Translation of an article by Park Sung Woo ( 95 World Champs Runner Up and now Coach/Player with Tonami Badminton Team ) which appeared in Japanese Badminton Magazine.
Everyone, especially the male players, have probably played catch before. The smash action is I believe, almost the same as that of the baseball pitcher. The left hand leads, then the shoulder, elbow, and wrist follow in that order. The right arm should be like a whip, as this releases the most power. However, whereas the pitcher lands on his left leg, in the smash you convert this to landing on the right leg.
Regarding the form of the smash, it`s important that on impact the left shoulder doesn`t drop. If this happens it`s very likely that the shuttle will go out. Likewise trying to hit the shuttle when not in position will also probably result in the shuttle going out, so make sure that you are in position properly to play the stroke.
As you can see by looking at the pictures of Keita Masuda, his upper body is in very good balance. Also, as he hits the shuttle his chest is facing towards the opponent, which is good. If he was to try and play the stroke with his body in the position ( the position before he strikes the shuttle in the third picture in the series in pic3 ) he wouldn`t be able to play a strong smash because his waist wouldn`t have made any rotation.
The Smash isn`t about Power!
I`m not good at smashing because I don`t have any power . is something I hear a lot. In Keita Masuda`s case, because he does have power, in Japan his smash is considered above average. However, the smash shot isn`t only about power. If that was the case then sumo wrestlers would be amazing! Having a lot of weight doesn`t translate into a fast smash. It`s common to see a 80kg player being beaten by the smash from a 50kg player.
The most essential thing is to match your swing with the stroke. So what`s the best way to express this stroke . for example, with the clear you have the image of aiming for the ceiling. For the smash you should think down and aim for the floor. At the same time, the stroke should be played further in front of you than the clear. At first if you try to play it further and further in front of you it will probably end up in the net. You have to keep practicing and get a feeling for where the best position is for you. There are basketball players who, wearing a blindfold, can score a free throw. That`s because they`ve thrown hundreds, probably thousands of shots and imprinted the height of the ring and the distance to it into their bodies. Badminton is the same to get that feeling the only way is through lots of practice.
A strong smash is not really to do with power. Imagine the cracking of a whip even putting all one`s power into the swing the whip will only make a small arc. It`s only by skillful use of the elbow and wrist that you can make the whip crack sharply.
Step 2 Move towards game-like practice
Keita Masuda`s smash is considered a large weapon in Japan, but on the international stage you don`t hear that said. His touch in front of the net, still isn`t delicate enough. The smash isn`t going to decide a point by itself it`s only by combining it with other shots that it becomes useful. And the foundation of all the various shots is footwork!
When you watch matches there are some players who you think They`re fast! . This isn`t because they`ve always had fast legs. It`s also not because their step length (pace length) is different. There`s a kind of fresh feel about them, and they have efficient and clean footwork. Of course they also read the game well too, but if you have bad footwork you`ll only end up moving noisily like a horse!
If you have good footwork in the left, right, front and back areas, you can get into position under the shuttle quickly and so hit the shuttle early. This means you can play the stroke in your own time. Beginning during practice time don`t just hit the stroke, but hit and then move forwards or backwards and get used to this footwork.
Moving forward after hitting a smash is comparatively easy as you follow the momentum produced from the power in the stroke. Recovering and moving backwards I always think Return with the elbow . If you bring the right elbow back you`ll find that the leg follows much more easily than if you just rely on the legs to get you back. During practice you`re footwork should be like that of a boxer the legs never stop moving and keep a constant small shuffle going. Even when you`re waiting to get on court during practice or you have a little time it`s something that you can do I`m sure.
Step 3 To use the smash well as a weapon in a game, think carefully before you hit.
Not to keep repeating myself, but in badminton the smash is probably the most offensive shot. At the top level in the mens game, the smash has been recorded at over 300km/h. However, no matter how hard the smash scoring a point from one shot is unlikely most opponents aren`t that soft.
Similar to a baseball pitcher who throws a 150km/h fastball, there`s a chance that it will be hit straight back. It`s better to mix in some efficient, slow curve balls that just touch the corner of the plate, and have good control as then you`ll get the first batter out. Likewise in badminton, with a smash the chances are it will be returned. With the same form as the smash, playing cuts to both sides and using good control, this combined with the smash becomes much more potent. Of course scoring a point with a dynamic smash is a good feeling, but setting aside scoring an ace from this one stroke, we should think more of the smash as a stroke to damage the opponent and grab the intiative for ourselves.
Taking this to extremes, if the opponent is preparing for smash and we instead play a cut, it`s the same result as in baseball when waiting for a fast ball and getting a forkball. Or we play a smash on a testing course and as the reply is short we then can play a push or netshot and control the pace of the game.
Thinking about the course of the smash, hitting cross court ( in singles ) to both sides is okay. However if you imagine when you hit a weak return and it looks like a smash is coming, you ( as the opponent ) look out for the high possibility of a cross court smash. It you`re right handed you`ll expect a cross court smash to your forehand most of your weight will shift onto the right leg. It`s the same for me, and probably it`s instinctive for most players. In this situation it`s more effective for the attacker to play a smash to the body, as the opponents center of gravity is displaced onto the right leg and they can`t get to this shot in front of them .
The other reason for using the smash is to make the opponents return weak or short, and then creating a chance for yourself. There`s a way to make this happen using the push or tap down rather than the smash. From a lift you play a cut and then move quickly to wait for the probable net response, and once the shuttle comes over the net tap it down . Or if we put in a fast slice cut the reply isn`t likely to come back so deep, so we can tap this down too.
If you smash too much though, the opponent will start to get used to receiving the shot. Then we lose it`s effectiveness and also lose our strength. The smash is an attacking shot but if we hit only this shot, 70% of the time we`ll lose.
The Jump Smash
You can see just by looking how tough it is to play physically, and the chances of scoring an ace aren`t much different than with a normal smash. Moreover you expend a lot of energy and strength. It`s great when you get a result from one jump smash, but relatively speaking this doesn`t happen a lot. As for the jump part of the stroke, if the landing isn`t great your balance will be offset, and then you`ll be out of position for the next shot. Weighing up the plusses and minuses, there seem to be more minuses.
However in that chance shuttle situation you would have to think of the jump smash most times.
One of the players I coached, Taniguchi ( now with Mitsubishi Badminton Team ) used to jump smash from all over the court both front and back. At the beginning of a match he would be leading but then in a reversal of fortune, in the latter part of the match he would get beaten. This was his pattern of losing. Even he himself must have found it tough stamina wise. So we reduced the number of jump smashes he played and instead cleverly weaved in cuts and clears and his style changed. At its worst, from then on during the closely fought parts of a match, he didn`t suffer from fatigue.
So to summarise the jump smash is cool, but as far as I`m concerned you don`t have to play this shot. However for those people who feel they must play it, a small hint.
At Junior and High School age, players don`t have enough leg strength yet. So when you play the jump smash, be like the baseball pitcher just before he throws a pitch. Get your weight onto the right leg as it`s then easier to jump from there. When you are in midair you should imagine a volleyball player spiking the ball bending like a bow and matching the descent of the shuttle, hitting the stroke. As it`s easy to get injured playing this shot, don`t overextend your range and practice carefully.