The Limalama

Limalama, also known as Lima Lama, means “The Hand of Wisdom”. Limalama is a Hybrid martial arts system. Perspectives on Limalama’s development vary. On the Limalama website Tu’umamao Tuiolosega is given credit. Solomon Esquivel also gives credit to Tu’umamao Tuiolosega in writings which were distributed to some of his students. Some consider Limalama to be the result of a combination of efforts from the members of the original Limalama organization.

Tino Tuiolosega was born in American Samoa in 1931 and his family later migrated to Hawaii. A Samoan growing up in Hawaii he had traditional Polynesian Martial Arts passed down to him by his father and uncle. In the 1950s and 1960s he achieved Master Ranks in the five animal styles of Sil-Lum Kung fu.

In practice, Limalama is heavily influenced by American Kenpo and Kung Fu but also utilizes boxing, ju-jitsu and open handed Polynesian techniques. Limalama’s most distinguishing characteristic is its grounding in historical Samoan Polynesian martial arts – including wrist lays, hand-traps, and eye attacks, along with bone dislocation and breaking and knife and stick techniques.

It includes a study of vital areas and practice on how they can best be targeted. The style includes both techniques and forms – Limalama is soft flowing hands in forms but explosive with whipping hands when executed properly for offensive techniques.

Development: Like American Kenpo and Kajukenbo Limalama was developed from the mix of pacific-rim styles synthesized in Hawaii from the late 1800’s up to the 1950s due to the influx of successive waves of pacific-rim immigrants. These new synthesized styles emphasized street fighting effectiveness.

The center for many of the schools shifted to Los Angeles in the 1960s, which is where Limalama was first developed and taught. Limalama was heavily influenced by kempo and is sometimes considered to be a branch of American Kenpo.

Tino taught students at his home in Diamond Bar California in the mid 60’s and early 70’s. Some of these students are still around today and some have passed on and others like Chuck “Eddie” Williams one of the first LimaLama Black Belts from that era, (who was awesome in competition), now lives in Missouri. Gary Thompson, another one of the original students still lives in Southern California with his family.  

Chuck is still in awe to this day about all of the famous people he has met and places he has had the pleasure of going to and things he has done over the years and he contributes all of this, to his martial arts training in LimaLama. Chuck says that he would have never met Chuck Norris, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Ed Parker, Bill Wallace and many others had he not been in LimaLama, not to mention the very famous six founders of the “LimaLama Style” of martial arts.

Other contributing members of the original founding team included: Richard Nuñez, Sal Esquival, Haumea ‘Tiny’ Lafite, John Louise, and Solomon Kaihewalu.

Parentage: Tuiolosega incorporated 13 Samoan systems in Limalama, which were:

  • Afikau – the study of warrior’s traditions, specifically dance.
  • A’mofoe – the understanding of the manipulation of weights, shifting and swaying tactics to off balance weight.
  • Fa’aelise – the study of coordination, reflexes, balance, holds, breaks and throws.
  • Fa’ako’elau – movements similar to wrestling, including holds and tripping.
  • Faufusu or Ku’iku’iga – movements similar to hand to hand fighting, boxing or street fighting.
  • Lua’aga or Le’iga – the study of pressure points, nerves and joints.
  • Milosia – the study of the execution, delivery and application of circular movements; such as locking wrists.
  • Pepelu ma Pega – the study of knife fighting, this is a cutting coordination. This is a conceptual method in the use of weaponry.
  • Uma Ma Kaupi’I – the study of holds, breaks and take downs.
  • Vaeka ma Kavae – the study of foot movements such as kicks and foot counter movements.
  • Ti’apega ma Lo’u – the study of Kaoi’a, stick fighting.
  • Tal’amoa – the study of combining several of the other concepts together.
  • Upaga ma Lo’ulo’uga – the study of trapping.

Today: Limalama’s distinguishing characteristic is its grounding in historical Samoan/Polynesian martial arts – including wrist lays, hand-traps, and bone dislocation and breaking, along with knife and stick techniques. The art has a wide following in South and Central America with several divergent branches from the original style. There are also a number of schools active in the United States and Europe.

Tu’umamao “Tino” Tuiolosega: Tu’umamao “Tino”Tuiolosega, Grandmaster and Founder of Limalama Arts of Self Defense was born in American Samoa on July 2, 1931 to, Tu’umamao Tuiolosega, King of the island of Olosega and Saposapoaluga Feagaimaleata Poumele Tuiolosega. As the son of a Royal Samoan family and grandson to Tuiolosega Tagaloa, he was required to learn numerous Polynesian movements of self defense from both his father and his uncle. His last name “Tuiolosega”, literally means “King of Olosega”. 

His position in his family line carried with it great responsibility because the movements he learned were restricted by sect and family lineage. What he was taught was considered sacred and was only passed onto descendents of the Royal families by their fathers or relatives. His uncle who was the major influence in his studies worked extensively with him in understanding the concepts of these movements. In 1950, he served with in the U.S. Marine Corps and participated in the Inchon landing in Korea; in which he was cited and decorated. 

Mr. Tino was a chief instructor in hand to hand combat training; not only for the Marines, but also Naval personnel and also participated in boxing and judo. As an amateur boxer he fought over 135 fights, winning 108 by knockout. Some of his titles included All Pacific Inter-School Boxing Conference, All Far East, All Pacific Inter-Service, All Armed Forces, Pan Pacific, All Martine, Fourteen Naval District, AAU, and Eleventh District Championships.

The championships he won are just a few of the titles worth mentioning, and may have some significant contribution to his reputation, but he really needs no certification of his outstanding ability among leaders of the Martial arts community. 

Throughout his life, Mr. Tino has studied many other styles and systems of self defense including Aikido, Judo and Ju-jitsu, Kenpo Karate and is also a registered Master (Sipak) of Sil-Lum Kung Fu of Tsoi, Li, Fut, Mawk and Hung-Gar styles being the first non-oriental in over 85 years to achieve such an honor. In the late 40’s and 50’s he was the most famous championship competitor of full contact karate among self defense schools; because in those days there were no open karate competition tournaments. Most of the old practitioners and masters still remember and talk about Mr. Tino as the most feared competitor of his time. 

In the 70’s, he continued to teach and was involved with both martial artists and professional full contact training of fighters who wished to compete in the professional ranks. He also acted as technical advisor/choreographer on several TV series and did an action film called Seven with several of his close martial arts friends . He has trained many known Masters in the martial arts world today who are considered by the martial arts community as outstanding martial arts figures. 

He is considered a living legend in the martial arts community and has been called “Father of Modern Self Defense”. He is always given the utmost in respect by Masters and practitioners, regardless of their martial arts style.