The Art of Kabaddi

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The Art of Kabaddi

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BC Ramesh


Kabaddi is a game that originated in the heartland of India in pre-historic times. The game finds mention in ancient scriptures like the Mahabharata and legend has it that Gautama Buddha enjoyed playing this sport.

Kabaddi is a contact sport that requires strength, stamina, strategy and agility. It is like a dance form where players move in sync in a semi-circle format and execute tackles together.

The rules of the game are simple. Though the game itself seems quite modest, it requires a lot of skill and technique to master.

There are two significant techniques in Kabaddi - Raiding and Defence. Every player is either a raider or a defender, players who can do both are all-rounders. Raiding is a crucial part of Kabaddi. Good raiders can change the entire scenario of the game. Raiding is considered difficult because there is only one raider against many defenders.

There are six things to keep in mind while raiding:

Entry into the opponent’s area

Chanting Kabaddi Kabaddi


Tactics and Strategies

Anticipating defenders’ moves

Retreat (coming back from opponents’ zone)

A raider must continuously chant ‘Kabaddi Kabaddi’ before entering into the opposition’s half; else the raider goes off the mat if the chant is broken. The aim of the raider is to cross the baulk line in the opposing half, making the raid valid. The right entry is key to scoring points for a raider. The raider must carefully calculate his moves and enter opponents’ arena else he would run out of breath and lose the chant.


After entering the field, the raider should be able to judge defenders’ moves. Every defender has a signature move, like thigh hold or ankle hold, the key is to be wary of these moves and dodge. A raider must carefully judge the body language and the stance of the defenders. He also needs to be aware of the distance between his body and the defender’s body. If a defender’s foot is in front, then you can go for a toe touch. Escaping is also an important skill that all raiders must have up their sleeve.

The footwork of the raider is imperative; it is a raider’s hallmark. Footwork is determined by the stance of the raider, his agility, his style and speed. The footwork of a player further determines his moves like toe touch, kicks, hand touch, bonus. The retreat should also be pre-planned, because unless the raider returns to the home zone safely the raid is not successful.


As important as raiding is to score points, and for this, the defence is critical in holding the fort. The defence’s task is to stop the raider from returning to his zone, through the midline. Just like the raiders, the defenders too possess skill sets they use to keep the raiders down, like an ankle hold, thigh hold, a running “dash” of the court, a block, a chain tackle, a dive or a back hold (grabbing the trunk of the raider from behind). When the raider is caught or thrown off court before getting back to his zone, the raider is forced out onto the sitting blocks temporarily until invigorated and the defending team earns a point.

The defenders should be alert right from the entry of the raider. They should be able to judge the speed and style of the defender to be able to tackle him accordingly. The most important skill for a defender to possess is – timing. The timing of the defenders can make or break the game. The raider comes with a pre-planned strategy in his mind, defenders should be able to gauge that and catch him. While catching the raider or throwing him off the court is important, the defenders must also be careful of the raider’s moves. If the raider touches a defender, the other team gets a point so ducking is also an important skill for a defender.

There are many moves for defender(s) to prevent the raider from scoring points like Ankle hold, thigh hold, waist hold and blocking. Ankle hold can be used against leg thrusts and foot touches, while thigh hold can be used irrespective of the player’s position. Ankle hold can be especially used by corner players to stop the raider from getting to bonus line. Thigh hold is a surprise move that can even overpower heavy raiders with minimum chances of counteraction. The waist hold is an effective defence technique, as the defender attacks from the back and the raider is not aware of it.

But waist hold is not common because a good raider knows not to show his back, as it would make him vulnerable. Blocking is a technique that should be applied when the raider is fully surrounded by defenders with no means of escape, because if all the defenders are catching on to a raider and the raider manages to touch the middle line, the entire team is out. Running footwork and side running are the two important things that make a good defender, so every defender must work on mastering these skills.

Over and above raiding and defence techniques, strategy is a key factor in winning. Studying the moves of opponents’ team before match and devising a plan accordingly is compulsory. Players must be fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the other team to be able to tackle them and win the match. Only a good strategy will help to put into use the mastered techniques.

Kabaddi is a sport that requires all the players to be on their toes all the time during the game. The game demands a lot of physical and mental strength. Players have to be physically fit because kabaddi tends to get rough at times and sportsmen are prone to injury. Stamina and good physical fitness will help one recover quickly. Players must do crossover exercises, running and work outs to build endurance. Along with physical fitness, a player should be conscious of his diet. An ideal diet should be correct mix of proteins and carbohydrates with minerals and vitamins.

Mental well-being is equally important, a calm and peaceful mind will help the player to take the right decisions at the right time. Every Kabaddi player must also learn to be patient, the game can at times get aggressive and make you restless. Yoga and meditation can help players in not only being calm and composed, but also in improving their concentration. Team building exercises like recreational gym, camping and adventure sports can help in building a great team.

A united team that shares a great bond wins!

(About the Author: The man whose cupboard is stuffed with medals and awards, including the Arjuna Award, Karnataka Government's Ekalavya Award, Kempe Gowda Award and the Best Kabaddi Player Award from Karnataka Olympic Association, is the head coach of Puneri Paltan. Ramesh is a known International Kabaddi player in India. He previously worked as an assistant manager in the State Bank of Mysore. In 1991, he made his debut for Karnataka in the Federation Cup in Salem. He then joined the State Bank of Mysore in 1994 and soon found his career on a distinct upswing. He donned the Bank Sports Board (BSB) colors with aplomb and jump-started his tenure with the Indian team as part of the gold winning squad in the SAF Games at Chennai in 1995.)

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