Hawaiian Throwing Weapons Games

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73. Mo-ko-no-ko

[Page 233] A national sport, practiced on holidays when village champions are opposed to each other. The contestants stand a certain distance apart and throw in succession seven spears, seven stones, seven stone axes with handles, and seven wooden knives, one at the other and then back again. If a player is hit he loses. The game is hazardous and exciting. [Page 234] Mo-ko-mo-ko is defined by Andrews as "to box; to fence; to fight; to hold boxing matches as pastimes or games."

In New Zealand, Taylor1says, te para mako consisted in throwing sharp-pointed sticks at each-other, and skillfully warding them off by turning the body away when they saw the dart coming. Sometimes an unskillful person lost his life in playing this game.

Codrington2 says: "In the Solomon islands the great game is throwing and dodging spears, or sticks instead of spears. This is to some extent represented in the Banks' islands by two parties throwing native oranges at each other."

1. Page 173. 2. Page 341.


74. Ke-a-pu-a - Arrow Throwing

[Page 234] Arrows or darts, consisting of the blossom end of the sugar-cane, are thrown in the following manner: A cord is wrapped around the middle of a cane arrow, the other end being fastened to a stick about four feet long (la-au-ke-a pu-a), which is held vertically at right angles to the arrow, which rests on the ground. The latter is then hurled in the air by the stick, the wrapped cord giving it a rotary motion. Four persons play, boys against boys or girls against girls, or two boys against two girls. The one whose arrow goes farthest, wins. It was formerly a man's game. It would appear from Andrews that the fore-end of the pu-a was tied with string to prevent splitting. The arrows are also called pa-pu-a, from pa, "to throw," and pu-a, "cane arrow."

Ellis1 says that in Tahiti a game called aperea prevailed. It consisted in jerking a reed, 2 or 3 feet in length, along the ground. The men seldom played at it, but it was a common diversion of women and children.

Speaking of the amusements of the Samoans, Stair2 says: "O le tangati'a was played by many persons at once, each one endeavoring to propel a small light rod of the fu'a fu'a, from which the bark had been peeled off as far as possible. The forefinger [Page 235] was placed upon the head of the stick, when it was thrown down and caused to glide over the ground to a distance of 30 or 40 yards or more."

Wilkes3 describes litia as a general sport of the Samoans, sometimes whole villages playing against each other. Two parties furnish themselves with light sticks of the Hisbiscus tiliaceus, about 8 or 10 feet long and as thick as a finger; the bark is stripped off, making them very light. The two parties arrange themselves in a line, and strive to throw these sticks as far as possible; the party who succeeds in throwing fifty the farthest wins the game. The usual distance to which they throw is about 40 yards, and one would conceive it almost impossible for them to be thrown so far. A grand feast usually terminates the sport, the expense of which is borne by the losing party.

Williams4 describes an athletic sport in Fiji under the name of tiqa, or ulu-toa. This game is played by throwing from the forefinger a reed 3 or 4 feet long armed with a 6-inch oval point of heavy wood. The weapon is made to skim along the ground to a distance of 100 yards or more. Nearly every village has near it a long level space kept clear of grass for the practice of this favorite exercise.

J. Stanley Gardiner5 says that in Rotuma "the Fijian game of tiqa, or ulu-toa, used to be very popular; it is now only played by the boys. Properly it seems to be a Fijian game, and was doubtless introduced from there. It is played by throwing from the forefinger, covered with a piece of cloth, a reed about 4 feet long, armed with a pointed piece of hard and heavy wood, 3 to 6 inches long. It is thrown along the ground bouncing over it, the winner being he who can throw it furthest."

Taylor6 describes heteka, or neti, as a game played in New Zealand with fern stalks, which are darted to see who can throw them the farthest.

[Page 236] Codrington1 says: " A game which belongs to Banks' Island and New Hebrides is tika, the Fiji tiqa, played with reeds dashed in such a manner upon the ground that they rise in the air and fly to a considerable distance. In some islands, as Santa Maria, a string is used to give impetus, and in some the reed is thrown also from the foot. The game is played by two parties who count pigs for the furthest casts, the number of pigs counted as gained depending on the number of knots in the winning tika. There is a proper season for the game, that in which the yams are dug, the reeds on which the yam vines had been trained having apparently served originally for the tika. It is remarkable that in Mota a decimal set of numerals is used in this game, distinct from the quinary set used on every other occasion of counting."

1. Vol. I, p. 227.
2. Page 138.
3. Vol. II, p. 136.
4. Page 128.
5. Journal Anthropological Institute, Vol. XXVII, P. 487.
6. Page 173.
7. Page 340.


75. Pa-hee - Dart Throwing

[Page 236] According to Ellis1 this is "a favorite amusement with farmers, and common people in general. The pa-hee is a blunt kind of dart, varying in length from two to five feet, and thickest about six inches from the point, after which it tapers gradually to the other end. These darts are made with much ingenuity, of a heavy wood. They are highly polished, and thrown with great force or exactness along the level ground, previously prepared for the game. Sometimes the excellence of the play consists in the dexterity with which the pa-hee is thrown. On these occasions two darts are laid down at a certain distance, three or four inches apart, and he who, in a given number of times, throws his dart most frequently between these two, without striking either of them, wins the game. At other times it is a mere trial of strength; and those win, who, in a certain number of times, throw their darts farthest. A mark is made in the ground, to designate the spot from which they are to throw it. The players, balancing the pa-hee in their right hand, retreat a few yards from this spot, and then springing forward to the mark, dart it along the ground with great velocity. The darts remain wherever they stop, till all are thrown, when the whole party runs to the other end of the floor, to see whose have been the most successful throws. This latter game is very laborious."

Wooden Dart

Brigham2 states that the pa-lee could be and was used as a weapon (see Plate XII, a). The material was always kau-i-la or [Page 237] u-hi-u-hi wood. Each contestant had ten trials. The same ka-hu-a, or course, was also used for mai-ka (number 78).

1. Vol. IV, p. 197. 2. Preliminary Catalogue, part II, P. 59.


76. Mo-a - Club Throwing

[Page 237] This is a game played with a mo-a, a club similar to the pa-hee, but shorter. In either game there was no exact rule for weight or length of stick, but each player suited his own want. It is described as a prominent means of gambling.


77. Ka-hu-a-ko-i - Hatchet Throwing

[Page 237] This is described by Andrews as "a species of pastime on the ka-hu-a with the ko-i." Ko-i, among other things, means a small hatchet. The game appears to be similar to pa-heeand mo-a. Andrews gives ko-i as "the name of a play; a sort of race in sliding."


25. O-i-li -pu-le-lo - Firebrand Throwing

[Page 214] A former sport of the chiefs was to send lighted firebrands down a pa-li, or precipice, at night. It is thus described by an eye-witness:

"On dark, moonless nights from certain points of these precipices, -where a stone would drop sheer into the sea, - the operator takes his stand with a supply of pa pa-la sticks (a light and porous indigenous wood), and, igniting one, launches it into space. The buoyancy of the wood and the action of the wind sweeping up the face of the cliffs, cause the burning branch to float in mid-air, rising or falling according to the force of the wind, sometimes darting far seaward, and again drifting towards the land. Firebrand follows firebrand, until, to the spectators who enjoy the scene in canoes upon the ocean hundreds of feet below, the heavens appear ablaze with great shooting stars, rising and falling, crossing and recrossing each other in a weird manner. So the display continues until the firebrands are consumed, or a lull in the wind permits them to descend slowly and gracefully into the sea." (Mrs Francis Sinclair, Jr, Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands, London, 1885. Quoted from Dr Bolton.)

The pa-pa-la tree (Charpentiera ovata) attains the height of about twenty feet and grows only upon the highlands from two to three thousand feet above the sea.


Last update February 3, 2010