Sharing The Culture

Sean Chun uses traditional Hawaiian practices to help others heal mind, body and spirit, and he is on a mission to share this ancient knowledge with a select few so that they, too, can assist others in achieving well-being.

“He’s the total package. He’s amazing,” says Kaniho Giminiz, one of Chun’s students.

Chun is passing along his wisdom to a group of men and boys — all of Hawaiian ancestry — who regularly gather to learn comprehensive healing practices using ancient techniques such as ho‘oponono (conflict and spiritual resolution), la‘au lapa‘au (medicinal herbs) and lomilomi (massage).

His training involves much more than learning about body structure and goes well beyond the physical. He has helped others heal, for example, by resolving conflicts on a spiritual basis, and by examining all aspects of their lives, including family and lifestyle.

“If you’re given something, you don’t hold it for yourself. I believe you spread it to other people who could use it as well,” says Wayne Kalaniopulani Panui, another of Chun’s students who has been studying with him for years. “If it’s doing well for you, of course you pass it out.”

Panui believes it was fate that brought him to Chun, and he has been captivated by the guidance he has received. He is excited to follow in his teacher’s footsteps and motivate others to do the same.

“Eventually, everyone can take care of each other,” he says.

Giminiz also is grateful to receive such personalized training.

“What am I not learning?” he asks, in reference to the all-encompassing cultural knowledge he has acquired since joining the group.

Chun incorporates everything about Hawaiian traditions — from poi pounding to building hale — into his lessons, and he often leads conferences, such as a recent three-day retreat to Kokee, where a group of some 50 men and boys participated in activities like clearing invasive plants.

“I’m one of those people who didn’t discover kanaka until later on in life,” admits Giminiz. “For me, this is a learning experience no matter what I’m doing; it’s the whole nine yards.”

Panui is 75 percent Hawaiian, yet he was never exposed to his culture in the way he is with Chun. In fact, many keiki growing up in Hawaii are disconnected from their heritage.

“They always feel like they’re missing something,” explains Chun.

He is attempting to change that feeling by helping them identify with their culture which, in turn, builds positive qualities, including self-esteem.

“It’s a gratifying feeling,” he says of being a part of that process. “It’s something I needed to do; I don’t know why. I think it’s a responsibility.”

Chun sees consistent changes not only in keiki he instructs but in his adult students as well, with whom he meets once a week as they continue to mature by connecting to their culture and identity.

“As long as he’ll have me, I plan to do whatever I can wherever I can,” says Giminiz.

The soft-spoken and humble Chun felt the same way about his own teachers, including Ken Kamakea, whom he credits as his inspiration for learning the art of healing and encouraging others to do the same.

“I was fortunate because I had incredible teachers,” he says. “They took me one-on-one.”

Chun grew up on Oahu and graduated from McKinley High School. He moved to Kauai more than two decades ago because he yearned for a slower-paced lifestyle where natural resources were still in abundance. He and wife Jaye have three children, Jase (25), Shay (21) and Sean (7).

The Wailua resident hopes to continue healing and bringing the community together not just on a personal basis, but through programs like Hoola Lahui

Hawaii, for which he is the cultural practitioner. He also serves on its Kupuna Council of traditional Hawaiian healers (each island has a council and Chun heads Kauai’s).

Kauai High School graduate Giminiz hopes everyone who lives in the Islands eventually will learn about the host culture.

“At least the people would know the value because this is all we have,” he says.

“This is it.”

He feels privileged and lucky to continue receiving access to Chun’s traditional knowledge that few people are granted the opportunity to learn.

“Just to be a part of this is mind-blowing,” agrees Panui. “It’s unreal.”