Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Badminton Rackets and Technique

I have gone on about technique in previous posts, but i have never actually got to the real meat of what it actually is, and how it affects your game. Most of my posts have talked about the various badminton rackets on the market, and what to look for when you decide to buy them. I hav also told you that the actual racket is the final piece of the jigsaw, and without footwork and technique, this racquet will be of little use to you. In my opinion this will always be true. But what exactly is technique?

Put simply, technique is the way you hit the shuttle around the court. Every badminton player will do this differently to a lesser degree. It involves your whole body coming together to hit the shuttle. What you need from the way you hit your shots is consistency. Think of a golfer. The aim of golf is to hit the ball accurately and consistently. The best players in the world always seem to hit the ball effortlessly, and the ball usually goes exactly where they planned.

Badminton is the same. The professional players seem to be able to hit the shuttle with ease, from one corner to the other, from the back to the back. They can do this because their technique is almost perfect. They are usually in the correct position to allow all of their body to come together at the point of impact, and send the shuttle to where they want it to go. Have you ever tried to hit the cover off the shuttle with your racket, and found that the harder you try to hit it, the less power you produce? I know i have, and the reason the shuttle goes nowhere, is because your technique is flawed. At the point of impact, something is not quite right, and the force you are putting in, is not being transfered efficiently to the shuttle.

The reasons for this could be many, which is why we are not all professional badminton players. To hit a shuttle with maximum power you will need your body weight, your shoulder, forearm and wrist, plus forward momentum, to impact the shuttle at the highest point available. If all these factors are in tune, then in theory, your technique will be as good as you can get it. The difficult part is being able to do this consistently. I am sure you have had that great moment when you can feel that you have really creamed a smash, and hit the shuttle with more power than you thought you could. Or perhaps you have just hit a really accurate drop shot that went right onto the line, or skimmed the net. You get a great buzz from this, and it boosts your confidence no end, it makes you feel like you can really play this game. At that moment, some part of your technique played a part in achieving that shot, but do you know which part? That is the key to improving your game, knowing how you just did something. A coach will, or should, be able to recognise this and point you in the right direction.

If we take the example of who can hit a shuttlecock harder than anyone else, ie, who has the fastest smash speed in the world? The current holder of the fastest recorded smash speed is the chinese player Fu Haifeng. Does this mean he has the best technique? I would say yes. He is able to produce more power from his technique than anybody else, this must make it more efficient than the rest. At the point of impact he is able to produce more power than the rest. Andy Roddick has the fastest serve in tennis, his technique must also be the most efficient at producing this power.

What we would all love to do, is to be able to do this ourselves. Unfortunately, none of us can, not even other professional players, this is because we are all different, and always will be. You can try to copy these players, but you will not achieve the same results. Is it a god given talent? Some may say it is, it is the difference between the best and the very best and it is ever so slight, but it can make the difference between winning and losing.

This is not always the case, and there are many other factors that play a part, tactics for one. I am sure you have played against players who can hit the shuttle very hard, and they go out of their way to do this at every opportunity, they take pleasure in trying to hit the shuttle through the floor, and also through you. But if they hit the shuttle to the same place, ie, straight at you, in time you will become accustomed to the speed and direction, and you will be able to return the shuttle most of the time. Power is limited if it is not used wisely, and the higher level you play at, the quicker the players will adapt. Now the big hitting player who cannot adapt will have their main weapon used against them. Tactics are another vital part of badminton, or any other sport, and i will cover badminton tactics in a future post.

So how can you improve your technique? A good way is to watch the best players. Look at the way they hit the shuttle, at what point do they hit it? Where are their feet when they do this. Are they in position? Watch the badminton racket before and after impact. Look at their body as they hit through the shuttle. Put your dvd player on slow motion to get a closer look. All the best players will be in position more often than not, they will take the shuttle as early as possible to give themselves more time to play shots. Watch an entire game just focusing on one player, don't just follow the shuttle.

If you can hit the shuttle where you want to, consistently, then this is the best you can hope for. If you can do this, then chances are your technique is good enough to enable you to play badminton at your highest possible level, whatever this may be. Your badminton racket is just a tool to allow you to do this. Just remember that every player will have a different way of hitting their shots, but the results are the same, every player attempts to hit consistently and accurately. Only when you can do this, can you add power, slice, reverse slice or deception to the equation. Badminton is a never ending learning curve, this is why it is so addictive.

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