With over 950 raid points in his Pro Kabaddi career, Rahul Chaudhari has already established himself as one of the greatest raiders in the history of the sport. His explosive change of pace and his fearless approach in venturing deep inside the opposition half to pick up points often leaves defences flat-footed and has been the hallmark of his glittering career.
However, one move in particular -- The Running Hand Touch -- has been his go-to step for a major part of his career so far. On Pro Kabaddi's weekly Instagram live chat series titled ‘Beyond The Mat', the raider explained how he mastered the art of his favourite move.
"When I started playing kabaddi, I was a right corner," said the athlete. "I was selected to train at SAI Gandhinagar and there were senior players like Mahipal Narwal and Manpreet Singh among others. So, we never got the opportunity to play. We would just sit on the sidelines and observe."
It was Mahipal, who eventually inspired Chaudhari to try his hand at raiding. "Mahipal was a fabulous raider," revealed the Tamil Thalaivas star. "He executed the Lion Jump very well and he was the complete package. The adulation he received made me realise that I too, if I were a raider, I could steal all the plaudits with a few good raids."
While Chaudhari did make the team that would participate in tournaments, he would often sit among the substitutes. However, that is what ended up changing the course of his kabaddi career.
"If you sat among the substitutes, you had to run along the sidelines to ensure you are warmed up and ready to go if the coach wants to bring you in. When I was doing my laps, the coach told me to open my body up and practice the Running Hand Touch as a part of my warm-up. So, I started doing that during those warm-up runs," Chaudhari explained.
"Once I learned how to do that, the coach worked with me and taught me how to quickly change direction to startle a defence and pick up some points. That was the start of my transition from corner defender to a raider. Since then, I have not looked back," he said.
While he is among the best at the Running Hand Touch, Chaudhari believes being a student of the sport and adding to one's repertoire of skills is of utmost importance for a raider to consistently find success.
"In our younger days, we did not have footage to study defences and learn how to perfect a raiding move," said Chaudhari. "But now, there is so much data and a lot of videos available that can help a young player improve their game. It is key that they make full use of these facilities to improve themselves as players."
"For a raider to be successful in this age, it's important for them to learn at least 4-5 raiding moves. However, if they can perfect the Running Hand Touch, the skill to pick up bonus points and learn to attack on the turn, no defence will have an answer for them," concluded Chaudhari.