A favorite sport of southwest Asia (especially Thailand and Malaysia), Sepak Takraw is also known as “kick volleyball.” In Malaysia, the game is called sepak raga, while in Laos it’s called thuck thay. In Thailand, it is called sepak takraw, and in Myanmar it is known as ching loong. In the Philippines, besides “takraw,” it is also known as sipa, which means kick. In Indonesia, the game is called rago, and in Laos it is called kator. The name Sepak Takraw is a combination of the words Sepak from the Malay language and Takraw from Thai, which when put together, roughly means, “kick the woven ball.”
The origins of Sepak Takraw probably began from an ancient Chinese game that involved juggling a shuttlecock with the feet. Soldiers used this game to improve foot-eye coordination as well as athleticism. This Chinese sport would become the ancestor to the world’s first version of football (soccer), called Cuju. The game would have spread through commercial contact between China and it’s neighboring countries. Once the shuttlecock was replaced with a woven leather ball, it is easy to see the similarities between this game and Sepak Raga.
Sepak Raga is a Malaysian juggling kicking game that is played in a circle formation. The word “raga” refers to the rattan ball used in the game. Mentioned in the ancient Malay text “The Sejarah Melayu,” Sepak Raga was being played as early as the 1400’s in the Malacca Sultanate (a territory centered around modern day Malacca Malaysia), as well as the neighboring countries of Singapore and Brunei.
In Bangkok, Thailand, there are murals in Wat Phra Kaeo (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) that seem to depict the Hindu god Hanuman playing Sepak Takraw with a tribe of monkeys. This theoretically places the origins of Sepak Takraw in Thailand as early as the 1400’s as well. However, Sepak Takraw was definitely mentioned during the reign of King Naresuan, which dates back to the early 1600’s. At the very least, it is safe to say Sepak Takraw has been played in Thailand for over 400 years.
The first rules for modern Sepak Raga was formed in 1829 by the Siam Sports Association, which added the volleyball style net several years later. Around a hundred years later (1935), Sepak Raga was played on a badminton court (with a net) during a jubilee celebration. After World War II, three individuals were given the distinction of being the “fathers” of modern Sepak Takraw: Hamid Maidin (who put together rule set), Mohamed Abdul Rahman (one of the best Sepak Raga players of the time), and Syed Yaacob. The game became increasingly popular not only on its own merits, but also as an excellent training game for football (soccer).
The Malay Sepak Raga federation was formed in 1960, which promoted both the netted (Sepak Raga Jaring) and non-netted versions of the sport. In 1965, the Malay federation, along with delegates from Singapore, met with delegates from Laos and Thailand to come to a consensus on the rules for the 1965 SEAP (South East Asia Peninsular) games. The word Sepak, meaning kick from Malaysian, and Takraw, meaning woven ball from Thai, became the official name for the newly minted version of the game, Sepak Takraw. With an official rule set and a governing federation called the ASTAF (Asian Sepak takraw Federation), this version of the sport became very popular all over Southeast Asia. In 1992, the ISTAF (International Sepak Takraw Federation) became in charge of international competition, with over 20 countries having Sepak Takraw federations, including India, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Today, there are 70 countries from Asia, North, Central, and South America, Europe, Africa, Oceania, and the Middle East competing in the ISTAF. In the 2018 Asian games, India was able to secure a bronze, the countries first medal in the sport. Out of all the international competitions, however, the Kings Cup (in Thailand) is considered the most prestigious tournament. Sepak Takraw has been a featured sport in the Asian games during the 1990’s, and is now an official event of the Asian and Southeast Asian games.
The two biggest rival countries within the sport of Sepak Takraw are Thailand and Malaysia. In the Asian games, Malaysia won the gold the first two years, which forced Thailand to dramatically improve their team. Thailand has since dominated almost every international competition since their defeat to Malaysia in 2005. However, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam have become forces to reckon with in the international stage.
Sepak Takraw is three-on-three volleyball style game that is played primarily with the feet. The size of the court is equivalent to badminton, and the net height is about five feet high. The game starts when a server kicks the grape fruit sized ball over the net while standing in the serving circle. A typical game is up to 21 points, and in the case of a tie, a team must get ahead by two points to win. Players are not allowed to use their hands or arms, but instead use their feet, knees, head, and chest to control, pass, and hit the ball over the net. Very similar to volleyball, the objective of the game is to make your opponents “fault,” which consists of having the ball hit the ground on their side of the net. Also similar to volleyball is that teammates can pass the ball to each other up to three times before hitting the ball back over the net to the opposition. A major difference from volleyball in Sepak Takraw is that one player can take all three hits without passing to another player.
The most iconic move in Sepak Takraw is the spike. The athlete must do an acrobatic bicycle kick to slam the ball with lots of force in a downward trajectory. This is incredibly hard to do because it involves getting the kicking foot above one’s head, yet the athletes use these on a regular basis. A bicycle kick in soccer usually involves the player landing on their back, but the very best Sepak Takraw players can actually roll through the kick into a somersault, which enables the player to land on his or her feet (similar to a jumping spinning kick from a martial art like Tae Kwon Do).
Sepak Takraw, with its fast paced volleyball style action and highflying kicks, has garnered international recognition and may one day become an Olympic sport.
Here is a link to the lesson plan from the TpT store:
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Ninh Ly. The Rules of Sepak Takraw – Explained. YouTube. Published April 17th, 2015. Retrieved May 20th, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MyTJopbo4Y
T. Avineshwaran. The Legacy of Sepak Takraw. The Star Online. March 8th, 2013. Retrieved May 15th, 2019. https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/archive/2013/03/08/the-legacy-of-sepak-takraw/
Sepak Takraw Rules. Rules of Sport.com. 2016. http://www.rulesofsport.com/sports/sepak-takraw.html
Sepak Takraw. Wikipedia. Last edited February 16th, 2019. Accessed May 21st, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sepak_takraw
Sohinee Basu. Sepak Takraw Rules, History, Court and Ball Size and Past Champions. Sportskeeda. August 16th, 2018. Retrieved May 15th, 2019. https://www.sportskeeda.com/sepak-takraw/asian-games-2018-all-you-need-to-know-about-sepak-takraw