The Haka – Explaining The Important NZ Rugby Ritual

The Haka, a type of ancient Maori dance which is commonly used when groups band together in peace or on a battlefield. The Haka is expressed through a variety of gestures and facial expressions that the performers display. When the Haka is performed, it demonstrates the group or tribe’s unity, strength and togetherness. The gestures in the traditional dance include vigorous body slapping, violent foot-stamping, tongues protruding and loud chants. The words spoken during the Haka are in Maori and often describe a story of their ancestors or tribe history, poetically. Till today the Haka is used in several different Maori ceremonies and celebrations which are hosted in a variety of places and countries, predominantly in sports.

The Haka - Explaining The Important NZ Rugby Ritual
The Haka – Explaining The Important NZ Rugby Ritual

The Speciality of The Haka

These special occasions often include weddings, family events or birthdays. This war dance is also used to challenge an opposing team on a sports field. The All Blacks from New Zealand perform a particular Haka before their rugby match. Every traditional Haka starts with changing the words, “Ka mate! Ka ora!”, which translates into the world “I die! I live!”. The most common and traditional Haka is famously known as the ‘Ka mate’ pronounced ‘Kah Ma-Tae’, a war cry which was written in the year of 1820 by a Maori chief – Te Rauparaha. This Haka was performed during high-status funerals or to greet foreigners. In the year 2005, they came up with a much more moderated version which was exclusive to NZ’s All Blacks Rugby team and was limited to only be performed during specific matches.

The Haka to The Sportsmen of New Zealand

Nowadays if an NZ team was to take over the field, nobody knows which version of the Haka they will perform.  The All Blacks have been performing the Haka for their side since 1905. The opposing team usually stand there and watch while the All Blacks conduct their dance and contortions of the face. The Haka caused several controversies and disagreements within two groups of people. England was fined during one of the matches, as usually the opposite team are supposed to stand single file on the 10-meter line while a team is performing the Haka. However, England ignored the match rules and stood in a ‘v’ line, which resulted in a fine for £2000.

One year, Ireland Captain – Willi Anderson – and the rest of his team had stormed towards the All Blacks while they were in the middle of their Haka dance on the sports field. In the year of 1989, the Ireland captain ended up having a faceoff with the All Blacks Skipper – Wayne Shelford. In 1997, Richard Cockerill went head-on with his opposite digit – Norm Hewitt. In the modern-day, the Haka is still traditionally honoured on a professional sporting field. Nevertheless, several people claim that the Haka is capturing the audience’s attention rather than the primary sport. England was fined during one of the matches, as usually opposite team are supposed to stand single file on the 10-meter line while a team is performing the Haka, but England ignored match rules and stood in a ‘v’ shape, which resulted in a fine for £2000. There is no appointed leader while performing the Haka, but usually in order not to cause any arguments the captain of the team often leads the Haka.

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