I fancy myself something of a pretty good martial artist. Back in the day when I was younger (okay, okay, MUCH younger) I used to pride myself on my ability to kick very high and with excellent form. It took a long time for me to be able to kick like that, and I still look back fondly at that time, knowing that not very many people were able to do that.
So you can imagine my reaction when I came across what is, perhaps, the coolest unknown sport in the world – Sepak Takraw.
(If you can’t imagine my reaction, just take a look at the picture above and create your own reaction.)
Native to South East Asia and played in Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Phillipines, and Malaysia, Sepak Takraw is a sport that, if pressed to come up with some kind of Western-sport comparison, would be best described as a combination of soccer (football for you non-Americans) and volleyball.
At this point I would like to give a big shout-out to my new friends at Takraw USA, who were kind enough to give me permission to use information from their website for this article. Whenyou are done reading this, please take a moment and visit their website to show your support.
The Rules of the Sepak Takraw
The game consists of two teams of three players, lining up in a triangle formation with a net roughly the size of a badminton net separating them. One of the three players on each team is in the back and called the “Tekong.” The other two line up in front and are called the “Left Inside” and “Right Inside” players. A coin toss determines who will serve first. One of the “Inside” players serves the ball (traditionally made of rattan but now made out of synthetic rubber) to the Tekong, who kicks it over the net to the other team to start game play. This is where Sepak Takraw becomes a ton of fun to watch, because you are only allowed to use your feet, knees, chest, and head.
A point is scored when a fault is made by the other team. A fault can be anything from the player touching the ball with his hand, to the ball going out of bounds, to playing the ball more than three times in succession before putting it over the net. If you want to know all of the ways a team can fault, I suggest (again) that you visit Takraw USA for more information.
The game consists of 2 sets, scoring up to 21 points. If the game gets to 20-20, the referee can up the score of a set to 25 points, with the winner having to win by two. If by chance each team wins a set, a tiebreaking round will be played to determine the winner.
Because the net is high and the players can’t use their hands, lots of very, VERY impressive techniques were developed to generate power to get the ball over the net. Just like this:
Here are a few videos for your enjoyment, to really get a feel for how awesome the sport of Sepak Takraw is. I’m really hoping to catch a match the next time I’m in Thailand.
Watch the Takraw USA team play at the 2009 World Championships, where they won a silver medal:
Here’s a doubles match: