By Graeme Kapono Urlich
I have worked with Huna Philosophy and Kupua tradition for more than thirty years now and it saddens
me to see some people trying to teach it but in their efforts to understand it, changing it in ways
that dilute and destroy its effectiveness. Some even claim superior knowledge than those from whom
they learned, changing ancient symbols and their meanings, which is extremely disrespectful to their
teachers and the traditions, no matter how well intentioned.
I know a little bit about Hula, but it is only intellectual knowledge. I have not learned the skill of
Hula and embodied the knowledge to any significant degree. Therefore I cannot discuss the subject from
anything more than a superficial, intellectual level. Nor can I impart the skill to anyone else. I
have not embodied that knowledge and do not “live” it. I know to bow to the greater knowledge of those
When I started learning Hawaiian Temple massage (Lomi Kapalele, Lomi Lomi Nui) from Kahu Abraham
Kawaii in the 1980’s, he always used to say “When you can perform this for 24 hours non-stop, you are
no longer a beginner.” He also talked about letting the energy do the work rather than using my
I took this piece of information in at an intellectual level. I could have simply rejected it as
impossible but at that point I kept an open mind, although, based on how fatigued I was getting after
a few hours, I couldn’t see how it could be possible.
This was about the time I moved to England and started doing Lomi Lomi there. I was one of the first,
if not the first person to introduce it to Europe. As a result, it proved to be very popular and I was
very quickly filling my appointment diary. At times I was working ten to sixteen hours a day
especially on trips to work in the Netherlands.
As I got more and more experienced, and fitter, I was less and less fatigued by the work. In fact, it
was becoming more invigourating. I was also getting the hang of letting the energy do the work,
letting it flow, and I was no longer having to think consciously about the technique. It was becoming
a living skill, body memory, and I could let the sessions flow more and more in total presence.
Then one day it happened. The right conditions fell into place and I worked non-stop for more than
twenty four hours. I had brought the intellectual idea that it was possible to life. I had reached a
level of skill and accepted the mind-set necessary for it to be possible for me. Had I initially
rejected the idea, it would never have been possible for me until that changed.
It is a bit like the four minute mile in athletics. It was believed for a long time that it was
physically impossible for a man to run a mile in less than four minutes. People were getting close but
not under that mark. Then one day Roger Banister did it and within months many more had done it. The
intellectual barrier to it being possible had been broken.
I believe Huna can’t be effectively taught from a purely intellectual level, it needs to be embodied
and brought to life. To teach it effectively it must be lived. Kupua tradition is a skill set that
must be developed. It too must be embodied in order to apply it and to teach it.
I had been teaching Huna for five years before I realised I wasn’t really using it myself, I hadn’t
embodied it. It was when I embodied it that my teaching became significantly more effective. I began
to sense what piece of information someone was looking for and intuitively presented it in a way they
would understand. Teaching was my path to that point but it is important to keep touch with
experienced mentors in order to keep the direction clear and the information taught accurate and
effective. Conflicting sources of information leave people confused and disoriented.
I liken it to training in martial arts, and Hula. In order to master a style, a student must stay
focused on the chosen style, to the teacher. Mixing different styles doesn’t work well. Some see
getting to black belt as the goal but it simply the level needed to prove that you are capable to
starting the real training. It doesn’t end. The same is true of Huna and Kupua tradition. The learning
never ends. Kahuna Hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett talks about this from a Hawaiian perspective in his
It is my goal in teaching, to share the treasure that is Huna and Kupua tradition in the purist form
possible to maintain its simplicity and effectiveness. I encourage the learning of the skills so the
knowledge becomes more than information at deeper than an intellectual level. For it to work, it must
be applied in a physical way to have a beneficial effect on our lives and our communities.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (October 2019)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism