Kite fighting

Kite fighting is a sport chiefly associated with Asia, especially Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Korea. A traditional fighter kite is small, lightweight and flat with a single line. Only line tension is used to control the kite, and the aim of the game is to cut down competing kites. To make achieve this, the lines are abrasive, e.g. coated with crushed glass.

The line

The line is a very important part of kite fighting since it is used to cut down the kites of your opponent. A traditional Asian fighting kite will have a thin line made from hemp or cotton. The line is coated with rice glue and finely crushed glass. In some regions, the lines are even fitted with metal knives that are used to hook and cut the lines of other players. Knives can also be attached to the tail or to the kite itself.

Modern Asian fighter kites often have synthetic lines coated with stronger glue and various abrasives. There are also reports of metallic lines.

To avoid cutting yourself on your own abrasive line, kite fighters normally coat only the upper part of their line (the part closes to the kite) with abrasive material. Gloves are often worn for added protection.

Kite fighting rule

The rules of kite fighting varies from one place to the other. There are three main types of competitions:

There is a variant of kite flying where the aim is not to cut your opponent's line (thus freeing the kite), but to capture your opponent's kite and bring it to the ground. Just like kite line cutting, this type of kite fighting can be played by two or numerous kite fighters.

Kite fighting is played both as an individual game and between teams.

Kite fighting accidents

Kite fighting is still a highly unregulated game and it is often played outside designated areas, e.g. close to traffic and powerlines. Also, accidents involving the abrasive line are commonplace in parts of Asia where kite fighting is popular since the lines are strong enough to cut not merely the finger of a player but the neck of a bystander as well. Kite fighting does not only pose a risk to the players themselves but to people not participating in the game.

To prevent injuries and deaths, several countries in Asia have implemented restrictions or bans on the use of abrasive lines, outlawed the use of certain materials or required motorcycle riders to employ certain safety devices during kite festivals.

Since 2003, police offers in Pakistan's Punjab province have been instructed to threat kite fighting deaths as murder cases if the death is due to a person having his or her throat cut by a kite line that is metallic or coated with abrasive materials. The new instruction was prompted by several kite fighting related deaths in the province where throats were cut by kite lines. Some of the victims were small children.

Kite running, a pursuit closely linked to kite fighting, has its own set of risks. When a kite is cut lose, the traditional custom stipulates that ownership of the kite will pass to the person catching the kite. People – especially children - fixated on capturing a “free” kite have been injured by falling off roofs and running into traffic.

Kite fighting and the Talibans

In 1996, the Taliban government in Afghanistan banned kite fighting and kite flying and declared it un-Islamic. Due to the fall of the Taliban government, this ban in no longer in effect.