Tamiaho Searancke, who started learning the art of mau rākau at age three from his kuia and kaumatua, has guided another cohort of tauira through their journey of learning the ancient Māori martial art. The mau rākau arts courses – Toi Maruata Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art (Level 3) and Kāwai Raupapa Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art (Level 4) – were delivered at the Mangakōtukutuku campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Hamilton.
Tamiaho says his tauira come from varying backgrounds, “we have educators, social workers, health professionals, managers and leaders, and also whānau Māori who want to learn more about their whakapapa identity”.
Their desire to learn mau rākau and the benefits it brings to their own sense of identity and purpose is what unites these diverse tauira and the principles and values they learn become an important tool in their lives. Pareiriwhata, a second-year student, says mau rākau has helped her stand up for herself, and to walk with pride.
“It’s helped me connect with myself, and my people, who we are as Māori. It’s made me stronger as a mum, aunty, nan, daughter”.
“Tauira this year have been on a journey of self discovery, navigating the truths of their tupuna and renewing the way they approach all situations in their lives.”
Both Pare and newcomer Tania Neale stumbled in to learning mau rākau.
“I was at Waka Ama with my son, and I was drawn to a group of men practicing mau rākau. Tamiaho saw me, and encouraged me to have a go, so I did. I got hooked and signed up. I love it, it just feels so good for my soul,” Tania says.
Pare thought she was enroling in a toi class.
“I’m a creator, and I was looking for something different after studying small business. I turned up wearing clothes for art! But the moment I picked up the rākau I knew I’d found my place. It feels like fate called me here to learn this”.
Learning and practicing mau rākau extends beyond the classroom and tauira were able to attend noho, travel to sites including Queen’s Redoubt in Pōkeno and Hingakaka near Te Awamutu, and even joined in a community learning environment at Whiritoa beach. These opportunities provide powerful learning experiences.
Tania says “we were able to learn how to read the situation each time, whether that is on the sand dunes, at Queen’s Redoubt, in the water. Taking each situation as it is, understanding and adapting what you are doing”.
"The pursuits of mau rākau are similar to that of being a kaitiaki, a guardian within Te Ao Maori through understanding our ever-changing world and our place within it" says Tamiaho.
Both wāhine have much gratitude for Tamiaho. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, or how you interpret it. You have the freedom to learn with your own flavour”, says Tania. “He tells us, ‘if you absorb it and remember it, then you are meant to learn it’”.