Penhold Grip in Table Tennis – A Professional Guide

Penhold Grip

In table tennis, Pen hold grip is a common thing, especially in Asian players. Just like the name suggests, it’s similar to holding a pen. You can understand it as the type of grip where the blade faces the table and your fingers on the racket are placed similar to holding a pen. The pen hold blades have handles with a shorter length than regular rackets.

Many professional table tennis players optimize their Penhold grip. Such a type of grip offers powerful forehand and topspin shots but lacks in backhands. Players can compensate for backhand shots flaws with good footwork. The modern way of Penhold grip produces a lot of spins and allows smooth adjustment from the forehand to the backhand position. To play like a Champion using a Penhold grip, read this to find out all about different pen-hold grips.

Variations of Penhold Grip

There are two main ways of holding table tennis in a pen-hold grip; the Traditional and Modern.

Traditional Way:

Curl your fingers at the back of the blade and use the index and thumb to hold the racket. Many traditional pen holders play with fingers curled to support the blade of the table tennis racket. This maximizes the flexibility of the wrists, meaning you can easily block with one side. However, this limits your forehand and backhand shots accuracy. Another traditional way is the Chinese method used by many professional Chinese players.

 Also, check the Best Penhold Ping Pong Paddle.

Chinese Pen Hold Grip:

The Chinese pen hold grip is also known as Ma Lin’s grip. To understand this better, you need to watch Ma Lin’s game and grip type. Here’s our take on the traditional Chinese pen hold grip.

Instead of curling fingers, you straighten three fingers and hold the paddle with one-finger support. Therefore, you get stable forehand support. You can do better RPB with this grip and you get a nice flexibility of wrists to play short games.

For this grip, you need to get table tennis rackets with CPEN (Chinese Penhold Handle).

Modern Way:

The modern way has many variants developed by different Table tennis Champions. Here are various ways of holding a pen hold grip depending on the table tennis racket’s handle. Also, check the Places to Play Table Tennis.

Reverse pen hold grip:

It is taken from Chinese grip and is used by famous table tennis player Wang Hao. This has the most balanced backhand with extra consistency. You use two fingers to support the paddle while straightening three fingers, just like in Ma Lin’s grip. However, the difference is that it allows looping and striking on the backhand side with ease. You have to use the back of the racket to strike a backhand shot.

Japanese pen hold grip:

The Japanese pen hold grip is good for powerful shots, and it’s popular in Korea and Taiwan. Players can get the biggest shots in table tennis if they control the power.

Japanese pen hold grip requires different table tennis rackets from Chinese ones. Get JPEN table tennis rackets if you want to use a Japanese Penhold grip in ping pong. These types of rackets come with a cork block handle which gives stable blocking power.

Keep in mind this will limit your wrist’s overall flexibility, especially for backhand shots. In this, the index finger presses on the handle’s edge. The thumb and index finger come together to hold the handle, whereas other fingers support the blade of a tennis racket. The supporting three fingers connect to the blade, giving powerful strokes. You can use only one side of the rackets; hence you will require extra movement of your foot.

Other minor variations:

  • Changing the distance between the index finger and thumb can alter the grip.
  • Having the index finger mildly overlap the thumb.
  • Using only two or one finger to support the blade.
  • Xu Xin’s grip: Your curled three fingers support the blade, and the other two on top are used to play. This has the best consistent forehand but a less flexible backhand.
  • Alternately place the remaining fingers along the core of the blade, in the center of the blade, or anywhere else on the back of the blade.

Advantages of Penhold Grip:

The player can use one side for hitting backhand and forehand shots in a Penhold grip. It may be difficult to learn, but it’s worth it due to its amazing uses. Not many players know its advantages so here are some:

  • Better wrist mobility: With higher wrist flexibility, players can play fast and powerful shots. Also, in the Penhold grip, you can produce various types of spins and strokes with ease.
  • Powerful forehand shots: As we said, it can execute spin, and this way, your forehand shots will have maximum power. Moreover, giving forehand strokes like loop, drive, and flick is also possible.
  • Significant reach: The Japanese Penhold grip can enable players to get a greater reach than other grips. As someone who likes to play close to the table, this is a useful tactic.
  • Better command of the ball: You can get better control, and with Penhold grip there are better chances of the ball going over the net. With perfect hand-to-eye coordination and pen-hold grip, players can achieve mastery in table tennis.
  • Eccentric style: Unlike the shakehand grip, you get to feel unique with the pen-hold grip. It adds a touch of professionalism as it’s hard to get as beginners. You can use it to intimidate your opponent and give an unpredictable table tennis match.

Disadvantages of Penhold Grip:

Let us tell you a few disadvantages you might face as a beginner Penhold grip player. Keep in mind that you will need extra stamina for the intense footwork. Once you get a hang of the Penhold grip, it gets easier. Aside from that, before adopting this grip, its recommended to know these as well:

  • Difficulty in playing backhand: One of the main drawbacks is that you can use only one side of the paddle. This makes hitting backhand shots harder as it takes time to correctly flip the racket.
  • Limited heavy spin: Although you can produce spin, blocking a heavy spin will be difficult. This is due to stable thumb and index finger placement.
  • Not as stable: In shakehand grip, the handle is fully in all fingers, but that’s not the case in Penhold. You use only some fingers to support the handle, which may be less stable for you.
  • Restrictions in defensive playstyle: If your opponent is an ace at defensive table tennis, then it will be difficult to point a score. This can be overcome by numerous practice sessions.
  • Not modern approach: Many players have the basics of shakehand grip so it is difficult to switch. And you mainly see this style in Asian players, therefore, it’s not as widespread as the shakehand grip. It’s definitely the less popular playing style.

Final Words:

As a result, the Penhold grip is a distinctive method to hold a table tennis racket that has a number of benefits, including improved wrist mobility and quickness. It does have some disadvantages, though, like restrictions on backhand shots and extra stamina. In final words, the choice of grip is a question of taste and is based on the playing style and skills of the specific player.


  1. Why is Penhold grip popular in Asia?

The reason the Penhold grip is popular with Asians is that they use chopsticks to eat, which is similar to a pen-like grip. Europeans use knives and a fork to eat, that’s why they are more accustomed to shakehand grip.

  1. Is Penhold popular in table tennis?

Yes, but it’s getting unpopular due to the lack of using the backside of the blade.

  1. Which is better: the Shakehand grip or the Penhold grip?

Beginner players find shakehand grip easier and simpler. Whereas Asians and professional players prefer to use the Penhold grip. Overall, both have their cons and pros.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *