The Only Sport Where Choking Is A Good Thing

Have you been watching the Asian Beach Games? Of course you have, what am I thinking. But if, for some strange reason, you’ve had more important things to do than watch, you’ve missed out on one of the most bizarre yet awesome sports ever invented. The primary skill involved: holding your breath. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, the western world, kabaddi. You’re welcome.

Men's Kabaddi

(Boom! Headshot.)

I’m not sold on the legitimacy of the Asian Beach Games. According to the organizers, they’re a biannual competition bringing together the best beach athletes from across Asia, but as this is the first time it’s happening, with vague promises of another event sometime in the near future, I suspect it’s just an excuse to spend two weeks in Bali. To give you a sense of how seriously the competitors are taking it, India’s team has been disqualified because they showed up late.

Ticket sales have been sluggish thus far, but it’s not surprising considering the cost of a daily ticket is 20,000 rupiah. What? That’s two dollars American? Never mind then. Good thing the headline on the official site reads, “Ticket Sales is Not the Main Concern.” (Kabaddi rules and video after the jump.)

Kabaddi is clearly the breakout sport of the games, and not just because you probably played something similar in grade school. The name means “holding of breath,” which is appropriate because the rules are a cross between Red Rover and, um, holding your breath. Each team must send over a “raider” to wrestle as many players on the opposing team as possible before returning to his own side, without taking a breath. The defending team must force the raider to breathe, often by telling jokes to get him to laugh. No, not really, but the not-breathing part is real. Watch:

I’d hate to be the referee in charge of making sure no one takes a breath.

I think this game has some mileage. Can you imagine a Bill Belichick-coached team getting caught with hidden oxygen tanks? Or federal investigators presenting evidence that Barry Bonds purchased asthma inhalers?

The best part is, the athletes often pass out from oxygen deprivation, and this results in a point for the other team.

No, I take that back. The best part is that kabaddi is a popular women’s sport, and the whole idea strikes me as strangely erotic.

Women's Kabaddi

(”Now pull her hair a little. Yeah, that’s it.” )