Autoethnographic Research P.2 – Native Asian Sports: Sepak Takraw

Part two of my Autoethnographic research into Native Asian sports focuses on ‘Sepak Takraw‘ – a game native to South-East Asia. For those with no past knowledge about the sport, the functions of Sepak Takraw can be best described as a cross between Volleyball, Hacky Sack and Soccer. The term ‘Sepak’ is Malay and basically means “to strike with the foot”, or, simply put, “to kick”. It is thought the sport originally dates as far back as the 15th century, played by Thai and Malaysian people. Recorded history of the game exists in Wat Phra Kaew – The temple that serves as a resting place for the Emerald Buddha. Other historical documents record the game being played during the reign of King Naresuan (1590-1605) [1]. In modern times, the sport is still predominantly played in the Southern- Eastern parts of Asia, however has national representation throughout the globe.  International play is now governed by the ISTAF, ‘the International Sepak Takraw Federation’. Major competitions for the sport such as the ISTAF SuperSeries, theISTAF World Cup and the King’s Cup World Championships are held every year. Sepak Takraw is now a regular sport event in the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games.

Brief Introduction of the rules:

  • 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 skill sets [2].
  • 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.
  • Following service of the ball, the opposing team has up to 3 ‘touches’ of the ball to return it across the net.
  • A point is awarded when the ball touches the opposing teams ground.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-1-56-59-pmField Map Showing The Positions and Player Roles

First impressions before-hand: 

The sport actually incorporates various popularised Western sports, such as hackey sack, volley ball and soccer. Since the game has reportedly been a tradition centuries ago, it is interesting to see the full extent of Western influence that has had an influence on the sports evolution. The fact that the game isn’t only limited to one country, rather all across South East Asia, suggests it has links to various cultural and geographical factors – such as the tropical weather or the body parts used, feet (dirty part of the body in Asia) opposed to hands (symbol of cleanliness in Asia).

Content accessed for this Auto-ethnographic experience:

Similar to last weeks blog (native sport of Bo-taoshi) content has been very easy to access, due to the extensive media coverage of the sport. It is interesting to note that opposed to last weeks blog, Sepak Takraw has been presented in the media without incorporating the terms ‘Obscure’ or ‘Weird Asian Sport’. This could be evident to the sports contagion into the mainstream world.

Photo 1  Photo 2

Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Video 4 Video 5 Video 6

Video 7 Video 8

My experience of the media content:

  • Traditional ball utilises natural physical elements found in South East Asia, Wood and Bamboo. Meticulously hand crafted, like a piece of art. Photo 1
  • The ball in fact seems to have more of significance than I firstly presumed. Video 6 showcases how the ball could possibility be used as a icon or signal communicating a message relating to the countries culture or religion.
  • Photo 2 shows the limited resources needed to play the game. The net seems to be made with two sticks and a piece of rope.
  • The fact that video 1 shows clips broadcasted on Euro sports is evident of the growth of the game into the Western media.
  • Incredibly athletic, equally flexible and agile. Going to add gymnastics to the combination of sports integrated. “Where aggression meets grace’’ Video 3. Absolutely incredible!
  • Although players most of the time land on their feet, it is interesting to note the hard appearance of the surface. The player’s fall from a substantial distance creates a presumed danger.
  • When you play the footage in slow motion, it looks so artistic – much like a traditional dance routine.
  • Level of presented sponsorship and advertisement suggests how mainstream the game has become.
  • The opening ceremony presented in video 4 showcases how deeply rooted the game connects to culture and religion (traditional Thai dancing).
  • Video 7 to me showcases how the sport connects with family inclusion and community spirit. Although the striker is the youngest player (probably due to age affecting athletic ability) the game appears inviting to young and old.
  • The last video displays the amount of advanced skill needed to excel in the game on a elite level. Very interesting to track the evolution of skill needed in the game, going back generations. Would the players in the 16th century implement front backflip, behind the head kicks like today?

Interpretation of South- Asian sporting culture compared to further research:

Off the basis of this cultural experience, sports native to South-Eastern Asia appear simplistic and resource friendly. The culture of sports is deeply rooted into their respective cultures – that also tie into other social aspects such as religion and education [3]. Today, it is interesting to note that the sports native to countries such as Thailand are now very much part of the growing tourism trade, a industry that showcases Muay Thai, Kite flying and of course Sepal Takraw [4]. Sporting activities of Thais blend well into their agricultural way of life.

Auto ethnographic reflection: 

A aspect that I have taken away from conducting this weeks Auto ethnography relates to the various forms of media content that is openly free for consumption. It is the first time I have included a different media form other than video clips, in this case two picture files, which will further assist in a more well rounded research task.

References:

[1] http://www.takraw-association.org.uk/information/history-sepak-takraw

[2] http://www.sepaktakraw.org/about-istaf/how-to-play-the-game/#!

[3] http://www.columbia.edu/cu/thai/html/tsa_sport.html

[4] http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Thailand/sub5_8e/entry-3271.html

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