Fighter Kites

In The Hands Of Young And Old

The basic idea of flying fighter kites is pretty much the same the world over. The last kite in the air wins, and this is usually achieved by cutting the flying lines of the other kites. By friction against other flying lines, not with scissors!

However, a pair of scissors did make an appearance during one highly irregular Rokkaku Battle. That was during a South Australian kite festival some years ago, here in Adelaide! So a little birdie told me.

Talking about Rokkakus, the traditional Japanese bouts just involved the downing of kites, by means other than sawing through the flying lines.

Most other fighter designs are actually unstable in the air while there is low tension in the flying line. With the right amount of extra tension applied, a skillful flyer can cause the kite to dart off in any straight line direction desired.

Flying fighters is not necessarily 'kids stuff'. However, huge numbers of kids in the countries with a kite-fighting culture do participate. The skills, in both construction and flying, have been passed down for generations.

In addition to Japan's Rokkaku, a number of other countries have one or more distinctive local fighter kite designs. Here are the main examples, followed by the name of the traditional kite:

  • India and Pakistan, with the Patang design. See the photo near the top of this page which shows several patangs stacked together, ready for sale. Other Indian Fighter designs exist, which are not so often flown by children.
  • Afghanistan, with the Gudiparan design - Afghan Fighter to most of us. These are made in a range of sizes, all much bigger than the Indian kites. I can't imagine the very biggest Afghan fighters being flown by children!
  • Korea, with the Pangp'aeyon design - or Shield Kite. These have a distinctive large hole in the middle. There's lots of good info in this Korean kite blog, which refers to this type of kite as 'Bangpae'.
  • Brazil, with the Piao design. Known as Top Kites since the shape and traditional patterns make them look like spinning tops. Tails are used on these kites.
  • Cuba, where kites are known as Papalotes.. Children fly fighters that are rather small, 6-sided designs that also use a tail for stability. No fighting kite is too stable though! That would make it an easy target.

Here is a picture of all 5 types, in order corresponding to the points above:

Fighter kite designs from around the world


Now, getting back to those child fliers, in all cultures... The kids make fairly crude designs from whatever materials are available. Crude in comparison to what can be bought from the local kite makers...

Kite masters or designers and their assistants turn out extremely neat and well-balanced fighter kites for sale. Often these kites are exquisitely attractive to look at too! The smallest and cheapest of these are often flown by kids. Bamboo still dominates as a great traditional spar material, but the traditional sail materials of tissue and silk are starting to give way to more modern materials such as nylon, mylar and plastic.


On one occasion at the Adelaide International kite festival, we took the above video. A small fighter is being expertly handled over the sand by artist and kite designer Tony Rice.

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