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Games
Games of physical strength
Games of skill
Water sports
Quiet games
Games' decline
Games Sources



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Games of skill

Many Hawaiian games required skill handling an implement like a wooden spear or dart. Strength played a role too, but dexterity, speed and coordination often won the game.

Hawaiians competed in many ways using a wooden spear or javelin, including kaka la`au (fencing), `o`o ihe (throwing) and ihe pahe`e (sliding over a grassy course). Kaka la`au simulated the hand to hand combat of warriors as contestants tried to strike each other with spears six to nine feet long. No mask or protection was worn; a referee kept score by counting how many times each combatant touched their opponent's body with his spear.

In ihe pahe`e, or spear sliding, players slid five-foot long spears along the ground, aiming their spears between stakes at the end of the course. A similar game – moa pahe`e – was played with more bluntly shaped wooden darts called moa. Playing with the moa required more skill as the torpedo shape of the dart made it more difficult to handle and aim.

Smaller wooden darts eight or nine inches long were thrown at a target in a game similar to the modern game of darts. Called pahi`uhi`u, this game was played by both children and adults. Darts with a sharpened end were thrown – usually in an arcing throw up into the air – at a leaf target laid flat on the ground. Lightweight game darts were also made from sugar cane flower stalks.

`Ulu maika, or bowling, was another favorite game. Disk-shaped stones were rolled along their flattened edge, thrown underhand. With the stone aimed between pairs of stakes, the game tested accuracy; rolling the stones for distance, it tested strength.

Riding a holua sled – perhaps the closest sport to surfing on land – was popular among the ali`i. Special slopes were constructed for the game: layers of rock, packed dirt and pili grass made the steep courses smooth and fast. The narrow holua sled, 12 to 18 feet long, was made of two hardwood runners, thin-edged and curved up at the forward end so as not to dig into the ground. A cross-piece and boards or mats were attached on top, connecting the two runners and providing a narrow bed for the rider's body. After bets on the winner were placed, the first racer shot down the hill with the challenger hot on his heels. The longest ride won.

The maka`ainana played other sliding games that didn`t require a special slope or sophisticated equipment. They slid down sandy or grassy hills sitting on the base of coconut fronds or on ti leaves, holding the stems in front. A sled made from several coconut fronds with the heavy base removed could carry as many as six riders for a downhill race.

Kite flying required skill in flying as well as constructing the kites. Made of hau wood and covered with kapa or finely woven lauhala, kites four to six feet across had kapa tails 15 to 90 feet long. Olona cord was used as kite string; cords could be up to a mile in length. In competitive kite flying, each flyer tried to entangle his opponent's string to bring the kite down.



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