History of Sepak Takraw
The origins of sepak takraw remains a question of extreme controversy in Southeast Asia, as several countries with pride say it as their very own.
There is, nevertheless, some understanding that the sport was introduced to Southeast Asia through commercial contact with China, where a traditional form of the sport originated.
It is believed that many variations of the game developed from a historical Chinese military workout program, where soldiers would try to keep a feathered shuttlecock flying by kicking it back and forth amongst two or more people.
As the game developed, the animal hide and chicken feathers were eventually replaced by balls made of woven strips of rattan.
Sepak Takraw in Thailand
The earliest versions of sepak takraw were not so much of a competition. Still, sort of combined shows of expertise developed to training the body, enhance agility and relax the limbs shortly after long periods of sitting, standing, or working.
The modern version of sepak takraw is fiercely simplified and started taking form in Thailand almost 200 years ago. In 1829, the Siam Sports Association drafted the first simple rules for the game.
Four years later, the organization created the volleyball-style net and held the first public tournament. In just a few years, sepak takraw was launched to the Physical Training program in schools.
In Bangkok, the murals at Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) depict the Hindu god Hanuman playing sepak takraw in a ring with a flock of fellow monkeys.
Other historical accounts also describe the sport before the governing of King Naresuan of Ayutthaya. The game started to be such a cherished local custom that a convention of volleyball-style sepak takraw was staged to celebrate the kingdom’s first constitution in 1933, the year after Thailand abolished the absolute monarchy.
In these modern times, sepak takraw is performed on a modified badminton doubles court, with the net position five feet over the ground. Each team consists of three players; left inside, right inside, and back server.
Going Global: Standardising the Rules
Almost every country that played this sport knew it by different names. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, it’s called ‘sepak raga,’ whereas, in Thailand, it’s generally referred to as ‘takraw.’
The same game goes by the words of ‘sipa’ in the Philippines, ‘da cau’ in Vietnam, ‘rago’ in Indonesia, and ‘kator’ in Laos. Because sepak takraw was played and enjoyed in several countries, there were a lot of inconsistencies in terms of how the game was played and judged.
In 1960, representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Lao, and Thailand got together in Kuala Lumpur to standardize guidelines and legal guidelines for the sport.
And after a long and very hot argument, the consensus was come to that the competition would henceforth be officially called sepak takraw.
They also formed the Asian Sepak Takraw Federation (ASTAF), and translated the rules into English, placing the point for the first worldwide competition, held in Malaysia in 1965, at the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games, or SEAP Games, the forerunner to today’s Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
This chain of events set the stage for the global development of sepak takraw. However, it was the replacement of the natural rattan ball, which tended to splinter and warp, with the more standardized fabricated plastic ball that seriously moved the recognition of the global sport like greased lightning.
In 1990, sepak takraw was included at the Asian Games in Beijing. Females also got in on the activity with the first women’s championships in Thailand managed in 1997.
Nowadays, more than 20 countries have national sepak takraw organizations with associates on the panel of the international overseeing system, the International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF).
On Its Way to Olympic Status
Sepak takraw is one of the swiftest increasing games in Asia, as well as many other parts of the world. The gravity-defying kicks, contorted aerial twists, moves of the whole body, and the blinding pace of action astound spectators worldwide.
For most of the past ten years, Thailand has dominated worldwide tournaments, winning nearly every important event. Malaysia turned the tide at the 2005 Manila SEA Games.
Thailand and Malaysia will continue the leagues to beat for the foreseeable future, but different sepak takraw steamrollers such as Myanmar, South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam are closing in quickly.
Asian countries are currently lobbying to give the sports Olympic Games, to attract broader audiences internationally and to provide Asia with a much-wanted boost in the medals table.
And it’s only a matter of time before the region’s popular activity takes its respective place among other games at the Olympic Games.
For more details on sepak takraw rules, have a look at our Basic Rules & How to play.