At it’s very simplistic, english definition, lomi or lomilomi could be translated as “to press or massage.” So, one could say that Lomilomi is a traditional Hawaiian massage or Hawaiian healing art.
However, to understand various arts, whether it be martial arts, healing arts, etc. one must first understand the importance of the lineage of which it comes. This is critical to carry on the traditions and the culture. The art and the culture cannot be separated, as it is through the culture that the art originates.
The Lomi technique that is practiced is specifically the Mana Lomi technique, which is based on Hawaiian concepts of working with the “mana” (life force energy) of the body, mind, and soul of the the individual. This lomilomi technique was developed by Dr. Maka’ala Yates D.C. after studying and practicing Hawaiian healing concepts for many years with his Hawaiian teachers. However, It is not just a technique that is practiced, but involves a touch of the hands that communicates down to the bones.
As with many cultures and arts, much of their knowledge was traditionally passed down through family (ohana) members, teachers (Kumu), and elders in the community (na kupuna), through oral transmission. It was through this method that one learned various arts, such as Lua (hawaiian martial arts) and La’au Lapa’au (hawaiian medicine).
Lomi, would be categorized as one of the methods or modalities learned in La’au Lapa’au. It has also been said by Lua practitioners that, lomi was also incorporated into their training, because “if you break it, you must also know how to fix it.” Included in this particular style of lomi passed down through lua practitioners, would also be a technique referred to as bone setting.
In the 1800’s, when the Hawaiian Kingdom became illegally occupied by the United States, much of the cultural arts, including Lua & La’au Lapa’au (which includes lomi) went underground, as these practices were forbidden by the United States, who imposed harsh penalties on those who practiced it.
There are various styles of Lomi that was taught by different families, and passed down through various Kumu’s throughout the islands. However, all have a few things in common. It is part of the Hawaiian culture, and is a physically and spiritually healing art. It is learned from a Kumu (teacher). It is practiced with a heart of love and aloha by it’s practitioners, with a respect for others.
The ʻAhahui Lomilomi Hawaii, which was established by Native Hawaiian Practitioners, and allows full membership only to those who have studied with a recognized Lomilomi Kumu. These Kumu’s are typically those who have attained their knowledge through a specific lineage that has maintained it’s integrity and traditional heritage.
Lomilomi can still be learned by anyone that wishes to learn these traditional methods of healing. It just requires a haumana (student) with the desire to learn the Hawaiian culture, who has sought a Kumu (hawaiian instructor), and has asked to be taught. However, this is typically not taught in schools
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