Performers commit to becoming "haka fit" for Te Matatini

By Taroi Black

With only one week out from Te Matatini, some groups and performers have made it their mission over the past months to transform their bodies into athletic warriors. 

For one performer, Tiare Tawera, haka has opened up a healthy life changing experience for him. 

Getting "buff" for the haka stage continued onwards and upwards for him as he now does bodybuilding.

So, is kapa haka a sport?

“No way, sport is so much different to kapa haka.  You train and run all the time in sport. In the kapa haka world you have protocols and customs to carry out,” says Tawera.

Every two years, Te Matatini showcases some of the most handsome but fierce competitors in the kapa haka world.

But for Tawera, fitness has always been his main focus on a daily basis.  Showing off his muscles on the haka stage however is an added bonus.

Tawera says, “When performing kapa haka on stage, you are exposed to the world, so it's an opportunity for us to show them a healthier lifestyle.  I train 60 Te Matatini performers who are in groups like Te Mātārae i Ōrehu, Ngā Pou o Roto, Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri, and the two teams from Australia.”

Some say that some performers are going overboard.

Mahanga Pihama says, “It's not about training to have a six-pack, a defined chest, or that your veins pop out, that's not what it's about.  For me, just be sharp and on to it.”

But for Tiare Tawera, it's all about inspiring others to get fit.

He says, “I've been doing this for six years.  Last year I won both regional and national bodybuilding competitions and on my Facebook page I started a new blog called Tiare Tarewa Athlete and I have about 4000-5000 followers.  I will also launch my new website on Monday.”

So the big question is, what's underneath his singlet?  Well, you'll have to wait for Te Matatini to find out.