If you watch rugby at all, you’ve certainly seen the All Blacks haka. And you probably also know that it comes from a traditional Maori war dance. It was a dance performed by Maori people before battles in front of their enemies, as a way to intimidate them with their strength and prowess. If you have seen the All Blacks haka before, you can imagine that seeing nearly 100 people perform the Maori haka at the same time could be pretty intimidating! However, the haka was not only performed in times of aggression. It could also be used to welcome distinguished guests, to acknowledge great achievements, or at momentous occasions or funerals.
Types Of Haka
The All Blacks Haka you see performed before a match is actually only one of several kinds. It is called “ka mate, ka mate” and is a comparatively recent addition, having been invented in 1820. More traditional types of Maori haka are the “whakatu waewae”, the “tutu ngarahu” and the “peruperu”. This last one was traditionally performed before battle to invoke the god of war, and is characterised by leaps during which the legs are pressed under the lower body. It also involved fierce facial expressions and the waving of weapons to scare the enemy. If the Haka was not performed in perfect unison, this was considered a bad omen. So watch the All Blacks closely next time – maybe when they mess up the haka, they mess up their playing too. Perhaps wait to see the haka before you lay your rugby bets!
The Maori Haka (especially the war haka) was usually performed by a taua. A taua is a Maori war party. If a person or group of people wanted to start a war, they needed to gather a taua to do it. The taua would be led by a chief, and consisted of about 70 men, and occasionally women. The strategy of the taua was usually to attack at dawn in the form of a surprise raid or ambush. They had intimate knowledge of the natural environment, and could move around without noise. However, the haka was a central feature of the life and culture of a taua. The haka performed by each taua would never be exactly the same.
Haka In Rugby
The first time a haka rugby display was used before a match, was during 1888-89, when the New Zealand Native Team toured the home nations of the UK. They were the first team from a colony to do this. They intended to wear traditional maori costume before performing this haka for rugby, but they soon discarded the costumes. However, they were surely still a fearsome sight. It was the beginning of a tradition: ever since then, the haka was often performed before a rugby match. And this haka rugby tradition only strengthened over time. Today, the All Blacks haka is famous worldwide.