Lua, the Hawaiian art of life and death, was also one of the arts studied by professor Okazaki who introduced components of it into his Ju Jitsu to create Danzan Ryu. Lua was developed as a military combative art in the days prior to Kamehameha the Great (c. 1758–1819: conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810) who became a renowned practitioner of lua. In ancient times, an annual Makahiki ceremony was held, in which peace was guaranteed for at least three or four months a year. Similar to the Olympics. Makahikis always included mokomoko (boxing), hakoko (wrestling), and kukini (foot racing). Competitors were from select groups of warriors retained as body guards by high chiefs. These elite warrior guards constantly trained in lua and took great pride in competing publicly in the mokomoko boxing competitions. Warriors traveled from neighboring islands to participate in these events and displayed their mighty prowess in front of the many leaders present. Often times contestants were injured or killed during the competition, disguised as recreation; the Makahiki “games” were actually a serious display of military forces.
Lua, then, was the general name for a type of hand-to-hand fighting which included: hakihaki (bone-breaking), hakoko (wrestling), mokomoko/ku’i (boxing or punching), peku (kicking), aalolo (nerve pressure) to cause paralysisn ha’a (dance, into which combative techniques were hidden), and various weapons (spears, daggers, clubs, slings, strangling ropes, shark tooth weapons, and more). However, Hawaiian lua training included more than just physical fighting skills, it also included the game konane (similar to checkers) to teach strategic thinking. Additionally, lua involved lomilomi (massage) which was designed to improve a lua warrior’s performance in training and combat, and to restore his body following both.
A martial dance found in various styles throughout Polynesia is the haka or ha’a, an old word for hula. Lua incorporated the haka to develop grace, agility, and strong leg muscles, necessary for battle. Their motions were actually lua strikes in disguise. The ‘olohe (skilled lua fighter) tapped a “galloping rhythm” on a hue (gourd) and called cues in chant, while also testing the dancers’ concentration during training. Haka, in reference to lua and dance, not only means to dance in ranks, but also to save or to reserve, but not to use unless needed. This parallels the Japanese saying, “Jujitsu, like a sword within a scabbard, must be kept polished though unseen.” Lua not only protects the warrior in life, but also teaches and prepares him for old age and, inevitably, death.
It is believed that Professor Henry Okazaki, father of American jujitsu, learned lua in Hawaii around 1917 from an old Hawaiian kumu (instructor) named David Kainhee. It believed that he mastered 46 lua ‘ai (bone breaking techniques). It is said that Professor Okazaki became Hawaii’s foremost exponent of both jiujitsu and lua during his time. Having recognized the power of Hawaiian lua, he incorporated various techniques within Danzan Ryu are many techniques involving joint separation or dislocation.