Sepak Takraw is a remarkable blend of volleyball, football, martial arts and gymnastics. Separating the two terms, Sepak represents “to strike with the foot” in malay while Takraw represents ball or basket in thai.
Sepak Takraw is thought to be played by the Thai and Malay people from as far back as the 15th century. While there exist controversies of the sport’s origin, there is a wide consensus of opinion that the game originated from the South-East Asia.
It all started when villagers kicked a rattan ball to each other with the sole goal of keeping the ball in the air for as long as it could. Does the game sound too simple to be appealing? Yes, it is simple. And yes, it is appealing as the game had a common goal – to keep the ball in mid-air for the longest possible time – which worked to instill the sense of teamwork in players.
The “simple” nature of the game was then interrupted when the sport began playing on courts in professional tournaments.
In 1833, a volleyball style net was introduced to the game. This addition increased not only the difficulty of game but also the level of excitement. With the net, a player now has to strike the ball in mid-air to get the ball pass the net and into opponent’s court.
Sepak takraw now demands faster speed, varied kicking styles and higher standard of athleticism. The escalating difficulty in the sport did not put off the avid sepak takraw players but instead triggered a spectacular growth in popularity amongst the athletes.
In addition, captivating displays of skill and acrobatics were also seen to have developed according the influence of heritage and creativity of players. In Thailand, there are the revolutionary Horse-Kick serve and the fatal Sunback Spike. In Vietnam, there is the elegant Cartwheel serve.
In the modern times, geographical boundaries no longer impose much restrictions on the spread of culture. Be it due to the internet or travelers from the east to the west, the sport has seen its spread across the globe. New styles and techniques have also been developed with the influence different local heritages.
The evolution of techniques of sepak takraw continues…
Photo courtesy of Sepaktakraw