What is kabaddi, and how is it played? Rules and history of the sport

What is kabaddi, and how is it played? Rules and history of the sport

Samuel Lisubila
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:16 PM

Many games have been invented since ancient humans past and have taken part in major sports competitions. Games are an integral part of an individual and act as catalysts to our social growth, bringing millions from different nations to a common ground. One sport that has grown incredibly is Kabaddi which has been present since 1930. What is Kabaddi and how is it played?

Why is kabaddi?
Players of Telugu Titans (Black) and Jaipur Pink Panthers (Pink) in action during the Pro Kabaddi League match at SMS Indoor Stadium in Jaipur, India, 27 September 2019. Photo: Vishal Bhatnagar
Source: Getty Images

Dating to its invention in 1930, Kabaddi was played all over India and some parts of South Asia. Its first international recognition came during the 1936 Berlin Olympics as an exhibition preceding the games, and it is currently the national sport of Bangladesh.

Kabaddi history

There are alot of theories on the game's history, stating how it had different forms in its early stages. It was popularly played all over India and some parts of South Asia.

When was Kabaddi invented?

Its first organized competition with the first framework of rules began in the 1920s. Its development was highly catalyzed from villages to international stages after participating in the 1938 India Olympic games, the inaugural 1951 Asian games in New Delhi, and the establishment of the All-India Kabaddi Federation in 1950. The game grew and took a new shape, and National level competitions also started for Junior and Sub-Junior boys and girls.

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Is kabaddi a real sport?
Men playing kabaddi in a village in Rajasthan, India - Stock photo
Source: Getty Images

Kabaddi was added to the Asian games program in 1990 after being introduced as a demonstration game again at the 1982 Asian games in Delhi. It was also included in the 11th Asian games in Beijing. India won the lone gold medal and became the succeeding champions in Hiroshima in 1994, Bangkok in 1998, Busan in 2002, and Doha in 2006. They also created history in Indian sports by winning five consecutive Gold medals in the Asian games.

What is Kabaddi?

It is a combative team sport played between two teams of seven players. Its main aim is for one offensive player, 'raider', to go to the defensive team's halfcourt and try to touch as many defenders as possible without getting caught in a single breath. The defenders, 'Antis', are removed from the game once they are touched or tackled but come back once the remaining players catch the opponent's raider.

Its first World cup came in 2004 in Mumbai (India), while the second came three years later, in 2007, in Panvel (India), where India took both titles. Women Kabaddi was introduced in the South Asian Games held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2006, while the first Asian Women's Championship was held at Hyderabad in 2005.

Development of the game saw the construction of the first separate Kabaddi indoor stadium for competition and training in the 15th Asian games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. Its field of play was made of puzzle mats of Korean make, while a giant public screen was equipped to display replays and the running score. Also, they included two 'Tissot' plasma scoreboards, information terminals for the presentation crew, a ceremony crew, and media.

When was kabaddi invented?
Young adult men play Kabaddi, and a huge crowd watches the game with great interest in Thodo ground at the Shoolini fair. Solan, Himachal Pradesh, India, on 23 June 2018. Photo: Gawrav
Source: Getty Images

During the 15th Asian Games in Doha, Europeans and Australians played a huge role in organizing the event, which was a great platform to increase the game's popularity. Spectators from European countries, the USA, Mediterranean countries, Western Asia and Australia enjoyed the game and aimed to introduce them to their countries.

In the 2nd Asian indoor games held in Macau in 2007, Kabaddi was one of the games included, where India won the Gold Medal one more time. Kabaddi was also included in the first Asian beach games hosted in Bali, Indonesia, where once again, India won the title for both men and women.

Since then, Kabaddi has grown professionally, and in 2014, the professional league was established. Pro Kabaddi League, abbreviated PKL is the men's professional Kabaddi league in India, and its ninth season began on 7 October 2022.

Kabaddi Rules

Kabaddi rules
Royal Sunar (2nd R), a Hong Kong-born Nepali, speaking to participants while playing kabaddi on 23 May 2022. Photo: Peter Parks
Source: Getty Images

The contact game is loved by many, especially for its few simple rules. Here is a list of the basic rules:

  1. Two teams of 12 players each face off. However, only seven players from each team are allowed at a time.
  2. The game has two periods, each 20 minutes long, with a 5-minute half-time break.
  3. The game is categorized according to age and weight.
  4. A coin toss is made at the start of the game, with the winning team deciding which team will take the first raid. The team which did not begin with the first raid will raid first in the second half.
  5. A point is earned when the raider takes a breath, attacks the opposition's half, tags one or more members, and returns to their half before inhaling.
  6. Defending players must prevent the raider from returning to their half after tagging them. Raiders are only grabbed by their limbs or torso, while defenders cannot cross the centre line.
  7. The team with the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner.

What is the main point of Kabaddi?

The main objective of Kabaddi is for a member of the attacking team, 'raider', to tackle as many opponets as possible in a single breath before running back to his half before inhaling.

Is Kabaddi a real sport?

Kabaddi is a real sport that began in ancient India in the 1920s. It is now an established sport worldwide, with more than 400 million viewers tuned into it in the 2021 PKL league, making it the most-viewed sport after cricket in India. Star Sports, the league's broadcaster, is expected to earn $1.8 million in revenue in the 2022 PKL season, a $3.6 million gain from the previous season.

Kabaddi history
Players in action during a Kabaddi match at 79th Kila Raipur rural sports festival at village Kila Raipur on 29 January 2015, in Ludhiana, India. Photo: JS Grewal
Source: Getty Images

Why do people play Kabaddi?

In the ancient years, it was played for physical exercise by pupils in Indian Gurukuls (Vedic schools run by Indians). With the variations of the sport, it has become the epitome of multitasking, where you attack, defend, and think of game-winning strategies while holding your breath, automatically increasing concentration and enhancing multitasking.

Why isn't Kabaddi in the Olympics?

For a sport to participate in Olympics, it must be played in 75 nations across four continents. As of 2022, only 26 countries have professional Kabaddi associations.

Which is the best country to play Kabaddi?

India has won more competitions than any other country in International Kabaddi competitions. India has won all Kabaddi World Cup tournaments.

What is Kabaddi called in English?

Kabaddi. A sport originally from South Asia played by two teams of seven players each. A player from one team runs around to tackle the opponents without being captured. It has a variety of names in different places:

  • Hu-tu-tu in Western India
  • Ha-do-do in Eastern India and Bangladesh
  • Chedu-gudu in Southern India
  • Gudu in Sri Lanka
  • Theechub in Thailand
When was kabaddi invented?
Players in action during a Kabaddi match at 79th Kila Raipur rural sports festival at village Kila Raipur on 29 January 2015 in Ludhiana, India. Photo: JS Grewal
Source: Getty Images

It has been almost a century since Kabaddi was invented. It is now an advanced game equipped to allow skilled players an advantage to defeat heavier players with better skills and techniques. With the gradual but significant growth of the sport, it is expected to be part of the Olympics soon as its popularity increases in different nations.

READ MORE: Ranking the 20 best kabaddi players in the world right now

Sportsbrief revealed the 20 best kabaddi players in 2022 in the world right now. Famous athletes like Rahul Chaudhary, Pardeep Narwal and Anup Kumar, all from India, grace this title. Is your favourite on the list?

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Samuel Lisubila