Known by many names in various countries all over Southeast Asia, this sport otherwise seen as kick volleyball. It is making its rounds across many eyes through its use of the jumps, twirls, and kicks. All of which lay root in martial arts expression.
Many would describe the sport to appear to be a mixture of gymnastics, football, volleyball, and martial arts. Through the balance of high leaps, twirls, and kicks, they required a large amount of athleticism, focus, flexibility, and power to pull off some of the moves effectively. No wonder why many can’t help but see the martial arts influence in the sport.
Many countries in Southeast Asia lay claim to having been the originators to this sport. It is difficult to trace its exact roots. However people can link one of the earliest traces to the 15th century in the Malacca Sultanate in Malaysia. There are also murals painted in the famous temple named Wat Phra Kaeo establishing in 1785 in Bangkok, Thailand. The mural illustrates the Hindu god playing the sport with a group of monkeys.
People believed that the sports originally derived from ancient Chinese military exercise known as Cuju. This exercise required soldiers kicking a feathered shuttlecock (or birdie) back and forth using only their feet. They have to do their best to keep it airborne. In time, a rattan ball would replace the birdie, a ball made of rattan palms. These exercises would help improve dexterity, balance of the core, and loosen the body – particularly stiff limbs.
Since many countries in Southeast Asia identify the sport as a different name and play it in their own way, the exact rules to how to properly play had been somewhat muddled. It wasn’t until 1960, where representatives from the countries Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Laos gathered together to finalize the official name of the sport as Sepak Takraw.
From there, these representatives would go onto create the Asian Sepak Takraw Federation (ASTAF) and standardize rules and regulations for the sport. Upon translating them into English, they eventually held the first competitive game of the sport in Malaysia during the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. By 1990, they had included the sport at the Asian Games in Beijing. Seven years after that, Thailand hosted the first Women’s Championships in Sepak Takraw.
There are two teams that consist of only three players. They played on a modified badminton doubles court with the net five feet above the ground. While one remains at the back (known as the tekong), the other two are on the right and left side. As soon as the tekong serves the ball, the game begins. They cannot use hands, the primary trait of sepak takraw is the use of it kicks to volley back and forth.
To win, a team must win 2 out of 3 sets. One set consisting of scoring up to 21 points and points are usually scored if either side (receiving or serving) commit a fault of any kind. Actions such as distracting during service, the ball touching the arm, playing the ball more than 3 times in succession, the Tekong not kicking the ball during the serve, any part of the body passing onto the other side are just a few of the ways players can commit faults throughout the game.
Due to its visually spectacular moves that appear to be like martial arts moves, the sport has garnered a lot of attention and gained quite traction over the decades. More and more countries outside of Southeast Asia have come to participate in the sports.
Currently, there are over 50 different countries that compete in the sport. The sheer number and spread demonstrates how quickly global the sport has become over the decades. With that, it is only a matter of time until it becomes as an official Olympic sport.