Korean Fighters


Old Korean kites made in Korea with a Tiger graphic. 
Johnny bought these several years ago while at WSIKF. 

Photos by GHsiung.

Back view of the Korean kite.

In Korean history, kite flying is traced back to 637 A.D., during the first year of the reign of Queen Chindok of Silla, when General Kim Yu-Sin used a kite to calm the agitated populace. He launced  a kite in the night sky over Kyongju. The kite had a large cotton ball attached that was burning, causing the supertitious people to think it was a falling star soaring up in the sky, and that their misfortunes would soon come to a close.  Another general in Korean history, General Ch'oe Yong, of the 14th-century Koryo period utilized kites for shooting fire arms. Admiral Yi Sun-sin used kites in the 16th century as a fast way to inform the naval troops of his strategic instructions, flying kites having different pictures signaling tactics to use, while fighting the Japanese invaders.

In the twentieth century, Korea's "Master Kite maker", No Yu-sang in Chang-yon (Hwanghae Province in Northern Korea), is considered a "National Treasure". In his eighties now, he still remembers kite flying
in his youth, especially the major events for the New Year festivities. He has spent years visiting hundreds of primary schools, teaching the children to make and fly kites. His nicknames are "Mr. Kite", and "Kite Grandfather". No was instrumental in helping to organize the first government-sponsored Kite flying contest in 1955 in downtown Seoul, which drew about 180 contestants.
[See Footnote below]

The most popular Korean kite, a "shield" kite, called pangp'aeyon, looks simple, but is the toughest of all kites in Korea. This rectangular kite is made from five bamboo sticks and covered with traditional Korean mulberry paper. It is always in the strict proportion of 2 by 3. It has a circular hole in the center, with a diameter half the width of the kite,  and functions as an efficient air control device.

Four of the five bamboo sticks are placed: one top to bottom (centered), one side to side (centered), and two from corner to corner; all crossing each other at the center of the kite to form a rectangular frame. The ffith stick is placed along the top of the kite and connects to the ends of the three sticks there. These sticks are tied with string at four points: the two at the top corners, the center, and midway between the center and the bottom of the vertical stick. From these four points the strings are gathered to make a bridle. This kite can move freely up and down, to the left and to the right within a scope of 45 degrees in both directions. The ideal wind velocity is 5 meters per second. The kite is large and fast, and is flown tailless when used in combat flying. a coloured silk line on a traditional Korean multi-spoked reel, is reinforced with a mixture of sticky rice glue, gelatin, glass powder, or even varnish and adhesive.

There are plans for Korean variants in Philippe Gallot's "Fighter Kites" and
Geoff Crumplin's "Not an Indian Fighter Kite" (both books a must for those interested in fighters).
See Resources for more info.

We are very lucky to have Tom Joe  living in the So. Calif. area. He is a master at flying the Korean fighter with a Korean reel. One of his favorite fighter competitions is held at the Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF) in August. He enjoys teasing and distracting his opponents by wearing funny hats.

1996 Korea International Kite Festival See some interesting fighter photos taken by Carl Crowell.

Here are just three designs of traditional Korean Kites now available through
Gone With the Wind Kite Store.
Visit the Korea Kite Site to see more variations of the Shield Kite (Bangpae yeon) Korea's Traditional Flying Kites and their unique reels.

Also stop by the Korea Kite Flier's Association (K0KFA) site. 
And more photos at World Kite

Information on No Yu-sang was extracted from the Book "Korean Cutlure: Legacies and lore", compiled and edited by Lee Kyong-hee. Published by Korea Herald Inc., Korea;
1st ed.1993, Revised ed. 1995. ISBN: 89-85756-01-X
Chapter 4: Guardians of Tradition;  "A Lifetime devoted to Kites", p. 215-219.

Japanese Fighters

"It is fairly certain that the Nagasaki fighting kite is a derivation of the Indian Fighter.
Considering that the first Westerners who set foot in Japan in 1543 were restricted to Nagasaki
alone, it seems likely that these early Portuguese, Dutch and English traders introduced the kite
from India.

This conjecture is strongly supported by the fact that the Nagasaki Hata (Hata is the Japanese
word for flag) is traditionally coloured red, white and blue, in the manner of the Dutch ensign.
Whatever the origin, kite flying remains an obsession in Nagasaki even today, with the whole
month of March being appropriated for kite flying festivals.

The Nagasaki fighting kite, however, bears little resemblance to other traditional Japanese kite
forms. It is highly balanced, extremely light, virtually square and flown diagonally, as opposed
to the traditional Japanese configuration which is basically rectangular and flown
longitudinally. 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 a
guideline of string, while the Indian version has its leading edges unsupported. "
-- the above quote is from The Penguin Book of Kites, written by David Pelham, published by Penguin Books (out-of-print).

The Nagasaki Hatas are made with the colors, blue, red and white in geometric patterns, but they may sometimes include birds in their design. The red shore bird flying over a blue stylized wave, and white sky is also a traditional design.  See more designs of Hatas from a photo in the Gallery pt.7
A Crane Hata, one of the many Japanese kites in the collection at The World Kite Museum in Long Beach, WA. 
The pair of cranes is a newer image, possibly initiated when the crane became Japan's national bird in 1952.
   More images of Japanese Fighters can be seen at the Japanese Kite Collection, a wonderful site maintained by Masami Takakuwa. Fighters included in his lists are: Buka, Butterfly, Hata, Machijirushi (the giant Fighting kites), etc. Beautiful graphics make these kites a joy to look at! Please take a moment to visit this extrodinary website...a feast for the eyes!!
Tehara fighting kite basket with glass coated
 fighting line

Photo by Bob Harris.
Kite friends from Northern California, Jennifer and Bob, have just come back from a tour of Japan....check out their web site to see more on Hatas and Japanese kites.

Japan Tour 2000 Make sure you visit all the pages!!

Nagasaki Kite Festival      Hata Making with a master 

2001Tokaido Road Kite Festival, Hamamatsu Japan

Bob also has available for purhase a CD-Rom Video of "The Making a Nagasaki Hata Kite".
Email him for further details. Bob Harris harris@bhc.com

Brazilian Fighters

The Piao fighters, nicknamed "Top Kite" because of the resemblance to spinning tops, are usually flown using string tails with ribbons attached.
In Southern Calif. there were two Brazilians, Yves and Hans, who were producing their own Piao's. They became involved with the San Diego Kite Club and were very enthusiastic about fighters. Hans flew a Piao in the 1995 SDKC New Year's Eve Day Fighter Challenge and placed 3rd. Unfortunately, we've lost touch with these two gentlemen in the past year. 
The bridle for these kites is very simple - a single line connected to the top and bottom of the main spar... with appropriate slack-maybe 7 inches from the plane of the kite out towards the pilot. Then
connect your line to this "bridle" about a little less 2/3 of the way up...tuning is necessary for correct flight.Flying tends to be tricky at first as these kites are meant to be unstable so as to permit better control.

The game kids play with these kites is to coat the lines with CEROL (a mixture of wood glue and smashed glass, the consistency of salt or sand) and then cut other people's kiteline... then chase the lost kite and steal it. These kites are strewn over all the power lines of every brazilian city... (it is quite common to hear of electrocutions of kite flying kids in Brazil). If one looks up at the sky on any afternoon there are tons of them in the sky over the slum areas - rich kids in Brazil don't play with these kites - too low tech and cheap for them.

Links to visit: Kite Plans -1   Kite Plans-2    Machine to Roll String
Warning - these pages are in Portuguese, need a translation? Try Babelfish

Cuban Fighters

Visit the  Fighter SpotLight  for Will Tefft's report and photos from his recent trip to Cuba ( Nov.1998).


Thailand's sport of Kite fighting has been played and favored by the Kings of Thailand for centuries. These Kites have been enjoyed since the 13th and 14th-century Sukhothai period, and the sport was probably most popular during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868), when people were granted royal permission to fly kites at Bangkok's Phra Men Ground next to the Grand Palace.

The fighting competition is between two fighter kites, the Male "Chula" (Star-tail) and the Female "Pakpao" (Tail-kite).

The I-SAN KITE FESTIVAL usually held in December in Buri Ram is an annual competition which
features various forms of traditional Thai kites; and includes surrogate battles of the sexes featuring the Chula and Pakpao kites.

The Chula (Male) Kite

The Pakpao (Female) Kite
Kite fighting is an ancient local sport whereby two teams try to force each others kite to land in their half of the field. There are hundreds of different kites, different in both form and color, but all of them fall into one of two categories: chulas or pakpaos. The kites are huge in size and require several people to fly them.   A contest is held from March to April at the Sanam Luang in Bangkok. Visit this site from Thailand to read more about the Thai Kite fighting rules.

Visit Thai Kites: Ancient Tradition, managed by Kumthon Charungkitkul for more information and photos on the Thai fighter kites, plus the beautiful Song Hong kite.
Thailand 7th International Kite Festival
Held March 23-24, 2002. 
Bob & Jennifer travel again, this time to exotic Thailand.
Visit to see all the beautiful kites.

Thai Kite Heritage Group
Contains wonderful historical photos; brief
history, and plans for Thailand's Kites.

      Malaysian Kites

In Malaysia, Kites are called Waus, because the shape of its wing is similar to an Arabic letter (pronunced "wow"). There are various types of wau such as wau kuching (cat kite), wau merak (peacock kite), and wau bulan (moon kite). Each wau also comes with different design and size.
The above photo shows a  Wau Bulan, or Moon Kite which is the most popular style, named after its tail which resembles a crescent moon. The Wau Bulan shape has been adopted by Malaysian Airlines as its logo.

Kelantan, Malayasia, is home to the giant kites or wau and kite flying is an art form there.
The waus have intricate patterns which take weeks to construct and decorate.
Kites can come in various shapes and sizes but the designs of Kelantan kites stay close
to traditional patterns. Kites are normally hand-drawn and decorated with colourful paper
and strands of thread. Sometimes a bow-shaped device is attached to the kite to give a
high-pitched humming sound when flown.

Additional Links:
Wau making
Kelantan Crafts - Wau
 Mayasia Tourism

Visit the Dancing Frog Web site to see photos from the Pasir Gudang 6th International Kite Festival 2001 in Malaysia.  Included is a photo of the largest Wau ever made.  Also includes How to Make a Wau.

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The CyberFighter Website is Compiled and Maintained by Gina Hsiung. All photos are
copyrighted and all rights are reserved. Republication of any images with written consent only.

Comments/Suggestions/Etc... I'd love to hear from you! gina.hsiung@csun.edu
Last Update June 2002.