Students of Māori martial arts "tested to the limits"

By Jessica Tyson
Students at grading today in Auckland. Source: File

Students of Māori martial arts were put to the test today during their mau rākau grading in Auckland.

One of them was Anthony Thompson, who graded for his pouwha tipare, the fourth level of mau rākau Māori weaponry under Te Whare Tū Taua o Aotearoa, the International School of Māori Weaponry.

“They test you on your limits, keep pushing you when you’re tired, when you’re sore so it was difficult but happy with the result,” says Thompson, who is a member of Ngā uri a Tū.

As part of his grading, Thompson performed a wero, carried out during powhiri to determine the intentions of a visiting group.

“There’s wahanga in te reo that we use in Te Whare Tū Taua but mine was mostly freestyle.  I just wanted it to be basic with a lot of ihi, a lot of mana,” says the Ngāti Whitikaupeka descendant.

Anthony Thompson. Source: File

Waimaria Ngapo, of Hauraki, graded for the first time today to receive her poutahi, the first level.

“It was really hard. It really tested my inner strength within myself, like, mind over matter.”

She says it’s important for rangatahi to get involved in Māori weaponry “because it connects us to our environment.  Everything that we use, everything that we do, connects us to papatuanuku. That’s the tipare that I’ve just attained today.  For me, it connects me to my Māoritanga, to my environment and to our people.”

Anthony and Waimaria. Source. File

Mau Tai Tin is one of the leaders who ran today's grading today at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Kotuku in Ranui.

Six years ago, he attained his pouwaru, the eighth and highest level of Māori weaponry.  

Tin says that through mau rākau, students can realise their own potential while being assessed, “not just the Māori worldview, but also by their own identity, their own potential. When you teach a child mau rākau, he becomes a chief.”

Wharekura students can gain NCEA credits by grading under Te Whare Tū Taua.  Tin says one of the benefits of this is “that the Māori world is valued within the Pākehā world.

“There are lots on Māori and non-Maori kids keen to learn this mahi so schools would benefit from running this programme.  If there are no students, there are no teachers.  Our youth play a huge role in our mahi.”

About Te Whare Tū Taua 

  • Te Whare Tū Taua o Aoteaora was founded by Dr Pita Sharples in 1983 during the renaissance of the Māori language and tikanga and to offer the ancient art of mau rākau back to Māoridom as an innovative program in physical fitness, Māori history, Māori Atua, whakapapa, confidence, leadership skills, self-discipline, respect and all uses of the taiaha.
  • The curriculum is separated into eight stages (poutahi to pouwaru), taking between 12 to 15 years to complete.
  • At present, there are approximately 2,000 members throughout Aotearoa from all tribes and throughout the world, men and women, from akonga to pouwaru.