What Is Da Cau?

If you are not from Vietnam, you may not be familiar with the name da cau. However, if you have heard of or played foot badminton, you can figure out what da cau really is in no time. Known as da cau in Vietnam and jianzi in China, it is a shuttlecock game we all know fondly as foot badminton. 

Today this sport is a favourite pastime of children and adults of all ages and sizes and is played in every part of the country. After all, no one has anything to hold against such a healthy obsession. So, let’s look at the national game of Vietnam in more detail, how it became such a popular sport in the country and where it stands today.

History of Da Cau in Vietnam

The earliest records of da cau or jianzi are found in the 2nd century BC during the era of the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD). It was also popular during the period of the Six Dynasties, the Tang and Sui Dynasties. It is believed that the game was derived from cuju, a game similar to soccer, which was a part of military training. Like cuju, da cau was used to keep the soldiers entertained and in good shape. 

Gradually, the sport’s popularity increased and spread throughout Asia, and it continued to acquire various names along the way. Known as jianzi in China, it was referred to as da cau in Vietnam, capteh in Malaysia, and sipa in the Philippines. 

Da cau came to Europe in the 1930s when a Chinese athlete from Jiangsu, a Chinese province, offered a demonstration for jianzi at the Summer Olympics in Berlin in 1936. People in Germany and other countries began to practice it and began referring to it as a shuttlecock.

Today da cau has a strong following in many countries; however, China and Vietnam remain the strongest players.

How to Play Da Cau

The best thing about da cau is you do not need any fancy equipment or protocols to play the game. All you need is the shuttlecock, and you are set to play. The shuttlecock is made of feathers, a hitting disc, and feathers. The washers of the shuttlecock are mostly made of metal, but in some cases, plastic may also be used. Similarly, the hitting disc, or the part where the player’s foot makes contact with the shuttlecock, is made of plastic, rubber, cork, or any material to give some cushion.

The authentic shuttlecock used in most Vietnamese circles is made of simple feathers, but some people also like to use ones with bright and colourful feathers. A standard shuttlecock used in da cau weighs around 13 to 15 grams, while its length maybe 13 to 15 cm.

The basic rule of the game is to shuttlecock in the air. Regardless of how and where the game is being played, this rule stays the same in all instances. As for the rest of the rules, they may vary according to the style being followed for the game. It implies that whether competitive or artful, the rules may vary except for keeping the shuttle in the air. 

Players can use their feet, knees, chest, shoulders, and even heads during the game. However, the players can only use their hands to keep the shuttlecock up if they play the artful or recreational game variant. In such a case, an odd smack here and there during the game to keep the shuttle mid-air is acceptable.

The recreational or artful version of da cau revolves around displaying skill and style. Players use a combination of ballet or gymnastics and essentially perform for the other players. The moves for hitting the shuttlecock are learnt over a long time, and once the players have mastered the skill, they try different creative moves, which reflect a certain style and give a dramatic vibe. The more difficult move a player pulls off, the better.

As for the da cau competitive version, the net and court used for the game are the same as the ones used for badminton. You may see numerous public parks throughout Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi, featuring nets people can use to play da cau. 

The rules of the competitive version are quite similar to badminton, and it is played on a rectangular court that is around 6 metres wide and almost 12 metres long. The court is divided by a net having a height of 1.6 metres. For women, the net height is 1.5 metres. The boundary line width of the court is 4 cm. 

The game is played as singles, doubles, or teams of three players each. The team that first wins two sets is the winner. In case of a draw, a third set is played. Teams win a set by scoring 21 points, with a minimum advantage of two points. 

The competitive da cau version is preferred by young athletes, while the artful version is usually observed among kids or individuals playing a casual game for recreation. Numerous street competitions are held in Vietnam, and the players sharing a love for the sport are like a tight-knit community. 

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