Bangalore Ultimate: Learning to Fly

by | September 25, 2011, 6:00am 0

Many months ago, Skyd was pleased to be contacted by Preetham Kajekar. He shared information with us about an amazing tournament in Bangalore called the Bangalore Open. The event brought in 16 teams from across India this past July and serves as a beacon for the development of Indian Ultimate. Engaged, and after reading Tony Leonardo’s article about Ultimate in Chennai, we wanted to find out more about Ultimate in India and what it’s like 350km away. We’re excited to share our interview with Bangalore Ultimate organizers Preetham Kajekar, Arjun Lall, Naveen Swamy and Manjari Chaw. Enjoy:

Tell us about most Ultimate players in Bangalore. Where did they learn how to play? How did Ultimate develop in Bangalore?

Big layout at the Bangalore Open '11

Learning to Fly (L2F) from Bangalore, is probably the oldest “Frisbee” team in India. We started off primarily as a bunch of college kids who used to fling around discs back in 2000.

The group started meeting occasionally to play some version of Goaltimate from 2003-04 onwards. Over the years, the number of players and enthusiasm went through ups and downs. However, to attract more players, we kludged together a website, and left our contact numbers at the local Adidas stores from where we bought discs, hoping other disc buyers might call us for a game. All this effort paid off a years later in February 2008 when another team (Disc-o-Deewane) found us online and contacted us for a practice game in preparation for the Kodaikanal’s “Flybaba”  Ultimate tournament happening a few months later. And since there there has been no looking back. Four years on, we are all ultimate addicts, and the group is constantly growing.

Tell me about the recent Bangalore Open. Who organized it? What teams attended? When did it take place? Who won?

The recent tournament, Bangalore Ultimate Open, was organized mostly by L2F, with a few from other local teams pitching in as well. It was held during the first weekend in July at a prestigious stadium typically used for national level sports meets. We were able to put up two ultimate fields (almost regulation size). 16 teams registered for the tournament from all over India -Ahmedabad, Alleppey, Auroville, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. Chennai had the highest participation with 6 teams, followed by Bangalore with 4 teams. The team from Auroville (team name: Spinergy) won the championship. In fact, they were the runners up from the previous tournament held in Kodaikanal during March 2011.

What does an event like the Bangalore Open mean for Ultimate in India?

A tournament like Bangalore Ultimate helps immensely in improving the level of Ultimate and growing the community.

The prestigious Sree Kanteerava Stadium where the Bangalore Open is play.ed

For the first time in Bangalore, we got permission from the local government to host the tournament in a sporting stadium under flood lights. This is huge and definitely lures a lot of folks from all across India to make a trip to Bangalore. We had Ultimate veterans come in for the tournament and had various ‘camps’ during the course of 2-3 days.

It also helped grow the sport. We did get media coverage in the local papers, radio and got a lot more people to know about Ultimate. We have had quite a few enthusiasts pick up the sport as well.

In the coming years, we would love to have international teams come in and not just take part in the tournament, but also train us. This will help improve the level of Ultimate.

What can you tell us about Ultimate in India? What is the community like? Who are the types of people that choose to play Ultimate in India? Are there any trends in occupation or anything like that?

The community in India is a close-knit, but steadily growing. Players are from all walks of life – students, outdoor enthusiasts, technology professionals, business leaders are all part of the community. The community is growing mostly by social networking (online and offline) and events like Bangalore Ultimate Open surely attracts new players.

Apart from the regular Ultimate enthusiasts, the community is proud to have members from Indicorps, Ahmedabad. They are using Ultimate to address some of the social issues in the state of Gujurat.

Likewise, team Blitzkrieg from Chennai, put together by Janani (a teacher), and team Falcons from Bangalore, formed by Laxminarayan S, are cases of using Ultimate for social causes. They try to get school and college students from impoverished backgrounds involved in Ultimate as a way to promote leadership, unity, fitness, and a culture of teamwork through sport.

What kinds of tournaments do Indians attend? Are there many that take place across the country?

Typically players attend 4 to 5 tournaments in a year. Auroville hosts a hat tournament in February. The grounds are hard surface of red clay. This is followed by Kodaikanal’s Flybaba tournament (which is the most favorite of all the Indian ultimate players) in March. The games are held on the grass grounds of the school itself – one of the most scenic locations in India.

Bangalore tournament comes next in July, when we can boast of the best weather in the country.The games in Bangalore are typically held on grass fields – the location varies year on year. The next tournament takes place in Chennai early in October and its a beach tournament – the only one of its kind in India. The calender year ends with a tournament in Ahmadabad around Christmas which also takes place on grass fields.

Other than this, a tournament is organized in June for new ultimate teams, and the last year saw the first Indian all-women tournament in November. Both these are organized by the Chennai Ultimate.

Since the last couple of years, there has been active participation from India as team Masala Chai in International tournaments. And sometimes the players pick up with other teams when there is no participation by an Indian team. Singapore Ultimate Open, Malaysia Ultimate Open, Manila Spirits are the popular ones. This year, a new tournament is being added to the list: World Championships of Beach Ultimate, Italy.

How/when did Ultimate start in India? Who helped bring it there and how has it developed?

An impressive overhead snag.

People have been playing Ultimate in India perhaps for more than 10 years now. But its mostly been in pockets and the real boom has happened over the last 3 years. As far as we know, the first tournament in India was in early 2000 organized in Kodaikannal by Bryan Plymale, but this did not become a regular affair till 2008. In the mean time, expats and few guys who had played this sport abroad had small groups of people playing some sort of Frisbee games. The tournaments at Ahmedabad and Kodikannal (early 2008) were the sparks that started the Indian Ultimate community. From there, we have had regular tournaments with new teams from various cities being added every tournament.

Ultimate is surely developing in India with regards to number of players. The quality and level of the game is also steadily improving. Experienced Ultimate players who happen to visit Bangalore (for travel or work)  do share helpful tips. Few of us visiting international tournaments also helps better the game. However, what would do a world of good would be to have few very experienced Ultimate players have a basic to advanced workshop for us. Would be a dream come true for all of us to have the next NexGen team come here.

What style of play would you say Indian Ultimate offers?

Until 2-3  years back, most teams were just playing freestyle. But now, with more exposure to the game and better understanding of rules, we see teams playing a more structured and disciplined game. Most teams usually have basic defense  (mostly man defense, with a force, but occasionally we try some kind of zone)  and offense (mostly vert stack and quite a few teams run this quite well) in place. We have also tried the ho stack, but with lesser success. Very few teams play with set plays.

Players are also getting better with hucks, high release backhands, io’s. Teams are also getting more disciplined in physical training.

Most teams meet several times a week and usually a scrimmage takes place. Before tournaments, drills become important part of the training sessions, and players start hitting the gym in hope of last minute fitness burst.

How would you best describe Indian Ultimate?

Exciting  and very interesting. You will find teams trying to play structured and disciplined Ultimate and teams playing freestyle, instinctive Ultimate and both styles are doing well. Quite a few teams are comprised of players who have known and played with each other (not necessarily Ultimate) for a while. So you will see a lot of non-textbook plays between a bunch of players which are very hard to defend.

What is something Indian Ultimate needs?

The most important goal is advancing our Ultimate skills to the next level. This means that we need to strengthen our basic and intermediate Ultimate strategies to learn to play against more advanced teams. And to be honest, at the current state, our teams (across India) typically do not provide enough challenge to each other to develop these skills.

We need to also get more involved in international Ultimate community. This is essential for making contacts outside the Indian Ultimate community. And more importantly, it provides exposure to how international tournaments work, and what world-class Ultimate can look like.

For these to happen, what most of the Indian ultimate teams need are:

  1. Access to good ground space on a regular basis (believe it or not – this is actually a huge problem).
  2. Veterans/experienced players who have played this sport at competitive levels to coach the teams.

Right now, most of the teams are self taught using youtube videos, tips picked up while playing internationally and some books.

But for the sport to take off as a “mainstream” sport, we really need to promote the sport in schools and colleges where players can pick up skills at a young age. Right now, there is no system in place for us to do so, and whatever effort is extended towards this has been haphazard and usually driven by a few spirited individuals.

What are your hopes for the development of Ultimate in India?

The last 2-3 years has been great ! The community has taken off very well and we are actively involved in promoting Ultimate in Bangalore. We have had demonstration games in schools and tech campuses. We have also registered a government recognized Ultimate players association for the state of Karnataka. This may help us get ground space for regular practice games. Players across India and now participating in a quite a few international tournaments in the region.

IUL – Indian Ultimate League is the league of true Ultimate enthusiasts across the country. We plan to have a registered association with IUL and get world Ultimate bodies like UPA and WFDF to recognize IUL.

Find out more about Bangalore Ultimate at

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