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Te Waioratanga 07 16 9

Aaron Hapuku: Celebrating being Māori with taiaha

Aaron Hapuku celebrates being Māori through an ancient weaponry practice.

Hapuku began to learn the art of taiaha in Ōtautahi, Christchurch under the style of Te Arawa (Mita Mohi), which is led in Te Waipounamu by Ahorei (Head Tutor) Te Mairiki Williams (Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, Ngāi Tahu).

While living in London a branch of Te Whare Tū Taua o Aotearoa - the International School of Māori Weaponry (Maramara Tōtara) was established by Kateia Burrows (Ngāti Porou). As a member of this roopū Hapuku was able to broaden his taiaha knowledge within the taiaha style belonging to Ngāti Kahungunu, which was established in the 1980s by Tā Pita Sharples.

In 2011 Te Whare Tū Taua o Waitaha, the local Christchurch branch was re-established with the support of He Waka Tapu He Oranga Pounamu.

Hapuku acknowledged the support of Ngai Tahu in recent years also, in keeping classes running and free to everyone.

“We are about celebrating being Maori and enjoying a healthy activity, which we can attach to our language and culture and instill proud in our tauira.”

It is a practice that aligns well with his role at the Canterbury District Health Board around Maori health promotion. “It’s that whole idea of offering a positive view of the Maori world.”

Being involved in the All Right? Hikitia te hā exercise videos was one way to help do just that.

For the Hikitia Te Hā project six people participated and put together the movements based on their own ideas.

“It was much more valuable to have them put the movements together. We wanted them to be easy enough so that someone looking at them from home, without any training in taiaha whatsoever, would be able to pick up a stick or a broom and follow along with it.”

Some 30 to 40 students attend training weekly at Te Pā o Rākaihautū. It’s for men and women, from 12 years old and up. We really challenge ourselves, it’s not just a fight but is about respecting the taonga, history and how to use it to sharpen our physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.”

“It’s similar to any other class you might do at the gym, except it has that cultural element to it that will hopefully connect people to their own identity.”

Hapuku said there was a lot of energy going in to the revitalisation of traditional performing arts like kapa haka, and taiaha was now featuring more prominently. “I think there are a lot more taiaha groups out there now than what there were when I was growing up.”

Hapuku enjoyed the physical aspect of taiaha, and the way in which it helped him further develop the Maori language. “Best of all is the social connection. It allows me to connect with my community.”

“It is about promoting what is good about being Maori and there is lots to celebrate.”

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