The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Haka

Excerpted from articles at Wikipedia . Next to the octopus accompanying the Red Wings on their playoff runs, the Haka by the All Blacks is one of my favorite sports traditions. Talk about getting up for the game!

Although the use of a haka by the All Blacks rugby union team has made one type of haka familiar, it has led to misconceptions. Haka[2] are not exclusively war dances, nor are they only performed by men. Some are performed by women, others by mixed groups, and some simple haka are performed by children. Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements or occasions (McLean 1996:46-47). War haka (peruperu) were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition. Today, haka constitute an integral part of formal or official welcome ceremonies for distinguished visitors or foreign dignitaries, serving to impart a sense of the importance of the occasion.

The most well-known haka is "Ka Mate", attributed to Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe. The "Ka Mate" haka is classified as a haka taparahi – a ceremonial haka. "Ka Mate" is about the cunning ruse Te Rauparaha used to outwit his enemies, and may be interpreted as "a celebration of the triumph of life over death" (Pōmare 2006).

The first New Zealand rugby team to tour overseas, playing eight matches in New South Wales, Australia, in 1884, performed "a Maori war cry" or haka before each of its matches.

During 1888-89, the New Zealand Native team toured the Home Nations of the United Kingdom, the first team from a colony to do so. It was originally intended that only Māori players would be selected, but four non Māori were finally included. As the non Māori were born in New Zealand, the name "Native" was considered justified. The team performed a haka before the start of their first match on 3 October 1888 against Surrey. They were described as using the words "Ake ake kia kaha" which suggests that the haka was not "Ka Mate". It was intended that before each match they would perform the haka dressed in traditional Māori costume but the costumes were soon discarded.

The Ka Mate haka was not well known at this time. In 1900, a newspaper reported New Zealand soldiers in the Boer War chanting "Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! Hae-haea! Ha!" The soldiers thought it meant "Kill him! Chop him up! Baste him!"

But during the 1901 Royal Tour, Ngati Kahungunu warriors revived Ka Mate when they performed it to welcome the Duke of Cornwall at Rotorua. Newspapers described the full actions of this "ancient ngeri," printing its complete Maori words and an accurate translation. A movie cameraman recorded the performance. Ka Mate became famous, and was widely performed throughout New Zealand.

Nevertheless, when, New Zealand played its first full international test match against Australia in Sydney in August 1903, the New Zealanders' warcry was "Tena Koe Kangaroo." (full details below)
In 1905 New Zealand made their first tour of Britain. This was the first time the team were referred to as the All Blacks and this particular team also became known as the 'Originals'. It is uncertain whether they performed a haka before every match, but they at least performed "Ka Mate" before their first test, against Scotland, and before the match against Wales. The Welsh crowd, led by the Welsh team, responded by singing the Welsh national anthem.

When a New Zealand Army team played Wales in 1916, the words of "Ka Mate" were included in the printed programme, indicating that the haka was established as an accompaniment to New Zealand rugby teams playing overseas.

The haka, whilst normally enjoyed by spectators, has been criticised as an unsporting attempt to intimidate the opposition before the match begins. However, most teams accept that the haka is a legitimate part of rugby's heritage and face up to the All Blacks during its performance, with both teams standing about 10 metres apart. The 2007 Portuguese Rugby team Captain Vasco Uva said of the haka that "[We] faced it, gave it the respect it deserved and it gave us motivation and we knew if it gave them strength, it was also a point of strength for us." [5]

Ignoring the haka is a tactic sometimes used by opposing teams. Famously, the Australian rugby team did a warm up drill well away from the All Blacks during their 1996 Test Match in Wellington, and were beaten by a record score. More recently, the Italian rugby team ignored the haka during a 2007 World Cup Pool Match, and the All Blacks then went on to beat them 76 - 14. All Black team member, Keven Mealamu, said later that the snub had backfired and provided motivation to his team.[6] Australian back David Campese often ignored the haka, most notably in the 1991 World Cup semi-final, when he chose to practice warm-up drills instead of facing the All-Blacks. Campese went on to score a try as the Wallabies defeated the All-Blacks en-route to winning the cup.[7]

In 1989 as the All Blacks were performing the haka in Landsdowne Road before playing Ireland, the Irish lined up to facing New Zealand and then edged closer and closer to the All Blacks. By the time the end of the haka came, captain Willie Anderson was only inches from Buck Shelford's face.

In 1997, Richard Cockerill was disciplined for responding to the haka before the start of an England vs All Blacks game. Cockerill went toe-to-toe with his opposite number Norm Hewitt while they performed the haka. The referee became so concerned that Hewitt and Cockerill would begin fighting that he pushed Cockerill away from Hewitt. Cockerill went on to say afterwards "I believe that I did the right thing that day," he said. "They were throwing down a challenge and I showed them I was ready to accept it. I'm sure they would rather we did that than walk away."[8]

At the 1999 Bledisloe Cup match at Telstra Stadium, Sydney, 107,000 voices sang Waltzing Matilda as a response to the New Zealand haka. The Australian players responded by delivering New Zealand a record 28-7 defeat culminating in the cup being retained by Australia.

In 2005, the All Blacks agreed to a request from the Welsh Rugby Union to repeat the sequence of events from the original match a century before in 1905. This involved the All Blacks performing the haka after "God Defend New Zealand" and before "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau". For the November 2006 test, the Welsh Rugby Union demanded a repeat of this sequence. The All Blacks refused, and instead chose to perform the haka in their changing room before the match.[9] All Blacks captain Richie McCaw defended the decision by stating that the haka was "integral to New Zealand culture and the All Blacks' heritage" and "if the other team wants to mess around, we'll just do the haka in the shed".[10] The crowd reacted negatively to the lack of the haka and then being shown brief footage of the haka on the screens at the Millennium Stadium.[11]

In the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, France, after having won the coin toss for the choice of uniforms, famously wore the blue/white/red of the French flag and walked up to within a metre of the haka performance, forming a line of opposition to the performance by the All-Blacks, who were wearing a predominantly silver uniform (as opposed to the traditional all black). France went on to defeat the All-Blacks 20-18.

In the 2008 Rugby Autumn Tests, Wales responded to the haka by standing on the pitch refusing to move until the All Blacks did. This resulted in the referee Jonathan Kaplan berating both teams for a full two minutes after the haka had ended until eventually New Zealand captain McCaw instructed his team to break off. After a spirited first half display which ended with Wales leading 9 - 6, the All Blacks responded positively and won the game 9 - 29.

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