Badminton basics: 1. The Grip
As our first instalment in our series on basic badminton techniques, we’ll start with the most fundamental aspect of badminton – the grip.
At the outset, we must recognize that the thinking around what constitutes ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ technique has changed with time. In earlier times, only two kinds of grips were considered legitimate: the forehand and backhand. However, there is now a school of thought that believes in several different kinds of grips, based on the shot one is playing, and also that players can evolve their own grip after a length of time.
Still, not all kinds of technique can be considered useful. The safest is the textbook method; we must then leave it to the mavericks to evolve their own. Some of the greatest names in badminton, such as Sir George Thomas and David Choong, apparently did not play in the textbook fashion: Sir George kept his thumb down while executing all forehand and backhand strokes – using the same grip for his right and left sides.
While several world-class players have expounded on the skills of badminton, we’ll seek the advice of Han Jian, 1985 World Champion and one of the best of his time. Han Jian was part of the second generation of Chinese players who stamped its authority on the game; he later went on to join Malaysia as their chief coach and accomplished the formidable task of winning the Thomas Cup. Later he compiled a book along with journalist Ooi Lay Beng, and it is one of the best treatises on developing your badminton skills.
Han Jian’s advice:
- Hold the racket by its throat (the area between the racket head and shaft) with your left hand. Let the handle point towards you. Shake hands with it. The butt of your racket should not jut out from your hand. It should rest gently on your palms.
- Place your left index finger on top of the handle. The racket should be held a bit loose and this will ensure some space in the ‘V’ groove formed between your thumb and forefinger. Now, place your right hand on the handle to form the ‘V’ groove.
- Grip your racket handle with your last three fingers followed by your thumb and forefinger. Spread out your fingers a bit. Don’t bunch them together. This will help check the tendency to hold the racket too tightly. The thumb must rest between the last three fingers and your index finger. One of the worst mistakes players can make is to hold the racket with four fingers bunched together and the thumb closing tightly on top of the index finger. That’s a sure way of killing your game.
- Hold the racket in a relaxed grip. A tight grip will hinder your wristwork. Tighten your grip on impact to maintain control of the shuttle and transfer the energy into your shot. The sensation should feel as if you are holding a gun and pulling the trigger. When you tighten the grip, the main pressure should come from the last three fingers and your thumb. The role of the index finger is to steady and maintain control of the racket.
To these tips we might seek the advice of Fred Brunde, who offers us anecdotes and observations of the finest players of the 1940s and 1950s in his book ‘Badminton’.
“An alternative method of checking your grip is to hold the racket at the throat in the left hand, then place your right hand flat against the strings on the opposite face. Now slide your hand down the racket handle until it reaches the grip and grasp again, firmly but not tightly. You will arrive at the same position by a slightly different method. You will be ‘shaking hands’ with the racket handle. This is an excellent thing to be doing…
“Check on these points:
- Are your fingers bunched together? Relax. Open them a little. With a tight grip you will never cultivate that precious ‘touch’, the feel of the racket through your fingers, especially the index finger.
- Is your grip too tight? This fault, so easily corrected at the beginning, can tauten your wrist and arm muscles so that you lose all control, even to the point of contact with the shuttle.”
Other articles in this series: