“THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN [WARRIORS] COLLIDE…”
On Wednesday evening, a group of local men who study the ways of traditional Hawaiian warfare (lua), convened at the Maui Okinawan Kenjin Kai (MOKK) alongside Maui Komei Juku samurai students who use the MOKK as their dojo. The lua warrios met with Komei Juku’s 21st Grand Master Sekiguchi Sensei, who was visiting Maui via Tokyo, along with resident senseis Robert Montgomery (“Bob Sensei”), Guy Junker (“Guy Sensei”).
Exchanging close-quarters combat training exercises and techniques, the groups studied the similarities (and differences) between the Hawaiian pahoa (wooden dagger) and Japanese wakizashi (short sword).
Beginning with “warm-up exercises” — lead by the Hawaiian warrior’s instructor, Kai — the groups got off to a sweaty start. (As a long time Komei Juku student, I myself participated in the challenging training — and admittedly am in a great deal of pain today.)
One tricky exercise included heels-together squats coupled with alternating stabs from left to right. The quickly flaring-of-the-knees ‘uehe move (yep, just like in hula) — plus more stabs were an interesting warm-up — and one that seemed more to simply loosen the knees than for practical application. Let me stress I intend not the slightest disrespect to the Grand Master, but it was pretty comical seeing him attempt the very rhythmic, dance-like moves the Hawaiian group introduced — particularly the ‘uehe. Naturally, he made up for it by being bad-ass with the samurai sets.
The lunging and stabbing forms used by ancient Hawaiians are similar to that of the samurai. One notable difference was that the Hawaiians seem to put more emphasis and energy into the upper body, while the Japanese (with the advantage of a blade) focus on the lower body, positioning the hips and ankles in a way that will make the blocks, cuts and stabs most effective.
Grand Master Sekiguchi Sensei exquisitely demonstrated defensive moves, many of which focused on how to disarm a sword-slinging opponent without drawing a blade yourself (whether by choice or lacking the luxury). Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the evening came when the groups partnered up to practice a combative training form called kobushidori. Though the groups traditions are separated by thousands of miles of Pacific ocean, it was a delight to see the crossing of wooden pahoa and wooden wakizashi (typically steel, but made of wood for training purposes), respective to each camp.
At the close of the evening, Sekiguchi said (via Komei Juku student and translator, Eddie Maiwa), that he was very pleased with the meeting and hopes this cross-cultural connection continues.
For more on Sekiguchi and an interesting story that draws connectivity between (warring) Hawaiians and the (shipwrecked) samurai that dates all the way back to the 13th century, check out this week’s feature (by yours truly).