Maui News

VIDEO: A Right of Passage, Hawaiian Martial Arts Lua Graduation

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By Wendy Osher

[flashvideo file= /] Thirty-seven students of lua, displayed their talents in a special hōʻike (display) for family and friends over the weekend in West Maui.  The demonstration included various battle formations and mock battles between lua students from across the island chain.

The ancient Hawaiian martial art is practiced by several groups on Maui, two of which are led by residents Ke’eaumoku Kapu and Kyle Nakanelua.

One definition of lua describes the art as a type of dangerous hand-to-hand fighting in which the fighters broke bones, dislocated bones at the joints, and inflicted severe pain by pressing on nerve centers.  Many of the techniques, according to the Hawaiian Dictionary (Pukui/Elbert), were secret. The publication also described lua experts as bodyguards to chiefs.


Like other martial arts throughout the world, lua “provides a means of physical expression that is aggressive, yet controlled,” said Nakanelua.

Lua ho'ike, Hawaiian martial arts exhibition. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Nakanelua described the similarities between various martial art forms saying they each provide “Discipline, techniques, skills, all of our being schooled, being managed, being controlled, being administered, and driven in a fashion that productively promotes life and growth.”  The difference, he said, is that, “Lua is ours.”

“We look it as a great opportunity to teach our haumana on how to strategize by working as one,” said Kapu.


Part of the strategy is knowing which battles are important and learning how to deal with challenges.  “It’s a good medium for our haumana (students) today because that allows them to understand whether or not to go forward, to retreat, or to be humble,” said Kapu.  “Everything we did actually applies to the knowledge that we hope that they acquire once we groom them.  It’s like the rights of passage–one step at a time.  Today’s generation–they’re running too fast–so we’re trying to slow them down in their pace,” he said.

Kapu said the intention is to carry on the traditions, and help the next generation learn to apply the knowledge in today’s setting.  He said its about “trying to be perpetual in a traditional perspective, but then at the same time in a contemporary way,” said Kapu.

Lua ho'ike, Hawaiian martial arts exhibition. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Lua ho'ike, Hawaiian martial arts exhibition. Photo by Wendy Osher.


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