Rokkaku Flying and Fighting

From the book The Fighter Kite Book!
by David Gomberg

What is a Rokkaku?

The Rokkaku (pronounced roke-cock-coo) is a traditional Japanese bowed kite design. A basic hexagon in shape, it features six corners, a long center spine, and two cross spars. The bridle connects at four or more points.

Combat Fundementals

Western style Rokkaku "battles" are usually organized for either individuals or teams. The size of the kites is specified within certain ranges, only certain types of flying line are allowed, and flying is limited to a designated area for safety.

On a given signal, all kites are launched. Then a second signal is given and the kites "engage".

The object is to ground other kites using either your line, your kite, or the wind. Once your kite is cut or touches the ground for any reason, you are out. There are three basic techniques for grounding an opponent's kite. The most effective strategy may combine all three tactics.

Cutting: Any experienced kite flier knows that flying lines can easily slice through each other given the proper circumstances. In a Rok battle, it's your job to create those circumstances.

When two lines come in contact, the one moving the fastest will cut, melt, or burn through the other. The object is to concentrate the friction in one particular point on an opposing line. Often you will see teams methodically pumping in an effort to saw through an opponent's line.

Tipping: Another effective battle technique involves actually contacting an opposing kite with your flying line. By catching one of the kite's six corners and then quickly moving position, you are often able to tip or up-end an opponent. If they are close to the ground, in poor field position, or just not particularly good at recovering, this may put them out of the fight. Tipping is the easiest and safest way to ground someone.

Wind Blocking: A more sophisticated technique involves using the wind -- or lack of it -- to ground an opponent. Battles are not always fought under ideal circumstances. If the wind is light, simply staying airborne may be enough to win as everyone else backs up to the field boundaries in an effort generate lift. They will run out of space and come down. If you're smart, you won't.

Battle Strategy: Positioning is everything in a battle. That includes positioning to take full advantage of strong or light winds, positioning to attack or retreat, and positioning to avoid major tangles. Before you launch at the beginning of the battle, give some thought to the wind conditions.

If winds are light, you may want to stay as far downwind as possible so you have room to back-up and gain altitude. You may also want to use a long line to get as much height during the launch as possible and be able to reel-in later to maintain altitude.

If winds are heavy, you may want to position yourself upwind so you have room to move forward and drop into the fight. You may also want to use a shorter line so you can reel-out to make contact.


Be alert, mobile,
and aggressive.

Try to avoid multi-kite engagements that increase your risk of getting tangled or boxed in. Your chances of cutting or fighting your way out of that kind of a mess are rare. What's more likely is that someone will wrap a line around your bridles and you will all go down together.

Don't hang back in a corner waiting for someone else to clear the skies, either. You don't win battles or the respect of your opponents by running away. Look for opportunities and then attack! Besides, most contests will eventually disqualify contestants that continue to avoid direct combat.

Finally, don't let an opponent's line contact your kite. Maintain the initiative. The best position to be in is to be on the attack, not on the defensive.

Rokkaku Tuning

A number of factors can be adjusted to affect your flying and maneuverability. The stiffness of your spars and spine, the proportions of the kite, the length of the bridle, position of the tow-point, and the amount of bow in either or both of your spars will help or hamper maneuverability in different winds.


A "Slider" maintains bow in Bridle

The two quickest and easiest adjustments you can make in the field are to change the amount of bow in the kite, or to shift the tow-point. Experiment!

Safety, Safety, Safety!

Battles are great fun - but only if they are done carefully and everyone follows basic safety rules. Gloves are essential for all participants. These are big kites being flown on line intended to cut. Imagine what they can do to your hands. The object is to make the kites fight - not the people. All intentional physical contact should be strictly prohibited including pushing, tripping, or purposely running line around people. Any "dirty tricks" should result in disqualification. Cutting implements other than flying line should not be allowed.

As much fun as Rokkaku battles are to watch, they are even more fun to participate in. So we'll warn you this one time: You only need to try it once to become addicted for life.


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