About New Zealand – Maori Culture

Hongi – Traditional Maori Greeting

New Zealand has a unique and dynamic culture. The culture of its indigenous Māori people affects the language, the arts, and even the accents of all New Zealanders. Their place in the South Pacific, and their love of the outdoors, sport, and the arts make New Zealanders and their culture unique in the world.

The Māori people are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and first arrived here in waka hourua (voyaging canoes) from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki over 1000 years ago. Today, Māori make up over 14 percent of the population. Their language and culture has a major impact on all facets of New Zealand life.

An attempt by a visitor to use Māori greetings will almost certainly elicit a delighted response from both Māori and Pakeha (European) New Zealanders.

Kia ora — Hello
Kia ora tatou — Hello everyone
Tena koe — Greetings to you (said to one person)
Tena koutou — Greeting to you all
Haere mai — Welcome
Nau mai — Welcome
Kei te pehea koe? — How’s it going?
Kei te pai — Good
Tino pai — Really good
Haere ra — Farewell
Ka kite ano — Until I see you again (Bye)
Hei konei ra — See you later
Maori Haka
New Zealand Taekwon-Do Team Haka

By now many Taekwon-Do enthusiasts around the world – VIPs, umpires, coaches, competitors and spectators – have seen the New Zealand Taekwon-Do team perform a loud, physical challenge in support of their team mates in the ring. Stamping their feet and slapping their chests. Indeed, Master Bos has requested a performance in the centre ring on more than one occasion.

You may have read about it in ITF Generations magazine. It is called a “haka”, a tradition of the Maori people of New Zealand that has become a national expression of New Zealand identity and pride. This is largely due to its performance by the national rugby team, the All Blacks, before its games through most of the last hundred years. (There are a few great videos of All Blacks haka on their website.)

However, we are athletes, practising this national tradition as a minor aside to practising for our chosen sport – be it Taekwon-Do or rugby.

There are groups in New Zealand called “Kapa Haka”, for whom this is their sport – or cultural activity, more correctly.

Imagine seeing Maori warriors performing this fierce war dance. Their eyes glaring from tattooed faces. Their grass skirts swinging angrily about their legs.

At the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Championships, you will get that opportunity!