Footbrawl – A Sport That Combines Football, Martial Arts, and Rugby

Footbrawl is a controversial team sport invented during the late 1980s, in Australia, as a training aid for martial arts students. Despite violence concerns, footbrawl has been growing in popularity and may soon become an internationally played sport.

New Martial Arts Football, or Footbrawl, is a full contact sport in which participants have to fight to score and survive the game in one piece. As in many other sports around the world, the main goal of footbrawl is to get the ball into the net and score more points than the opposing team, only that’s not as easy as you might think. Combining elements of mixed martial arts, football, rugby and even ice hockey, footbrawl is a unique game that gives “footbrawlers the chance to let off some steam without any serious injuries, and offers spectators an unforgettable spectacle of non-stop thrilling action.

The history of footbrawl can be traced back to the late 80s, when Queensland martial arts instructor Glen Parmley started looking for a more realistic training aid for his students. At first, footbrawl was played in a church hall with a doorway as the goal on one side and a tressel table placed length-ways on the other. The original footbrawl ball was a rolled up uniform tied with a belt, and most of the games were played without any kind of protection, on a wooden floor. Despite the rudimentary equipment and the violent nature of the sport, Parmley noticed footbrawl didn’t attract a high rate of injuries, thanks to the strict rules and code of conduct that he had thought up. It was a humble beginning for this innovative sport, but it was certainly promising.

Footbrawl has come a long way since the 80s, and thanks to a series of additions it has evolved into a spectacular show, for both footbrawlers and spectators. A game of footbrawl is played between two teams of five players and three referees. All participants are equipped with protective gear like helmets and chest pads, and the goalies of each side are ‘armed’ with padded sticks, called Brawler BOs. Like in basketball, the ball is thrown into the air by a referee, and from there on, all Hell breaks lose onto the field. Footbrawlers are allowed to kick, punch and throw their opponents in order to get the ball and score points. They can either throw or kick the ball into the net, but they’re also allowed to pick up whoever is carrying the ball and just hurl them into the goal for points, if they can.


What people love most about footbrawl is the freedom that they can do almost whatever they like on the field. Players can punch and kick their opponents (as long as it’s only in the padded areas), throw them or catch them in arm and leg locks or chokes. Goalies have even more freedom, because they can use the Brawler BOs to hit whatever part of their opponents’ body they like, in order to guard the goal, including the face and legs.


“It’s exactly like a street fight”, one footbrawler says about the sport, it just allows you to let out all that aggression. Although the main goal of the sport is to score points, some guys don’t even care about the ball, they go straight for kicks and punches. Kids as young as six are practicing the sport, but not everyone feels it’s just fun and games. Some say it sends out the message that violence is ok on a sporting field, when it’s not, but organizers say footbrawl is well managed, and its strict code of conduct keeps players from going too far.

Despite all the controversy surrounding Footbrawl, it’s becoming quite popular in the Land Down Under, and world championships may become a reality in just two years time.

If you like this kind of sport, you may want to check out comBATON, another version of martial arts football.

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