When Tahitian immigrants arrived on the Hawaiian Islands in 1300, they introduced the mentality of war and a caste system. After centuries of warfare that erupted between the various Hawaiian Islands, the most feared and brutal warriors to arise from this caste system were the Koa. The Koa created the first known Hawaiian martial art of lua (two hits), which revolves around breaking bones and dislocating joints. Lua’s repertoire spans the spectrum of combat techniques like boxing, wrestling, kicking and throwing. It also covers the art of healing and using one’s mana (life force). Lua’s weapons include the oar, slings, strangling cord, and various spears and clubs.
The Koa helped the first Hawaiian king, Kamehameha the Great (1758-1819), unify the islands in 1810. Because lua was reserved to the king’s honor guards, teaching it to anyone else was punishable by death. If you look up lua’s original incarnation—kapu ku’ialua—you’ll see how it was forbidden to teach because “kapu” means “forbidden.”
Lua’s secrets were shared in the 1920s in Hilo and developed into danzen-ryu karate by Henry Okazaki. Solomon Kaihewalu introduced lua into America in 1963.
– March 21, 2011