Guest post by Aske from Beast Badminton
The 2021 Denmark Open final started terribly for Viktor Axelsen as he played against a confident Kento Momota who looked like he had a firm chokehold on the game. Axelsen had lost the first set and was behind at the eleven-point interval…
Then something happened that shocked the crowd and set the court ablaze.
This one shot changed the course of the game (as later described by the man himself in his book), and he went on to win the match. The stadium was roaring.
It’s one of the best stories using a trick shot to come back and win the game, and that’s the unique power badminton trick shots can have.
The biggest problem with trick shots in social games is that people attempt to play them too often, especially with serves. It ruins the surprise and far too often, it isn’t performed well enough.
If we count the number of points won with trick shots in both professional and amateur matches, I bet you it’s a fraction of the number of points won by “standard” shots. Statistically speaking, it would only make sense to spend as much time learning them proportional to the amount of time we use them.
For example, if we win a set and win one rally with a trick shot per set, that’s 4.76% (1/21). This suggests that we’d have diminishing returns if we spend more than that same percentage of our training time practicing it.
Because trick shots are so popular, we tend to forget that they are intended to get us out of a difficult situation first and look cool second.
However, while trick shots might not have the biggest impact on points throughout a rally compared to most other parts in badminton – (like footwork, mindset, stretching, well-performed standard shots, and variation, for example) – it’s still critical that the opportunity to play a trick shot that could get you back in the game, like Viktor Axelsen, is perfected to the point where you can make a quick decision to play it, and play it well.
If not, we run the risk of simply trying to look cool without any effect on points.
So how do we balance these spectacles on the court?
The psychology of badminton trickshots: what they did for Axelsen and could do for you
Axelsen’s example with the match turning after one fantastic trick and the roar from the crowd that lifted him is at the center of the power that’s possible to harness in the realm of badminton tricks.
It can boost your confidence and belief that you can play yourself back in the match and end the cycle of frustration and negative self-talk that’s so typical when you’re behind and miss points you feel you should be winning.
There’s something about hitting one of these extraordinary shots that makes you feel like anything is possible on the court.
“Wow! I just hit that…if I can strike a shuttle like that, I can close that five-point gap.”
It can drag you out of a pit of frustration and refocus your concentration and performance in a match.
And Axelsen isn’t alone in getting boosted from a trick shot.
Sukamuljo hits a trick shot behind his back in the third set of a match that has been very close and intense. At this point, the Minions were falling further and further behind with each rally. But after the trick shot, they seemingly turn the tide and start playing themselves back into the set, catching up on several points and eventually winning the match.
It’s not the say that a single trick shot is responsible for that outcome, but it likely contributed to the drive and belief that they could catch up at a stage where their opponents seemed to be playing better and making fewer mistakes.
How can such brief moments of technical brilliance possibly linger throughout the following rallies?
Badminton players go through a vast range of emotions during a match – even competitive amateur players know this. Just think about the last time you were down on points and made a comeback.
It can completely change the mentality of an entire match and boost your confidence.
This effect can even multiply since the flip side of having a clear advantage and fighting to stay up after blowing a lead can break down the opposition.
We see this in every sport. When you’re successful in something that goes beyond your peak performance, it breaks down mental barriers and pushes the limit of what you think you can do – and that translates into better performance.
Of course, general confidence in sports comes from a deeper place than a single scenario in a match. But you can get spurts of boldness that seep into performance because you “ride the wave” of specific success.
An article in Psychology Today explains how confidence and performance are directly linked.
That’s the power badminton trick shots can activate and make you play better, simply because you have a moment where you feel limitless.
However, one of the risks and misunderstandings is that you can use this as often as you’d like to turn games around.
It’s easy to build excitement about these techniques and badminton tricks draw in fans because they hold an allure that’s great for highlight reels and as a showpiece for our sport.
If you’re a recreational player or even someone returning to the court after a long hiatus, it’s only natural to be drawn to these and aim to strike a shuttle like this yourself in a real match.
The same way soccer players want to juggle and dribble the ball and win a trick on the pitch or how you want to hit an awesome spike in a friendly game of beach volley.
We want to look cool, feel cool, and experience that we can completely outplay an opponent with an awesome trick. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you’re aware of the pitfalls.
There’s one thing to remember about these magical strikes – they only work if we don’t play them too often because they’ll become predictable. A trick on your opponent turns into a trick on yourself.
If you walk onto the court looking to play a “forced” trick shot on a shuttle in a bad position, you lose the element of surprise, and the trickiness evaporates into a disappointing mist.
You’ll also be likely to strike with subpar technique and end up looking foolish (and possibly feeling the same way). In those cases, trick shots have the opposite effect rather than boosting your game.
Like this failed trick shot.
Axelsen had several better options to either smash or drop, but chose to wait and go for a trick that lost him the point.
I’m not trying to freak you out. These “warnings” aren’t meant to discourage you from using badminton trick shots, but it’s about balance. As you can see, the pros make mistakes as well.
Find a balance where you can still surprise and get that awesome feeling that propels your performance – without overusing it and failing 9/10 times.
Now that we know what we want from a trick shot (and don’t want,) let’s look at the elements you need in practice to strike a magnificent trick shot on the court.
What is required to develop tricks in badminton?
When learning a trick shot, it’s worth it to approach it the same way a sculptor approaches a rough stone. There’s nothing there now, but by chipping away little by little, the right shape will appear. Like any piece of art, it takes time to develop a trick shot to perfection, and it’s not going to win over any points or amazed roars from spectators if you bring it out when it’s half-finished.
It should be a well-placed deathtrap once you use it in a real match, and here’s what you’ll need to make it so.
1. The feeder: a necessity for badminton trick shots
Due to angles being weird and inconsistency in how the shuttles fly, you can’t spar as you normally do during warm-up and other practice. You need a feeder to throw the shuttle at the same speed and angle every time.
There are two main reasons for this.
A feeder can “feed” you shuttles consistently, which allows you to get a lot of reps in without having to think about any other shot.
The second benefit of having a feeder is that you can hit shuttles in the same spot and angle every time.
This is important because before you’re even close to having mastered a trick shot, you need to get familiar with the technique and finetune it until you know how it looks and feels to strike it perfectly.
Like any other shot, you want to ingrain a deep muscle memory and know exactly how to strike the shuttle with the right timing and racket control before you apply it in more realistic game scenarios.
This is specifically important for trick shots because so many things can go wrong if you make even the tiniest mistake.
2. Control, timing, and patience: the Gade perfection
Trick shots require tremendous athletic body control (as you saw in the earlier video clips).
The entire performance is an act by your body to create the illusion that you’re going in for “the obvious shot” without your opponent suspecting that there’s anything different happening. Then at the last second, you reveal the play of the trick shot to the astonishment of your opponent.
A lot goes into assembling all this movement and racket technique with the right timing and patience to create the ultimate deception because the part where you strike the shuttle can’t get revealed too early if you want your trick to work.
Badminton legend and trick shot expert, Peter Gade, explains that we need to wait with our shot to attempt to make the opponent react before we execute, which is incredibly challenging to master.
When it comes to trick shots he says, “Wait, as long as you can, that’s the whole idea about deception.”
In the clip, Gade talks about how you need to use your body to make the shot tricky as well. It’s the same preparation and outset as you have with a core stroke, which means you can still choose to hit the “standard” shot. In the clip above, Gade keeps lifting the shuttle and then switches to hit the cross-net trick shot.
This is also part of the whole build-up to trick an opponent that you keep playing your core strokes well and with variation so when you eye an opportunity to strike a trick, it’s completely unexpected.
Of course, there’s a caveat to this.
They do have a point.
Even while a master like Peter Gade can show us exactly what elements to focus on regarding trick shots, it’s assumed that you know your basic core strokes well enough since that is the foundation to reach this art form.
3. Development and maintenance: the tricky part of trick shots
The final thing you need to make these tricks worthwhile is revisiting them with a high enough frequency to make sure you remember how everything feels when you hit one perfectly – from the outset to the stroke.
People never talk about the maintenance of these shots.
Once polished to perfection, many players pack it up and stick it in their bag of badminton tricks as if it’s some kind of trophy you can pull out and parade whenever you want and bask in the feeling of acknowledgment that you just won a fantastic point.
This is what happens when you see players in your local club go for trick shots here and there, almost casually, and (unfortunately) fail most of the time.
I get it. Once you feel that you have it under control, the tendency is to tick it off your list and move on to more important parts of your training.
The problem in making it an afterthought runs the risk of all the hard work and time to learn a tick going down the drain.
It’s so rare that we play these shots in a real match. Yet, at the same time, we need to hit them with perfect technique and deception if we want the shot to be successful. These shots don’t maintain themselves as our basic core shots – and you can’t ignore this aspect.
The best way to make sure that your trick shot is ready when you need it in the heat of battle is to think of it as a samurai maintaining their blade and using it with careful intent.
You need to keep it sharp, but at the same time, it’s a tool you should only use for very specific jobs – a few times during an entire match is impressive. Go overboard, and you start to get diminishing returns and hurt your score.
The challenge is fitting in time with the actual trick shot without taking away from the rest of your more important training.
The beauty of keeping things sharp is that it doesn’t require too much effort. What it does require, is consistency.
One of the simplest ways I’ve found to incorporate this with the rest of the training is to make it a mini-session at the end of each practice.
This way, you’ll keep the balance of developing your trick without taking time away from more important skills.
I like to do these sessions by the end of training in 10 min intervals, and I like to make these all about experimenting with no pressure on making mistakes. This should be realistic for most players to do once a week, but if you’re able to add it to more than one training session a week, that’s obviously ideal.
It might seem like a short and limited amount of practice, but this way, it ups the focus and intensity a lot. By limiting yourself to the perfect moment, you avoid chasing all those less-than-ideal trick shots that typically end up losing you points.
It also becomes about making practice more fun.
For example, if you’re drilling footwork and have been running split steps around the court for most of your training, it’s motivating to know that there’s an element without any kind of pressure in the end.
What’s even better is that once your core elements from your other training improve, so will your technique and timing on the trick shots.
Now you have the setup, let’s look at some of the tricks you can start to develop.
Badminton trick shot categories
Don’t worry too much about what type of trick shot to learn first.
As you’ll see, some of these lend themselves to specific scenarios and can be more useful than others depending on the discipline (doubles or singles) and where you feel stronger (attack or defense).
The sport constantly develops new trick shots, but most of the useful tricks in badminton are covered here (excluding Axelsen’s behind-the-back shot. You’ll have to watch the clip at the beginning for that).
From this video, we can broadly categorize the tricks like this.
General trick shots
- Lin Dan baseline trick
- Tennis top spin backhand
- Return with grip
Singles specific tricks
- Cross net between legs
- Peter Gade signature
- Forehand crazy cross (a reverse of the Peter Gade signature)
- Cut with “wrong” strings
Doubles specific tricks
- Double defense tricks
- Sukamuljo spin serve
Of course, you can play any trick shot you want in any badminton discipline, but some make more sense whether you’re playing doubles or singles.
For example, in doubles, the serve tends to be more important compared to singles, and high-pace defense is more common here as well. So if you’re a doubles player, this might be an ideal place to start.
He’s a few inspirations of real match trick serves.
Flicking to disguise the distance like Kevin Sukamuljo’s serve.
And, his spin serve.
Defensive trick shots are often reactive shots (like Axelsen’s behind-the-back shot), but they’re actually hit with intent to save an otherwise difficult shot to the body when you realize you can’t hit it back using any of your core techniques.
Here are a few examples.
Between-the-legs defense doubles.
Between the legs singles.
In singles, cross shots tend to be more effective because you don’t have a partner who can step up to cover your far side.
Here you see the Peter Gade signature from the legend himself.
This is also in the category of attacking trick shots whose main goal is to finish the rally and win the point.
Spinning backhand cross by Sukamuljo in doubles.
The same shot from Axelsen in singles.
This is a list that you can keep coming back to for technique and inspiration on trick shots and it should last you a very long time.
Of course, trick shots of badminton keep evolving, and you might find new favorites in the next match with your favorite player.
Just remember the psychology for using trick shots and the essential elements required, so you’ll have a similarly awesome experience to Axelsen when you trick an opponent in a tricky match.
Finally, here’s a little bonus reminder that trick shots are always a fun way to test yourself even if you don’t end up using them.
Like this, which might be almost impossible – or maybe not?…
- Trick shots are rare and usually only played a few times during an entire match. Still, the execution is critical for a successful outcome which is why committing time to practice them is a refined balance
- They have the power to transform your performance and change the advantage when played well and with intent by igniting your confidence on the court
- The flipside is that if you overuse them, they quickly turn into “bad” trickshot that either lose you a point due to subpar technical execution or fails to trick your opponent because it’s too obvious
- Even though badminton tricks are likely less than 5% of your entire game, they need to be maintained to be successful. Because of that, you have to practice consistently to develop them over a long period
- Fitting in trick shot practice without diminishing more important training is easier if you make them “mini-trick-shot-sessions” to function as a reward by the end of your regular training
Quick questions people ask about badminton tricks
What are the tricks to play badminton?
There are several types of trick shots in badminton but common for all of them is that you pretend to strike a basic shot. Instead, you hit the shuttle in a completely different way to trick your opponent into missing the shuttle completely. They expect to defend against one strike but end up having to return a hidden trick shot. A few of these tricks are the “Lin Dan baseline trick,” the “Peter Gade signature,” and the “Sukamuljo spin serve.”
What are the 5 badminton techniques?
More commonly referred to as the five basic/core shots; Clear, Drive, Drop, Smash, and Net. These are all core techniques required for you to play any trick shot because they’re part of the deception that makes your opponent think they’re receiving a “standard” shuttle and because every trick shot incorporates one or more elements from core striking techniques.
What is the hardest technique in badminton?
Trick shots likely qualify as the most difficult technique in badminton because so many things go into a successful trick and the margin of error, where you’ll end up losing a point, is one of the highest compared to other techniques.
How do you hit harder in badminton?
There are a few factors for hitting a shuttle as hard as possible. The hardest and fastest shuttles are always hit in overhead strokes. You have to get behind the shuttle to hit it with optimal power. You also need a long powerful racket swing that contacts the shuttle right around a 90-degree angle over your head. Finally, you need to hit the “sweet spot” of the racket to generate maximum energy from the stringbed.
In shots that aren’t overhead (for example, in the backhand,) you can generate more power by lunging into the shuttle on your strike, leveraging the energy of your forward movement, and flicking your wrist.
Aske helps badminton players who are returning to the court after years away. I’ve prepared a few ideas if you’re looking to get fit or lose weight by playing badminton.
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