An introduction to the ancient Māori martial art of mau rākau is a new feature of a key arts course being offered at the Mangere campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa starting at the end of this month.
Training in mau rākau – involving taiaha and other weaponry – offers many benefits to tauira (students), says course kaiako (tutor) Blackie Tohiariki (Te Arawa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Whānau-a-Apanui).
“Learning this ancient art teaches self-discipline and hand-eye coordination, and connects tauira to stories old and new. It also aids physical fitness and overall wellness,” says Blackie (59), who has been a part of Te Whare Tu Taua o Aotearoa for more than 25 years.
The fees free, semester B Toi Maruata course is the first time an introductory level mau rākau has been offered at Mangere. Some 20 places are available on the course and Blackie expects strong interest based on feedback he’s had from staff and local connections. Participants will also engage in the spiritual and intellectual aspects of mau rākau, not just the physical side.
Blackie himself was attracted to mau rākau because of factors like the discipline and fitness the art offered. “The bottom line is that you learn that in a sense you are the rākau – it’s an extension of yourself that you control.”
He says the orginal Māori fighting art was mamau (close unarmed grappling moves) involving “bone manipulation” but that the use of rakau came to grow in sophistication, with various types of weapons being developed. Different fighting styles emerged around the motu, such as the eastern style he learned under. He says all styles of learning are respected and acknowledged.
The mau rākau aspect of the course covers ancestral practices, values and protocols associated with the art. “Tauira learn about te ao Māori and tikanga while developing a specialised skill set and preserving the rich culture and art of the warrior,” says Blackie.
Students interested in details can visit www.twoa.ac.nz and search for the Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art (Level 3) course or call 0800 355 553. Blackie is also available on 027 358 8809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa also offers more advanced levels of mau rākau training at Auckland campuses.