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The History of Ancient Hawaiian Weaponry

Much of ancient Hawaiian history remains unknown, from the legend of the tiki Gods to where the people themselves originated. Europeans' insight into this unique culture began only a few centuries ago, leaving earlier history shrouded in history. One of our first accounts of Hawaii comes from Captain James Cook, who wrote about the islands after stopping there in 1778.

Among the many insights he offered into Hawaiian culture was the relative brutality and the weaponry he encountered in his explorations, which had never before been seen in Europe. The feudal culture of Ancient Hawaii was no doubt a dangerous place. Modern scholars believe that ancient Hawaiian warriors would probably have given the Spartans a run for their money. Those warriors, called “Koa,” utilized a wide range of clubs, pikes, spears, daggers and throwing axes.   

One of the most dangerous weapons in the arsenal of the Koa was the warrior himself.  The unique martial art practiced by these warriors, known as Lua, was developed to completely incapacitate or kill an opponent. Lua incorporates a variety of strikes and jabs deigned to break bones and take advantage of pressure points. As a martial art, Lua is considered sacred, and warriors were forbidden to teach the art to outsiders. This ancient martial art was practiced in loin cloths; the Koa did not wear armor, but rather shaved and lathered their bodies before battle in order to increase their advantage in hand-to-hand fighting.

The weapons used by the Koa, though somewhat primitive, also seem inventive and ingenious. One of the most unusual weapons carried by these warriors was a shark-toothed club. Used primarily as a slashing weapon, rather than as a club, some of these clubs featured as many as thirty shark teeth, carefully embedded in the edges of the weapon. These clubs could cause a great deal of damage at close range, and were the preferred weapon of nobles.

Other weapons included a variety of tripping weapons, known as “pikoi.” Pikoi were, essentially, clubs attached to long cords. Once an opponent was on the ground, the Koa could utilize their wide variety of daggers, or “pahi.” These daggers are unique to Hawaii and the Polynesian Islands. The daggers seem to be as unique as the individual warriors who wielded them. Some daggers incorporated Marlin spikes or shark teeth, while others had curved or blunted blades.

Long before a melee, the Koa could attack their enemies from a distance of up to 200 yards with volcanic rock flung from a leather sling. The dense volcanic rock could be crafted into precise missiles, and seems to have been far more effective than arrows. Although the ancient Hawaiians did possess bows, they used them solely for the purpose of hunting, not as weaponry during battle. Javelins and spears were also used to attack the enemy from afar. The Koa had a variety of spears and pikes that were of varying length, depending on their intended use.

The Koa warriors have left behind a number of weapons that are as beautiful as they are deadly. The weapons, carved from the hard wood of the Koa tree, were decorated with shark teeth, feathers and intricate carving. This extensive list of weapons leaves little doubt that the ancient Hawaiians were fierce warriors.



Ezine Articles Expert Author
Rene Thompson,
Monday, October 11th