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Kohapi'olani- Father of Kekuhaupi'o and his first Olohe


By the time Kekuhaup'io 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 Kohapi'olani, 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 Kohapiolani, 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.

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.


Desha, Stephen L. "Kamehameha and his warrior Kekūhaupi‘o. "

Kamehameha Schools Press, Honolulu, 2000.

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