What do I do with my hands??? Oh, Shaka!
You just finish a tough class. You tapped and you got a few taps. Then, someone yells, “Let’s get a picture!”. So you line up with your sweaty training partners, try to ignore the smell and the feel of their cold sweaty Gis, and smile for the picture. Then it hits you, what do you do with your hands? You can make fist... (no too aggressive), how about a thumbs up?... (no too cheesy), how about a “shaka” sign.. “Yeah, just right”.
Well, since I always thought of it as the “hang loose” sign and associated it with surf culture, it seemed like a harmless enough sign. But, being neurotic, I needed to look into it. So here I am to report to you a brief history of its origin and the meaning. This will either be a pleasant surprise for you or a complete waste of time. Sorry if it’s the latter of the two.
While it’s origins have roots in Hawaii, Wikipedia is unclear if it came to Hawaii from spanish sailors, whalers signalling a catch, or it’s a V for Victory associated with World War 2. What we do know is that today it represents the “Aloha Spirit” in Hawaii. This is a concept of friendship and solidarity and can mean anything from being a greeting to saying thanks.
Since I used to surf and spend a lot of my life in California, I always thought of it as a cool way to express my happiness and that I was feeling relaxed or “hanging loose”. Now that I have spent some time looking into the origin, I think the Hawaiian definition more closely defines the spirit of the picture after training. After a shared struggle, shared suffering, and, ultimately, a shared joy, friendship, and solidarity we get from one another in the BJJ community.
Thanks for reading!