KoaWood Ranch Conservation

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Koa Weapons of Ancient Hawaiians

The Ancient Koa Warrior

Koa warriors were an important part of ancient Hawaiian society. They served to protect lands, natural resources and the rightful status of the ruling chiefs. They were the frontline fighters when disputes erupted. These Hawaiian warriors were called Koa. 

Koa warriors were merciless in hand battle. Koa warriors were capable of slaughter and their weapons were designed to inflict bodily harm.


Koa Wood SpearOf the many weapons they used, a spear or pololu was a common weapon of their armies. These weapons had several variations, styles and sizes (e.g. Blue Marlin Spear photographed on the right is just one example.) The larger ones could be used by ancient Hawaiian warriors to attack all at once. According to mystichawaii.com, advancing in formation, on to enemies, they presented a wall of barbed spear points that could break off in a punctured enemy. While moving forward in formation, this allowed other Koa warrior counterparts, equipped with melee weaponry, to move simultaneously with more speed and maneuverability.

Melee Weapons

Koa Wood LeiomanoA short spear, or melee weapon, hand weapon or close combat weapon, is any weapon used in direct hand-to-hand combat (e.g. Pahoa weapon image on the left). Melee weapons were generally used as a thrusting weapon or for leg sweeping. Some were javelin like. The ancient Koa warriors were masters of this weapon and spent hours each day perfecting their technique. 

Shark’s Lei

Koa Wood LeiomanoOther examples of melee weapons include slashing weapons. They were typically made with razor sharp shark’s teeth. A round weapon or club can have as many as 30 or more shark teeth laced around its edges, and smaller weapons as little as 3 or 4 teeth.  Many are known as leiomano weapons (e.g. photo on the right). Leiomano is a word in the Hawaiian language and may have been derived from lei o manō, which means "a shark’s lei.”

The depth and breath of weapons also included a series of throwing weapons and slings.  Slings had the longest range and was just as deadly as anything else. Throwing weapons included spears and axes. The Koa warriors had great accuracy and they were effective at hitting legs to trip their enemy and/or kill them if a neck or chest was hit.

Koa Means Warrior

Ancient warriors of Hawaii were skilled fighters who utilized an assortment of weapons made of Koa wood. They were innovated experts at weapon making. Koa warriors handcrafted their spears and melee weapons.

Fortunately, these ancient weapon making skills have been handed down many generations for us to appreciate today. Contemporary artist continue to make these Hawaiian art pieces in the same authentic traditions as our ancestors. The warrior pieces photographed in this blog post were all handmade by artist Reagan Billings.

Giving Koa wood's historic use in weapon construction, there’s no surprise that the indigenous Koa tree has taking on a meaning beyond the aesthetically beautiful wood it produces. The Koa tree is packed with cultural significance and historical value. KoaWood Ranch is honored to be able to showcase fine Koa warrior weapon reproductions (Click Here to see availability) while simultaneously taking part in the rejuvenation of the Koa forest. 

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