So what exactly is Sepaktakraw?
The name is a marriage of the Malay word “Sepak” (literally meaning “kick” or “smash”) and the Thai word “Takraw” (the original rattan ball used in the sport). Played on a rectangular court which is of similar size to a badminton court and with a net suspended in the middle, the fundamental rules are simple, with the objective being to deliver the ball over the net into your opponents’ court, and try to make it un-returnable. Players may use any part of their legs, head and torso to handle the ball, but not their arms or hands.
Playing Format & Scoring
There are several forms of the game, but the most popular is the Regu format, where opposing teams of 5 players (3 on-court with 2 substitutes) line up against each other. The on-court players comprise a Striker, a Server, and a Feeder, each having distinct tactical roles to play during a match, and therefore possessing different playing skillsets.
The new ISTAF tournaments employ the Regu format, where teams play Matches comprising 3 Sets each, with the winner of a Match being the first of the two opposing teams to win 2 Sets. Each Set is played over 21 points. In the event of a score of 20-20, the set shall be won by the side which gets a lead of two (2) points, or when a side reaches twenty-five (25) points, whichever occurs first.
Service of the ball has, by far, been the primary determining factor in the fate of many Sepaktakraw matches. Many different ball-service styles have evolved in the last 15-20 years, and the renowned Horse-Kick serve, originally developed by the Thais, is today universally acknowledged to be the most difficult to execute, as well as the deadliest, of them all.
So that the new ISTAF tournaments effectively showcase the many unique aspects of Sepaktakraw, and to maintain a level playing field where matches are not dominated solely by ball-service, teams take turns serving the ball, and a ‘service-over’ occurs after every 3 consecutive points scored regardless of the team which wins the points. After every 3 consecutive points, therefore, ball-service changes to the opposing team for the subsequent 3 consecutive points. This service-over process carries on until a team obtains 21 points (or 25 points in the case of a deuce) and the winner of the Set is determined.
Following service of the ball, the opposing team has up to 3 ‘touches’ of the ball to return it across the net. Typically, the Feeder and Server will receive, and attempt to set up the ball, using 2 ‘touches’, for it to be smashed by the Striker with the third ‘touch’.
Click Image to Enlarge
Spikes & Smashes
Not unlike Sepaktakraw ball-service, several styles of smashes or ‘spikes’ have also been developed over time. For instance, localised variants of the jaw-dropping Sunback Spike have been very successfully employed by different teams from around the world, with the spiked ball travelling towards the opponent at speeds in excess of 120 km/h. A team scores a point when the opposing team fails to return the ball across the net within the 3 ‘touches’ rule, or the ball is returned across the net but lands outside of the court.
Substitution & Tactical Time-out
During each Set, each team may make one player substitution, and may call for a 60-second Tactical Time-Out.