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Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o




Ka Hoku o Hawaii

Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o

Written in Hawaiian by Reverend Stephen L. Desha

Translated by Frances N. Frazier

Produced with the assistance of the State of Hawai‘i Historic Preservation Division, DLNR

Kamehameha Schools Press Honolulu • 2000

Copyright © 2000 by Kamehameha Schools Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate

All rights reserved.

Pgs. 1-24


The person whose brief story we present to our readers was said to have been born in the land of Ke‘ei close to Nāpo‘opo‘o. His mother was also from Ke‘ei and here he grew up in the days of his youth.

By the time he had become eight or nine years of age it was noted that he was of alert and vigorous nature and was very precocious in his engagement in warlike games. The development of his body at this early time of his life showed that he exceeded other children of the same age in his strength and there were many times when he strove with children older than himself.

One day he was swimming with a number of boys at the Kealakekua beach close to the famous heiau of Hikiau. The boys divided into two sides and young Kekūhaupi‘o was on one side. A mock battle developed between the Nāpo‘opo‘o and the Ke‘ei boys. They engaged in wrestling and chest slapping and also threw projectiles made of balls of damp sand.

In the contest between the two sides most of the Nāpo‘opo‘o boys were pushed back by this strong boy of Ke‘ei, but when the time came for throwing projectiles, Kekūhaupi‘o’s group were put to flight; however when the Ke‘ei boys had fallen back, young Kekūhaupi‘o moved forward facing the opposition until he was standing alone before the multitude of Nāpo‘opo‘o, showing his fearless nature.

All these play activities at Kealakekua were noted by the guardian priest (kahuna kia‘i) of the heiau of Hikiau, and he specially noted the fearless little boy from Ke‘ei. He reported to young Kekūhaupi‘o’s father, saying that it appeared as though he had been born to become a famous warrior and that it would be appropriate for him to become a kahuna and that he should be taught the profession of war.

These words by the guardian priest of Hikiau aroused the interest of

Kekūhaupi‘o’s father, a warrior chief who had been involved in some battles in earlier times. He began while Kekūhaupi‘o was very young to instruct him in those warlike arts, such as spear hurling, boxing, and wrestling and, as well, trained him to run swiftly, for the father said: “One who is learning the warlike arts of the land does well to accustom himself to swift running whereas, by speed, the fleeing enemy can be pursued from the battlefield and caught. I am training you now, but when you become big, you will be taught by experts.” Kekūhaupi‘o’s father told him this when he was not even ten years old. This conversation with his father aroused the mind of this young boy and he began to accustom himself to the spear, using a hau stick which had been made for him to practice with by his father’s assistants. The “man” on which he practiced with his spear was the coconut tree standing before their residence. This became his favorite occupation during his childhood and was observed by his father.

Making a target of the coconut tree followed the ancient belief that the coconut tree was indeed compared to a man, and Kekūhaupi‘o used the tree to accustom his eye to strike true. He began his practice a few fathoms from the coconut tree, and when he always succeeded in striking the tree he extended the distance, always practicing to accustom his eye to striking true.

After the passage of several anahulu [ten day periods] in practice, he had become quite adept and then his father said: “My son, fighting a battle consists not only in hurling a spear, but a most valuable thing in this warlike profession of our ancestors is the knowledge of how to dodge the spears that will be thrust at you—this knowledge makes a famous warrior.” When Kekūhaupi‘o received this new idea he asked his father to instruct him and his father assented, as the aptitude of the son filled the father with joy. He prepared some new spears, still of hau wood, thickened at the point, not sharpened to hurt the person it struck. With these spears they stood in front of their house close to the coconut tree where the son had begun his practice. Kekūhaupi‘o hurled the spear at his father, who spoke to him of the means of warding off and dodging the thrust. Because the boy was uninstructed he was unable to touch his father.

But the boy quickly observed the method used by his father in dodging and warding off his spear as well as of seizing it. This was very important in that type of fighting. The first was to dodge cleverly, the second was to ward off a thrust with the spear in his own hand, and the third was the keenness of sight to seize the enemy’s spear when it was hurled. Most important of all was the knowledge of how, with the spear taken from the enemy, to strike back at the one who had attempted to take his life. This knowledge was later acquired by Kekūhaupi‘o and he became exceedingly skilled at it so that he became greatly feared by his adversaries.

Later, perhaps, O reader, we shall learn of some famous deeds by this warrior in the lands in which our ancestors’ skins were injured with the barbed spear.

Be patient for the remainder of our tale until next week. However, the spear of that famous kingdom-conquering warrior is sharp, and also there is the teacher who prepared him in the profession of war. Remember the little spear on the battlefield of Ka Hoku o Hawaii. It is a few days to Christmas—shall it not be a little gift of life for our swift messenger?


A New Teacher



Because the father of Kekūhaupi‘o saw how quickly his son grasped the use of the spear in his practice sessions, he determined to seek some teachers on the use of the spear and also the wooden staff. He also sought one who could teach him the bone-breaking arts of lua wrestling as competence in this warlike art was taught to the ancients of this land. Because Kekūhaupi‘o was still very young at this time, his teaching of those warlike arts was delayed a while.

From this time, when Kekūhaupi‘o and his father had stood before their house, Kekūhaupi‘o never stopped attempting to accustom himself in order to understand the thrusting of the spear. He continued thrusting at the coconut tree, and also he occasionally took one of his playmates to practice with him in this way with the spear. It seemed as though some of his playmates became the pupils of this young ali‘i of Ke‘ei.

When he became twelve years old or more, Kekūhaupi‘o was taught the use of the spear. At the same time he learned fencing with the wooden staff which was perhaps somewhat like fencing with swords as the foreigners did. The people of Hawai‘i excelled in that knowledge. The famous warriors of old met and fought with fencing staffs as did Uianu and Pūpūkea, as told in a famous story of Hawai‘i Nei. The name of Kekūhaupi‘o’s teacher was La‘amea, a man famous at this time in his profession of teaching body-strengthening for battle. At the very beginning of teaching the first strokes, La‘amea instantly realized the cleverness of this pupil of his and he spoke these words of prophecy to Kekūhaupi‘o’s father:

This young ali‘i will become a famous warrior in the future and will become a fighter on the side of some famous ali‘i of the land. He will become one who seeks land for some of our ali‘i ‘ai moku. If he exhibits such competence at this young age, his future competence is established and not only with the weapons in his hand, but combined with his genuine strength. This one’s status is as a moa lawa,1 one who is sufficiently adept to prevail in future battles.

These words by La‘amea brought happiness to Kohapiolani, Kekūhaupi‘o’s father, and he said to his son’s teacher:

Teach him all that you know, and perhaps he will become one to find a haku [lord] for the two of us, and bring us good fortune. The only thing I ask you is, do not needlessly praise him lest he become over-proud which will be of no value in your teaching of him. He will know the weariness and hardship of becoming a warrior, and you must also teach him love for his haku, so that in the future they will be of importance to him.

In this talk between Kohapiolani and his son’s instructor we can see, O reader, the truly excellent nature of the instruction of warriors of the time of our ancestors. Implanted in their lives was loyalty and love for their ali‘i and they understood that they were taught excellence for the benefit of their haku ali‘i. We shall see the feelings which truly began in the life of this famous warrior of that ancient time, which grew in all his actions thereafter.

After the passage of perhaps two years or more or perhaps before this, this young ali‘i of Ke‘ei became famous for his proficiency at handling weapons and most of all his seizing of weapons hurled at him. Also he was famed for his cleverness in dodging the tips of the ihe makawalu spears which were hurled at him and this was because of the excellence of his sight and the alertness of his body in leaping to and fro. Perhaps we, O reader, shall see the truth of his proficiency in a certain battle in which he accompanied his hānai ali‘i Pai‘ea [adopted chief Kamehameha]. It is well also for the young people reading this extraordinary story of Kekūhaupi‘o to understand the patience of this young Hawaiian warrior in seeking proficiency in knowledge of battle.

When Kekūhaupi‘o reached the age of fifteen, his instructor well understood that the knowledge of his pupil was exceeding his and doubt grew in his mind as to whether his pupil might harm him as sometimes the cleverness of the pupil might exceed that of the instructor. La‘amea asked Kekūhaupi‘o’s father to release him and to place the young warrior under the instruction of Koaia, a certain man of Kapalilua very famous for bone-breaking wrestling, who was, in fact, a cousin of his. He should be taken and placed under the care of that cousin of La‘amea.

These words to Kohapiolani by his son’s instructor made him very pleased and he spoke to his son about going to Kapalilua for some time to learn the art of lua. When Kekūhaupi‘o heard his father he quickly agreed. He prepared himself to go with La‘amea who had taught him to hurl a spear and how to defend against and to seize the spear of his opponent. The two of them went to Kapalilua and Kekūhaupi‘o was settled with the instructor of lua.

This man named Koaia was famous for lua which was wrestling and bone-breaking, however he had ceased his work because of old age.

Something which was said of this lua instructor of Kekūhaupi‘o was that he was not in the habit of engaging in the robbing activities of the teachers of lua nor was he one who used this knowledge to harm men. Although he was a man much feared in his own place, it was never heard that he used his knowledge to harm the life of another. When Koaia saw this young man with long arms and a physique showing great strength, he turned and spoke to his cousin La‘amea these words glorifying his student whom he was to instruct:

Eh, my cousin La‘amea, the warrior is a moa lawa, he is sufficiently well made to prevail in combat and the names of his teachers will live through him for here we see his body full of strength and his opponent will be harmed if he approaches closely. This perhaps will be my last pupil whom I teach and make an adept by [eating] the eye of the man-eating niuhi shark of the ocean. I shall teach him all the strokes of my profession, reserving perhaps one for myself, lest I might die by him in my old age. Then La‘amea smiled inwardly as this was the first time he had heard words such as these from the mouth of his cousin. Kekūhaupi‘o also heard these words by his new instructor and he spoke these good words to his teacher:

Have no doubt about this for I was taught the excellent forms of fighting by my beloved teacher. He strongly advised me not to convert these things I have learned into the means of destroying and harming others, except only their use on the battlefield with the enemy.

To this Koaia responded:

Your words are good, it is known by the pāpālua2 of the hair upon my head. The profession of bone-breaking of men was taught me, however this knowledge was not to rob the weak of their lives, and because of this the lua deity (‘aumakua lua) loves me and has lengthened my life. You shall become my true pupil and perhaps I shall show the numerous strokes which will enable you to become a famous warrior in the future. The hearing of the instruction and care for the kapu of the ‘aumakua lua are what are to be learned.

Kekūhaupi‘o remained for a year with that lua instructor, and during this time his ali‘i father sent him the necessary things for his stay at that place of Kapalilua for, at that time, Kapalilua was a land of starvation. Kekūhaupi‘o’s father understood the conditions in the land of Kapalilua and for this reason he sent canoes with food and kapa for his son’s well-being while he resided with his lua instructor.

The ‘Ailolo Ceremony


At the end of some months of teaching Kekūhaupi‘o, Koaia recognized the rising readiness in his student and the fiery speed of his hand. He sighed inwardly on occasion for the person who might fall within reach of this young student’s hands as he noticed, not only the clever, quick grasp, but also his skill in the various aspects of lua. Kekūhaupi‘o was somewhat stocky in build, about five feet eight inches tall, with square shoulders and strong, long limbs and fingers.

When Koaia realized he had taught his beloved student all he knew, having spent some months together with him and having been drawn to him by his agreeable nature, he said to him:

‘Auhea ‘oe, e ku‘u ali‘i haumana, in my teaching of the various methods of our ancestors’ lua fighting, all that remains is the ‘ailolo ceremony to confirm you an adept; however, unlike others I have taught to overcome a man, you shall also become adept in fighting that terrifying fish of the wide ocean which people fear—then you shall become a niuhi shark [tiger shark] on the battlefields of the future. Do you dare to become an adept by [overcoming] this terrifying fish of the ocean and eating the eye of the niuhi shark for your ‘ailolo ceremony?

Having been prepared as an adept in lua and in accordance with the words of his teacher Koaia that he would eat the eye of the niuhi shark, he quickly prepared the means for fighting that terrifying fish in the ocean.

An emaciated sow was killed and its body made up into bundles, first wrapped in large kalo leaves and then in leaves. After the bundles were prepared they were left for five or six days until they stank and were full of odorous grease, when they would be lowered and tied between the hulls of the double canoe. Kekūhaupi‘o was sent his father’s double canoe for the purpose of this sea battle to be fought as in ancient times.

By the evening of a certain day Kekūhaupi‘o had been equipped with a short spear for his hand and also a kauwila-wood spear without a point but with a sharpened edge. At its other end was pierced a hole threaded with a short olonā cord which could be wound around the hand so that the spear might not fall from the hand of its user into the sea, leaving him without the means to fight.

On that same evening, this being the sacred evening of Lono, offerings of prayers were made before the spirit guardians of lua fighting and some offerings were taken to the heiau at a certain place close to Kapu‘a in the land of Kapalilua. The act of worship was performed at that heiau by Kekūhaupi‘o’s teacher, and also by Kekūhaupi‘o who prayed to the god Lono, in whom he placed his trust (perhaps afterward the reader will see a certain prayer made by Kekūhaupi‘o before the god Lono before a great battle with a famous warrior of Kahekili’s, at a certain place on Maui, in the future, however we shall not speak of it at this time).

Kekūhaupi‘o and his teacher returned to their residence close to the land of Kapu‘a, and his teacher said to him:

My young chiefly pupil, the blessing of the gods is upon the sea battle—the heavenly arch approves our work, and when I arouse you later this night we shall sail upon this journey to seek your opponent. Our journey of worship to the heiau and also, on this sacred night of Kāne [Lono], the god in whom I greatly trust will insure that all will progress well. The offerings of the all-black pig, the black ‘awa and the black coconut, and the acts of worship have progressed favorably, and as the performance on land goes, so also will be the progress at sea. My word of hope to you, Kekūhaupi‘o, is for the strength and bravery which will triumph on the battleground to come. Act with strength and have no doubts within yourself, as this could bode no good in our coming actions. It is true that some who learn lua fighting and become adepts can overcome a man—however your instruction was not thus—you shall be confirmed as an adept by your conflict with the niuhi shark of the terrifying eye. Therefore act with great strength and without fear on this day.

Kekūhaupi‘o listened well to these good words by his teacher and determined to show no sign of doubt before his teacher and to attempt in every way to fulfill his teacher’s instructions. With these thoughts he retired to rest for a part of the night.

When the morning star arose, Kekūhaupi‘o was awakened by Koaia and he quickly prepared himself, girding on his red malo, tightening it for his coming fight with the shark. They boarded the double canoe and the mat sail was spread. The canoe sailed before the touch of the “famous cool breeze of the lands fragrant in the calm.” Kekūhaupi‘o noticed that their canoe was headed due south for a place offshore of Nāpu‘uapele, close to the district of Ka‘ū. They sailed the remainder of the night until the dawn opened up and the skin of man could be seen. Then the canoe turned downwind on the deep sea just outside of that place mentioned.

At this time Kekūhaupi‘o noticed the bundles of pig flesh being suspended between the hulls of the double canoe, fastened in a line to a long piece of wood. Not one, but three men were piercing the bundles with sharp ‘ūlei-wood sticks so that the stinking contents of the bundles dripped into the ocean and the grease floated on the water. They continued to sail about while the beauty of the light dawned on Mauna Loa. Before the sun appeared, one of the men noticed the arrival of something black on the surface of the sea not far off from where they sailed.

E Koaia ē, I see something black following just behind our canoe. Perhaps it is a fish but it is running on the surface of the sea.” On hearing this man they all turned their eyes to the place of which this man had spoken. In a short time they saw the back of the fish appear on the surface, and as the sun rose the black-bodied shark appeared between their canoe hulls snapping at the grease from the bundles of pig flesh. The people on the canoe, gazing at that great niuhi shark, guessed that it was nearly twenty feet long.

When Kekūhaupi‘o saw this large-mouthed fish he mentally prepared himself for an immediate leap, but his teacher spoke:

E Kekūhaupi‘o ē, don’t hasten to leap into the fight with your opponent, but let us play with him. Let him gobble the floating grease from the bundles until his stomach is full of sea water which will make him sluggish. When he has swallowed enough, then my chiefly pupil, the fight will be more equitable. This is something good for you to learn: in the future when you fight an opponent, don’t hasten to leap forward, but first study his nature to enable you to learn his weakness, then it will be easy for you to secure him by one of the methods you have learned. However, prepare yourself and look well at the place where you can kill him. I only ask of you that you act fearlessly. Do not pierce him in the eye—the place where he can be killed is very close behind his gills. Make your thrust straight at that place and pierce his liver and he will immediately weaken. You men on the canoe, be ready with the ropes to fasten the fish when you see that the young chief has killed him. On hearing this the people on board hastily prepared the hau-bark ropes and the men piercing the flesh bundles continued their efforts, sprinkling the sea with the juices. As Kekūhaupi‘o again prepared to leap his teacher again said:

E Kekūhaupi‘o ē, don’t be too hasty—listen well to me—when I tell you to leap, attempt to dive under this fish which is following our canoe, but not just at this moment as the sea has not cleared. Wait a little and let the shark swallow the grease from the flesh bundles.

Kekūhaupi‘o was impatient with these words for he greatly wished to leap into the fight with this demonic creature, so greatly feared by fishermen. The men on the canoe with Kekūhaupi‘o were filled with terror of that great shark and not one of them was daring enough to leap into the sea for a fight with it.

At that time the sail of their canoe was aloft, and it was well understood that if Kekūhaupi‘o should leap overboard he would be left far behind, and probably for this reason Koaia forbade him to leap. Kekūhaupi‘o’s teacher stared intently at the shark and how he gobbled the greasy sea water, and when he saw that the raging creature had arrived just below the canoe and between the hulls he knew the time was coming when the shark would be waterlogged and unable to turn easily.

When he saw that the time was right he ordered the men to drop the sail and the order was quickly carried out. When the canoe was free of entanglements and everything was ready for the combat Koaia said:

E Kekūhaupi‘o ē, your instructor has taught you all—perhaps my further instructions may be of no use, but by my understanding of the signs of this day, victory is on your side as the heavenly omens bode well for your fight. Have great strength and bravery, my chiefly pupil, and the name of your teacher will live—he who taught you this ancient way of fighting. In this ‘ailolo ceremony of completion, the important thing is to be alert. The watchful eye precedes victory on your side. Leap forth, Kekūhaupi‘o and fight with this famous fish of the ocean. If you please, readers of this story of a famous warrior of the past, let us set aside the story of his leap into battle with the burning-eyed niuhi of the deep blue ocean, and allow the writer to describe the means of fighting this shark, whereas many of us at this time do not know how our ancestors fished for the niuhi. This explanation will show the methods employed by our ancestors. It is a true story which this writer tells, from his conversations with his wife’s grandfather who was one of those who fished for niuhi on the purplish-blue seas of Kāne, and his story is as follows:

Fishing for the niuhi shark was kapu for the benefit of the chiefs of ancient times and there were persons who were set apart for this by heredity. My foster father was Kawahapaka who married my own mother’s sister. He was a great fisherman for the chiefs of Nāpo‘opo‘o, and the one who taught me various fishing methods, save only fishing for whales which the foreigners do. In the days of my youth and strength, when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, as the great fisherman for the chief, he took me and the men who worked under him fishing for niuhi as follows:

First of all a sow which had produced many young was killed and its flesh made into bundles as though being prepared for an imu. The flesh was parceled out and wrapped first in large tough kalo leaves and sprinkled with water, but no salt, and then wrapped in leaves as though for a food bundle. Those bundles were set apart from the people’s homes and kept from being eaten by the dogs and allowed to putrefy.

The fishing paraphernalia was prepared and on the dawn of the fifth day we boarded the large double canoe, seven or eight fathoms in length, and there were also some deep-bottomed canoes which had been used in the war waged on Maui by Chief Kamehameha. Between the outrigger booms which joined the double hulls was laid a long piece of wood projecting almost to the front of the canoe, and along the wood the stinking bundles of flesh were tightly bound in a line as far as the bow. At the same time large hau-bark ropes were readied and large olonā cord and also some Y-shaped branches of wood with a loop or snare fastened to them, one at the bow and one at the stern.Cutting tools had also been placed on board. In very ancient times the canoe was furnished with a sharp dagger to cut the flesh of the shark. After the sharp things of the foreigner became available there were also harpoons, gotten from whaling ships which arrived at Kealakekua.

In the early dawn at the rising of the morning star all was placed aboard the canoe and the large mat sail spread out, and the canoe sailed out to the open sea. In the red dawning my foster father ordered two men to immerse the bait, then some men with sharpened sticks of ‘ūlei or koai‘a [very hard woods] began to pierce the putrid bundles, releasing the stinking juices and grease to spread over the surface of the sea. At this time the cool breeze began to blow and as the canoe sailed the men continued their work.

As the day grew and the canoe continued to sail it was seen that a fish was following us. Then the sailing speed was slowed while the men hastened their work of sprinkling the stinking juices. A short time later the shark appeared behind our canoe and I saw it voraciously gulping the greasy sea water, while my foster father keenly observed it. At this time the shark was in a frenzy and had come between the hulls close to the dripping bundles.3

When Kawahapaka saw the right moment he ordered the men holding the loops to ensnare the shark, and the men dipped their loops simultaneously in front of the head and behind the tail, and when it was seen that their loops were in the right position they immediately lifted up their arms, and the men both forward and aft pulled on the ends of the ropes at the same time. The men at the bow of the canoe pulled on the rope of the men at the stern [who had caught the tail] and so also, the men at the stern pulled on the rope which had ensnared the head of the shark. The idea behind this was to bend its body and immobilize the shark. At this moment the men with the sharp kauila-wood weapons struck the shark at a vulnerable spot.

When the shark was dead it was drawn alongside and cut up into pieces and loaded on board. If it was still desired to fish for sharks the sail was hoisted again and they resumed their search for another one. Sharks would become sluggish when they had gulped a stomach full of the greasy sea water.

In those ancient days this was a very enjoyable pursuit for the young chiefs. Sometimes the bait was the body of a captured man. As the ancients said: “The corpse of a man placed on the altar sometimes becomes bait for the niuhi shark.”

Battling the Niuhi Shark

January 20, 1921

My wife’s grandfather also told me that fishing for niuhi sharks furnished food for the chiefs, as in ancient times it was an offense punishable by death for a commoner to secrete some of it as food for himself. The only persons entitled to fish for the niuhi were the chiefs’ fishermen.

Perhaps this is enough from this writer who learned some important things concerning this story of Kekūhaupi‘o, since he was connected by birth to this famous warrior of the land of Ke‘ei o lalo lilo ē [Ke‘ei far, far below].

Let us return to the story of Kekūhaupi‘o and learn the result of his battle with the fiery-eyed niuhi of the wide ocean. The reader will remember that we were right at the point where the niuhi had come between the hulls of the double canoe and was gulping the baited sea water, which caused it to become somewhat sluggish.

When Kekūhaupi‘o heard Koaia’s order he sprang into action. He sank very gently over the outer side of the hull, and before the people on board realized it they saw the shark’s tail splashing mightily but were unable to see what was going on. However, Koaia’s sharp eye was watching. Kekūhaupi‘o had watched the shark gulping the baited sea water knowing very well the place to thrust his short spear and that if his thrust should be awkward his opponent would have time to turn quickly on him, with unknown results. Therefore on hearing his teacher’s order he dove straight to the shark’s side giving it no time to turn. All that was seen by the people on board was the strong flick of the shark’s tail when it received the thrust behind its gills. Kekūhaupi‘o withdrew his spear and thrust again near the first thrust and the shark was weakened near to death—it only thrashed and Kekūhaupi‘o clung to its side. It was fortunate for Kekūhaupi‘o, perhaps with the help of the guardian spirit of the art of lua, that the shark did not flee to the depths. The shark only thrashed because of the hurt done to it and did not go far from the canoe, giving Kekūhaupi‘o time to breathe and rest a little. When Koaia saw the shark weakening he commanded those on board to prepare to seize the shark lest it descend to the depths and be lost to them. The canoes were quite close to Kekūhaupi‘o who still held the shark with the spear fast in its side. A man was ordered to leap in and ensnare the tail since the shark was weakened and wallowing on the surface as a result of the second thrust of the spear.

Shortly the tail was secured and the shark pulled alongside and lifted on board one of the canoes. Then Kekūhaupi‘o climbed on board with a demeanor which inspired fear in the people. Then Koaia called to his pupil:

E Kekūhaupi‘o ē! the guardian spirits of our profession of lua have gathered together at this sudden good fortune in our expedition to seek an offering for them. They have all seen your genuine alertness in this fight, which is the best I ever saw. This is a sign of your success in this ancestral profession, and I sympathize with the opponents with whom you will meet in the future. I made only one error this day, which was to send another man to help you. If I had waited quietly you alone could have returned successfully. In this action there was no lack on your part, but on the part of your teacher. A sudden misfortune may meet you in the future, but before this time arrives the famous name of my topmost student shall be heard. Let us return to land and make offering to the god of this warlike profession of our ancestors of old.

Koaia then ordered the paddlers to make for land, straight inshore to Kapu‘a, close to the heiau of Lono which stood there, and this command was carried out.

Our readers must remember that Kekūhaupi‘o was very strong, and although he had not yet seen twenty years, he had completed his study of the most important warlike profession in Hawai‘i.

Perhaps the readers may be amazed at the words spoken by Koaia concerning a sudden misfortune as a result of his command to a certain man to go to help Kekūhaupi‘o. Perhaps at the very end of this famous warrior’s life we shall truly see the fulfillment of this, but the description of this sudden misfortune at the end of the life of this famous warrior is left to the future.After they arrived at the canoe landing at Kapu‘a and lifted their canoes ashore, the niuhi was taken to a large canoe shed. Koaia commanded all the men of their canoe to keep away from that place, not one of them was allowed to pass by that canoe shed. Koaia’s command was carried out by the men for he held power over the people and was feared because of his skill at lua. When all the people had left that place save only Koaia and Kekūhaupi‘o, Koaia spoke concerning what was to be done:

‘Auhea ‘oe, e Kekūhaupi‘o, your work on the ocean is done. Our expedition was pursued by good fortune. Now you must take out the eyes of the niuhi. One shall be offered to our god of lua, and one shall be eaten raw by you. By the nature of your eating of the eye of the shark shall be seen your status as a fighter in the future. When all is ready within this new canoe shed, which has not had a canoe in it, we shall perform the ‘ailolo ceremony, and your strength shall this day be confirmed by me. Then Koaia’s student of lua shall be strong indeed.


When the paddlers had left the canoe shed Koaia immediately ordered Kekūhaupi‘o to remove the eyes of the niuhi, and prepare to go to the heiau to offer the right eye of the shark to Kāne [Lono], the god in whom Kekūhaupi‘o had complete faith. Kekūhaupi‘o listened well to these instructions by Koaia, the bold hero of the land of Kapalilua. They went together to the heiau of Lono, nearby in Kapu‘a. Taking a black pig and many other black things to be offered at the altar of Lono, they recited prayers to their god Lono. The service of worship went well, and then they returned to the newly prepared shelter which had been built for the ‘ailolo ceremony of Koaia’s chiefly pupil.

On their arrival at the heiau Koaia had said:

‘Auhea ‘oe, my chiefly pupil: our actions at the heiau of Lono have progressed well and I think the god has heard you and your prayer for help. Now prepare yourself to eat the left eye of your opponent of the wide ocean. Eat without thought of rejection, and it will bring success in your ‘ailolo ceremony on this day. When you have eaten the eye of the shark we shall attempt the successful completion of our work. You shall attempt in every way to prevail over me by lua and I shall attempt, also, to release the means by which you secure me. By great skill you can secure your teacher, but within me is doubt of your victory over me.

In a little while following these words, Kekūhaupi‘o prepared to eat the left eye of the shark. He took it but before eating it he raised his voice in prayer to his guardian spirit of lua, the god Lono. On completion of his prayer, without disgust he ate the eye, accompanying it with a bit of broiled breadfruit. This accompaniment of breadfruit, whose name ulu means growth, would bring the growth of strength, fearlessness, and skill to him.

This was done with the offering of graduation prayers for the binding of strength to Kekūhaupi‘o. Then Koaia again spoke:

Ah, this final offering of ours has gone well. All that remains is the attempt of the pupil with his teacher. If your cleverness and strength are great, then you shall prevail over your teacher. Be open, clever in grasping, then stand taut before the adversary. Prepare yourself, and if you are vigilant in every way you shall overcome me.

Slowly, then, they prepared to wrestle and show their skills. One of them was to use all his readiness to enable him to escape from the other. Koaia enwrapped Kekūhaupi‘o with his lua hold, and Kekūhaupi‘o released his grip. Although Koaia had held him as though bound, like an eel he sank away out of the hold.

For some time they wrestled, the one trying to prevail over the other. At one time it seemed as though the victory was slanted toward the pupil because of his preparedness and youthfulness, but we must understand that Koaia was a man most skilled in bone-breaking, who had been victorious over every one of his opponents for many years. He was a subject of conversation because of his proficiency and was feared by those who contested him. Is this student, who had been so patiently schooled, about to triumph?

The strength of this lua teacher of Kapalilua had not lessened, as he was not a weak old man. He was very large, perhaps taller than his pupil, more than six feet in height, long armed, crowned with strength and possessing great skill in bone-breaking. Therefore, it would be very difficult for the victory to be slanted toward Kekūhaupi‘o. However, we shall see, O reader of this remarkable story of this famous warrior of the era of the ancient chiefs of our beloved land.

For a long time they attempted to prevail, one over the other, and the sweat rolled from their bodies. When Koaia held his pupil in a lua hold he would score a point. But Kekūhaupi‘o would counter with a point learned from his teacher. They contested with each other from side to side of the shelter, and there were no eyes to observe this fight between teacher and pupil. At one time Koaia gasped for breath, not having the strength of his youth, and he said to his pupil that they should rest a little. They did so, and then resumed the contest. We should remember, readers, that Kekūhaupi‘o did not become short of breath and would not have, the reason being his training as a runner when he had been taught at his father’s home in Ke‘ei, and also his practice with the spear and the staff.

While they were resting the teacher said:

E Kekūhaupi‘o, I see how you will fight in the future. Very few people will be able to stand before you on the battlefield. I have observed the development of your musculature and of your physique—this type of fighting body was called by our ancients “he moa lawa” [man of great strength]. You are sufficiently strong whereas your hands spring from the strong foundation of a body equipped with strong, mature bones. The most important thing for you is to be very cautious when you begin with your opponent. Alert observance of his condition, previously unknown to you, shall secure you victory, for you will study his weaknesses. This is one of the first rules of this type of fighting in which we are engaged. It is important for you to notice whether he is left-handed, if so it will be easy for you to overcome him, having practiced some strokes with your left hand.

Perhaps these words are sufficient: let us resume. However, my pupil, if I am overcome by you this day, then you will be the very first to triumph over Koaia, the lua instructor of chiefs. Let us get on with the remaining strokes, and when it is done we shall return to the rope knotted by the gods (piko kaula nakinaki a nā akua). When they had again rested, they sprang again to the attempt to overcome one another. The expertise of Koaia’s pupil was very great. Koaia attempted the stroke he had not taught to Kekūhaupi‘o, thinking that by this stroke he would bind him. However, the teacher was astounded that his pupil, with great skill, opened up the hold by which he had bound him. When Kekūhaupi‘o did this, Koaia said to him:

E ku‘u haumana ali‘i, I have seen your truly great skill, and I am unable to bind you with that last stroke which I had not taught you, thinking that by this I would be saved from you. But I see that it has become as “bath water” to you, my pupil, and I think that you have conquered me, not because of your hold on me, but because of your youth and great patience in learning this profession. Let us cease our performance. However let me tell you that there is absolutely no one who can “slap your head”4 in the future. There is no one who is completely able in this fighting skill of our ancestors and who is also able to throw the ‘īkoi and bind up a man with great cleverness.

When Kekūhaupi‘o heard these words from his instructor, he agreed with some regret because, inwardly, he realized that they had not engaged in the contest for long when he was secured by his instructor with the lua grip.


It would be proper, also, for the writer of this remarkable story of Kekūhaupi‘o to explain the nature of the ‘īkoi, or tripping club used by the ancients. This was one of the very clever professions taught by this Hawaiian race, however, it was also used by the people who attacked and plundered others in ancient times. The proper basis for this instruction was in connection with warfare. However criminal persons converted this discipline into a means of robbery. Along with the teaching of this art, the means of releasing from strokes, which someone might think of using, was also taught. It was a matter of course for persons adept in lua, if they were going far, to carry a staff for this was their escape from anyone who threw the ‘īkoi at them. That staff protected them from entanglement at the hands of a person who attacked them. The ali‘i delegate Kūhiō is perhaps the person living at this time who was taught portions of this ancient means of fighting. He was taught some lua strokes, and the throwing of the ‘īkoi. This act of using the ‘īkoi was demonstrated before Queen Kapi‘olani. When Queen Kapi‘olani witnessed this very clever work of the time of her ancestors, she was frightened and directed the old man who was teaching the young ali‘i Kūhiō to cease doing it. By the statement of the ali‘i delegate to the writer of this story, this remarkably clever action displayed the power of that old man in binding a man. One of the very remarkable things was the absolute ability of that old man to bind Kūhiō’s body at any place he desired. The ali‘i described it thus to us:

That old instructor of mine said to me that we were going before Queen Kapi‘olani to show the nature of throwing the ‘īkoi, and the binding where he might desire with the rope of the ‘īkoi in his hand. On arrival before the queen, I stood before my royal aunt, and then the old instructor stood forth, turning and saying these words to the queen: ‘This work, e ku‘u ali‘i, is wound together with the way of robbing men of their lives in ancient times, yet this work was not founded to kill men, but was to strengthen ourselves on the many battlefields of ancient times. Also, it was something employed at the time when strong warriors met, and when they did not triumph with the spear, then, the famous warrior took from a fold of his malo an ‘īkoi with cord. The warrior who had been trained in its use would bind his opponent with great ease. You shall see, e ke ali‘i mō‘ī wahine, the speed with which the young ali‘i is bound by the flying ‘īkoi of our ancestors.

With these words, that old instructor took out an olonā cord fastened to a heavy object with a hole pierced to fasten the cord. He wound the other end of the cord around his right arm, then he turned to the queen and asked: ‘Ea e ke ali‘i mō‘ī wahine, where do you wish me to bind him with the ‘īkoi?’ The queen immediately replied he should attempt to bind my right arm and body in the hold he wished. Then the old man instructed me [Kūhiō] to stand prepared and raise up my left arm as though I was a left-handed man about to hurl a spear at him, leaving my right arm by my side. I did so and in a brief moment before I realized it, he threw that ‘īkoi and it bound my right arm. What I did realize was that the ‘īkoi was thrown below my thighs, and my body and right arm were bound. I was unable to prevent my entire body and arm from being bound by that cord.After that he called to me to stand as though I was holding a spear with my right hand and attempt to hurl the spear at him, and in a brief moment my body and left arm were wound and absolutely bound, and he was able to pull so that I fell to the ground. Again, I stood and attempted to go before him while he held the “flying ‘īkoi” and when he threw it, my neck was wound about with the cord. When my neck was thus bound, the queen became frightened because of the work of this old man and she said to him that he must not teach me that knowledge of throwing the ‘īkoi, since this was truly a deed which killed men.

Perhaps that is why I do not know the profession of the flying ‘īkoi of our ancient people. Afterwards I attempted to ask that old man to teach me, disregarding the ban by the queen, but he would not consent to break his oath to Queen Kapi‘olani, and this is the reason for my ignorance of this genuinely skilled profession of our ancestors. However, I was taught some strokes of lua but did not become an adept and did not know and have forgotten most of those clever lua strokes.


Let us return to our story of Kekūhaupi‘o, the most famous warrior of old Hawai‘i. If this story had been set in other lands the foreigners might think it to be a theatrical presentation, and not a true story of the bravest warrior chief of Hawai‘i. However, we shall show some of the most important deeds of this famous chief. After the lua contest between the teacher and his pupil which we previously described, Kekūhaupi‘o was reluctant to break off, so Koaia brought out the materials for the use of the ‘īkoi and said to his pupil:

You shall take the defensive staff and I shall hurl the ‘īkoi in an attempt to ensnare you. Be very vigilant with the staff I have given you: without it you can be caught by the ‘īkoi. In the future, when you go to lonely places, do not forget to take that staff in your hand, it is the best means by which to escape this weapon of our ancestors. Also, be very vigilant as to how the ‘īkoi is thrown at you. If it is below, at your legs, then the staff shall be as a third leg to protect you, and also, if at the upper part of your body and arms, then it shall be an addition to protect you from the attempt to bind you. Are you ready?

Kekūhaupi‘o quickly assented, standing ready with the staff in his hand. Perhaps here it would be best to explain the reason for the staff so that readers of this new era can understand its use, although in a previous issue the use of the ‘īkoi by the Hawaiian people was described.

That staff in his hand would form a third partner for his legs as a defense when the ‘īkoi was hurled. When the rope attached to the ‘īkoi wound around his legs, the staff would cause the rope to slip to the ground. Also, if a clever person lacked a staff he could open out his legs if the rope was about to wind about them, and then draw his legs together so that the rope would fall down. This is only a little explanation for the benefit of the new generations of this land so they will know of this clever weapon of our ancestors. Perhaps some of our readers will be irritated by this verbosity, but we publish this remarkable old story to educate our readers. How many persons living today know of the skill of our ancestors? Therefore, forgive this explanation concerning our ancestors’ methods of fighting.

When Kekūhaupi‘o assumed his defensive stand, Koaia’s observant eye noted it, but before action commenced he said: “If in this action I do not prevail over you, then we shall change over, and you shall hurl the ‘īkoi and I shall defend myself. What do you think, my chiefly pupil?” “Perhaps by this means you shall truly see, my teacher, the readiness of your pupil, but will it not be only a guess if you alone secure me, and I only release the snare which you hurl?” Koaia laughed at these words, understanding the great desire of his pupil to prevail over him by some means. Then he called out: “Stand ready, O lua student who ate the burning eye of the terrifying niuhi of the ocean. Stand forth and show the cleverness your teacher has taught you.” Then, like the whirling of a windmill in a high wind, the rope in his hand sped, yet it was observed by the unsleeping eye of the famous warrior of Ke‘ei of the Kona districts in the famous calm of ‘Ehu. With the sound of the wind the ‘īkoi wound itself around his legs, and equally as alert as his teacher, Kekūhaupi‘o set his staff outside his legs as the rope wound about, then moved his staff closer and the rope fell uselessly. Koaia quickly pulled his rope back without giving Kekūhaupi‘o the time to seize the head of the ‘īkoi and pull it from him, for by that means its thrower could be toppled by the one he meant to ensnare.

With great cleverness Koaia rewound his rope and again the rope tied to the ‘īkoi whizzed around Kekūhaupi‘o’s body, but he parried with his staff, holding it out from his body so that the rope simply fell down. Before Kekūhaupi‘o was able to bend down, the ‘īkoi again left the hand of Koaia with the sound of the wind and the dirt flew up in front of Kekūhaupi‘o’s feet. Koaia had thrown the ‘īkoi between his pupil’s legs, but Kekūhaupi‘o set his staff out from his neck because he realized this was a feint by his teacher to bind his neck and then wind between his thighs. This was a very clever stroke—one which a certain old man later performed before Queen Kapi‘olani to terrify the queen by binding the neck of Kūhiō, and he was commanded not to teach that stroke.

The teacher’s cleverness was rendered ineffectual before his pupil’s defense. Again Koaia retrieved his ‘īkoi and hurled it in a deceptive way as though he thought to ensnare a portion of the body, however he cast at the feet, and before Kekūhaupi‘o was able to return his staff to his legs, the rope sank below his legs. Like a flash of lightning Kekūhaupi‘o spread his legs, and at the moment Koaia thought to pull his rope and topple his pupil, the rope fell without fulfilling the teacher’s desire. Then Koaia spoke these prideful words:

Truly great is the cleverness and vigilance of my pupil. Perhaps there is no cleverness that can bind you, only if your eyes are closed, or you do not see the weapon at the moment it is hurled. There will be pride in the future because of captives taken by your skill.

Then they rested, the pupil thinking of demonstrating his proficiency in hurling the ‘īkoi at the one who had taught him. Likewise, my good reader, even as Kekūhaupi‘o hinted to his teacher, perhaps there is a morsel remaining in the “empty calabash” of Ka Hoku o Hawaii. When Koaia realized he had been unable to capture his pupil with the ‘īkoi, he gave it to Kekūhaupi‘o, saying:

‘Auhea ‘oe, my pupil, you have the knowledge from your teacher. Now, attempt to cast the ‘īkoi at me, and if you are able to ensnare me, then you are the very best of the students I have taught and, as I have already said, you are the best of them all in your knowledge of our ancestors’ methods of fighting.

As Koaia finished speaking they prepared for the test of skills between them. Kekūhaupi‘o acutely observed his teacher’s stance, and his inquiring eye noted Koaia’s alertness. Although he was an old man he appeared to be of equal years with Kekūhaupi‘o. When Kekūhaupi‘o threw the ‘īkoi his teacher quickly warded it off and the rope fell harmlessly. Kekūhaupi‘o again attempted to cast it over his arms, but Koaia opened out his arms and the attempt failed. Then Kekūhaupi‘o studied his opponent for any weakness and noticed that Koaia opened out one arm quite far, and then he remembered his teacher’s dust-throwing ruse, so that he cast the ‘īkoi between his opponent’s legs planning to cause it to wind slantwise around his teacher’s right arm. When Kekūhaupi‘o whirled the ‘īkoi and cast at the dirt, where Koaia stood, it went between Koaia’s thighs, then Kekūhaupi‘o quickly raised his hand with such speed of execution that Koaia was unable to protect himself. The rope, lying between Koaia’s thighs wound around his right arm, and when Kekūhaupi‘o raised the rope Koaia toppled over in front of his pupil. Kekūhaupi‘o quickly freed his teacher and helped him to stand but the fall had knocked the wind out of him. For a few moments he stood with amazed face, and when he had recovered his breath he said admiringly:

E Kekūhaupi‘o ē, you have achieved an excellence in combat which I have seen for the first time in anyone—here I stand before you as the prisoner of your skill. This is the very first time victory has been achieved over your teacher. You have triumphed because of your great vigilance and alertness. You shall broaden your knowledge of this type of combat and in the future will be able to thwart famous warriors.

As they had finished, they returned to the teacher’s dwelling, where they roasted a black pig in the imu and Kekūhaupi‘o feasted with his beloved teacher, with much good conversation. Thereafter Kekūhaupi‘o prepared to return to the home of his father, who was the konohiki at Ke‘ei. When all the young warrior’s bundles were ready he bade his teacher farewell and boarded his father’s double canoe which awaited him and he returned with joy to his parents’ home.

On his arrival in Ke‘ei he was greeted with admiration by the Ke‘ei folk, because their young warrior had returned having successfully completed his training. His father received him with enthusiasm, prepared a feast which they enjoyed together and said to him:

‘Auhea ‘oe, my beloved son, I have prepared you with the knowledge of combat which is not only for my benefit, but for assistance to our haku ali‘i. While you were staying in Kapalilua an inquiry arrived about us and I reported your readiness in various methods of combat. The last word of command I received from Ali‘i Alapa‘i was that, when your instruction was finished, you be brought into the presence of the chiefs to show your preparedness in combat for, my beloved son, our haku ali‘i has the voice of power. Therefore, after our feast, when you have seen your family and the playmates of your youth, we shall go to Kohala, as our royal chiefs are gathered at Kokoiki to await the lying-in of Chiefess Keku‘iapoiwa.

His father’s words seemed good to Kekūhaupi‘o, as he desired to appear at the court and to know the brave men of the court, famous for their fearlessness in combat.

After the meal Kekūhaupi‘o went to see his close family and his old playmates, who saw in him a warrior trained in the ancestral arts of combat. Some of these young men went with him to fight under the Conqueror of the Pacific at the time of Kamehameha’s very first battle at Moku‘ōhai in which his hoahānau Kīwala‘ō was killed by him,5 and when Keōua and Keawemauhili6 were put to flight. Perhaps our story will go as far as this famous battle. His haku ali‘i designated him to serve Pai‘ea, the “Napoleon of the Pacific” and to instruct him in warfare.

Kekūhaupi‘o and his father then departed for Kokoiki at Kohala, to join the court of Alapa‘inui, the ruler of Hawai‘i in those days, and to meet the chiefs of the districts of Ka‘ū, Hilo, and Hāmākua who also were gathered there.

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