Contests among individuals over mating opportunities are common across diverse taxa, yet physical conflict is relatively rare. Due to the potentially fatal consequences of physical fighting, most animals employ mechanisms of conflict resolution involving signalling and ritualistic assessment. Here we provide the first evidence of ubiquitous escalated fighting in grasshoppers. The chameleon grasshopper (Kosciuscola tristis) is an Australian alpine specialist, in which males engage in highly aggressive combat over ovipositing females. We describe discrete agonistic behaviours including mandible flaring, mounting, grappling, kicking and biting, and their use depending on the individual's role as challenger or defender. We show that male role predicts damage, with challengers being more heavily damaged than males defending females (defenders). Challengers also possess wider mandibles than defenders, but are similar in other metrics of body size. Our data suggest that fights escalate between males matched in body size and that mandibles are used as weapons in this species. This system represents an exciting opportunity for future research into the evolution of costly fighting behaviour in an otherwise placid group.