Hawaii is geographically within an isolated group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is the home of the King's Guard Drill Team whose own unique drill style is partly attributed to that isolation.
When Hawaii became a territory of the U.S., the islands were then considered a vital military port. With this large military presence, the rigors of daily discipline & drill continued. In the early 1920's, ROTC programs were opened to select high schools in Honolulu. The cadets were instructed in drill & ceremony by military personnel. Specialized regulation teams were organized within the units and were soon followed by exhibition drill which became very popular.
Because of Hawaii's isolation, exhibition drill was little known and taught by a select few with knowledge on the subject. It was not like today with the availability of media such as television and videos. Back then if you saw something you liked, you would memorize it and try to recreate it from memory. By the 1950's, Hawaii was the crossroads of the Pacific and all drill information that passed by was quickly absorbed.
In 1972, the King's Guard was reorganized. Members of a championship drill team were recruited to create a special attraction which would revive and preserve the history of Hawaii of the 1800's. The promoters wanted an attraction that was visibly authentic with the Guards in nineteenth century uniforms combined with the talents of the drill team which would give it a unique flair. The Changing of the Guard ceremony was then launched, featuring a flag lowering ceremony followed by a drill exhibition performance.
Today this ceremony is the longest running daily event in Waikiki. Camera-toting visitors from around the world are drawn to King's Village at 6:15 p.m. to witness the snap and precision of the Guards. They are further educated about historical aspects of the Hawaiian nobility and the role in which the Guards played. Hawaii is the only state with a royal palace on American soil. The trappings of the Hawaiian royalty are a popular theme repeated throughout Hawaii.
The early members of the Guard experimented and developed traditional as well as new routines. The organization became a magnet, attracting recruits who were very dedicated drill men and wanted to continue on to a higher level of exhibition drill. They were very creative and talented as well as eager to put their ideas into action. Today the tradition continues. The Program is a great cross section of drill men seeking higher standards and raising the level of their expertise. With each new generation of Guards, the responsibility of preserving the art of drill in Hawaii has been passed down. Traditional routines created in Hawaii are memorized and held as a benchmark of the Guards' unique drill style. Exhibition drill is both a serious endeavor as well as an enjoyment to us. It is serious in the sense that we have a responsibility to foster the creative spirit which is the driving force for each Guard. Exhibition drill is plainly a passion for us.
Each Guard is selected for his discipline and positive attitude and willingness to contribute to the team effort. Instilling discipline in the Guard program is accomplished in a number of ways. The most unusual means is the form of Hawaiian dance called the Hula. In ancient Hawaii, the hula was a rigid form of discipline used by Hawaiian warriors to teach battle and defense techniques. Warriors would respond to drum commands and rhythms to coordinate battle formations. Their skills were practiced relentlessly until perfection was reached. Because ancient Hawaii had no form of written language, these techniques were memorized and passed down from teacher to student.
Because of the demanding performance schedules, flexibility is a necessary trait. Guards are instructed in several basic formations and position changes. We are rotated on a daily basis to form specialized teams. It is not uncommon that one day we perform with 30 Guards in a local parade and the next day join a 12-man team traveling abroad on a special advertising tour.
The Guards are always in high demand as our promotional value to the State of Hawaii is immeasurable. We have represented Hawaii on numerous occasions as ambassadors of goodwill and aloha from presidential inaugural parades in our nation's capital to honor guard details in far off places such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Whenever the Guards travel, we always bring a touch of Hawaii with us to share with the people we meet. It can be as simple as a flower lei or a box of pineapples. To be Hawaiian is to share our culture. Our scrapbooks are filled with memories from our travels. The Guards are always eager to learn new techniques and styles of drill and other teams are always fascinated with the Guards' fast spinning routines. To date, our travels have taken us to over ten countries and performances in more than forty cities. The Guards count themselves very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve their community in this capacity.
At home, the Guards' calendar is filled with performances 365 days a year. Daily practice is necessary to keep the Guards fine-tuned and sharp. Because of Hawaii's excellent year-round weather, they can be found practicing in the streets and open areas in Waikiki. First time visitors are often shocked to witness a group of men with rifles and are relieved to find out that the rifles are used only for precision drill. The King's Guard can be found at cultural events, convention shows, weddings, funerals, judging drill events and even coaching local Junior ROTC drill teams. Their presence continues to be a source of pride to the Hawaiian community.
Mr. Paul Naki is the gracious leader of the famous King's Guard drill team.
King's Guard Museum
The King's Guard Museum features a variety of Vintage Hawaiian souvenir and collectables from the 1930's through the 1960's. See memorabilia from hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, stores and attractions from the past. Authentic original aloha shirts, postcards, tiki mugs and decanters are just a few of the items on display that will bring back fond memories to locals as well as visitors. Located on the ground level in King's Village.
King's Guard Museum Hours
10:00 AM – 10:30 PM Daily