Badminton footwork patterns use a variety of basic movement elements; this page gives a brief overview.
The professionals make it look easy. When you watch their footwork, you’ll often get the feeling that they are gliding effortlessly around the court. They make the court look smaller than it really is.
What you’re observing here is fluid footwork. Each movement flows seamlessly into the next, and every movement is made without hesitation. Professional badminton players know exactly which footwork patterns to use, without having to think: their vast experience allows them to select the right patterns instinctively.
Learning this quality of footwork takes a long time. Before you can put it all together, you need to become familiar and comfortable with the basic elements of badminton movement.
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Steps are the most natural element of badminton movement. Everyone knows how to put one foot in front of the other!
But in badminton, you need to be comfortable stepping in all directions: forwards, backwards, sideways, and diagonally. Everyone is comfortable stepping forwards; but ask people to step backwards quickly and without looking, and you’ll find few people who succeed on their first attempt.
But this is fundamental to badminton. You must learn to be comfortable taking large, fast steps backwards.
To distinguish steps from chassés, we often describe steps in badminton as cross-overs. For example, I might say something like this:
Try using a cross-over instead of a chassé.
A chassé is an alternative movement to a step. Which is better? Well, they are different movements, and all good players will use both; to compare their virtues, read about steps vs. chassés.
To perform a chassé, step out with one foot and then bring the other foot in the same direction — but do not cross your feet. In a chassé, one foot leads while the other foot follows. The leading foot is always ahead of the following foot.
- Key tip
The word chassé means chase in French.
Imagine that one foot is chasing the other, but never quite catches up.
The leading foot often points in the direction of travel, but not always. For example, a typical backwards chassé for an overhead forehand keeps the leading foot pointing sideways, not backwards.
The following foot always points at right-angles to the direction of travel. For example, if you are chasséing to your right, then your left foot (the following foot) will be pointing roughly forwards.
When chasséing, keep your movements long and low. A high, bouncy chassé is useless; remember that your purpose is to cover distance quickly.
A hitch is a fast, short movement along the ground that uses mainly the ankles.
You must start with a wide base (legs wide apart). Your feet must be aligned in the direction you want to travel (imagine drawing a line between the feet).
To perform a hitch, push off with both ankles, so that you spring lightly along the ground. You should travel a short distance very quickly, without having moved your legs.
These movements are much neglected in badminton coaching. Indeed, they are ignored to such an extent that we don’t even have a standard name for them! The term hitch is obscure, but I can’t find a better alternative.
Hitches are sometimes called shuffles or hops.
Jumping is fundamental to badminton movement, especially in the rearcourt.
Jumps can be in any direction. You can push off with one or two feet, and land with one or two feet (a two-footed landing is greatly preferred when possible, because it’s kinder on your knees).
When most players think about jumping in badminton, they imagine the jump smash. A jump smash involves jumping for height, so that you can smash with a steeper angle.
Although a big jump smash is a fearsome shot, it’s also advanced and specialist. There are many other, more useful jumps in badminton — the subtler jumps that help you cover the court faster.
In particular, jumping is useful for playing overhead forehands. In most situations, you should get both feet off the ground at least for a moment, while you are playing an overhead forehand shot.
Lunges are useful in all corners of the court, but especially at the front. Lunges can be in any direction, but you always lunge in the direction you are moving.
At the net, a lunge allows you to reach forwards to take the shuttlecock early, while also preparing to recover to a more central position.
Good lunging technique is very important, both for your speed of movement and also to prevent injuries.
The split drop
The split drop is a technique for making a quick start, when you don’t know in advance which way you will need to go.
This skill is so important that I’ve devoted a separate page to explaining the split drop (and I’ll probably write several more pages about it later!).