Although the Haka is performed by many sports teams and individuals travelling overseas from New Zealand, the best known team for performing the Haka is of course the All Blacks Rugby Team.
Before a rugby match it is both impressive and moving to see the All Blacks do the Haka and nowadays it has become like their trademark.
The word Haka actually refers to all Maori dances, not just the one we are familiar with because of the All Blacks. In Maori custom Haka was of high social importance in entertaining and welcoming visitors, so much so that the reputation of a Maori tribe depended on it. These days Haka is more specifically the part of Maori dance where the men are to the fore with their womenfolk in the rear doing vocals.
The haka has been associated with New Zealand Rugby since the original All Black team of New Zealand natives was led by Joseph Warbrick. The team perform it with intensity and precision which is a reflection of their sporting approach. The performance goes comfortably hand in hand with the high level of skill, determination and commitment of the All Blacks team.
So what are the origins of this famous dance?
The Maori Sun God, Tama-nui-to-ra had two wives, one who was the Summer Maid, (Hine-raumati) and the other the Winter Maid (Hine Takurua). The origin of the dance is credited to the sun born to Tama-nui-to-ra and the Summer Maid, (Hine-raumati), who was called Tane-rore.
Tane-rore is the trembling of the air as seen on the hot days in summertime which is represented in the dance by the quivering hands. The complex dance is an expression of passion, vigour and identity of race.
It is an embodiment of the Maori warrior culture which starts off with the knees bent with the hands on hips waiting from the call from the leader to begin. The starting call is “Ka mate, ka mate” which means “It is death, it is death.” This original All Black Haka was composed in the 19th century by Te Rauparaha, a famous warrior chief. He is said to have composed it when deep in a pit avoiding the wrath of an enemy tribe in celebration of his lucky escape.
These days the haka we see is haka taparahi which means dance without weapons. However maybe in the case of the All Blacks we do not see traditional weapons but the weapons of outstanding performance, determination and mental strength on the rugby pitch.