The Weapon Maker’s Art

Wood and cordage, tooth and bone are used to recreate the ancient Hawaiian instruments of war. A modern weapons maker finds connection to a culture.

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pahoa dagger
A pahoa (Kauai-style dagger) Kai made from kauila wood.

Common Hawaiian Weapons

ihe                      spear
ihe laumeki         barbed spear
ka‘ane                strangling cord
kao lele              dart; javelin
ko‘oko‘o             cane used for close-range fencing
la‘au palau         long-handled club
leiomano            shark-toothed slashing tool
ma‘a                   sling
maka lua            dagger for gouging eyes
newa                  short-handled club
pahi kaua           sword
pahoa               dagger
pikoi                 tripping cord
pololu               battle pike

Women as warriors

Women in pre-Contact Hawai‘i played key roles on the battlefield—retrieving and handing weapons to warriors, tending the wounded, and sometimes fighting alongside their sons and husbands. A legend of Kaua‘i describes how Kane-wahine-iki-aohe, wife of the great warrior Kawelo, helped him defeat the evil giant Kauahoa.

As Kauahoa rushed toward Kawelo, wielding a magic koa tree as a club, Kawelo directed Kane-wahine-iki-aohe to throw her pikoi [a club fastened with a rope for tripping] around the branches of Kauahoa’s club, and to stand fast.

She did, and as the tree pulled to one side, Kawelo’s comrades grabbed its branches and held onto them with all their might. While Kauahoa tried to free his club from the entanglements, Kawelo ran behind him and dealt him a fatal blow with his newa.

Hawaiian wooden weaponLinks to the past

‘Umi Kai makes and sells weapons and other Hawaiian implements through his company, Ulu Pono Designs. Although most of his creations are made to order, he participates in a few cultural festivals each year, including the Native Hawaiian Arts Market held at Bishop Museum in May—one of the signature events of Maoli Arts Month (maoliartsmonth.org).

Prices for Kai’s work start at $75. For more information, contact Kai via e-mail at ulupono1@ gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for your insight and knowledge, your work is amazing. What was the average weight of most of these weapons?

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