During a recent Saturday morning lesson at Funjabi Tuition, we focused on the world of Panjabi sport and sportsmen/women, and world famous wrestler Dara Singh became our key subject. We touched briefly on Kabaddi, but when asked by a student about the detailed rules and more I sadly couldn't answer. Today, Treasurer of the England Kabaddi Federation UK, Surinder Singh Manak, gives us the facts and figures about this historic Panjabi sport.
What is Kabaddi?
Kabaddi is a contact sport, which is primarily played in India, in particular the rural areas. It is currently the number one sport in Punjab. There are two types of Kabaddi, National Kabaddi and Circle Kabaddi. Circle Kabaddi is the most popular in Punjab and the UK. The closest English equivalent games would be Bulldog or Rugby played without the ball. Professionally, it is played in a Kabaddi stadium, however socially can be played on any flat ground (pir).
What are the main objectives of the sport and basic rules?
Kabaddi is the easiest game to learn. You simply have to touch a player on the other team and cross over the centre line (hundeh), getting back to your own team base without the other team stopping you, all within 30 seconds. There are two key positions: raiders (dhavee), stoppers (jaffee). It is the job of the raider to touch one of the four stoppers per attempt. Traditionally while doing so the raider must hold their breath. Pre approximately 15 years ago, the raiders had to chant kodi, kodi, kodi (a sped up version of the word kabaddi) to show that they were holding their breath for the duration of the raid. However, over time this rule was abolished as many players found loop holes into taking a quick breath. A typical Circle Kabaddi match is 30 minutes long with a 5 minute break.
What is the minimum and maximum number of players required for a team?
A minimum of number of 8 players is required for a team, however a maximum of 12 players is allowed.
What makes Kabaddi such a great sport to play?
It’s simplicity, hence its popularity in rural areas. No special equipment or clothing is required, players simply draw a line, strip to their shorts and play.
When was Kabaddi first played?
Unfortunately, there are no official records as to when Kabaddi was first played. However, what has been wonderful to watch is how the Kabaddi has evolved into a reputable sport and industry. Everyone involved, from the players to the commentators are able to earn a decent living. For example, many years ago the top prize would have been a token gift such as a vest or a trophy. However today prizes can be anything from a car, a motorbike to lakhs of rupees.
What makes a good Kabaddi player?
Great stamina along with dedication and a powerful physique is key. Kabaddi is a rough sport so
it takes a brave person to take part. Most importantly someone who plays with their heart, as those that do, outshine the rest. One of the best Kabaddi players to date is Balwinder Singh (player name: Fidu), he played at the top level for almost 25 years, it was his stamina and determination that kept him there. Amongst the current players I must highlight Gagan Jogewala (raider) and Pala Jalalpur (stopper). Kabaddi is a great sport/hobby for children (boys and girls) to play as it encourages working in a team, builds their confidence and keeps them fit both physically and mentally.
Finally, do women play kabaddi?
Yes. Women’s Kabaddi is becoming very popular at a national level in India. However, the uptake has been very slow abroad. I am hoping this will change in the future.