Kick volleyball or the more familiar name, Sepak takraw, is mostly played in Southeast Asia in nations like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. The sport often goes by a different name. A similar sport to footvolley, the standout feature is the use of a rattan ball and players are only allowed to use their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball. Rattan is the name for roughly 600 species of old-world climbing palms. Sepak takraw literally means ‘to kick a ball’. Evidence of the sport being played goes as far back as the 1400s. The Malacca Sultanate of Malaysia was a Malay sultanate located in what is better known today as the state of Malacca. From there the game spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and the Philippines. Some historians also believe the game evolved from the early Chinese military exercise named cuju. The idea was to keep a feathered shuttlecock airborne by kicking it back and forth between two people. The object was eventually replaced by balls made of woven strips of rattan.
The early versions of sepak takraw involved displays of skill with the objective to exercise the body, improve a person’s dexterity and loosen the limbs after a long period of sitting down. These were more cooperative displays and much less of a competition. By the 1940s a net was added to the game and rules were introduced, and the sport became officially known as sepak takraw. The International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) is the world governing body and was established in 1988. As with all sports, ISTAF has an objective to grow the popularity and involvement around the world, with the goal to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Apart from promoting the sport, ISTAF is also responsible for managing the major international tournaments. These include the SuperSeries, World Cup and the World Championship.
There are currently over thirty national member associations. The sport does feature at the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games. The court size is like a double-sized badminton court, making it 13.4 m by 6.1 m. Importantly, all boundary lines should be drawn at least three metres away from any obstacles. The net dividing the court is like a volleyball net. The ball is spherical and made of synthetic fibre or one woven rattan layer. A team normally consists of three players but can also be made up of two or four players. One of the players stands at the back and acts as the server. Two players stand at the front by the net, with the player on the left as the setter and the other on the right as the attacker. With the current relatively low number of nations practicing the sport, sepak takraw has great potential to develop into a major global sport and one day be included in the Olympic programme.