Hapuka's Mau Rakau Blog

Discussion in 'Other Styles' started by Hapuka, Aug 28, 2014.

  1. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Tena Koutou, Hello everyone. So I've decided to make a blog about Mau Rakau as I've recently have taken it up. Its amazing to think that its been 5 generations since anyone in my family has practiced Mau Rakau, so for me to doing it is super special.

    Since hearing about Mau Rakau in 2008 Iv'e been raring to do it but there wasn't any local Tohunga (tutors) available to teach it. Last week however a new Mau Rakau school was established in my local neighborhood. Although I've been out of shape since my motorcycle crash back in 2011, I decided to stand strong (Kia Kaha) and get into it. My fitness and weight is something that definitely needs working on. Also, I gotta get my some proper knee and ankle supports.

    My older sister is also doing Mau Rakau with me, which is massive for her as she has social anxiety. She has been wanting to do martial arts for years but her shyness kept her back. So I'm super proud of her for coming and par taking.

    The training is intense as its essentially cultural immersion. I have to learn how to speak Te Reo Maori, preform Karakia (traditional prayers), Kapa Haka (war dance), traditional battle formations, traditional greetings (hongi), memorize ancient lore, whakairo (carving), play Taonga Puoro (treasured instruments) as well as empty hand combat, learning to use the Taiaha and Patu. And that's just scratching the surface. Training at the moment is once a week for 2 hours, and believe it or not, to learn all of this knowledge is only costing me a dollar for each training session. The club is trying to establish more training days, which is great (the more the merrier).

    Last week I learnt basic foot work, karakia, battle formations and empty hand combat. This week I did foot work, karakia, battle formations, empty hand combat, step sparring and basic Taiaha. As I don't have a Taiaha of my own yet, I've been using a wooden broom handle instead (which does the job).

    If anyone was to ask me what Mau Rakau is similar to in terms of style and technique, I couldn't give a straight answer. The empty hand combat is inspired by the Ruru (Morepork) which is a New Zealand owl. The Ruru is the Kaitiaki (guardian) of the region I live in.


    There are elements of the empty hand combat that remind me of Karate. And the use of the Taiaha reminds me of Kobudo. But the footwork is something else all together. In Mau Rakau our footwork is inspired by native birds, we flick our feet up. In Mau Rakau, like in Muay Thai we use our shins to protect ourselves from incoming blows. And many of the stances are similar to what you would find in Karate, but its the way how its put together is what makes it different to anything that I've done in the past. The foot work is complex and elegant to watch when everything is put together, but at the moment all I've been doing tripping up all over myself (well, hey, I've only been doing it for 2 weeks). Our club does do full contact sparring with Taiaha and Patu, but I ain't going near any of that until I've got the basics down. Hopefully I'll be updating this blog every week.

    Here's a video demonstrating Mau Rakau foot work:

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2015
  2. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Well there's something you don't read about on MAP very often. :)
  3. LemonSloth

    LemonSloth Laugh and grow fat!

    Awesome stuff, thanks for posting. I look forward to reading more :).
  4. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    So its been 2 weeks since I updated this thread. Which means that so I've been doing Mau Rakau for a month. At the moment we are still working on our Waewae (footwork), Rongomamau (grappling) and Paoa (strikes). With daylight saving fast approaching, soon we will begin our training at the local Marae (the traditional grounds).

    Soon we will also be getting our uniforms (both our club training uniforms and our traditional uniforms for formal events), more on both when I receive them. Last week we also received our reference booklets (which is all in Te Reo Maori). Unfortunately the booklets don't come with reference illustrations for techniques, and its not like I can look them up on the internet like I can with other martial arts. My guess is that its to prevent people from 'self teaching' and mcdojoising the art form. That also means that I can't share any video footage unless it is of myself doing Mau Rakau and I'm nowhere in the position to do that in terms of my skill level.

    Tonight I learnt that the Waewae (footwork) is unique to the individual. That means that there is no strict/correct way to step. Some people like to raise their knees up high and jump, others like myself prefer to stay on the ground. Mau Rakau also has kicking techniques which I wasn't aware of, the main one being the front kick.

    So yeah, training is going pretty well. I'll probably update this blog in another 2 weeks or so.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2014
  5. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Would love an update!
    This is probably the most interesting martial art anyone is studying on MAP!
  6. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Hi there Zaad, sorry that there hasn't been an update in a while. Lots of things have been going on in life including Mau Rakau. Everything is going along smoothly and soon I will be doing the first part of my upcoming grading to get an official club t-shirt, the official grading is not until February next year.

    There are 8 levels in Mau Rakau, the first being pou tahi. Pou are totem posts that depict ancestors, they can be found either within the Wharenui (the big meeting house on the marae) or at places of importance.

    Our club also has a Haka now that is of historical significance to the region I live in (Ka Mate isn't the only Haka in town). The name of our Haka is called Whitiwhitia. The chant is fairly long as its also used as a Karakia (prayer), its purpose is to basically clear sacredness or spiritual unrest from an area. The other Karakia we also use before and after training is Mai e, which is a Karakia of acknowledgement of our ancestors and their ways.

    I have been filming footage of the club too but unfortunately I cannot share it as its an indepth look into techniques and their uses, we don't want people doing and teaching faux rakau over the internet. So its for the club only, but soon I hope to shoot a promo for the club which I will share here on MAP and on youtube. We also have a workshop coming up in November at Papawai Marae (the Marae that we train at) that will be covering Mau Rakau (of course), Raranga (flax weaving), Whakairo (carving) and Taonga Puoro (musical instruments) over the course of a couple of days. Multiple clubs will be attending so I'll see If I can get some footage which I can share with you guys (hopefully sparring).
  7. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    I'm just interested to hear about the cultural stuff!

    Will you learn to carve your own weapons and the flax mat armour for one arm (read thats a thing for single weapons)?
    How often are classes?

    I found a Moari Cultural centre in London from the links you provided in another thread and I'm tempted in going when I have more money.
    They have a Mau Rakau class.
  8. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Yes, we will learn how to carve our own weaponry, the first being the Taiaha. Our club wont be making flax armor for sparring (or at least it hasn't been announced). Sparring is full contact with all shots being legal including the groin shot. So far all we have been recommended to bring are cricket gloves, but we can spar without them if we choose to. Most people however that don't wear hand protection usually end up with broken fingers even with our rakau (sticks) being padded. Our classes are twice a week at the moment, though that may increase depending on popularity and how many people are available to teach in our region.

    Heres the link for the London Mau Rakau club - http://www.maramara-totara.org.uk/
  9. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Thats really interesting!
    I wonder how its related to other polynesian (like hawaiian styles) or austro-asiatic styles (like kali)

    How were wars between maori tribes conducted?

    Most of my own culture's fighting styles were banned by colonisers or only now found in rural areas where they havent been used for fighting for many generations so other cultures fighting have really interested me.
  10. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    The fighting styles across the Pacific are very similar, but each have their unique differences. Maori came from all over the Pacific and New Zealand became a cultral melting pot when the early Polynesians settled. Fighting styles can vary slighty from iwi to iwi (tribes). For an example, the male toa (warrior) from my iwi (Ngati Kahangunu) engage in wide stances when fighting in comparison to other iwis like Ngai Tuhoe who tend to favour narrower stances (similar to how the women of Ngati Kahangunu fight).

    For traditional warfare you can read this article here http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/riri-traditional-maori-warfare
  11. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Thats suuuuper interesting!

    I'd like to hear how to carve weapons! the type of wood, what tools you use traditionally, what part of a tree you use and how you make them significant to the individual?
    does every warrior carve their own weapons traditionally or do you have a carpenter in the community traditionally?

    sorry for so many question but the cultural is something i would really like to learn.
  12. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    That's ok, I don't mind answering questions. :)

    At the club the wood that we will be using for carving Taiaha is Manuka (New Zealand tea tree), as its strong and abundant. As far as tools go we will be using standard wood carving equipment; chisels, clamps etc. The part of the wood that Maori generally use in carving is heart wood as its not as prone to warping, shrinking and cracking as sapwood is. Each practitioner is to carve their own under the supervision of a Tohunga Whakairo (master carver) once they pass Pou Tahi and move onto Pou Rua (the second level - grading is next year in February). When I carve my own I hope to upload some images and explain some of the processes involved.
  13. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Kia ora Koutou everyone. Sorry its been a while but I thought I would do an update of what I've been up to. So tonight for the first time we did free sparring with rakau. :)
    Unfortunately I sucked at it. I thought with my years of Boxing and Muay Thai under my belt that I would fair better, but as I learnt weapons sparring is very different. In a way I'm glad I sucked because that tells me how much more I need to learn. I enjoyed myself though. The rules for sparring at pou tahi (first grade) is first to 3 points. Each opponent takes a turn at striking and blocking, if you successfully land a strike or your opponent does the wrong block you get a point.

    Tonight we also had to demonstrate a wero (challenge) that we had made up. A wero consists of getting from point A to point B using a combination (free style) of different moves and techniques. My wero wasn't very good (as I had to make it up on the spot), and my older sister who has social aniexty almost had a panic attack, so we did one together. Traditionally its done by one person, usually male. But since I was breaking tikanga (protocol) anyways I thought I would go ahead and break it further. That's progression for you. Since those following this blog have seen what mau rakau sparring looks like, here's an example of what a wero looks like. Visually those doing the wero and supposed to imitating a manu (bird) hence all the noises, jumping, stamping and flashy moves;

  14. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    I also just realized after almost a year that I named this blog "Hapuku's Mau Rakau Blog" rather than "Hapuka's Mau Rakau Blog" :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
  15. HarryF

    HarryF Malued Vember

    This log is really cool, moar updatez plz!

    Good on ya, this is my favourite reaction to a challenge, and yes, weapon striking v empty handed striking can be very different - with a weapon you don't always need perfect upright posture to get a good shot, so the range can be deceiving!

    the bold part is the best bit.

    Wero looks pretty cool, and I bet it's something that can grow with you as you learn more and can move more fluidly. I reckon that a multi-person Wero could look amazing - kind of like how a spec ops fire team breaches and clears a room - each person having their own sectors to deal with, but everyone moving as a unit... nice!
  16. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Changed for you.
  17. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Here's a cool video showcasing some of the basic techniques of Mau Rakau with added explanation.

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2015
  18. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    Not exactly Mau Rakau but related. I found this really fascinating article written by Gavin Dickson founder of CAA (Coreeda association of Australia) about pacific island wrestling it also includes a piece on Maori wrestling too. Here's the link, just scroll down to the bottom of the page to download the PDF. Just a note, although traditionally Maori wrestling went by a few names (depending on the location) today its known commonly as Whatoto, which these days appears to be Maori name for Wrestling as Whawhai Mekemeke is the Maori name for Boxing. Though I'm not 100% sure. I have seen a couple of clubs around that are teaching a hybridization of Whatoto and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


    Whatoto in its original form probably would of looked similar to Kiribati wrestling (Boumwane).

  19. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    So I don't know if this has happened to anyone else one in their training but I have a bit of a situation where my tutor is unable to come all the time to Mau Rakau because he works a high stress job. So sometimes I'm left to run the class (but thankfully not by myself). Although I'm only a beginner, my other classmates seem to appreciate my style of teaching and they appear to be learning. I don't like coming up with stuff on the spot, and I don't like running something with me being as inexperienced as I am in the style. So tonight I focused on basic sparring principles that I have learnt from Boxing and Muay Thai over the years such as footwork, distance control and looking for openings. I feel a bit bad because I'm not exactly the best fighter and yet I'm teaching fighting. I'm simply going with concepts that I have learnt from youtube videos (like the dog brothers), practiced at home and from experience. In other words, winging it. :dunno:

    We had a good spar though at the end with our Rakau. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not, our club isn't asking for payments from practitioners at the moment so I don't as bad.
  20. Hapuka

    Hapuka Te Aho

    I forgot to mention to talk about the ranking system in Mau Rakau. Most clubs that are associated with Te whare tu taua o Atearoa wear Tipare (head bands) to denote rank. The club I'm in doesn't because our instructor doesn't care much for them. Each colour and rank is associated with an atua (god/goddess).

    The ranking system goes as the following, on average it takes ten or more years to reach the highest level.

    Pou Tahi - Brown. Papatuanuku: The mother of the gods and the goddess of the earth.
    Pou Rua - Green. Tane Mahuta: The god of the forest.
    Pou Toru - Blue. Tangaroa: The god of the sea.

    The first three levels are more or less about the fundamentals of Mau Rakau.

    Pou Wha - White. Tawhirimatea: The god of the wind. At this level the Wero is taught.


    Pou Rima - Yellow. Rongo: The god of peace and kumara (sweet potato)
    Pou Ono - Orange. Ruaumoko: The god of earth quakes and volcanoes.
    Fluenceny in Te Reo Maori is required to progress.

    Pou Whitu - Purple. Maui: The demi god.
    Pou Waru - Red. Tumatauenga: The god of war. At this level you can teach.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2015

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