Bringing you the final results of the Men’s Division for the 2023 World Fireknife Championship! 

This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this worldside competition. The lineup began with 30 competitors fighting it out on Wednesday, May 10th. They came from as far as Samoa, Hong Kong, Japan, Tahiti, Florida, Washington,  and all over Hawaii.  The skills, the camaraderie and the love were flowing. While each competitor performed on stage, their fireknife brothers were backstage cheering them on.

Three finalists were chosen to compete the following evening, May 11th, 2023 at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Pacific Theater. The battle for the crown was fierce, and the results are as follows:


Falaniko Penesa competing at 2023 World Fireknife

The 2023 World Fireknife Champion – Men’s Division, is Falaniko Penesa

Falaniko Penesa of Puipaa, Samoa

2023 World Fireknife Champion!

Falaniko, who previously won the title in 2017 and 2019, immediately took command both with the crowd and the drummers. When he threw his fireknife in the air, it soared. His command of the knife while twirling it at breakneck speeds takes one’s breath away. One of his signature skills is catching a twirling knife behind his back. With two knives in his hand, his speed never wavered. One of his many impressive moves included kicking the rotating knife towards him with his foot. Another was to actually bounce both knives mid-twirl onto the ground and then catch them expertly as they bounced back towards him. Congratulations, Falaniko. Your hardwork and passion certainly paid off!


Hale Motuapuaka performing at 2023 World Fireknife Competition

Hale Motu’apuaka was awarded 1st runner-up at the 2023 World Fireknife Competition

Hale Motu’apuaka of Aiea, Hawaii

1st Runner-up, 2023 World Fireknife Championship 

Hale is the only competitor (past and present) that has won the title in all three divisions: The Junior, Intermediate and Senior Division. Adding to that, he has won the coveted crown of World Fireknife Champion in 2018, 2021 and 2022. He began his performance by lighting the end of his knife by simply moving it quickly enough to catch the flames from the lit end towards the unlit end – a difficult and impressive move, to be sure! Known for the amazing speed of his twirls and his outstanding height when throwing his knife in the air, Hale’s skills are respected by all his fellow performers. That intensity did not waiver when he switched over to his two-knife performance.


Matagi Lilo performs at the 2023 World Fireknife Championship

Matagi Lilo’s first year of competition in the 2023 World Fireknife Championship resulted in a 2nd runner-up finish

Matagi Lilo of Ewa Beach, Hawaii

2nd Runner-up, 2023 World Fireknife Championship

From the moment first time senior competitor  Matagi lit his knife with his mouth, you knew his performance was going to carry some heat. He threw in a one-handed cartwheel early on and held his fireknife up by the soles of his feet for a full 4 seconds. During his double knife section, we witnessed speed and agility while he juggled his knives in different directions and heights. We hope to see you again next year, Matagi. You are sure to be welcomed with open arms.

Penesa performs at the 2023 World Fireknife Championship

A mighty warrior shows humility and gratitude to the cheering crowd



2023 World Fireknife Finale - Judge

Six past champions honored the 2023 World Fireknife Championship by serving as judges for the final night of competition

Special mention – past champions – today’s judges 

Our judges for the men’s finals were made up of past world fireknife champions, including: 

  • Head Judge Tauasā Sielu Avea, of Chief’s Luau, who 30 years ago was the first World Fireknife Champion (1993);
  • Ifi Soo from Maui, who has captured 3 wins (1994, 1995, 1996);
  • Ami Umi Sexton, who won his title in 2007;
  • Pati Levasa from Samoa, who has won an impressive 4 times (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002);
  • Alex Galeai from Laʻie, who received his crown in 2004; and
  • Viavia V J Tiumalu from Maui, who has was selected the champion 3 times (2008, 2011, 2014).


Read more about the 2023 World Fireknife Competition



Bio of Nina S. Jones, Blogger for the Polynesian Culture Center 

blogger for the Polynesian Cultural Center

Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 39 years, she volunteers at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Her hobbies include swimming, traveling, studying and writing about what she is learning from the various Polynesian cultures. Her blogs focus on their history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.