time for the movement shown in Figure Five. Turn your arms forward with one hand open and a paddle in the other. Shrug your shoulders and hold for a count of five, smile benignly and utter “Nisht Geferlekh.” This will help release tension, and confuse your opponent.
While plaudits from others are very gratifying, sometimes you need to congratulate yourself for a fantastic game or great overall effort in a match. It isn’t necessary for others to know what you have accomplished, but it’s important that you recognize your achievements. If you have worked hard to reach whatever goals you have set for yourself, self-satisfaction does not necessarily mean you are on an ego trip.
At the end of a difficult game or match that you have won, it’s natural to praise yourself, and you can do so with an “Ot Azoy!” movement — way to go! With a paddle in one hand, extend your other arm waist-high and clench your fist as shown in Figure Five by Men’s U.S. National Team Coach Stefan Feth and former U.S. Women’s National Team Member Nan Li. Stand proudly, look forward, smile and raise and lower your arm three times as you respectfully repeat “Ot Azoy!”
You still have ample time to integrate all or some of these movements into your repertoire in time for the Nationals. With diligence, your play could rise from ”Oy Vey!” into “Ot Azoy!”
Photography by Carmen Gotliffe.
All players and coaches shown in the photographs are associated with the World Champions Table Tennis Academy
The Oy Way is available at www.theoyway.com and at Amazon.com
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