An illustration of a player defending in a kabaddi match

Kabaddi Defensive Skills

Know the different Kabaddi defensive skills used by the defending team, what these counter skills, part of the fundamental skills of Kabaddi, actually involve, and when can they be best applied in a Kabaddi match.

Overview of Kabaddi Defensive Skills

In Kabaddi, a dynamic and increasingly popular contact team sport that India has bestowed upon the rest of the world, the defending team’s role is crystal clear – to capture the raiders and prevent them from escaping back to their team’s half of the court. According to Kabaddi rules – How to Play Kabaddi, any raider who is stopped within 30 secs is automatically out, and the defending team scores 1 point and can revive one of its members previously put out. Note that all Kabaddi players need to practice defensive skills because teams take turns defending against the opposing team.

To tackle the raiders, without stepping outside their team’s zone, the defenders/antis often hold hands and use a suite of specific, fundamental Kabaddi defensive skills. It takes a lot of practice to develop and master these Kabaddi counter skills, in addition to the following:

Fundamental Skills of Kabaddi

There are three main skills in Kabaddi:

1) Offensive Skills

2) Escape Skills

3) Defensive Skills (this page)

  • Focus, quick thinking & reaction ( the antis must think and react fast to tackle the raider within 30 secs)
  • Physical fitness, strength, & agility ( the antis must be physically able to grab and hold the raiders)
  • The ability to anticipate the raider’s moves, choose the right timing, & coordinate with the other antis

Kabaddi Fundamentals: Practice These 6 Kabaddi Defensive Skills

1 The Ankle Hold

This basic, individual Kabaddi defensive skill involves tactically grabbing the raider by the ankle and holding it firmly to prevent him from escaping to the raiding team’s side. The ankle hold is an invaluable counter skill because the tight grip oftentimes interferes with the raider’s balance and his ability to continuously chant “Kabaddi!” (if the raider stops even for 1 sec, he is out). In addition, it also makes it easier for the other defenders on the field to tackle the raider.

Therefore, the ankle hold is a key part of the defending team’s tactics and it’s typically used in combination with other Kabaddi defensive skills. This counter skill is particularly useful for the Corners of the defending team ( the outermost position on the left & right side of their team’s zone) because it enables them to tackle raiders who are trying to cross the bonus line in order to score 1 bonus point. Likewise, it comes in handy to both Right-In and Left-In defenders when the raider tries to set foot on the baulk line ( a must for a successful raid, according to the rules of Kabaddi).

But generally, the ankle hold is one of the most essential defensive skills in Kabaddi because all members of the defending team can successfully use it against several raiding moves such as toe touches, foot touches, and leg thrusts, to their own team’s benefit. To apply the ankle hold at the right time, the defender must first observe the raider’s footwork and anticipate his raiding move.

The defender’s body position is very important – the knee of his leading leg should be flexed at about 120 degrees for better reach of the raider’s ankle, while shifting the center of gravity towards it for his own balance. Use both hands to apply a firm grip on the raider’s ankle the first time ( avoid changing it). The different follow-through on the ankle hold include:

  • Lifting the raider’s leg up at shoulder level, which can lead to loss of balance on the raider’s end ( this should be applied when the defender is heavier and taller than the raider, and when there are fewer defenders on the court).
  • Pulling the raider’s leg ( literally) towards the defender’s upper body to prevent him from escaping ( pulling him back is best applied when the defender is shorter than the raider, when the defending team is incomplete, and when the raider is tackled nearer the midline)
  • Changing the direction of the raider ( about 90 degrees to either sideline), when the raider is about to reach the midline to his team’s half of the field and when the other defenders are ready to support this tackle).
2 The Thigh Hold

A fundamental escape skill in Kabaddi, dodging involves a sudden and rapid change of direction ( often unexpected by the opponents). When the raider, faces up to 7 defenders at once, dodging skills are essential to both the pursuit of points in a raid and evading. Changing direction in one step involves shifting your bodyweight quickly to the other side and adopting a lower body position ( stooping), while keeping your head up and your eyes focused forward, on your opponents ( never lose sight of them). Thanks to a lower center of gravity, you will achieve better balance. As a raider, you can dodge on both sides and use your shoulders and head to take your opponents by surprise and make the movement deceptive to them, so that you can escape.

The thigh hold is also among individual Kabaddi defensive skills and it’s one of the defenders’ favorite skills. That’s because, once the raider has been caught by the thigh, the grip is typically very firm, which means that the raider’s chances of escaping are slim. Other advantages of the thigh hold include the fact that any and all defenders, regardless of their position ( Corners, Covers, Ins, Centre) can apply this Kabaddi defensive skill, it doesn’t require support from the other defenders, can be used to initiate a tackle, and changing the direction of the raider is a lot easier than using other skills.

Using both the wrist and the elbow ensures a firmer grip, even if the raider is heavier than the defender. To change the raider’s position, the defender should place the other hand somewhere above the raider’s ankle while keeping his own leading leg in between the raider’s stance for better balance. The 4 types of thigh hold include:

  1. thigh hold without changing position, used mostly by the Corners/Covers (same stance; but keep in mind that this Kabaddi defensive skill is best applied when the raiding’s offensive style is rapid)
  2. Thigh hold by making a skipping movement, used by the Corners/Covers ( this type works best when the raider is slower or checks his movements/speed)
  3. taking one step forward and hold the raider’s thigh, used by the Corners/Ins/Center players ( when used by In/2nd players, this defensive skill can take the raider by surprise, because in Kabaddi the raider focuses on the Covers and Corners)
  4. hold from behind, used only by the Corners ( this should be applied when the raider changes direction/makes a sideways running movement towards the Corners’ zone, or comes back to his position to restart the raid)
3 The Knee Hold/Double Knee Hold

The knee hold is quite similar to the thigh hold and is also among the fundamental skills of Kabaddi. The difference between the knee hold and thigh hold is that the knee hold is typically used in combination with other types of holds, requires the support of the other defenders, and changing the direction of the raider is quite difficult. In addition, the knee hold can only be applied by the supporting/2nd defenders and the grip is typically not as firm as the grip in the thigh hold. A double knee hold can improve the firmness of the grip.

4 The Waist/Back/Trunk Hold

One of the most popular and best Kabaddi defensive skills, the back or waist hold shares similiarities with the thigh hold but, when properly applied, it’s regarded as more effective in stopping the raider ( who is typically tackled from behind). The main advantage of this defensive skill is that the grip can be extremely firm, making it almost impossible for the raider to escape, but it does require a lot of strength on the anti’s end and perfect timing. Lifting and/or rolling the raider and changing his position towards the sidelines are among the follow-through on the waist/back hold.

5 The Block Tackle

As the name of this tackle implies, the defender uses his body to block the path of the raider in order to prevent him from escaping back to the raiding team’s side. The block is typically used by the Covers and Corners in combination with other Kabaddi defensive skills for better defense. Different raiding situations call for different types of blocks, such as Block on the spot (with a surprise element), following block, running block, and skip & block.

6 The Wrist Hold

Although it’s still considered among the fundamental defensive skills in Kabaddi, the wrist hold is nowadays only rarely used by itself in Kabaddi, because the situations in which this Kabaddi counter skill can be applied are quite rare. Nevertheless, the wrist hand can be used in combination with the ankle hold when the raider extends his arm to apply a hand or finger touch on a defender ( such as on one of the Corners) or when he returns to the 1st position to restart the raid.

In addition to these fundamental skills of Kabaddi, professional Kabaddi players also use a set of advanced Kabaddi defensive skills that are applied by two or more defenders at once and are known as “chain holds” (e.g. chain hold/tackle by the corners or the ins, running chains hold, and following chain hold) and Dash.



Read more from