Article written by: Norikhsan H A Majid
ASEAN-Korea blog correspondent, Brunei Darussalam
In the old days when there is no smartphones or tablets to past the time, the Malays had many ways to entertain themselves. One of them is “Gasing” or top spinning.
Gasing is a traditional game widely played by the Malay people in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. It is usually teenagers and men who ventures into the sport. Gasing is made of Bebaru wood, Kemuning wood, Merbau wood, Rambai wood, Durian wood or Kundang wood. When the wood has been chosen, the wood will be shaped like a flat and triangular-ish shape. After that, it’s finished with coconut oil to smoothen the surface. To spin the Gasing, they used rope made of Bebaru wood and wrapped around the Gasing. When one end of the rope is pulled, the Gasing will start to spin.
Picture: BT/Hj Ali
Gasing actually came by traders from the Middle East around 450AD. Gasing was derived from two malay words which are “Ka” from “Kayu” (Wood) and “Sing” from “Pusing” (Spin). Eventually “Ka-Sing” became “Gasing”.
There were some stories of how the gasing game was created. One story is children used to spin “Buah Berembang” (Mangrove Fruit). The game was actually a way for Silat (Malay martial arts) to strengthen their hands and reflexes. However, the shape of fruit became the shape of the Gasing and the idea emerged into a game. Another story is a weapon was made to hunt animals. The weapon was flat and disc-like shaped and was thrown to preys and hunt them down. Rope was later added to make it spin faster and stronger. The idea then became the traditional game as we all know now.
One must require great skill, strength and speed to play Gasing. First is how to wrap the rope around the finger or hand properly. The end of the rope should be tied around the wrist or the pinky finger. This is to ensure that the rope doesn’t unravel. Next is how to wrap the rope around the Gasing. The rope are wrapped around the palm and then wrapped it around the Gasing. Since Gasing have smooth surface, some roughens the top side of the Gasing to get more grip. The rope is winded neatly and tightly for more precision, power and spin.
For the Gasing to stay spinning for a long time, one must launch it carefully and firmly. It ensures the Gasing to stay spinning, not being wobbly and does not topple early. Lastly is how to scoop up the Gasing. Player must know in what direction the Gasing spins, in what direction it is going and the timing of when it is supposed to be scooped up.
In competitions, there are two categories; Last Man Standing and Knockout. In Last Man Standing or “Gasing Uri”, the last person to spin the longest wins. The Gasing will be launched onto a platform and the Gasing will be scooped up to a plate and hopefully it will spin the longest. The other category is the Knockout or “Gasing Pangkah”. One must knock their Gasing against their opponents to disrupt their movement. Both sides will then scoop up their Gasings and see who will outlast the other.
Picture: BT/Hj Md Ali
Nowadays, a game of Gasing might not be as common as it used to be. However it is still pretty much alive. In 2011, during the Borneo Games, the Gasing was made as a sporting event. Gasing may not be played as much but it is played on professional arenas. Brunei even nabbed three gold medals and one silver medal in the Gasing event.
In order for the traditional game of Gasing to stay alive, the Youth and Sport Department constructed a new Gasing venue at the Hassanal Bolkiah Sports Complex in Berakas. It is used to boost community ties and Gasing lovers. It is also a good place to train players for upcoming professional competition. However, not only them that we should give credit to. Once in a while, undergraduates from Universiti Brunei Darussalam organises an event dedicating to culture and heritage including tradional game, Gasing. It educates and reminds the public where we come from and from what it made us today. Ministry of Education also agreed to include Gasing in schools’ extra-curricular activities to foster the younger generation’s interest to towards the traditional sport.
Gasing is a traditional game that we are proud off. It is different, interesting and fun at the same time. Even though it is not as commonly played as the old days but it is pretty much alive and we appreciate the public are trying to preserve it. Heritage and culture defines who we are and who are we without them.