Wednesday, May 6, 2023, started off with a bang as the 30th Annual World Fireknife Championships opened with the 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife competitors. Our 13 Junior (6-12) and 30 Intermediate (13- 17) warriors set the stage on fire! Don’t let these ‘children’ fool you! They performed with determination. Winning the prestigious crown was definitely their goal.
Our Masters of Ceremonies for the evening were Steve Laulu, Island Director at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Telesia Tonga, Senior Cultural Ambassador and our wonderful MC at the Aliʻi Lūʻau. Under their guidance, the program moved along smoothly. Even so, with 52 competitors in total, the competition ended at 12:15 am!
Junior (6-11) Competition Recap
First up, we welcomed 13 junior contestants. Don’t let their age and their size fool you, these boys came to win! Besides being a contest, performing to crowds this large is a learning experience and an opportunity to be a part of the brotherhood of Fireknife dancers. Lifelong friendships are formed, and respect for one’s competitors is nourished.
Kalivati Volavola Jr. of Lāʻie, Hawaii
Junior Category Champion, of the Intermediate Divison – 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
Kalivati Jackson (KJ) Volavola, of Lāʻie gave his winning performance near the end of the lineup, but he did not disappoint. Known for his twirling speed and intricate moves, last year’s 2nd place win gave KJ the experience and the confidence to excel this year.
KJ shared that being crowned champion is very exciting. His advice to future competitors is to “just keep practicing every day, every week.”
Mosese Volavola of Lāʻie, Hawaii
Junior Category, 1st Runner-up, Intermediate Divison – 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
Mosese Volavola met this year’s performance with grit and power. He added some impressive moves, like when he jumped over the knife during his single knife portion. Just to put the right emphasis on his presentation, he ended his night with a mighty toss of sand and a back flip. His skills earned him a 2nd-place finish.
He shared that his favorite part of the competition was when he “got to go onto the stage and look at the crowd because everybody thinks the crowd is there when you get embarrassed, but the crowd is just going to keep on cheering you on.” Looking towards the importance of fireknife in his future he explained that he wants to teach other kids so that it can be passed on to future generations. Way to go, Mosese!
King Jirah Tanuvasa of Ewa Beach, Hawaii
2nd Runner-up, Junior Division of the 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
Ewa Beach’s own King Jirah Tanuvasa’s performance brought him the 3rd Place Award. With his laser-like gaze, he pulled in the crowd’s support with his speed and precision.
Telesia Tonga reflected on the junior performances. “I really am so amazed (at) just the pure courage to be up here, let alone the display of confidence and true warrior like traits”.
Special Highlight: Our Youngest Competitor
Manaiakalani “Mana” Levi, at 6 years of age, was more than adorable, he was fearless and flirtatious! He won everyone’s heart from the moment he stepped onto the podium to be introduced.
“His name is Manaiakalani,” Telesia shared “which if you didn’t know is the fishhook that Maui used”. Mana certainly showed his magical powers during his performance.
Our Intermediate Contestants Competes, ages 12-17
Next came the Intermediate Category and boy did they deliver! With 30 competitors in this division, the judges had to keep their energy up and their pencils ready!
We are going to be looking at the variety and difficulty of motion, the speed of the twirl and the height of the throws, costume and warrior-like performance, their entrance, their exit, and drops will be penalized 3 points each, and if your flame goes out, it also reflects on your scoring”, Telesia explained.
Cyson Lanikaula Woodward of Kapa’a, Hawaii
Champion, Intermediate Divison – 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
At just 13 years old, this second-time Intermediate competitor came ready to impress. His height, speed and fancy footwork certainly impressed the judges and the audience. Congratulations Cyson! We look forward to watching your skills grow and grow in the years to come.
Haukea Moua of Tahiti
Intermediate Divison – 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
Haukea performed admirably with stunning passes and kicks, intense concentration, and soaring throws. Preserving his energy when he was the third from the last competitor performing was a feat in itself!
Akilei Netane Malo of Orlando, Florida
2nd Runner-up Intermediate Divison – 2023 Junior and Intermediate World Fireknife Championship
Akilei impressed all with the height he threw his knife, along with the complicated and precise moves built into his presentation.
Read more about this year’s World Fireknife Competition (and more!):
- We Are Samoa Festival (2023)
- World Fireknife Championship Finale results
- Women’s Competition results
- Documentary – Jeri
Bio of Nina S. Jones, Blogger for the Polynesian Culture Center
Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 39 years, she volunteers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Her hobbies include swimming, traveling, studying and writing about what she is learning from the various Polynesian cultures. Her blogs focus on their history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.