If you have watched table tennis matches online or even played tournaments yourself, you will have noticed that the atmosphere is hectic, especially for those who are not used to it.
When my friends come to see me play, they are always surprised at the players seemingly shouting at each other throughout the playing hall.
What are table tennis players shouting? Does it have any meaning? Why are they yelling? Is it okay to shout in table tennis? We will answer all those questions one by one.
Table of Contents
The most common shouts in Table Tennis
In table tennis, players will shout a variety of different words, but they all mean more or less the same.
Cho – Cho le
The most common shout is the “Cho” or “Cho le” and all its variations. This is historically the shout of Chinese players, but it has become so popular that it is now the quintessential shout in table tennis.
Most shouts in table tennis are “Cho” and all its variations. Players have adopted the “Cho” to the point where most have their own variation of the shout.
Some players say “Ho”, others “Sho”, others “Hyo”, others “Ho lei”. All screams are variations of the same thing.
What do “Cho” and “Cho Le” mean?
There are lots of plausible explanations for the meaning of “Cho le”. Some say it comes from the word 抽 (Chōu) which means whip. Another far-fetched explanation is that Cho comes from chokutō, a type of sword used by Samurai in Japan.
The most accepted explanation is that Cho stems from “好 逑” (Hǎo qiú), which means “good ball” or “good shot” in Mandarin. Qiú is pronounced as Cho. Often, commentators, fans, and coaches say “Hao Cho”, so it is believed that the Cho is a simplification of this sentence.
According to this explanation, Hǎo was simply dropped from the sentence, and Cho, which is a short word that can be shouted easily, expressively, and loudly after winning a point, was kept.
Le means again, so Cho Le would mean “(good) shot again!”.
Others agree that the origin of Cho comes from Hao Cho, but say that the Le in Cho Le is simply an addition to give the phrase more exclamation and that it has no real meaning.
Other Chinese players say Cho Le is just an expressive shout that doesn’t mean anything.
The origins of the Cho are uncertain, but it was accepted as the universal shout of table tennis. Its meaning does not matter much, what matters is the emotion and the concept it portrays.
Any table tennis player understands Cho as the “battle cry” of the sport, and although the origin is uncertain, its current meaning is basically the same as “come on” or “let’s go”.
Allez – Come on – Vamos
The rest of the common shouts in table tennis are translations of the word “come on”.
Allez (French) and Vamos (Spanish, Portuguese) are used by a large number of players and they both mean “Come on”.
Also, some European and North American players prefer to shout “Come on” instead of “Cho”. Each player can decide whether to use the “Cho” or the translation of “Come on” in their native language.
Why do Table Tennis players shout?
What is the need for players to shout when they win their points? Can’t everyone just stay silent?
Table tennis games end when one of the two players reaches 11 points, keeping at least 2 points distance from their rival.
In table tennis, every point counts, and the mental aspect of the sport is crucial. It is very easy to lose 3 points in succession and get discouraged. On the contrary, it is very easy to win 3 points in a row and start playing a lot better.
Therefore, we recommend that you celebrate absolutely every point you earn, every point is worth gold. However, celebrating doesn’t mean shouting.
Pretty much every player on the ITTF circuit celebrates every point they win, some players celebrate it internally, or just with a fist pump, while others like to celebrate them out loud.
It is very important to always keep your morale and fighting spirit as high as possible. Shouting shows the opponent that you are there to win and that you will fight for every point.
Let’s say you’re in a 9-9 situation and you have two serves. If you serve and win a point from a 3rd ball attack and shout, it’s going to affect the opponent’s morale. Yelling puts pressure on the opponent and lifts your spirits.
At the next point, you are up 10-9. Your opponent is going to have a lot of pressure as they are going to remember the previous play. Shouting points is like saying “Nice shot, and I’m going to do it again”.
This is why most players shout. Encouraging yourself and putting some pressure on the opponent brings better results.
Tomokazu Harimoto is the most prominent example that yelling can lift your morale and demotivate the opponent, as he celebrates absolutely every point from the top of his lungs.
Harimoto’s opponents undoubtedly get even more frustrated when they miss an easy ball and get shouted at loudly, and by doing this, Harimoto also prevents him from lowering his morale.
Harimoto’s screams are trained screams, though.
Certain coaches train their players in such a way that if they don’t shout after winning a point, they lose it. This instills the habit of shouting all the points.
This generates great controversy since many allege that Harimoto’s shouts are not made to celebrate the point but to annoy and frustrate the rival, which would be unsportsmanlike behavior.
On the other end of the spectrum, we can find the Taiwanese star Lin Yun-ju. Known as “The Silent Assassin”, Lin doesn’t shout after winning any of his points.
It is so common for table tennis players to shout after winning points that Lin is taken as an anomaly, probably the only player in elite table tennis who stays silent. This leads up to our next point:
Are you allowed to shout in Table Tennis?
The consensus is that to a certain extent, yes.
We have conducted a poll on Reddit to see whether table tennis players approve of the “cho’ing” culture.
We gave them 3 options:
1) Yes, I love it! It’s a vital expression of the game. (35%)
2) I like cho’ing when done every so often, or not too loud (55%)
3) I’d prefer it if cho’ing didn’t exist, it’d be better if everyone played silently. (10%)
With these results, we can say that 90% of the players approve of cho’ing points.
Most players prefer some points to be celebrated, which is what we see in most matches. If someone shouted every point like Harimoto in a local tournament, people would not look kindly on them.
It’s just not nice to face someone who yells at you absolutely every point, especially in amateur play.
Understandably, professionals try to gain the greatest possible advantage by shouting but in the world of amateur players, it is not very well seen to shout every one of the points wildly.
The rules allow it but people definitely won’t be happy that you do it and most people probably won’t want to play with you.
The perfect balance in my opinion is to shout after the most important points and the good rallies you win. In my opinion, it’s not good etiquette to shout a point in which your opponent missed an easy ball.
Something that is beyond the shadow of a doubt is that it’s unacceptable to shout when your opponent misses a serve or when you had a net or edge. If you do it instinctively, you should apologize.
You can also shout all the points you win if you want, but I would recommend that you don’t do it too loudly. Shouting as Ovtcharov did in the video doesn’t bother anyone, shouting like Harimoto is what can get you in trouble.
To sum up, shouting, or choíng, is a crucial component of table tennis. Pretty much every player does it, and if both players don’t overdo it, cho’ing leads to even more exciting matches, as it is a demonstration of the players’ fighting spirit.
The choice to shout or not, and what to shout, is up to you. You can shout “Cho” or some variation or “come on” or its translation in your native language.
We believe that shouting when you’ve won a point is a small part of the sport that makes it more exciting, especially when we analyze it taking into account the fast-paced nature of the sport. It’s a small part of what makes table tennis the best sport in the world.
There’s nothing more satisfying than winning a spectacular point and celebrating out loud!
Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!
Blade: Tibhar Stratus Power Wood | Forehand: XIOM Vega X | Backhand: XIOM Vega X
Playstyle: The Controller