Guide to Fighter Kites and Kite Fighting8 min read

Kite fighting, sometimes known as kite running, has been around for ages. It’s a vital part of the cultures of many countries in Asia and the Middle East. As explained in our previous post on the history of kites, different cultures have different forms of kite duels – from the Micronesians to the Malay Annals, and from India and Pakistan to Afghanistan.

In this post, we’ll find out what fighter kites are and how exactly they are used in kite fighting. This will give you a better idea of how significant the practice is in different cultures and how it has evolved today. You’ll find out exactly what you need to know if you ever decide to take up kite fighting as a sport.

What is Kite Fighting?

So what is kite fighting really? While different countries may have their own variations, what we know as kite fighting today typically involves kite cutting contests. The objective of these contests, as the name suggests, is to cut your opponent’s flying line. Check out the following video for a visualization of how kite cutting works.

For line cutting contests, they use fighter kites with a special coated flying line known as a manja. The coating makes these lines abrasive so they can easily cut their opponents’ flying lines. The exact rules may vary by geographical region but the main concept is that you win if you successfully cut your opponent’s line.

This type of kite fighting is practiced in Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Chile, Brazil, and some islands in the Caribbean also have the same objective in their kite fighting contests. In the Caribbean, however, they attach sharp objects to their kite tails rather than using a manja.

A different variation of the activity is a capture or grounding competition. Here, it’s not enough to simply cut down your opponent’s line with a manja. The objective of this contest is to capture your opponent’s kite after grounding it.

You will typically have a friend or teammate as a “kite runner” to capture the fallen kite in this variation of kite fighting. After a kite has been cut, it does not belong to anyone until the kite runner catches it and claims it.

In Japan, the objective of kite fighting is not to cut down your opponent’s line but to force their kite down. Fighter kite competitions in the U.S are very different from these common variations. These competitions will see people competing through a display of skills and “line touch” contests, although some kite festivals do have line cutting contests.

The Issue with Kite Fighting

The main issue with kite fighting is that it can be potentially dangerous even for those who aren’t participating. Anyone who comes in contact with a manja could get cut from the sharp line, causing serious injury and sometimes even death. There have been incidents of motorists and passersby being injured by a manja.

In kite running too, kite runners could be in danger of getting hit by passing vehicles as they attempt to capture a fallen kite. That’s why kite fighting has faced the occasional ban in different countries. In Afghanistan, the Taliban once banned kite fighting because they considered it “un-Islamic.”

That said, kite fighting can be an extremely exciting and fun activity, but it’s essential to take the necessary precautions that you would take for regular kite flying. For instance, you should opt for open spaces without houses and roads nearby to minimize the risk of injury.

How Did Kite Fighting Start?

There is no clear record of the exact origin of kite fighting, but it is believed that the sport originated from India. This would explain why kite fighting is so popular in the Indian subcontinent, although there is no particular story to support this theory. Of course, there may be unique stories to how it originated in different countries.

For instance, kite duels in Micronesia began through a mythology about two brother gods – Tan and Rango. The story goes that the two brothers introduced humans to kites while they were carrying out a kite duel.

Rango’s kite managed to fly really high in the air but his brother’s kite got stuck in a tree. Now the Micronesians have a kite flying event based off of this story and the objective is to fly your kite as high up in the air as possible.

Kite Fighting in Different Countries and Cultures

Kite fighting has become a vital element in the cultures and festivals of different people, although it’s no more than a leisure activity in other countries. In India, kite flying is a tradition that marks the spring festival called Basant and has become a popular activity for the Indian Independence Day as well. Red Bull has even started organizing an annual kite fighting event in the country.

During Basant, the kite flying festival would begin with a simple display and flying of kites. This would then be followed by more serious kite fights, which is the main attraction of the festival. In fact, people from all over the world visit India to witness the kite fighting sessions during this festival. Basant is also celebrated in Pakistan, mainly in Lahore, with kite fighting taking center stage even in this part of the world.

Kite fighting is also part of the Bangladeshi Shakrain festival and is mostly practiced by people in south Dhaka. In Nepal, people engage in kite fights while celebrating Dashain, a variation of the festival called Dashera in India. Japan also observes festivals that involve kite fighting. The cities of Hamamatsu and Shirone typically witness these festivals.

What are Fighter Kites?

As the name suggests, fighter kites are the kites you use in kite fighting contests. Every country has its own variation of fighter kite, so there is no one set design which defines this type of kite. However, the most notable feature of a fighter kite is the manja flying line that’s typically coated with abrasive materials like crushed glass.

In kite fighting, you would ideally use small and flat single-line kites rather than the dual-line stunt kites that are popular in regular kite flying. The single line makes the kite unstable and the pilot has to rely on line tension alone to control it. This adds to the thrill and challenge of kite fighting.

Image Source: Max Pixel

These single-line kites are mostly made from paper and wood, but carbon fiber and Orcon materials are becoming more popular today. That said, most countries still use their traditional fighter kites in kite fighting activities.

The Indian fighter kite is called patang and it resembles the traditional diamond kite. The activity of kite fighting is called patang bazi. In Pakistan, there’s a similar fighter kite called guda. These two countries also have some other variations of fighter kites, mostly defined by the shape and the size.

There’s the chagg, which is larger than the typical patang and slightly resembles an Afghani fighter kite. You can also find the tukkal, which has a distinct oval shape with pointed edges and a semicircular bottom. It is heavier and slower than the traditional patang but it is more likely to win a fight against the lighter and faster fighter kites.

In Brazil, people mostly use the traditional pipa, which is shaped like a pentagon, in kite fights. Some also use the simple diamond-shaped kites as well. Caribbean fighter kites, on the other hand, have a unique hexagonal shape with a tail that’s fitted with sharp objects.

Chilean fighter kites, volantin, are square in shape and made of bamboo sticks and light paper. What’s unique about the volantin is that it uses three support threads, which is very different from the single-line kites used in most countries. This extra support gives it more stability, so pilots can easily maneuver the volantin in the midst of a fight.

While the Japanese fighter kites, the Nagasaki Hata, are very similar to the Indian patang, Koreans use a rectangular kite called the bang-pae yeon. It has a bowed shape and a hole at the center of the sail. This kite usually needs a larger spool than most Asian fighter kites.

Besides these common variations, other countries have their own versions of fighter kites. Indonesia has the benang gelsan, the layangan Palembang, and the langayan aduan. In Thailand, you can find the Chula and pakpao, while Nepal has the lokta change. Japan has another variation of fighter kites known as the rokkaku.

Pakistan possibly has the most variations of fighter kites. In addition to the ones already mentioned earlier, it has the do pana, the gum pana, the kashti, the gulair, the kupp, the salara, the suit, the shistru, and the teera. And of course, you’ll find the American fighter kite being used in North America.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this post would have given you a clear idea of what is kite fighting and what are fighter kites. You would also understand that although it is an exciting activity, kite fighting can be a very risky sport. So you should be extra careful if you decide to take it up and keep practicing your maneuvering skills to avoid any risky maneuvers that could injure people.

Add a Comment