Traditionally most fighter kites are small, unstable single line flat kites where line tension alone is used for control, and is used to cut down other kites. Kite fighting is done in many countries, but is particularly associated with Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Korea.
In most traditional fighter kite types, the coverings of kites are made from a lightweight thin paper and the spars are usually made from a lightweight and flexible wood, usually bamboo.
In modern American fighters, the kite coverings are made from a variety of synthetic materials - mylar, orcon, nylon, and polyester fabric. The spine is often bamboo but the bow, and sometimes the spine, are usually fiberglass or carbon fiber.
The North American Fighter Kite Association and American Kiteflier's Assoc. both discourage the use of abrasive lines such as glass encrusted due to danger to the public. This page is presented for informational purposes and NYKE members do not use or endorse the use of those lines.
Historically, for most Asian type fighters, a thin cotton or hemp line is coated with a mixture of finely crushed glass and rice glue. In recent years, synthetic line has been coated with a variety of abrasives and stronger glue. Some cultures use line that has metal knives attached to hook and cut the opponent's line.
In line touch competition, (which is practiced by NAFKA) synthetic braided fishing line, 15 to 20 lb test, is used due to its low stretch and high strength for the line diameter and weight. Waxed cotton or linen line is also used.
Competition rules vary by geographical area. In cutting contests, two or more contestants fly their kites. The person who cuts the opponents line wins the fight. In multiple kite matches, the person with the last kite in the air is the winner. In grounding contests, competitors try to capture their opponents kite and bring it to the ground. The person or team who succeeds is the winner. In Line Touch competitions, American fighters are used. The object is to touch the opponent's line from above or below as dictated by each match.
Kite flying is more than a pastime in Afghanistan -- it is a national obsession. The streets of the capital, Kabul, are filled with shops selling kite-flying equipment, and the skies above the city are decorated each day with hundreds of colorful kites fluttering in the wind. Banned by the Taliban as un-Islamic, kite flying has now hit new heights of popularity in the country. The kites used range in size from 0.5 meter to 1.5 meters across. The sport is called - Gudiparan Bazi. The line used for cutting is called tar. This was traditionally made with a cotton line and coated with a mixture of crushed glass and rice glue. Currently, nylon string with stronger glue is the preferred line of choice. A new development is using a flexible razor sharp wire.
Kite flying is a two-person affair. One person, the "charka gir," holds the wooden spool around which the wire, or "tar," is wound. The second person -- called the "gudiparan baz," or kite flyer -- actually controls the movement of the kite in the air.
The Hata is associated with the Nagasaki region. It is fairly certain that Nagasaki Hata fighting kite is a derivation of the Indian Fighter. It bears a close resemblance to the classic Indian Fighter, differing only in the absence of the Indian support fin at the tail, and in having its two leading edges supported by guideline of string, while the Indian version has its leading edges unsupported. Nagasaki Hata is traditionally colored red, white and blue, in the manner of the Dutch ensign. This is an exceptionally maneuverable kite capable of flying at amazing speeds with considerable directional control. Equipped with cutting devices such as porcelain glued to the line below the bridle be means of egg white, rice or other natural adhesives, it is a fearsome opponent in competition
Japan has a very strong tradition of a quite different type of kite fighting: very large kites, requiring teams. In these contests cutting line is not used, but instead kites are forced down.
Rokkaku means hexagon, and is famous for its excellent stability and simplicity of construction. This kite was born in Sanjo, northern center of Japan and is also called as Sanjo-Rokkaku. Today, this type of kites made by variety of materials are seen around the world. Any size can be built and it is very stable at any wind speed. Both the Rokkaku and the smaller rectangular Buka have been adopted and further developed by western kite enthusiasts. This is a favorite of NYKE!
Kite fighting is a very popular sport in Pakistan, mainly centered in Lahore people spend thousands of Rupees in preparing different types of kites and threads best suited to battle. The kites that are manufactured for battling are very different from the conventional kites as they are especially designed and made for this purpose. Kup, Patang, Guda, Nakhlaoo, etc are some of the kites used in the battle and they vary in balance, weight and speed through the air. Threads for kite battling are manufactured using especial glues, chemicals and crushed glass and are numbered based on their ability to cut other threads and to handle kite's weight. Many Muslim countries have banned kite fighting, Pakistan is one of them.
Traditional Pakistani, Indian, Afghani, Japanese kite fighting is done throughout the United States. Los Angeles, and San Jose have groups of people that regularly fight Indian and Afghan kites, and other forms of kite fighting, such as the Korean shield kite (pangp'aeyon), the Japanese Rokkaku and Nagasaki Hata, the Brazilian Piao, the Chilean fighter kites have been used for demonstration purposes at various large kite festivals throughout the country. Rokkaku is popular enough that the American Kite-fliers Assoc. holds a National competition each year at their annual conference. Rokkaku (Rok) battles are a favorite of NYKE and we always invite the public to participate.
Starting in the late 1990s, "American Kite Fighting" uses small innovative kites of a range of shapes and materials on short lines for "line touch" competition. Now practiced throughout the country, with an annual NAFKA championship competition held in Washington state.
In some places, such as Kolkata, kite flying is a year round activity, but in others, kite flying takes place mainly during specific festivals - particularly Uttarayan, and more recently on Indian Independence Day. During such holidays there are so many kites flying simultaneously that the sky seems to be moving with color. Patang or guddi as it is more commonly known, are made of tissue paper, and bamboo. And almost all Indian kites have a very similar shape and that is of a diamond tissue paper with a center spine and a single bow intersecting the spine. Kites are a part of everyday life in India. The anxiety and the energy that runs over many a rooftops during pench larana or kite fighting evokes immense nostalgia. The tradition is passed onto kids from their elder brother or father or cousins. or they will pick up the tricks of the trade while assisting their seniors by holding the charkhi or the roll on which glass coated thread or manjha is wound, and keeping the line free of tangles.