Speed ball, the competitive racquet sport. Not to be confused with the narcotic, boxing, paintball or video game varieties of “speed ball”, this mysterious sport involves one, two, or four players frantically swatting the air as if chasing mosquitoes. In fact, if you live in a country where flies and mosquitoes abound, you probably have a natural advantage and could be the next world champion. Similar to squash in speed and intensity, a latex ball is attached to a nylon thread and swings around a pole. Players take turns smashing the living daylights out of the ball, causing it to spin wildly—this sport is not for the fainthearted or slow-moving.

Invented in Egypt in 1961 by Mohamed Lotfy, speed ball was first designed as a way to train tennis players. Now a sport in its own right, the International Federation of Speed-Ball (FISB) was founded in 1984 by Egypt, France, and of course Japan.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s great to be able to sharpen your reactions. If something’s whizzing at your face, you want to be able to slam it away, right? Here’s where speed ball can enhance your reflexes, keep you on your toes and help you to deflect balls, insects and anything else that suddenly flies out at you.

A video clip of the 2008 World Championship recently surfaced on Japan’s Himasoku, featuring Japan vs Egypt. Many Japanese netizens cracked up laughing, quite a few were puzzled as to the rules of the game, while others boasted of competing in the national champs in their high school days. Speed ball was introduced to Japan in 1985, and the Japan Speed Ball Federation keeps balls speeding all over the country.

In case you were wondering, here are the rules of speed ball.

Super-solo is single player speed-ball, an exercise in extremely fast hand-eye coordination. The aim of this game is to hit the ball as many times as you can in the allotted times, using two racquets and alternating right, left, two racquets forehand then two racquets backhand. The current world record holder, Yasser Hefny, smashed the ball an incredible 593 times in four minutes in 2009 (that’s 148 times a minute, or 2.47 times a second!) Japan’s nearest contender is seventh-ranked Masato Hikino with 551, followed by France’s David Cluzel with 548.

▼Super-solo makes ping-pong look slow.


(Image by Cuxmay, Wikimedia Commons)

If you prefer to do it with others, you can play a two-player single match, or a double match with two two-player teams, using only one racquet each. Each player hits the ball back in the opposite direction of rotation, and a point is scored when the ball whizzes past a player twice in succession without them being able to lay a racquet on it. Ten points wins the game, and two games wins the match.

▼Quadruple the fun, quadruple the chance of losing an eye.

(Image by Cuxmay, Wikimedia Commons)

The 26th World Speed Ball Open Championship will be held in Kuwait 19-24 February 2014. We’re looking forward to seeing some slow-motion replays!

Source: Himasoku (Japanese only)
Featured image: International Speedball Federation
Images: Wikimedia Commons