an introduction to Sepak Takraw / Sepak Raga
Sepak Takraw originated in Malaysia and is Malaysia’s national sport.
Some people have nicknamed the game ‘kick volleyball‘ over the years.
‘Sepak’ is the Malay word for ‘kick.’
‘Takraw‘ is the Thai word for the hand-woven ball originally used in the game.
So the game is essentially ‘kick ball.’
Sepak Takraw is played on a court like that of badminton, with three players on each side.
The rules and maneuvers of Sepak Takraw are similar to those used in volleyball, except that hands and arms may not touch the ball.
How to pronounce Sepak Takraw:
The letter “e” is a ‘long‘ e as pronounced in the word ‘me.’
The letter ‘a’ is pronounced “ah.”
So ‘Sepak Takraw’ is pronounced “see’ pahk tahk’ rahw.”
evolution of the sport:
Many variants of Takraw (‘ball’), which is to say many indigenous games of kicking a woven rattan ball, have been played for hundreds of years throughout Asia.
History suggests that the various Takraw games evolved from an ancient exercise of Chinese soldiers who would keep a feathered shuttlecock airborne by kicking it back and forth between them.
As the Chinese game developed, the animal hide and chicken feathers were eventually replaced by woven rattan balls and the game was called Cuju, which means ‘kick ball‘.
The first versions of Takraw were not competition per se, but rather cooperative displays of skill exercising the body, improving dexterity and stretching limbs after long periods of standing, sitting or working.
The traditional circle game had no set rules, required very little space, and the ball was woven of rattan, which was abundant. It was played by men and boys gathered in a circle, kicking the ball back and forth between them.
‘Cuju’ was shared by migrants and traders through Asia, and it became very popular in Malaysia and Thailand by the early 1400s.
Also, Marco Polo reportedly brought Cuju back to Europe from China.
The Thais called the game Takraw (‘ball’) and Malays called it sepak raga (‘kick rattan ball’).
It was played by men and boys gathered in a circle, kicking the ball back and forth between them.
In the Philippines, Sipa (‘kick’) was the name of the game.
Malaysians played Sepak Raga (‘kick ball’).
In Singapore, their game was also called Sepak Raga or Sepraga .
In Brunei, people played Sepak Raga Jala , while Indonesia’s game was Rago.
Thailand’s sport was Takraw (ball).
In Burma Ching Loong was the game, and in Laos Kator was played.
The modern version of Takraw began taking shape in Thailand about 200 years ago.
And in 1829, Thailand’s sports authority drafted the first official rules of the game.
Four years later, the Siam Sports Association introduced the volleyball-style net and held the first public game.
Within a few years, Sepak Takraw was introduced to the physical education curriculum of Thai public schools.
In 1945, Thais played an exhibition match in Penang, Malaysia, where Takraw was quite well-received, then the game spread like wildfire throughout Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
In 1960, representatives of various Southeast Asia nations met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to standardize Takraw, which had many variations throughout Asia, so that teams could play internationally.
The international sport was officially named “Sepaktakraw” after heated discussions between Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos and Thailand.
A compromise decided that the word “sepak,” used in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to mean “kick,” would be combined with “takraw,” the Thai word for “woven ball.”
The various versions of traditional, national Takraw games were distilled into the present, international, volleyball-style Sepak Takraw game with codification and universal adoption of rules of the game and regulations for the court, players’ clothing and officiating.
a Sepak Takraw primer:
Traditionally hand-woven of rattan stems, today Takraw balls are made of hard plastic.
Rattan balls can still be found for sale in markets throughout Asia as the products of traditional handicraft, but they are not used in regulation play in schools and adult leagues.
The synthetic ball has 12 holes and 20 weaving intersections. The hand-woven balls differ, with a more complex weave.
A men’s game ball weighs 170 to 180 grams (6 -6.3 ounces). A women’s Sepak Takraw ball weighs 150 to 160 grams(5.3 – 5.6 ounces) (5.6 oz) for women.
A ‘soft’ ball has less bounce than a ‘hard’ ball which has more resilience and therefore bounces more from a surface.
This is akin to the differences between an American “softball” (large, heavy, and soft) and a “baseball,” which is smaller and harder and thus is propelled further by a bat strike.
A golf ball is even harder (and smaller) than a baseball and thus can be propelled hundreds of meters by a golf club srtike.
The court dimensions approximate those of a doubles badminton court: an area of 13.4 meters long x 6.1 meters wide, free of obstacles up to 8 meters from the floor.
The top of the net is 1.52 meters high (1.42 m for women) in the center and 1.55 meters high (1.45 m for women) at the posts.
Court dimensions vary between tournaments and organizations and from the recreational level to international competition.
Sepak Takraw is played by two opposing teams with three players on each side.
A team of four players — three on court and one substitute — is called a Regu.
Most unofficial games are played without a substitute but with players on the sidelines watching and waiting to play against the winning team.
Two teams compete for highest score by ‘spiking’ the ball – sending it to the floor of the opposite half of the court.
As in volleyball, there are passes, sets and spikes yet without using hands or arms.
Each team is allowed to hit the takraw ball three times before it must cross the net again, similar to volleyball, but any one player may hit the ball all three times if necessary.
Players use their heads, legs and feet to control the ball. Athletes must have speed, agility and excellent ball control.
At the serve, the serving team’s two forwards (‘insides’) must remain in their painted quarter circles beside the net, while the back player must have only one foot in the ‘serving circle’ until he kicks the ball to serve with his other foot.
The receiving team’s players may stand anywhere in their side of the court, but usually the back player stands just in front of the serving circle with the forwards on either side of him
All players can move freely after the ball has been served.
to begin play:
Coin toss: The teams’ captains call the coin side, and whoever calls correctly gets to choose to serve first or choose the side of the court they wish to be on.
Start the set: To serve, the forward players (‘insides’) stand in their quarter circles.
One of them kicks or tosses the ball to the server (the ‘back’).
He kicks the ball over the net with the foot that is outside the serving circle while keeping one foot in it.
The served ball may hit the net as it goes into the other half of the court.
The ball is volleyed from one half of the court to the other using legs, feet or heads.
Play continues until a team makes a fault, which is when the ball is not kicked before it hits the ground or the net stops it from passing to the other side of the court.
If a fault is made, the other team scores then serves the ball next.
An inside, or forward, player lifts his feet or steps on quarter-circle line or crosses over or touches the net while throwing the ball to the server, the Tekong
The Tekong jumps off the ground while serving
The back player (Tekong) does not kick the ball over the net on the first service toss from a forward player (Inside)
The ball touches the server’s teammate before crossing over the net
The ball hits the net but does not go over it
The ball falls to the ground inside or outside of the court
The ball is hit more than 3 times in succession by one side
The ball hits the hand or arm of a player
A player uses a hand or any part of an arm to facilitate a kick even if the hand or arm does not touch the ball, but it touches other objects or surfaces as player kicks the ball
The ball rolls on the body or is stalled or caught
Any part of a player’s body or clothes (jersey, shorts, shoes) touches the net or a post or crosses the plane of the net (over or under)
A player touches the ball on the opponents’ side of the court
Any part of a player’s body crosses to the opponents’ court, above or under the net except during the follow-through of the ball
A point is scored by the team that did not fault on each rally.
When a team faults, it loses the right to serve, which thus passes to the other team.
A set is won by scoring 21 points (team does not have to win by a 2-point margin). If the teams tie at 20 points, the set is decided by a difference of two points, up to 25 points.
The sport is played in 2 sets with two minutes rest in-between.
The teams exchange sides of the court, and the team that lost the previous set serves.
A match is won by winning two sets. So if each team wins one set, the third, ‘tie breaking’ set only goes to 15 points unless the teams are tied at 14-14. Then the set shall be decided on a difference of two points, up to a ceiling of 17 points.
Finally, the team that wins two of three matches wins the game.