The game of badminton is one with two distinct histories. Badminton can trace its roots over 2,500 years to a number of cultures, primarily China and India (where the game was known as poona). The modern game takes its name from Badminton House, in Gloucester, England, where soldiers familiar with the game through their service in India played the game on their return home. In the initial years of its introduction to English society, the game was regarded as a genteel pastime; the rules of the sport were codified in 1895, and remain virtually unaltered today.
The International Badminton Federation (IBF) was formed in 1934. The IBF has over 140 member countries. Badminton is contested in a singles' competition format for both men and women, doubles events for both men and women, and mixed doubles. An international professional circuit, involving significant prize money, has grown significantly since 1990. In 1992, badminton was introduced to the Summer Olympics as a full medal sport.
Badminton has been played in many parts of the world as a recreational activity. It is a deceptively simple sport, requiring a net, two or four people with lightweight metal or composite material rackets made in a similar shape to that of a tennis racket, and a lightweight, feathered object called the shuttlecock or shuttle. The goal is to deliver the shuttle over the net, with the intent to place it where it cannot be returned by the opponent. Badminton was traditionally viewed as a sport that anyone could play.
As with many sports with relatively simple rules, sporting excellence in badminton is achieved through execution and precise movement by the athlete. As with the sports of tennis and volleyball, the badminton net regulates the nature of the game. The badminton court is a relatively small space at 44 ft by 17 ft (13.4 m by 5.2 m) or 20 ft (6.1 m) wide for four players. The net stands 5 ft (1.5 m) high. The games are scored to 15 points (women's singles play is scored to 11 points), with points only permitted to be scored on the player's serve. The shuttle may not be touched while in the air above the opponent's court, and the shuttle may not touch the surface of the court.
The simplicity of badminton that makes it an attractive recreational activity remains its hallmark at the elite level. The speed and the power of the shots transform badminton from recreation to a significant athletic challenge. The sport requires extremely well-developed agility and hand-eye coordination. The tactics of the game demand a command of a deft touch, to drop a shot into a precise area of the opposing court, as well as the power to deliver a smash; elite competitors can deliver the shuttle at speeds in excess of 150 mph (250 km/h). The placement of shots and the tactics to be employed are also important components of badminton success.
Given the height of the net and the dimensions of the court, a tall player would seem to be at an advantage in badminton. However, the Olympics badminton championships and recent world championships have been dominated by athletes from Asian countries. The genetic traits of these athletes, which include slighter builds and smaller statures than most persons of European or North American ancestry, are ideally suited to the sport. Lateral quickness, balance, and a capacity for explosive movement are essential to badminton success. The technique required to deliver the primary power shot, the smash, is not a pure strength movement. When the player sees an opportunity to return the shuttle forcefully, the player will often leap, combining a scissor kick and fast arm action with the racket at the point of impact with the shuttle. The jump effectively transfers significant potential energy to a position where, on impact, the athlete converts that energy store into kinetic energy, most of which transfers to the shuttle.
The physical training program for effective badminton will combine several features. Stretching and flexibility is of primary importance, as the lateral movement and explosive reactions required place a significant stress on the lower leg joints and groin tissues. Exercises that assist in plyometrics training and intervals will support the movements required in a small space. While the sport is primarily anaerobic in terms of its energy demands, it is common for badminton matches to be extended over multiple sets, with more than one match played per day. Aerobic fitness assists these athletes in their recovery from the anaerobic exertions of the sport.