Hawaiian Boxing

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6. Pe-le-pe-le


[Page 207] Boxing gloves are now used, but formerly the hands were wrapped with kapa, tied at the wrist. Captain King1, in his journal of. Cook's voyage, describes boxing among the Hawaiians as follows:

"We found a vast concourse of people assembled on a level spot of ground at a little distance from our tents. A long space was left vacant in the midst of them, at the upper end of which sat the judges, under three standards, from which hung slips of cloth of various colors, the skins of two wild geese, a few small birds, and bunches of feathers. When the sports were ready to begin, the signal was given by the judges and immediately two combatants appeared. They came forward slowly, lifting their feet very high behind, and drawing their hands along the soles. As they approached, they frequently eyed each other from head to foot in a contemptuous manner, casting several arch looks at the spectators, straining their muscles, and using a variety of affected gestures. Being advanced within reach of each other, they stood with both arms held out straight before their faces, at which part all their blows were aimed. They struck, in what appeared to our eyes an awkward manner, with a full swing of the arm; made no attempt to parry, but eluded their adversary's attack by an inclination of the body, or by retreating. The battle was quickly decided, for if either of them was knocked down, or even fell by accident, he was considered vanquished."

Ellis says that in Tahiti, "on all great festivals, wrestling was succeeded by the moto-raa or boxing. It was mostly practiced by the lower orders and servants of the Areois, and was with them, as boxing is everywhere, savage work. The challenge was given in the same way as in wrestling. The blows were generally straight-forward, severe, and heavy; usually aimed at the head. They fought with the naked fist, and the whole skin of the forehead has been at times torn or driven off at a blow."

Captain Cook2 states that the method of boxing in the Marquesas [Page 208] differed very little from that practiced in England, but speaks of seeing boxing matches between women in the presence of at least three thousand people.

1. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. 2d ed., London, 1784, Vol. III, p. 22.
2. Vol. III, p. 244.

Last update February 2, 2010