Monday, July 14, 2008

The fundamentals part I

badminton racket
Badminton Shots. I would like to highlight four "fundamentals" in badminton which I think are very important, especially for young players. A good understanding of these fundamentals and performing them correctly will go a long way to achieving maximum capabilities.

These four very important fundamentals are the grip, footwork, stamina and the service.

I would not go into their technical details which one could get from most books on badminton. However, I would emphasize on the importance of their application and what to watch for when you practice these four fundamentals.

Today, I will touch on the first two "the grip and footwork", and the next two "stamina and service" in the following article.

1 The grip. If you grip the racket incorrectly, your progress will be greatly affected. Just a simple thing like gripping the handle of a badminton racket can almost determine the future success rate of your badminton 'career'. An incorrect grip will limit your stroke production capabilities, and there would be a loss of power in your shots.

To test whether the grip is correct or not, do a forehand and a backhand flick as if you are retrieving a smash to your forehand and backhand. If you feel that your forehand and backhand flicks are approximately equal in power and quickness, then the grip is most probably correct.

The whole idea of a good grip is that it must not lock your wrist when you hit a backhand or forehand shot. The wrist's fast cocking and uncocking greatly provides the acceleration of the badminton frame, imparting the power to the shuttlecock. You cannot play effective badminton without a good grip. So, young players, make sure that you have a good grip, otherwise you develop strokes which are awkward, with no power and deception.

And you probably would have no future in the game.

2 Footwork. Almost as important as the grip is footwork. To keep it very simple and not to confuse, I would like you to think of good footwork as consisting of two essential elements 'springs' in your legs (a fast starting position) and balance, during and immediately after you hit a shot, whether it is a smash, a lob or retrieving a drop shot or a smash from your opponent. These are the two important things you need to be aware of in footwork.

Some coaches and books will go into a lot of detail on weight on the right foot, weight on the left foot, body positioning, number of steps forward and backward and sideways, in playing the various types of strokes.

This can be confusing and most of the time in badminton, it would be too fast for you to react as you think of what your footwork should be. So, my recommendation is that you keep in your mind only these two things about footwork a fast/active starting position and balance.

What is an active starting position? It means putting your weight more on the balls of your feet, with an easy bouncing action in the knees, preparing your body to move in any direction very quickly and steadily wherever you are on the court and after executing a shot. It is akin to a tiger getting ready to pounce on its prey.

Balance is having a momentary steady/firm position whenever you execute any shots, be it a smash or a lob or retrieving a drop shot or a smash, or making a net shot, etc., etc., in a rally. It is less important to determine how many steps you take to go to the back of the court to execute a smash or how many steps to the front to retrieve the drop shots.

I also do not think that it is important to determine whether it is the left leg or the right leg that you use as the foreward leg when you retrieve the drop shots. Champions display a range of variation in footwork. Some champions appear not to have footwork at all. Some run in small steps, others appear to have smooth gliding big steps and they are a pleasure to watch. Whether it is small quick steps or big gliding steps, there must be two important elements present in good footwork, which all champions have. They are an active starting position, with springiness in the movement of their legs and balance when executing their shots.

These are two of the four fundamentals in badminton every player should know if they want to play to their maximum capabilities.

Written by Tan Aik Huang

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