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The Kings Guard

Updated: Feb 6, 2018

Hawaii is geographically located within an isolated group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This was the home of the King's Guard Drill Team, a drill team whose unique drill style was partly attributed to its isolation. When Hawaii became a U.S. territory in the 1800s, the islands were a vital military port. A large military presence required the rigors of daily Guard drill and discipline.

By early 1920s Hawaii, ROTC programs had opened to select high schools in Honolulu. The cadets learned Drill and Ceremony from local military personnel. Specialized regulation teams organized within the units, and soon after, exhibition drill was born. Because of Hawaii's distance, standard drill exhibition was little known. It was taught by a select few who had little knowledge of the subject. There was no media such as television and videos. If you saw something you liked, you would memorize it and try to recreate it from memory. By the 1950s, Hawaii had become the crossroads of the Pacific, and any drill information that passed through was quickly absorbed.

The King's Guard reorganized itself in 1972. Members of a local championship drill team were recruited to create a special attraction which would revive and preserve Hawaiian history of the 1800s. The promoters wanted an attraction that was visibly authentic. They wanted the King's Guards in 19th Century uniforms with drill team talents so as to give a unique flair. They launched the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It featured a flag lowering ceremony followed by a drill exhibition performance.

Each Guard member was selected for his discipline, positive attitude, and willingness to contribute to team effort. They Instilled discipline in a number of ways. The most unusual was in the form of Hawaiian 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.

The early members of the Guard experimented with traditional and developed new routines. The King's Guard became a magnet, attracting recruits who were very dedicated drill men and wanted a higher level of exhibition drill. They were very creative and talented as well as eager to put their ideas into action.

Exhibition drill proved to be a serious endeavor as well as an enjoyment. It was serious in that there was a responsibility to foster the creative spirit, the driving force for each Guard member. It was enjoyment because it was a true passion.

Soon the performance schedules became very demanding. Flexibility was a necessary trait. Guards were instructed in several basic formations and position changes. They were rotated on a daily basis to form specialized teams. It was not uncommon that on one day Guards would perform in a local parade, and the next day join a 12-man team traveling abroad on a special advertising tour.

As the years passed, the Guards were more and more in high demand, Their promotional value to the State of Hawaii was immeasurable. They represented Hawaii on numerous occasions as ambassadors of goodwill and aloha in Presidential Inaugural Parades at our nation's capital in Washington D.C. They performed as Honor Guard details in far off places such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Whenever the Guards traveled, they brought a touch of Hawaii to share with the people they met. It could be as simple as a flower lei, or even a box of pineapples. Their travels had taken them to over ten countries with performances in more than forty cities. The Guards were very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve their community in this capacity. The Guards' calendar filled with performances 365 days a year. Daily practice was necessary to keep the Guards fine-tuned and sharp. Because of Hawaii's excellent year-round weather, they could be found practicing in the streets and open areas in Waikiki. First time visitors were often shocked to witness a group of men with rifles, then relieved to find the rifles were used only for precision drill. The King's Guard could be found at cultural events, convention shows, weddings, funerals, judging drill events, and even coaching local Junior ROTC drill teams. Their presence was a source of pride to the Hawaiian community.

They had become the longest running daily event in Waikiki. Camera-toting visitors from around the world were drawn to King's Village at 6:15 p.m. to witness the snap and precision of the Guards. Visitors were further educated about historical aspects of Hawaiian nobility and the role in which the Guards played. Since Hawaii is the only state with a royal palace on American soil, remnants of the old Hawaiian royalty continues to be a popular theme repeated again and again throughout Hawaii.

On May 16, 2014, King's Guard performed their last routine in Waikiki.

The Changing of the Guard Ceremony stands as a legacy to the great cross section of drill men seeking higher standards to raise their level of expertise. Unique style of drill routines created in Hawaii had become Hawaiian tradition. Preserving and sharing the art of Hawaii exhibition drill had been achieved for more than 40 years. To be Hawaiian is to share culture.

Today King's Village continues to share Hawaiian culture with Hawaii Hula Company. Performances are 6:30pm Thursdays and Sundays. Fire knife dancing and Polynesian drumming are on Thursdays. Hula dancing and ukulele playing are on Sundays. Admission is free.

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