The History of Kabaddi and Its Growing Popularity in London

Pro Kabaddi League at Sawai Mansingh Indoor stadium, Jaipur, India
Pro Kabaddi League at Sawai Mansingh Indoor stadium, Jaipur, India | © Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Sports Editor

Kabaddi is an Indian sport that requires players to navigate opposition territory without getting caught. With more clubs in London than ever before, now is the perfect time to get involved and plan a ‘raid’ with a group of friends.

For UK sport fans of a certain generation, kabaddi will fall into the Transworld Sport pigeonhole, a weekly 1980s and ’90s programme that showcased sports from across the globe. Kabaddi, hailing from India, appeared to be a sort of British-bulldog-meets-tag combo, and, given that the sport required nothing in the way of equipment, it began to be replicated in playgrounds around the UK.

Over time, those playground games were formalised and, while UK kabaddi doesn’t compete at the same level as in India (understandably), it has grown in popularity throughout the country – especially in London.

Kabaddi being played in India

The game is simple. Two teams of seven play on a rectangular court during two 20-minute halves. Each team takes turns in sending a player into the opponent’s area (at either end of the court) to try to ‘tag’ a member of the opposite team and get back to their own half without being tagged in return. This is known as a ‘raid’. During a raid, the offensive player must chant the word “kabaddi” continuously, without taking a breath.

If a player is tagged, they are out of the game. Teams are awarded a point for each tag (whether raiding or defending), and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Kabaddi’s origins can be traced back through many centuries. There are references to the game in Hindu and Buddhist literature, but, as with many sports, differing versions existed depending on where the game was being played.

It wasn’t until 1915, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, that official rules for kabaddi were drawn up. Having a standardised version of the game helped it gain more followers, and in 1950 the All India Foundation For Kabaddi (now known as the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India) was formed with the aim of hosting regular national tournaments. The first men’s and women’s national events were held in 1955.

In 1961, kabaddi was included the India’s national curriculum and, over the next few decades, it grew in popularity throughout the subcontinent, eventually being introduced into the Asian Games in 1990.
Over the same time period, the Indian population in the UK was growing. In 1951, there were an estimated 31,000 Indians in the UK and, over the next 60 years, that number increased significantly, with 1.4 million identifying themselves as British Indian in the country’s 2011 census. Unsurprisingly, it was during this time that kabaddi began to gain a UK following.

The England Kabaddi Federation was established in 2003, and today it has 12 affiliated clubs operating around the country, with half of those being in London and the South East of England. In addition, clubs have formed in colleges and universities, with the Imperial College London and London School of Economics among those with teams.

The best of these university teams play in the National Kabaddi League during the autumn, and the Imperial Kabaddi Club also hosts the Kabaddi Cup in association with the the England Kabaddi Association.

While UK universities are helping to drive kabaddi’s popularity, they have ensured that it remains as inclusive as possible, offering membership to non-students and encouraging anybody that’s interested to come down to training sessions.

Also helping increase the uptake of the sport is Sky’s coverage of the Pro Kabaddi League, which it has been broadcasting in the UK since 2016. The league has given the sport a makeover with the usual accompliments of cheerleaders, coloured uniforms and arena music.

Few sports can rival kabaddi for its accessibility; all you just need are some friends to play with. And thanks to London’s growing kabaddi scene, plenty of potential teammates await you.

For a list of England Kabaddi Federation clubs head here.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.