Koianake Sharples is the latest of his family to reach the Pouwaru, or 8th stage of Te Whare Tū Taua o Aotearoa, the Māori weaponry training school. He follows in the footsteps of his father Paora, and grandfather Sir Pita who founded the school 36 years ago.
The younger Sharples was one of five people today who were celebrated at a ceremony at Hoani Waititi Marae in Auckland, as they became the latest to receive their red and black tīpare, the mark of their rank. Koianake was excited by the thought that today's graduation showed he had reached the pinnacle of Te Whare Tū Taua.
The five, Sharples, Wiremu Tai Tin, Dennis Tamati Waipouri, Tūwhakairiora Marikena, and Aaron Hapuku, take the number of Pouwaru trained by Te Whare Tū Taua to 44.
Sharples said he was fortunate to be the latest product of Te Whare Tū Taua, the organisation Sir Pita Sharples set up in 1983. His father Paora, who also holds the rank of Pouwaru says the entire family is proud of what his son has achieved, however, says Koianake was left to do it in his own time and when he was ready.
Paora Sharples is just as proud of the other four graduates today, saying it isn't something that is easy to do. Graduating Pouwaru can take between 12-15 years of training, and Paora says some people feel the need to take a break after reaching the 4th level and take a few years to return, or never do in some cases.
He says that the journey is not all about the weaponry, rather they are simply the vehicles. Te Reo, whakapapa, tikanga as well as physical fitness are all key elements to achievement, Sharples says.
Koianake agrees, saying if it's only the tīpare that someone wants, they will never get there. He says Mau Rākau has become a lifestyle for him, before adding that most people who do this take it home with them, to their families, and use it to help their people and their iwi.
Paora Sharples says another pleasing aspect for him is seeing the youthfulness of the current crop of graduates, three of the five were in their early to mid 20s. Sharples, Tai Tin and Marikena are also graduates of Te Wharekura o Hoani Waititi Marae. Paora Sharples says that is also something for the West Auckland whānau to be proud of. When Te Whare Tū Taua was established 36 years ago, Paora says the intention was to reach as many people as they could, but ultimately it was also set up with the following generations in mind. Wiremu Tai Tin is also the third of his family to become Pouwaru, joining his father Hemi, and brother Mau.
Koianake Sharples is hoping to continue to promote the Te Whare Tū Taua kaupapa across the country and continue to reinvigorate the realm of Tūmatauenga.