From Kauai to Zion: The Hawaiian warrior who trains IDF Special Forces

Nadav Tzadok Yair was born in Hawaii and trained in Kapu Kuialua since he was nine years old, now he teaches IDF Special Forces how to win glory in battle.

A joint drill between the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 navy commandos and US Army Special Forces (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A joint drill between the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 navy commandos and US Army Special Forces
Nadav Tzadok Yair is a small Hawaiian man with a fascinating life story, Mako reported on Friday.
Born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, he had been trained in the local martial art of Kapu Kuialua – double shot – since the age of nine. This tribal version of warfare, which shaped centuries of local wars between the various groups on the islands, shaped his life and destiny.
In his quiet home in Kfar Tapuach, he shared his unique journey into the Jewish faith and in training IDF Special Forces – among them Blue and White politician Gabi Ashkenazi, who told reporters that Yair, “is an expert in jungle warfare, night operations, sneak attacks and survival.”
“The IDF owns him a lot for what he taught us,” he added.
Yair used to be a staunch advocate for Hawaiian independence from the US – like Bympy Kanahele and the late Internet sensation, singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – and was bitter over how peaceful dialog with US authorities became the mainstream choice for native people around him.
Trained in warfare, he claimed to have killed 18 people before meeting an Israeli couple who was visiting the islands. They told him about Israel and he followed the sun there, embraced the Jewish faith, changed his name and became the father of six children, five boys and one girl – all of whom have Hawaiian names along their Hebrew ones.
One of them agreed to speak on television and demonstrated how his brother once shot him in the back during play with a blowgun. “We were all trained in these ways,” he told the filming crew, “naturally I can’t share everything.”
Yair enlisted into the IDF at age 31 and quickly became a Special Forces trainer. He still teaches troops today – for free. “My own sons get angry at me,” he says, “but I believe that what goes around comes around.”
Since he divorced his wife a decade ago, he lives alone in Kfar Tapuach. He showed the filming crew how he once used an ax to scare off an Arab man who came to his land asking for water.
“This is how life is,” he told the shocked filming crew, ”if I don’t come at him with the ax today, the next day I’ll wake up with his ax close to my neck.”
His home was built without legal permits and, so far, it seems that his years of service to the country’s shadow warriors has bought him the good graces of the various authorities involved.
Kapu Kuialua was taught to the warrior class in the pre-contact society on the islands of Hawaii, using a combination of wrestling techniques, stone and wooden clubs, and wooden knives embedded with shark teeth to tear the flesh of the enemy when the knife is pulled out.
Warriors sought to gain mana, a concept which means both life force and status. To defeat the enemy in battle would increase ones mana; to lose in battle, should one live to tell about it, would result in loss of mana and often a new life as a slave.