Playing Sepak Takraw

Every nation has her proud myriad of cultures, arts, dances, literature and traditional sports. It is recorded in the cultures of South-East Asia nations as early as in the 11th century that the game was played extensively - Takraw in Thailand, Sipa in the Philippines, Sepakraga in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Ching Loong in Myanmar, Rago in Indonesia & Kator in Laos.

It is even said that in one of his many trips, the merchant Marco Polo brought back to Europe a game from China, which was kicking an implement into the air and counting the number of kicks, a style resembling today's sepaktakraw game.

Sepak takraw was created by the royal family of Malaysia about 500 years ago. The name itself comes from two languages. Sepak is “kick” in Malay, and Takraw is the “ball” in Thai. When it is born, it looked like Japanese “Kemari”, and some became a circle, and a pole was kicked, and the number of times was being competed in.

It looks very similar to the Japanese traditional game, “kemari” where the players form a loose circle and the number of times the ball is kicked before it touches the ground is counted. In 1965 the game was unified into the present volleyball style with the addition of a net and the adoption of international rules.

The oldest form of kicking the traditional woven ball used in the game was for players to stand in a circle and try to keep the ball in the air as long as possible without using their hands or arms.

The traditional circle game had no set rules and required very little space - which was important in the jungles of Southeast Asia and the ball was woven out of rattan, which was found in abundance. It provided villagers of all ages with fun, recreation and a sense of shared community. This was the traditional circle game, evolved from many forms of kicking game.

Sepaktakraw using the net came about in the 19th century; enthusiasts in Southeast Asia decided to add a net and a set of rules similar to volleyball to make the game more challenging and competitive. An exhibition match was held in Penang, Malaysia in 1945 where it received tremendous response and the game spread like wildfire throughout the rest of the Malaysian Peninsula and Southeast Asia.

In 1960, representatives of various South-East Asia nations met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to establish a standard set of rules and regulations for the game. In 1965, two developments occurred which were to change the course of the sport of Sepaktakraw, as it is hitherto known. On December 19, 1965, the sport was officially named Sepaktakraw after heated discussions between Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Laos at the Southeast Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games Federation meeting.

A compromise was reached whereby the word Sepak - the term used in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, translates into “kick” and the word Takraw - the term used in Thailand, which means “woven ball” were combined and the official name of the net game became Sepaktakraw.

In 1984 high technology came to Sepaktakraw when a Thai Inventor revolutionized the sport with the introduction of a new synthetic Sepaktakraw ball. While the traditional rattan ball that was used for years worked well, the growth of the game was threatened by the rattan ball’s problems in quality control, lack of standardization and decreasing supplies of rattan.

With the introduction of the new high tech synthetic balls, the sport received a much-needed boost and the stage was set for Sepaktakraw to spread around the world. The balls were later tested and approved by the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) and Asian Sepaktakraw Federation (ASTAF) for use in any international sepaktakraw tournaments sanctioned by ISTAF/ASTAF.

In 1988, the Asian Sepak Takraw Federation (ASTAF) officially formed ISTAF - the International Sepak Takraw Federation as the global governing body for the sport. Since then, many new countries outside of Asia have taken up the sport including the United States, Australia, Finland, Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Egypt.

Under the leadership of its President Senator Major General Charouck Arirachakaran, ISTAF has established a global promotions campaign, which is now taking root to help popularize the sport to the entire world. It is ISTAF’s goal to have Sepaktakraw become the first team sport in the world from the continent of Asia to achieve Olympic status.