In February, I wrote that I’d finally found a favorite form of exercise here in hiking the SAR's gorgeous countryside. But I can now say that as much as I love hiking, it has been replaced by something new. Since joining my first proper game a month ago, I’ve become totally addicted to badminton.
At college, I took PE activity classes in pickleball, racquetball and bowling. I loved them all, and have now been able to translate some of my racket skills to badminton, a game I had casually played only a handful of times back home. In Asia, badminton seems to be the king of racket sports, followed by tennis, table tennis and to a lesser extent, squash. As you Americans out there know, badminton is a sport associated with front lawns and lemonade in the US, not lightning speed reflexes and carefully marked indoor courts as it is over here. I shifted perspectives after watching the China vs. Malaysia men’s singles gold medal match during the Olympics a year ago. When played well, the sport is like a kind of intricate dance, with wrist action almost more like fencing than tennis.
Since late April, I’ve picked up the basic rules, technique and strategies from a number of experienced players, kind enough to help out with the Meetup.com events that I join. This website, by the way, is designed for people of similar interests to be able to, you guessed it, meet up and participate in their activity of choice, in this case badminton. There’s even one in HK called the ‘Hipster Fellowship.’ I wonder what they do. Sit around and grow ironic facial hair together while admiring Instagrams of food?
Anyway, back to badminton, the sport is ideal for Hong Kong. It’s protected from the elements by being indoors, it’s in a smaller, compact space, and it requires nimble maneuvering instead of brute force. Not unlike navigating through the crowded MTR stations. I’ve got a long way to go before I master most of the important badminton shots, but I feel that I’m improving at the mental and physical aspects of the game, which may be the fastest ball sport invented. If you don’t believe me, watch this.
In addition to weather being a non-factor, a reason why badminton takes the cake over hiking is that it’s competitive. Overlooking incredible views and repetitively smacking a little plastic hemisphere with feathers attached are both great ways to relieve stress, but something about the stakes of winning or losing a game make badminton my top choice. I haven’t competed against people in a team sport since my intramural softball team lost out on the championship game my last year in college, and for ineffable reasons, it’s incredibly fun.
This may be a fad or it may be a lifelong pastime for me; I don’t know. Regardless, this sport has made a rather uneventful month of May that much more eventful. Now if I ever hear someone mention they’d like to go get smashed, I’ll hesitate, and then be disappointed when I realize they probably aren’t talking about playing badminton.