A way to become a little wiser
At first glance, the game looks much like petanque. But get in closer and you will find that this ball game has little in common with the popular French game which is played on a long dirt strip and involves players throwing a ball at a target.
"Wiser ball" is a game of skill and strategy and can be played wherever there is space. It involves two teams of players and two sets of soft balls, which look similar to baseballs rather than the metal orbs used in petanque.
"The game may be new to many Thais. But it's gaining popularity among students," Yupadee Kuan, chairperson of the Thailand Wiser Sport Association said.
Ms Yupadee said she was invited to a wiser event when she went to the United States years ago. She said the game, which has ancient imperial origins, impressed her with the benefits it offers.
Upon her return to Thailand two years ago, she decided to set up the Thailand Wiser Sport Association in a bid to promote the game among the public, particularly children.
She has created a network of volunteers who are experienced in playing wiser ball in order to teach it to school students.
"Most of volunteers are my friends and colleagues," she said, adding there are now about 30 people who help promote the game.
Over the past two years, the association has launched campaigns to promote the game in many schools including the Thai-Chinese International School, Saint Louis Suksa School and Joseph School. Between 200 and 300 students have been taught the game.
"Wiser ball is a game of strategy that builds brain power. It allows children to practise problem-solving and decision-making skills. It also encourages team-building," Ms Yupadee said.
The game is usually played at weekends at Koh Loi in Lumpini Park between 9am and noon.
"It's a social game that draws the attention of many sports enthusiasts in the park who often observe what's going on and then play with us.
"It's fun and a great way to meet people," she said, adding anyone regardless of age, sex or level of physical fitness can play the game.
Ms Yupadee said the association plans to approach the Ministry of Education and school principals across the city to discuss wider promotion of the game as it has numerous benefits for children.
"The game can be a tool to stimulate children's physical and emotional growth and development," she said, adding the game is recommended for children over 8 years of age.
Ukrit Nanthakraisri, 11, a grade-6 student at St Joseph's School, who has played the game for two years, said it allows him to think critically when he is planning to lock an opponent's ball.
"On top of that, the game also engages low-impact exercise," Ukrit said.
Patcharapon Panyawuthikrai, a lecturer at Arsomsilp Institute of the Arts who is a member of the association, said the wiser ball game originated in ancient times and was played by kings and high-ranking servants who used it as a tool to practise strategic and planning management.
Last year, the game was modified by the World Wiser Sport Committee which has its headquarters in California. The committee's main duties are to oversee international wiser ball game competitions and direct playing rules.
The game is growing in popularity and is now played in many countries including China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Germany.
Last month, Ms Patcharapon said the association arranged a training programme for representatives from Bhutan. She said a team of volunteers created a session that provided physical and emotional benefits to attract them.
The class started with prayers, as she said that helped calm players and focus their concentration on the game.
When a player believes there is a possible way to lock an opponent's ball, his brain is challenged to structure and develop a method to solve the problem. That allows the brain to work systematically, she said.
After the class, she said, the visiting players were asked to determine the game's benefits and advantages.
A volunteer, Anek Nakabutara, said there is a lot of excitement in the game as minute-by-minute tactics are studied by each player to turn the tide in his or her favour.
"As a player, I learn every move of an opponent, think and plot how to play the game. It's very challenging," he said.