Sepak Takraw: Origin and Rules

What would happen if you took the nature of volleyball but applied rules similar to soccer where players weren’t allowed to use their hands? You’d end up with the game of Sepak Takraw.

Here at Pokatok, we want to be sure we appreciate all sports, and there are so many incredibly unique contests out there to learn about. I’ve spent the weekend diving into the fascinating world of Sepak Takraw and, I absolutely have to share what I’ve learned.


While Volleyball is used as a reference point for those unfamiliar with Sepaktakraw, it is the latter that is actually the older sport. Originating in Malaysia in the 15th century, the game has a massive following across Southeast Asia.

The game formally became recognized by the name Sepak Takraw starting in 1965. It has held medal status at the Asian games since 1990. The sport is now governed by the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF).

Sepak Takraw Rules

The goal of Sepaktakraw is to score points by the opposition faulting. Each team is made up of three players on the court at a given time. After 21 points, the set is completed. The first team to win two sets wins the game.

I did some digging online and found the below list of possible faults.

Serving side during the serve

  • The “Inside” player who is throwing to the server plays with the ball (throwing up the ball, bumping, passing to another “Inside” player etc.) after the call of score by the referee.
  • The “Inside” player lifts their feet or steps on the line or crosses over or touches the net while throwing the ball.
  • The Tekong (player who is serving) jumps off the ground to execute the service.
  • The Tekong (player who is serving) does not kick the ball on the service throw.
  • The ball touches a teammate of the server before crossing over to the other team’s side.
  • The ball goes over the net but falls outside the court.
  • The ball does not cross to the other team’s side of the net.
  • A player uses their hand or hands, or any other part of his arms to facilitate the execution of a kick. The player doesn’t necessarily have to touch the ball – if they use their hands on any surface to facilitate the kick, it is a fault.

Serving and receiving side during the serve

  • Attempting to distract the server in any way.

For either team during the game

  • Touching the ball on the other side of the net
  • Any part of player’s body crosses over onto the other team’s side of the net whether above or under the net with the exception of follow-through on the ball
  • Playing the ball more than three times before hitting it on the opponent’s side.
  • The ball touching arms or hands
  • Catching the ball with any part of the body, whether between the arm and body or with the legs, in order to stop the movement of the ball
  • Any part of the body or player’s outfits e.g. shoes, jersey, head band etc., touches the net or the post or the referee’s chairs or falls into the opponent’s side.
  • The ball touches the ceiling, roof, or the wall (any objects).

Another important note is that the serving team changes every three points, regardless of who scores the points.

I’ve been blown away watching highlights of the game all weekend. The flexibility alone required for serving probably disqualifies me from playing but I have to admire the athletes. We hope to see the sport grow and will definitely be tuning into Sepak Takraw moving forward.

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