In the team, or transnational, style of kabaddi, two teams of seven occupy opposite halves of a field of 12.5m × 10m (roughly half the size of a basketball court). Each has five supplementary players held in reserve. The game is in 20-minute halves, with a five-minute half-time break during which the teams switch sides.
Teams take turns sending a "raider" to the opposite team's half, where the goal is to tag or wrestle ("confine") members of the opposite team before returning to the home half. Tagged members are "out" and sent off the field.
Meanwhile, defenders must form a chain, for example by linking hands; if the chain is broken, a member of the defending team is sent off. The goal of the defenders is to stop the raider returning to the home side before taking a breath. If the raider takes a breath before returning, the raider is sent off the field.
A player can also get out by going over a boundary line or part of the body touches the ground outside the boundary, except during a struggle with an opposing team member.
Each time a player is out the opposing team earns a point. A team scores a bonus of two points, called a lona, if the entire opposing team is declared out. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.
'Surjeevani' Kabaddi is played under the Kabaddi Federation of India, governed by its rules. In Surjeevani Kabaddi, one player is revived against one player of the opposite team who is out, one out, one in. The duration, the number of players, dimensions of the court, etc. have been fixed by the Kabaddi Federation of India. This form of Kabaddi is the closest to the present game. In this form of Kabaddi, players are put out and revived and the game lasts 40 minutes with a 5-minute break in between. There are nine players on each side. The team that puts out all the players on the opponent's side scores four extra points for a 'Iona'. The winning team is the one that scores most points after 40 minutes. The field is bigger in this form of Kabaddi and the 'cant' different in various regions. Modem Kabaddi resembles this form of Kabaddi especially with regard to 'out & revival system' and 'Iona'. The present form of Kabaddi is a synthesis of all these forms with changes in the rules.
The sport has a history dating to pre-historic times. It was probably invented to ward off group attacks. The game was popular in southern Asia in different forms under different names. A dramatized version of the Mahabharata has made an analogy of the game to a tight situation faced by Abhimaneu, heir of the Pandava kings, when surrounded by the enemy. Buddhist literature speaks of the Gautam Buddha playing Kabaddi. History reveals that princes played to display their strength and win their brides! The game, known as Hu-Tu-Tu in Western India, Ha-Do-Do in Eastern India and Bangladesh, Chedugudu in Southern India and Kaunbada in Northern India, has changed through the ages. Modem Kabaddi is a synthesis of the game played in various forms under different names.
Kabaddi received international exposure during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, demonstrated by Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, Amaravati, Maharashtra. The game was introduced in the Indian Olympic Games at Calcutta in 1938. In 1950 the All India Kabaddi Federation came into existence and compiled standard rules. The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) was founded in 1973. After formation of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, the first men's nationals were held in Madras (re-named Chennai), while the women's were in Calcutta in 1955.The AKFI has given new shape to the rules and has the right to modify them. The Asian Kabaddi Federation was founded under the chairmanship of Sharad Pawar.
Kabaddi was introduced and popularized in Japan in 1979. The Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation sent Prof. Sundar Ram of India to tour Japan for two months to introduce the game.
In 1979, a return test between Bangladesh and India was held at different places of India including Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Punjab. The Asian Kabaddi Championship was arranged in 1980 and India emerged as champion and Bangladesh runner-up. Bangladesh became runner-up again in 1985 in the Asian Kabaddi Championship held in Jaipur, India. The other teams in the tournament were Nepal, Malaysia and Japan. The game was included for the first time in the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990. India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh took part. India won the gold medal and has won gold at the following three Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, Bangkok in 1998 and Busan in 2002. India won the gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games at Doha.
Attempts to popularize kabaddi in Great Britain saw British TV network Channel 4 commission a programme dedicated to the sport. The show, Kabaddi, on Channel 4 in the early 1990s, failed to capture viewers despite fixtures such as West Bengal Police versus the Punjab. Kabaddi was axed in 1992, but not before its presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy suffered a collapsed lung while participating in the sport.
In the 1998 Asian games the Indian Kabaddi team defeated Pakistan in a thrilling final match at Bangkok (Thailand). The chief coach of the team was former kabaddi player and coach Flt. Lt. S P Singh.
The first World Kabaddi Championship, was in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, when 14,000 at the Copps Coliseum watched top players from India, Pakistan, Canada, England and the United States. The next edition was in Surrey, British Columbia, which hosts the first all-kabaddi stadium. India has remained world champion since it was included in Asian Games and South Asian Federation games. In 2008 Sukhbir Singh Badal mooted a professional world kabbadi league with sponsorship to attract the best players; this league will be based in India with tournaments in Canada as well. The current Kabaddi Championship team consists of several local Indian players, Himanshu Batta, Ravi Venkataya, Harman Dhaliwal, Kapil Singh and Mayank Gauri.