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Location: Tokyo, Japan
Member Since: 18th Dec 2002
Total posts: 8
Posted:Any of you guys familiar with Samoan fire knife dancing?
I've been twirling with contemporary long staves since about 1995.I thought I had taken my skills about as far as I could go, and had lost my passion for it.Then I got my hands on a video of the World fireknife championships , held in Hawaii every year.WOW! The top competitors blew my mind. It opened the door to a whole new world of movement.
I immediately set about building myself a set of the shorter fire knife staves and started practising with a renewed enthusiasm.Its just like it was when I first started.I'm totally addicted . Cant put them down!
I just got back from holiday in N.Z. and Thailand.
Had lots of time to work on my new style, combining contemporary moves with traditional fire knife.The difference with using a shorter staff with a long wick on one end, to the long fire staff is quite a challenge.Unlit its not so bad, but as soon as you light those wicks its a whole new ball game! The flames are sooo much closer to your hands, leaving no room for the slightest error, and the speed of the shorter stick forces your mind to the brink of confusion.
I wanted to take advantage of my beautifull surroundings in Phuket to shoot a video for this years video comp.But the challenge of twirling the short staff in windy conditions with poor fuel prooved too much for me ,and I came away with
a minor but painfull burn,and not much good footage.Dam it! That means I'm going to have to reshoot here in Tokyo in 2 Degree temperatures.


Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Europe,Scotland,Both
Member Since: 5th Nov 2001
Total posts: 3749
Posted:nice stuff, gott any links, viedos we could look at?


This is a post by tom, all spelling is deleberate
-><- Kallisti

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Member Since: 18th Dec 2002
Total posts: 8
Posted:sorry, the video I have is a copy of a copy of a ....and any way I dont have a clue when it comes to down loading videos onto this confounded machine.I cant even get it to play the vids you guys have on here!
But give me time.I'll catch up with the rest of the world eventually.
I have made a couple of contacts via the web , in my search for more info on traditional fire arts,
who may be able to send me some better quality vids.Then I'll get a friend to show me how to download it.I'll see what I can do.But dont expect anything in a hurry.
Alternatively, if theres any one out there who's going to be in Hawaii on May 15-16, check out the competition and video it for the rest of us.Its held at the Polynesian cultural centre. You can find more info at their web site;www.polynesia.com
There is another web site that may have some short vids , but I'll have to go look for it and get back to you.

Location: Nova Scotia, Canada.
Member Since: 8th Nov 2002
Total posts: 1591
I did a quick search and found this. I will look latter and see what else I can find. Just from that picture it looks just like double staff, but maybe im missing something.


Location: Akron, Ohio
Member Since: 12th Sep 2001
Total posts: 135
Posted:I've been playing with somehting alittle like a fire knife. It is a great time. But I am going to agree with the abouve statement, it is just like a short staff (or is that a stave). I think the big diffence is the attitude and style of preforming that the dancers put into the show. You also have to keep in mind that there seems to be alot of competition between the performers (you know who's better then who). That also adds a different kind of energy to the art. Hands down though it is cool stuff.

Nothing good ever comes from hanging out with normal people.


the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA
Member Since: 15th Dec 2000
Total posts: 6193
Posted:The wicks are more of a box shape, and not of kevlar (I'll have to check on exact composition) and one wick on one side is longer than on the other, thus creating an imbalance in weight which actually allows for a touch more control in the speed spinning that they do. THere is alot more emphasis with Polynesian spinning on speed rather than number of technical tricks. All in all, they are really short staves.

Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Member Since: 18th Dec 2002
Total posts: 8
Posted:Okay, I'm no expert on this subject, but I'll share with you what I've learned through my searches for info on the web.
While some fire knife dancers do seem to opt for using a short staff, a real fireknife does have a blade, which is wrapped in wick. Many fireknife dancers do use these.
In the P.C.C fireknife comp, the single knife can be up to 37 inches long with a 13.5 inch blade.Doubles up to 35 inches.The knife is constructed by attaching a machette blade to the end of a stick. Some also have a hook on the end, so that 2 can be joined and twirled around like a 2 sectioned staff.
Origionally they were used without wicks in a traditional knife dance.The idea of adding fire came later.
I have arranged to have a fireknife made for myself through one of my contacts on the the internet.When I get it I'll be able to fill you in on the finer details regarding wick construction/ weight etc.
In the meantime I am practising with short bladeless staffs.Even without the blade they are still quite different to simply being a short staff.Having a long wick on 1 end and a short 1 on the other also means that the handle grip is not in the center. Its slightly down towards the but end.
As for the idea of it being heavier on 1 end I'm not so sure.While one wick is longer, the other end is much fatter, possibly giving it ballance.
Also there is the question of the weight of the blade. As 1 fireknife dancer said, he had spent 1000's of dollars experimenting with different fireknives before comming up with the perfect combination. A good fireknife will put you back $200+.
With regards to skills, I deffinately agree that there is a heavy focus on high speed twirling.But thats not all there is to it.Showmanship, height of throws and technical difficulty are all taken into account in the judging of competitions.
The video I have shows a number of very difficult moves, done at high speed.Including wrist and neck wraps,passes under legs,blindfold twirling,numerous types of throws and catches behind the back and from under your leg etc. Also one they call the hellicopter, which looks like a propeller spinning continuously in front of you.
I had to watch the vid in slow motion before I realised it was a full 360 spin done continuosly with one hand,at blinding speed.Without the stick moving up and down!
I haven't had any luck finding any downloadable vids yet, but I'll keep trying.Of what I've seen of staff twirling on the COL vids, so far nothing compares to the performances of the finalists of the World Fireknife championships.Although, Nix's contact staff was really impressive, thats a whole nother art in itself.

Location: phoenix
Member Since: 9th May 2003
Total posts: 1
Posted:Fire Knives

This is for anyone who is still interested in learning more about Somoan fire knives. I have been twirling them for awhile now and I have twirled regular fire batons almost my whole life. The knives are great crowd pleasers. The way that i learned was by using the moves that I had acquired from baton twirling. All you really have to do is learn a few basic moves and transfer them to the knives. Even simple baton tricks can be extremely impressive. I like to use the single wick fire knives instead of the double wick ones because the double wick looks too much like short staffs when lit. Also, you don't have to sharpen the knives if you don't want to. The crowd doesn't know any different, they always assume that they are sharp until I tell them otherwise.

Patricia moore


Location: Canada
Member Since: 20th May 2003
Total posts: 7
Posted:mixing the 2 styles, staff and fire knife, gives such versatility to your show. ALthough there's obvious overlap already, but you'd be surprised how really different each style is. Just watching them do the hand over hand spin but using only one hand is amazing. Learning it and using a normal staff looks very impressive.

stay lit


Location: Malaeimi, Am. Samoa
Member Since: 23rd Oct 2003
Total posts: 75

My sons learned the fireknife dance from Paramount Chief Letuli, the Father of the Fireknife Dance (He invented it in 1946).
There are very specific regulations regarding the knives and also the moves......Letuli would always tell the boys "You are NOT baton twirlers - you are Warriors !"
The knives must have two wicks......and the single knive cannot be shorter than 37.5 inches with a 14.5 inch blade.Firewick for a single knife must be 10 inches by 2inches. The blades are regular machete blades, although some of the younger dancers do dull them for safety. Required moves are: 5 lying motions,5 kneeling mpotions, height of throws (must spin 2.5 times), around the neck, vili tasi (one hand spin), vili lua (two hand spin) spin in and out over the palm with both the left and right hand, at least two under the leg throws.Also, there must be at least three moves with the doubles hooked together.
The routines have to be at least 7 minutes long and the doubles routine follows right after the singles.....takes a lot of strength as well as skill.
At any rate, our website is all about the Samoan Fireknife dance, including knives for sale, how to wrap, and photos of our workshops and competition, including the 8 year old winner of last years event. Feel free to check it out at




Location: Jrvenp, Finland
Member Since: 12th Aug 2003
Total posts: 446
Posted:There's a great firenumber in Cirque de Soleil's Alegria if i remember correctly. And now seeing this thread i know it's done with Samoan fire knives. While there aren't that many tricks and throws in the number the speed of spinning and the energy is just amazing. I mean these guys spin almost as fast as Robert Heart.

Point your toes.


Corporate Circus Arts Entertainer
Location: Auckland
Member Since: 27th Jun 2001
Total posts: 3989
Posted:From what I saw of the Cirque show with the fireknives (when Allegria came to NZ), it was a pretty standard segment.

I've seen far better Fire Knife routines by much more talented performers, both in showmanship and technical skill. I have to admit to being highly dissappointed with that segment of the show.

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Location: Malaeimi, Am. Samoa
Member Since: 23rd Oct 2003
Total posts: 75
Posted:Yes - most of the "commercial" fireknife routines are very mild and basic - not to mention that they are using itty bitty knives,
To see the "real" thing you need to watch some of the top competitors at the PCC such as David Galea'i - or come to Samoa smile

The judging criteria for the competitions is very strict - high throws with at least 2 and a half spins and catching in the back is a required move, as are the one hand spin, kneeling and laying positions, and hooked double knife movements. Dancers are also expected to do the moves with both hands and in both directions. I've noticed that most "professionals" don't even attempt two knives, which is another requirement.
The knives used MUST be 37 inches long, no less, with at least a 13.5 inch blade and a 10X2 inch wick on the blade end and a 2 inch wick on the other end.

The knives I've seen for sale on the net are too small, made from aluminum, and with hardly a wick at all. Even though these places call these knives "true Samoan Fireknives" - they are not, and they would not be acceptable for performance or competition - even the girls here don't want to be seen dancing with them.

The "real" Samoan Fireknives that we use down here are made from machetes....the blade is cut and the hook welded on, then the holes for the wick are drilled. The knife, unless made for a very young kid, remains sharp.

In the Samoan culture, the fireknife dance is a warrior's dance - a test of bravery, skill, and courage. It greatly pains me to see it watered down and sold for profit.


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