Now here’s a Thai sport I’m sure many tourists may be unfamiliar with. It’s called Takraw in Thailand. It’s kinda like volleyball and kickboxing all rolled into one. But instead of kicking your opponent, you simply kick a woven rattan ball.
You are however also allowed to use your knee, chest, head and any other body part you may choose, but as in soccer, you are not permitted to use your hands.
Perhaps the sport is not quite as simple as it sounds. Firstly, you would need to be fairly young and fit to compete as this sport requires a fair amount of stamina. The game is played with such incredible gymnastic-like skill that requires immense agility, speed and balance.
In doing a little research on the subject, it appears that this special form of kick volleyball was thought to have originated in Malaysia as far back as the 15th-Century. The sport is now native to the whole of Southeast Asia. I believe that it’s also quite popular in Australia.
Whether you are in Bangkok or any of the seaside resorts of Pattaya or Phuket, you may get just get an opportunity to come across the game being played in a temple compound, a public park such as Lumpini or even in a backstreet alley.
The sport has a pretty much acrobatic focus with the intention being, to keep a woven rattan ball in the air and off the ground while using any part of your body except your hands. This extreme balletic sport is played by young males who exhibit extraordinary agility and speed in order to get a good strike.
Although the principals of the game are the same, there are various versions of competitiveness. The most popular classical style consists of teams competing against each other while trying to get the ball into a basketball type net as many times as possible in a set time period. It speaks for itself that the team who scores the most wins the game.
Sometimes these games introduce more complex rules permitting players to emphasise their own individual abilities. Kicking the ball backwards with their heels through a ring made with their arms behind their back is one such skill. Not an easy task to say the least. Points are awarded according to each player who displays a unique expertise rather than just the goal being scored.
Another version frequently played in school tournaments, including the South East Asian Games is called Sepak Takraw. This particular form of the sport is played over a volleyball net with two or three teams competing. The name Sepak in Malay means to kick and the name Takraw is referred to the ball in Thai.
It might come as no surprise that the other more popular and better known national sport in Thailand, which hardly needs any introduction is Muay Thai, an extreme contact sport (including kickboxing) and a form of martial arts that is practised, respected and supported worldwide.