Hawaiian Antiquities (Mo`ōlelo Hawai`i)
By David Malo, Honolulu Hawaiian Gazette Co., Ltd.



Sports and Games: Puhenehene or Pa-Puhene

Puhenehene was a game that was played at night. The people were seated in two rows facing each other.

Then a long piece of tapa, made perhaps by stitching several pieces together, was stretched between one party and the other.

When the assembly had been brought to order the president whistled a call on the puheoheo, or called out "puheoheo," and all the company answered "puheoheo". This done a man stood forth and chanted a gay and pleasing song.

Then three men lifted up the long tapa. already described, and with it covered over and concealed from view one of the groups of players.

One of the men of the number who were concealed then hid the pebble which was called a no’a1 The tapa which curtained or covered them was then removed, and the men, one of whom had the no'a, then leaned forward and looked down2.

Then the other side made a guess where the no'a was. If the guess was correct it counted for them, if not for the other party. When either side scored ten it had the victory; somebody would then start up a hula-dance.


1 The no'a was a small pebble, and it was hidden on the person of one of the players.

2 The purpose of leaning forward was to conceal the countenance as much as possible, because it was as much by the study of the countenance as in any other way that one was to judge which of the players had the no'a about him.    Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Kukini (Running Foot-Races)

Foot-racing, kukini, was a very popular amusement. It was associated with betting and was conducted in the following manner:

The kukini, or swift runners, were a class of men who were trained1 with great severity and made to practice running very frequently, until they had attained great speed. When the people wished to indulge in betting a number of the fastest of this class were selected and two of this number were chosen to run a race.

Those who thought one man was the faster runner of the two bet their property on him, and those who thought the other was the faster, bet their property on him.

When people had made their bets, the experts came to judge by physical examination which of the two runners was likely to win, after which they made their bets. One man, after staking all his property, pledged his wife and his own body (pili hihia), another man bet property he had borrowed from another (piii kaua). When all the pledges had been deposited (kieke, literally bagged) the betting was at an end.

The runners (kukini) then took their station at the starting point and a pole with a flag was planted at the goal. The race might be over a long course or a short one: that was as the runners agreed.

It was a rule of the game that if both runners reached the goal at the same instant, neither party won (aole no eo) , it was a dead heat (pai wale). It was when one reached the goal ahead of the other that he was declared victor. In that case the winners made great exultation over their victory.

Sometimes a runner would sell out2 the race to his opponent and let a third person stake his property on the other runner. This was the practice in kukini.


1  According to other authorities if should be ka'i, ko'h-ee, to practice, train, exercise. The runner was first exercised in walking on his toes, without touching the heel of the foot to the ground. Then he was set to running, at first for a short distance and at a moderate pace. Finally he was made to run at full speed for great distances. While in training they were denied poi and all soggy, heavy food, but were fed on rare-done flesh of the fowl, and roasted vegetables, taro, sweet-potato, bread-fruit, etc.

Kaohele, son of Kumukoa, a king of Molokai who was cotemporary with Alapai-nui of Hawaii, was a celebrated kukini. It is related of him that he could run from Kaluaaha as far as to Halawa and return before a fish put on the fire at the time of his starting had time to be roasted. "E kui ka mama' i loaa o Kaohele." You must double (literally piece out) your speed to catch Kaohele.

Uluanui of Oahu, a rival and friend of Kaohele, was a celebrated footrunner. It was said of him that he could carry a fish from the Kaelepulu pond in Kailua, round by way of Waialua and bring it in to Waikiki while it was still alive and wriggling.

Makoko was a celebrated runner of Kamehameha I on Hawaii. It was said of him that he could carry a fish from the pond at Waiakea, in Hilo, and reach Kailua before it was dead. The distance is a little over a hundred miles, making it, of course, an impossible story. But it would be unkind to take such statements with utter literalness.

2  The Hawaiian text reads. "O kekahi poe, nolunolu na hai ke eo, a na hai e lipi ka lakou waiwai, pela ka hana ana ma ke kukini." Only by removing the comma after poe and rearranging the letters in the word lipi, which should evidently be pili, is it possible to make sense out of this passage. It is curious to note the same corrupt practice, of selling out a race, in ancient Hawaii, as prevails in the civilized world to-day.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Maika

Rolling the maika stone was a game on which much betting was done. The manner of conducting the game was as follows:

When people wanted the excitement of betting they hunted up the men who were powerful in rolling the maika stone, and every man made his bet on the one whom he thought to be the strongest player.

The experts also studied the physique of the players, as well as the signs and omens, after which the betting went to ruinous lengths.

Now the maika was a stone which was fashioned after the shape of a wheel, thick at the centre and narrow at the circumference
– a biconvex disc. It was also called an ulu, this thing with which the game of maika was played.

The ulu-maika (by which name the stone disc, or the game itself was called) was made from many varieties of stone, and they were accordingly designed after the variety of stone from which they were made.

The game of maika was played on a road-way, or kahua, made specially for the purpose. When all had made their bets the maika-players came to the maika-course.

The ulu which the first man hurled was said to be his kumu, mua, i.e., his first basis or pledge; in the same way the ulu which the second player hurled, or bowled, was called his kumu.

If the second player outdid the first player's shot he scored. If they both went the same distance it was a dead heat.

But if the second player did not succeed in out-doing the first man's play the score was given to the first player.


The game of maika was a most worthy and noble sport. It is not an easy matter to obtain definite information as to some points in the game, whether sometimes the play was not to drive the ulu between two stakes set up at a distance, whether the ulu-maika of the first player was removed from the course as soon as it came to a standstill, by what means the point reached by the ulu was marked, if it was removed from the course in order to clear the track for the next player. These are some of the questions to which I have been able to obtain only partial and unsatisfactory answers. There was no doubt a great diversity of practice as to these points on the different islands, and even in the different parts of the same island.

The principal point to be made was, so far as I can learn, to send the ulu to as great a distance as possible. When an ulu had come to a standstill it was probably removed from the track and the place of its fall marked by a little flag, or stake, set in the ground opposite and outside of the track. According to some, however, the ulu was allowed to remain in the track as it fell, thus adding an obstacle to the success of the player who had the next throw. But this method is so clearly opposed to all fair play that I cannot believe it was the general practice.

The ulu, maika, or ulu-maika (for by all these names was the thing called) was of various sizes, being all the way from two and a quarter to six inches in diameter. The size most ordinarily used, if one may judge from specimens seen in museums and private collections, was perhaps from three to four inches. It was in some cases made one-sided to enable it to follow the bend of a curved track, one of which description I remember to have seen on the plains back of Kaunakakai, on Molokai.

There is said to have been another of the same kind at Lanikaula, also on Molokai. There is said to be a kahua-maika at Ka-lua-ko'i, on the mountain of Maunaloa, at the western end of Molokai, which to this day remains in a fair state of preservation. There must also be many others scattered through the group.

N. B. – The half-grown bread-fruit, which is generally of a globular shape was much used in playing this game, and undoubtedly gave its name, ulu, both to the thing itself and to the sport. Spherical stones, evidently fashioned for use in this game, are objects occasionally met with. From the fact that the stone ulu is of spherical shape – in evident imitation of the fruit – as well as that all the specimens met with have been fashioned out of a coarse, vesicular stone that is incapable of smooth finish or polish, while the material from which the maika is made, has in the majority of cases been a close, fine-grained basalt, leads to the conclusion that the ulu was the early form, and the maika the product of later evolution. Mr. S. Percy Smith suggests that the word ulu probably meant originally "round," "spherical," as in the word for "head."  Back to Contents



Sports and Games Pahee

The game of pahee was one which people played at odd times, whenever they were so inclined, and it was associated with betting.

A short javelin, made from the hard wood of the ulei or kauila was the instrument used in playing pahee. It was made thick at the forward end, the head, and tapered off towards the tail-end. One man cast his javelin, and when it had come to a stand still, the other man, cast, and whichever javelin went farther than the other, it counted for him who threw it.

After each one had made his bet the players went to the tail-end.

He who first scored ten won the game.


The pahee or javelin was cast on a roadway or piece of sward, in such a way as to slide or skip along, over the ground. It was a very interesting game. Betting was no doubt a very common fault of old Hawaiian life, but it is not exactly true that betting was an accompaniment to every game that was played in ancient Hawaii.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Heihei-Waa (Canoe-Racing)

The ancient Hawaiians were very fond of betting on a canoe-race. When they wished to indulge this passion, people selected a strong crew of men to pull their racing canoes.

Each man then put up his bet on that crew which was in his opinion composed of the strongest canoe-paddlers, and, the betting being over, they started out for the race.

If the canoe was of the kind called the kioloa (a sharp and narrow canoe, made expressly for racing) there might be but one man to paddle it, but if it was a large canoe, there might be two, three, or a large number of paddlers, according to the size of the canoe.

The racing canoes paddled far out to sea – some, however, staid close in to the land (to act as judges, or merely perhaps as spectators), and then they pulled for the land, and if they touched the beach at the same time it was a dead heat; but if a canoe reached the shore first it was the victor, and great would be the exultation of the men who won, and the sorrow of those who lost their property.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Hee-Nalu (Surf-Riding)

Surf-riding was a national sport of the Hawaiians, on which they were very fond of betting, each man staking his property on the one he thought to be the most skilful.

When the bets were all put up, the surf-riders, taking their boards with them, swam out through the surf, till they had reached the waters outside of the surf. These surf-boards were made broad and flat, generally hewn out of koa1; a narrower board, however, was made from the wood of the wiliwili2.

One board would be a fathom in length, another two fathoms, and another four fathoms, or even longer3.

The surf-riders, having reached the belt of water outside of the surf, the region where the rollers began to make head, awaited the incoming of a wave, in preparation for which they got their boards under way by paddling with their hands until such time as the swelling wave began to lift and urge them forward. Then they speeded for the shore until they came opposite to where was moored a buoy, which was called a pua.

If the combatants passed the line of this buoy together it was a dead heat; but if one went by it in advance of the other he was the victor.

A i ka au hou ana, o ka mea i komo i ka pua hoomawaena mai oia, aole e hiki i ke kulana, o ka eo no ia nana; pela ka he'e nalu4.


1  Koa, the same wood as that of which the canoe was generally made.

2  Wili-wili, a light, cork-like wood, used in making floats for the outriggers of canoes, for nets, and a variety of other similar purposes.

3  The longest surf-board at the Bishop Museum is sixteen feet in length. It is difficult to see how one of greater length could be of any service, and even when of such dimensions it must have required great address to manage it. It was quite sufficient if the board was of the length of the one who used it. One is almost inclined to doubt the accuracy of David Malo's statement that it was sometimes four, or even more, fathoms in length. If any thinks it an easy matter to ride the surf on a board, a short trial will perhaps undeceive him.

4  I am unable to give a satisfactory translation of this section. – It has been suggested to me that the meaning of is that the victory was declared only after more than one heat, a rubber, if necessary. The Hawaiian text should be corrected as follows: A i ka au hou ana i ka mea i komo i ka pu-a i ho-o mawaena mai oia aole e hiki i ke kulana o ka eo ia nana. Pela ka hee-nalu.


5  Surf-riding was one of the most exciting and noble sports known to the Hawaiians, practiced equally by king, chief and commoner. It is still to some extent engaged in, though not as formerly, when it was not uncommon for a whole community, including both sexes, and all ages, to sport and frolic in the ocean the livelong day. While the usual attitude was a reclining on the board face downwards, with one, or both arms folded and supporting the chest, such dexterity was attained by some that they could maintain their balance while sitting, or even while standing erect, as the board was borne along at the full speed of the inrolling breaker. Photographs can be given in proof of this statement.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Hee-Holua (Holua-Sledding)

Sliding down hill on the holua-sled was a sport greatly in vogue among chiefs and people, and one on the issue of which they were very fond of making bets, when the fit took them.

The holua was a long course laid out down the steep incline of a hill and extending onto the level plain.

Rocks were first laid down, then earth was put on and beaten hard, lastly the whole was layered with grass, and this was the track for the holua-sled to run on.

The runners of the holua-sled were made of mamane, or of uhiuhi wood, chamfered to a narrow edge below, with the forward end turned up, so as not to dig into the ground, and connected with each other by means of cross-pieces in a manner similar to the joining of a double-canoe.

On top of the cross-pieces boards were then laid, as in flooring the pola of a canoe. This done and the runners lubricated with oil of the kukui-nut, the sled was ready for use.

The bets having been arranged, the racers took their stations at the head of the track; the man who was ranged in front gave his sled a push to start it and mounted it, whereupon his competitor who was to his rear likewise started his sled and followed after. He who made the longest run was the victor. In case both contestants travelled the length of the course, it was a dead heat and did not decide who was victor.

The victory was declared for the player who made the best run.


The course of an old-time holua slide is at the present writing clearly to be made out sloping down the foot-hills back of the Kamehameha School. The track is of such a width – about 18 feet – as to preclude the possibility of two sleds travelling abreast. It is substantially paved with flat stones, which must have held their position for many generations. The earth that once covered them has been mostly washed away. The remains of an ancient kahua holua are also to be made out at Keauhou, or were a few years ago.

From the sample of the holua sled to be seen at the Bishop museum, it seems a wonder that any one was able to ride the sled down such a descent as either one of the two just mentioned, or to keep on the thing at all. The two runners are in the specimen at the museum twelve and a half feet long, are set about1 two and a half inches apart at the narrow, sliding edge, and about six inches apart on top, where the body of the man rests. A more difficult feat by far it must have been to ride on this tipsy affair at speed than to keep one's balance on the back of a horse, a la circus-rider; yet it is asserted that there were those who would ride down hill on the holua-sled at break-neck speed maintaining at the same time an erect position. It hardly seems credible. The swift rush of the toboggan is as nothing to this.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Noa

Noa was a sport that was extremely popular with people and chiefs. The number of those, including chiefs, who were beggared by this game was enormous.

The people are seated in two groups facing each other, and five bundles or tapa are placed on a mat) between the two groups. These bundles are to hide the noa under, and beginning- with the Kihipuka1, which completes the list.

Two well-skilled persons were chosen to hide the noa. This was a small piece of wood or of stone. Bets having been made, one side by their player hid their noa under one of the piles of tapa.

This done, the player sat still and shut his eyes.

The opposite side, who had attentively watched the man while he was hiding the noa, made a guess as to its position. If they guessed correctly, it counted for them. The other side then made their guess, and that side which first scored ten won the game.

Sometimes a man, when he lost his property and was reduced to poverty, took it so greatly to heart that he became bitter and desperate. He would then, perhaps, risk everything he had and become beggared, or actually go crazy through grief.

After losing everything else2, people would sometimes stake their wives, or children, speaking of the former as an old sow, and the latter as shoats. These were some of the results of noa.


1  A Hawaiian who says he used to see the game of noa played in his boyhood on the island of Molokai, informs me that according to his recollection, the piles of tapa were named in this order: Kihipuka, Pilimoe, Kau, Pilipuka, Kihimoe. He gives me the following, which he heard recited by the man who was hiding the noa :

Ala la, aia la,
     There it is, there it is,

I ke Kau, i ke Pili, i ka Moe,
     Under the kau, tinder the pili, under the moe,

Ilaila e ku ai ka noa a kaua. E ku!
     There is lodged our noa. It's lodged!

2  It was not an unknown thing for a man, having exhausted other resources, to stake his own body, pili iwi as it was called. If he lost he was at least the slave of the winner, who might put his body to what' use he pleased. If put to death by his master he would be called a moe-puu, i.e., he joined the great heap, or majority of the dead, "ka puu nui o ka make." Death was the puu nui. There was evident allusion to the same thought in the expression "moe puu," applied to the human sacrifices that were in ancient times made at the death of a king.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Pu-kaula (Juggling)

Pukaula or juggling was a great betting game. It was played by experts, through whose skill a great many people were taken in and victimized. An outsider stood no chance of winning from the slight-of-hand-performer, unless the juggler saw that the audience was too small, in which case he let someone win from him.

And after people began to think they had a show for winning they gathered in crowds about the jugglers and staked all their property, thinking they were sure to win. When the jugglers saw this and that the betting was heavy, they changed their tactics and managed it so that they themselves should win.  In playing the game of pukaula an olona line several fathoms long was used (The author says a fathom long; but that is clearly impossible.) which is braided very closely and smoothly and was about the size of a watch-guard.

When the jugglers came on to the ground where they were to exhibit, they started in by repeating some sort of jingle (kepakepa1) which tickled the fancy of the people, and they accordingly crowded up and filled the place.

The performers very cunningly gave one end of the line into the hands of one man and the other end into the hands of another man to hold, and then did their tricks with the middle part of the line2.

The juggler artfully tied the middle part of the line up into a knot and then asked the people "what do you think about the knot?"

Being sure from their own observation that the knot was a tight one, they bet that it would hold. Then the juggler and the ones who made bets struck hands and pledged3 themselves to stick to their bargain. The ends of the rope were then pulled, and according to whether the knot held or no, did the jugglers or the others win.

Men and women as well in large numbers were driven to desperation at their losses in this game. A woman would sometimes put her own body at stake and lose it to the juggler, in which case she became his property.

Men were affected with the same craze and likewise became the slaves of the jugglers. They were let off only when they paid a heavy ransom.


1 Kepakepa. The meaning of this word is to amuse, amusement.

2 The statement that the juggler allowed outsiders to hold the ends of the line is on the face of it absurd and improbable. So I am told by those who have seen something of the game.

3 The pledge was, no doubt, in the form that was very commonly used in connection with solemn affirmations, "Pau Pele, pau mano" as much as to say, Let me be destroyed by Pele, or by the shark, if I do not keep my oath.

My informant says the rope he once saw used in the play was three fathoms long.

4 The following is communicated to me as a sample of a Kepakepa, recitative, it could hardly be called a jingle – such as was used by the pu-kaula or juggler in baiting and fascinating his audience. It is to all intents a prayer to Kana, the god of jugglery and of jugglers.

E Kana. E Kana.
     Oh Kana. Oh Kana.

E mahulu-ku, e kii lalau,
     Rough line of hala-root, or bark of hau.

E kuhi a leo, e ka moe,
     Point and declare as to the sleeper,

Ka hanai a Uli.
     The foster child of Uli.

Kuu'a mai kou kapa kaula.
     Put on your rope-body,

Hoalu mai kou kapa kanaka,
     Lay off your human form,

I ka pu a kaua, e Kana.
     In this trick of yours and mine, oh Kana,

Kana was a kupua – a word which has no exact equivalent in our language, though perhaps the word demi-god comes nearest to it; it was a being more than human or heroic and less than divine. His father was Hakalanileo, his mother Hina-ai-ka-malama. The scene of his nativity and childhood was Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. His birth was remarkable.  His little body at its first appearance seemed only a small piece of cord and was put one side as of no account. The goddess Uli, however, recognized the nature of the being and put him in a place of safety.

The nutriment suitable for the sustenance and growth of a kupua are hoomana, i.e., adoration and worship, and awa. Through the care of Uli, his foster mother, the spiritual and physical necessities of Kana were well supplied and he grew apace. His growth was only in length, not in circumference. Under the stimulus of hoomanamana and awa, the growth of Kana was so great that after a time the house in which he had been placed grew too narrow for him and another one had to be built for his accommodation. To all appearance Kana was merely an enormous length of line; but he was a demi-god of tremendous power.

The following is a sample of the spiritual, or worshipful, incense,  which was daily offered to him (without it any kupua must dwindle and fade into nothingness) and which was an Inoa, i.e., a name:

la moku kele-Kahiki i ke ao ua o Haka,
     To the craft voyaging to Tahiti amid the rain-clouds of Kana,

O Plakalanileo hoowiliwili Hilo,
     King of Hilo, land of cloud-portents,

Hookaka'a ka lani, kaka'a ka iloli,
     Portents in the heavens, commotions in t'he womb.

Wehiwehi ka opua, palamao(a) Kahiki,
     Open and clear are the heavenly signs, a mottling that reaches to Tahiti.

Wai-kahe ka mauna, kaikoo ka moana,
     Freshets in the mountains, wild surf in the ocean

I ka hanau ana o ka ui a Haka.
     At the birth of t'he child of Haka.

Hanau ae o Kana he lino,
     Kana was born a four-stranded rope,

He aho loa, he pauku kaula,
     A long fish-line, a piece of cord,

He kaee koali, he awe pu-maia,
     A line of koali, a thread of banana fibre,

He punawelewele.
     A spider's web,

Hanai ia Uli a ka ihu pi,
     Adopted by Uli, the cross one,

Ka ihu nana, ka mano hae,
     She of the up-tilted nose, a ravenous shark,

Ka ilio hae, keiki alala, keiki omino.
     A barking dog, a puny wailing thing he,

Ku i koholua,(b) ku iki a Kana.
     To be lanced most delicately, this Kana.

Naue na koa,(c) ka elawa i kai,
     The ocean-spearmen rally about him.

Ka pu-koa i kai, ka puoleolei
     The ocean-reefs, the conchs of ocean.,

Ka nihi(d) moe lawa, ka auna(e) lele kai.
     The black shark, t'he sword-fish.

Kou inoa e Kana.
     An ascription this to you. Oh Kana.


(a) Palamoa, mottled, mackerel scales in the sky.


(b) Koholua, a bone from near the tail of certain fishes, that was sharp and used as a lancet.


(c) Koa, soldiers of the ocean, the hihimanu. A sharp bone near the tail.


(d) Nihi, a contracted form of niuhi, a monster shark.


(e) Auna, sword-fish.

Kana had a younger brother named Niheu. When his mother was abducted by Kapepeekauila, a powerful kupua of Molokai, who had his seat in the inaccessible cliffs of that island, he concealed her at a place called Haupukele high up in the mountains. Hakalanileo mourned the loss of his wife so bitterly that Niheu made ready to start on an expedition for her rescue. Uli insisted that he must take his brother Kana with him. So they wrapped his body in a mat and put him in the canoe. On the voyage the sea-turtle did his best to overwhelm the canoe. Kana was the first one to call attention to the monster in the ocean that was threatening them, "ka ea nui, kua-wakawaka." Kana pierced the monster with his spear and he troubled them no more.  Opposite the point of Halawa was a dangerous reef called Pu'upo'i. Warned in time by Kana, Niheu turned the canoe aside and this danger was passed. Arrived at Pelekunu, the inaccessible heights of Haupu-kele-ka-pu'u towered above them. It was there Pepeekauila lived in security with his stolen bride.  From this elevation he commanded a bird's-eye view of the party in the canoe, but to assure himself of their character and probable errand, he sent as messengers and spies the Ulili and Kolea birds to learn the truth.  On their return they reported that it was not a war-canoe, there were no arms or warriors visible. The principal thing to be seen was a large roll of matting which occupied the waist of the canoe. The party on the hill were consequently off their guard.

At the request of Niheu, Kana climbed the hill to bring away their mother. Hina-ai-ka-malama recognized her son and willingly went with him down to the canoe. Keoloewa, the king who had been keeping her as liis wife or paramour, at first offered no objections to her departure;  when, however, she had boarded the canoe, the sense of his loss came over him and he ordered the birds, Ulili and Kolea, to fly and fetch her back. When Kana saw that his mother was gone he took the form of a man, and standing with one foot in one canoe and the other foot in the other canoe, his tall form at first reached above the highest point of the mountain cliff, thus enabling him to seize the body of Hina-ai-ka-malama and restore her to the canoe. But in the effort he found that the hill kept growing in height and getting away from him. Keoloewa and his men hurled down great rocks upon those below. Kana's eyes were as big as the moon. As the hill grew in height Kana also stretched himself up, but the hill kept growing higher, and Kana wondered why. But feeling in the ocean at the roots of the mountain, he found that it was the turtle, ka ea, that was lifting it. Then he tore the ea in pieces and scattered them in the ocean, where they became sea-turtle of many species. From that moment the mountain ceased to grow in height. This ended the fight. Niheu and Kana sailed away in the canoe with their mother, who was thus restored to her husband. Haka-lani-leo. 
Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Kea-Pua, or Pa-Pua

Ke'a-pua was a pastime which was engaged in by great numbers of men, women and children when the Makahiki period came round, because that was the season when the sugar-cane put forth the flowers that were used in this game.

When the tassels were ripe the flower-stems were plucked and laid away to dry. The lower end of the stem was tightly bound with string, after which the point thus made was wetted in the mouth and then thrust into the dirt to become coated with clay.

Matches were then gotten up between different players, and bets were made in which the arrows themselves might be the wagers, but it might be anything else.

A knoll of earth or sand was chosen from which to skate the arrows. One of them would project his arrow and then the other, and so they took turns.

The one who first scored ten points was the winner and took the bet.


A description is necessary to make this beautiful pastime intelligible. The arrow, made from the light and elegant stem of the sugar-cane flower was about two feet long. Posting himself so as to take advantage of a knoll or any slight eminence, the player, holding the arrow well towards its tail-end, ran forward a few steps in a stooping position, and as he reached the desired point, with a downward and forward swing of his arm, projected the arrow at such an angle that it just grazed the surface of the ground, from which if occasionally glanced with a graceful ricochet movement. It is a rare sight to see this game played nowadays, but twenty or thirty years ago, in the season of it it was all the rage from Hawaii to Niihau. It is a pity to see this elegant and invigorating pastime supplanted by less worthy sports.

The mythical hero Hiku, who, with his mother lived on the topmost parts of Hualalai, is said to have had the faculty of calling back to him the arrow he had sent to a distance. He uttered the call "pua-ne.  Pua-ne." And the arrow immediately returned to his hand.  I am informed that the expression used to denote the pastime is ke-apua,  ka-pua, or pa-pua.  Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Haka-Moa (Cock Fighting)

Cock-fighting (haka-moa) was a very fashionable sport with the aliis and was conducted in the following manner. A person who was a good judge of fowls would secure one which he thought to be a good fighter.

A roost was then made, on which to place the cock, and every night a small fire was started under him, to make him lively1.  

Each game-keeper trained his fighting cock in the same manner, until they were paired for a fight.

The day having been set for the match, a multitude of people assembled to witness it, and to bet on the result. When the experts had studied the two cocks and had made up their minds which would fight to the death, they made their bets, betting all their own property, as well as all they could borrow.

When the betting was done, the president, or luna hoomalu, of the assembly stood forth, and a rope was drawn around the cock-pit to keep the people out. Any one who trespassed within this line was put to death.

The cocks were then let loose and the multitude flocked about the cock-pit. If the cocks were equally matched it was a drawn battle (pai iwale); but if one of them ran away from the other, that gave victory to the latter.

The winners always reviled those who lost with insulting and offensive language, saying "you'll have to eat chicken-dung after this" repeating it over and over.


1 It was imagined that the motions made by the cock in thrusting his head to one side and the other, in his efforts to escape the heat and pungent smoke, were just the exercises needed to fit him for his duties as a fighter.  Back to Contents




Sports and Games: The Hula

The hula was a very popular amusement among the Hawaiian people. It was used as a means of conferring distinction upon the aliis and people of wealth. On the birth of an alii the the chiefs and people gave themselves up to the hula, and much property was lavished on hula dancers. The hula most frequently performed by the chiefs was the ka-laau (in which one stick was struck against another).

The children of the wealthy were ardent devotees of the hula. Among the varieties of the hula were the pa'i umauma,  (beating the chest), hula pahu (with a drum accompaniment), and the hula pahu'a, besides which there were also the ala'a-papa, the pa'ipa'i, the pa-ipu, the ulili, the kolani, and the kielei.

It was the custom of hula dancers to perform before the rich in order to obtain gifts from them.


The hula, like all other savage, Polynesian institutions degenerated and went on the run to the bad the moment the white man appeared on the scene. The activity and heat of his passions started a fire that burnt up all the properties at' once. The hula in the ancient times was no better,  no worse than other of the Hawaiian, Polynesian institutions.

The modern hula is no more a fair and true representative of the savage Hawaiian, or Polynesian dance than the Parisian cancan is of a refined and civilized dance.

I regret that I cannot entirely concur with the view expressed above.  I believe that the hula in Hawaii-nei. like the Areoi society in Tahiti,  appealed largely to the baser instincts of the people, and had a debasing influence on them.

But I admit that there were different kinds of hula in ancient times, and that the worst form of it, (which had always been the most popular),  is the one that has survived, and furthermore that foreign influence has helped to keep this relic of heathenism alive. 
Back to Contents



Sports and Games: Mokomoko (Boxing)

During the Makahiki season, when the Makahiki god made his rounds, the people of different districts gathered at one place and held boxing matches.

The multitude being seated in a circle, the backers of one champion stood forth and vaunted the merits of their favorite, who thereupon came forward and made a display of himself,  swaggering, boasting and doubling up his fists.

Then the other side followed suit, made their boasts, had their man stand forth and show himself; and when the champions came together they commenced to beat and pummel each other with their fists.

If one of the boxers knocked down his opponent a shout of exultation went up from those who championed him and they grossly reviled the other side, telling him perhaps to "go and eat chicken-dung."

The one who fell was often badly maimed, having an arm broken, an eye put out, or teeth knocked out. Great misery was caused by these boxing matches.


The Hawaiians do not seem to have used the fore-arm, after the manner of modern practitioners of the "noble art." Each boxer sought to receive his opponent's blow with his own fist. This meeting of fist with fist was very likely the cause of the frequent broken arms.  Back to Contents


Sports and Games: Hakoko (Wrestling)

Hakoko or wrestling was a very popular sport in ancient Hawaii. It was generally done in the midst of a large assembly of people, as the boxing game, mokomoko, was.

The multitude formed a circle, and the wrestlers took their stand in the centre, and then, having seized hold of each other,  they struggled to trip each other with the use of their feet, striving with all their might to throw each other to the ground.

The one who was thrown was beaten. A man who was a strong and skillful wrestler was made much of. Wrestling was much practiced about court, very little in the country districts.  Back to Contents


Sports and Games: Sundry Minor Sports

In addition to the games mentioned, there were a great many little informal sports.

One of these was koi (a child's game, played with a crooked stick, with which one dug into the earth or sand, at the same time repeating some word-jingle or other.)

Panapana – a child's game played with a niau, the small midriff of the coconut leaf. This was bent into the form of a bow in the hand, and, being suddenly released, sprang away by its elasticity.

– a game in which one boy sat astride on the back of another boy who was down on all-fours.

– Two persons would hook ringers together and then pull to see who would hold out the longest, without letting go or straightening out his finger.

Pahipahi – played by slapping hands together, as in the game "bean-porridge hot, bean-porridge cold," etc.

– in which boys turned over and over or turned somersaults on the grass or in the sand.

Lele-koali – swinging on a swing suspended by a single line, for which purpose the strong convolvulus vine, koali, was most often used. When permitted, youths of both sexes delighted to enjoy this sport together, the girl seated on the lap of the boy and facing him.

Lele-kawa – jumping oft" from a height into the deep water. 

– swimming or diving for a small, half-ripe gourd that would barely float in the water.

Pana-iole – shooting mice with bow and arrow. This was a sport much practiced by kings and chiefs. It was the only use which the Hawaiians made of the bow and arrow. A place somewhat like a cockpit was arranged in which to shoot the mice.

Kuialua – This was an exhibition of Ina for amusement. Lua was a murderous system of personal combat which combined tricks of wrestling with bone-breaking, the dislocation of limbs,  and other thug-like methods that put it outside the pale of civilized warfare. It was used by robbers.


It' seems remarkable that David Malo should make no mention of a large number of games that were of established vogue and popularity among the ancient Hawaiians. Such as:

Konane – a game played with black and white pebbles on a checkerboard laid out in squares at right angles to each other, the squares being represented by hollows for the pebbles to rest in. The game consists in moving one's pieces in such a way as to compel the opponent to take them. The number of squares on the konane board was not uniform. I have seen them with nine on a side, making eighty-one in all; I have also seen them with such a number that the board was longer in one direction than the other.

Hei – cat's cradle – is a game that deserves mention. There were many figures into which the string was worked. It was a game at which the genius of the Hawaiian was specially fitted to excel, for by nature he was a born rigger, skilled in manipulating and tying ropes and knots.

Kimo – jack-stones – a game at which the Hawaiian boy and more especially the Hawaiian girl excelled.

This list might be greatly extended.

– kite-flying – deserves special mention as a pastime that was dear to the Hawaiian heart, and the practice of which recurred with the regularity of the seasons.  Back to Contents


CHAPTER 58: The Flood


Back to History                                      Back to `Ōlelo Links



  `Ōlelo Atlas History Culture Hawaiiana Photos Links Contact