All over Bali on the sides of the roads, fighting cocks can be seen in their cages. It is however a little harder to find the arena’s in which an actual cockfight takes place. The arena’s are tucked away at the end of small alleys, away from the general public. It’s a world that’s all about gambling and pride and it has been a part of Bali’s tradition for hundreds of years.
I’ve been looking for a cockfighting arena for a couple of weeks but they are quite hard to find. There are not so much of them and they are mostly hidden. This made it very surprising for me that in the street that I’ve been living in for 3 months now, there was actually a cockfighting arena within a 5 minute walk from my room.
This particular arena has cockfights 7 days a week, two times a day. There are about 7 fights every session and a session lasts approximately for 2 hours.
The people attending the cockfights are mostly the same people all the time and everyone seems to know each other here. It’s not a place where tourists generally go to. The local Balinese people seem to be very happy and excited to be here. There are also some people selling chicken satay at a food stand and some merchandise, like watches and t-shirts are being sold.
The fights have been illegal for many years but the police gets a piece of the action and looks the other way.
“What are you looking at?”
To make the fights go faster, the cocks are equipped with a knife on their leg. Before the beginning of the fight, this knife, that’s called a taji, will be dipped in poison. As soon as a cock gets cut by the knife it will be a matter of minutes before it keels over and dies of poisoning.
It has happened sometimes that one of the spectators was cut by the knifes and then he had to be rushed to the hospital to prevent a similar fate to that of the roosters.
The video below shows the preparations to the cockfight and the actual cockfight, which usually only lasts about 10 seconds.
Not everyone who’s involved with the cockfighting wants to be in a photo or video, for obvious reasons, so some people might get a little upset when trying to record here. It’s also quite hectic during the fights so shooting any of it can be a challenge.
The purpose of the cockfights that I visited is to bet and win money. There are also cockfights in Bali that take place in temples for religious purposes and sacrificial rituals. These can be a bit different but the end result is the same, a lot of spilled blood and lost feathers.
Before the start of the matches there will be a round of betting, which involves a lot of yelling and screaming. It all comes down to people finding a ‘betting partner’. They will both bet on one of the cocks and the winner gets his bet doubled by the loser.
For the people that are bored of waiting, in between the cockfights, there is an improvised version of roulette to bet on. It involves a ball rolling over a board with colors and if the ball lands on your color, your bet will be doubled.
The whole cockfighting thing in Bali is a little surreal but that makes it even more interesting to witness. Although it’s a little intimidating for foreigners to visit a cockfighting area, if you can actually find them, the people around them are very friendly and willing to explain. It would be well advised though, to go here with a local person who understands what’s going on.
With all the blood flying around and the chicken brutality that’s quite extreme, it’s obvious that this is very much a man’s world.