How to haka war dance

The Haka Dance of War From New Zealand


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New Zealand

6 minutes read

The All Blacks do the Haka during the England versus New Zealand autumn international rugby union match at Twickenham Stadium on November 16th 2013 in London (Photo by Tom Jenkins)

Haka dance is a Maori war dance from New Zealand. Haka is a ceremonial dance said to be performed as a part of battle preparations. The Maoris are an indigenous community of New Zealand and this ‘war dance’ is said to have been essentially developed to be performed before a battle. There are different types of Haka, and they include ka mate, kapa o pango, whakatu waewae, tutu ngarahu and peruperu. This Maori dance style is renowned for energetic dance movements as well as for loud and aggressive chanting by the performers. The Haka is performed by a group and displays the ‘pride’ and ‘solidarity’ of the tribe.

What is the Haka dance?

The Haka dance is very peculiar in the way the group members chant loudly with aggressive body stances like foot stomping, chest beating, swaying and thigh slapping. The dancers literally stick out the tongues and make rhythmic shouts with wide bulging eyes. To the uninitiated, it may seem a bit daunting and intimidating.

The Haka of New Zealand is now performed in social events, felicitation ceremonies, sports, weddings and even funerals.

The Haka is an ancient type of Mori war dance which is traditionally used on the battlefield and when groups come together in peace.

The basic actions include foot-stamping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic body movements to accompany a chant. The History of Haka poetically describes the ancestors in the tribe’s history. Performance requires strict discipline. It is a character-building exercise for the performers to connect themselves with their past and their present.

Video: Welcome to New Zealand | TIP 005: HAKA by YouTube channel ‘How To Dad‘

History/origin of the Haka Dance:

According to the cultural history of New Zealand and the Maori community, this dance was originally conceived to be performed before battle by warriors so as to essentially intimidate the enemy. However, over the years this dance has been performed mainly as a social dance in functions such as welcome ceremonies rather than before a war.

Today, Haka dance captures the power of the language, music, and wairua of te ao Māori. It’s an important component of the Māori world. Haka is more than a cultural performance; it is inked to the rituals that evolved out of the rituals that we have on marae, including pōwhiri, whaikorero, and waiata.”

Furthermore, this dance has also been popularized over the years by the New Zealand Rugby Union team known as the “All Blacks” who perform it prior to every international match they play. Apparently, the origin of this dance is closely linked to a Maori myth related to a sun god named Tama-nui-te-ra worshipped by the community. It is said that this sun god had a wife and son named Hine-raumati and Tane-rore respectively. Now, according to the Maori community, one day the son supposedly danced for his mother. It was this dance performed by Tan-rore that was then used by the community as a foundation to develop this dance now known as “Haka”.

Different forms of Haka dance

Some of the forms of Haka dance where the style is performed well with or without weapons are:

a. The Tutungaruhu (performed with long weapons by a war party who jumps from side to side)

b. Ngeri ( no moves performed without weapons to face the enemy)

c. Peruperu (performed with weapons, men leap off the ground up and down, face to-face with the enemy).

d. Haka Taparahi (performed without weapons)

These are a few examples of the different forms of Haka dance.

The Benefits Of Haka Dance

What should be pursued is the uniformity of movement and message. The message should be paramount, Haka dance was always connected with war, but in today’s world, physical war has become politically oriented.

This style has become a means to convey messages, whether they be social, political, or environmental issues, to have an audible voice which can be heard throughout the globe. This alerts people that there is an issue, which is also followed by a solution or thought of encouragement.

Nowadays, Haka is used for Mori ceremonies and celebrations as a way to honour guests and to show the importance of the occasion. This is almost seen in gatherings and occasions.

The head is alert like a tekoteko, the arms are stretched out like a maihi, and the chest is erect like a whare. 

The importance of Haka dance

The Maori use Haka to help their people find themselves, particularly those Maori who have grown up in cities and have lost touch with their traditional upbringing. Through Haka, they found a source to find the connection.

“I have had many youths come through my doors over the last 25 years.” Many of these kids are affiliated with gangs and kicked out of schools,” says the founder of The Haka Tapeta Wehi Experience. The change in these kids is quite unbelievable. “Haka is a tool. Kids get to learn about Whakapapa (genealogy), Tikanga (Maori lore), Tipuna (ancestors), Atua Maori (Maori gods) and most importantly, it reconnects them to themselves. Identity is the essence of any kid. It helps our youth throughout the right direction to face challenges that may lie ahead.

Video on Haka Dance History:


Costumes used in the Haka Dance

While the Haka dance is perceived as a ceremonial battle dance performed by men, it is actually performed by both men and women across a variety of ceremonies in the Maori culture. The traditional “Kapa Haka” costume is mainly used in this dance style. However, this costume varies according to the gender as follows:

For men:

The Kapa Haka costume may include a tāniko tātua (belt), Piupiu skirt (flax skirt) and a headband. Tāniko is a Maori weaving technique with coloured yarn involving ‘twinings’. The material used in the tāniko is muka fiber prepared using the New Zealand flax.

For women:

The Kapa Haka costume can include elastic shoulder straps, a Piupiu skirt (flax skirt), tāniko bodice (a top made of coloured yarn weaving) and a headband. Some women members may also wear the korowai (cloak).

Music involved in the Haka

No musical instrument or ensemble is actually used in this unique “war” dance. Usually, the performers make use of strong chanting while performing.

Training, availability and the technique involved in the Haka:

In terms of technique, this war dance basically involves the use of extremely vigorous body movements. Furthermore, the performers also stamp their feet in rhythm with the accompanying chanting. As for training centers/schools, there are practically none around the world since this “war” dance was mainly performed by the Maori community in New Zealand. In the past few decades, the dance has gained popularity due to the performance by the ‘All Blacks’ Rugby team of New Zealand. This has led to many well performed Haka dances recorded and put up on YouTube. If someone or a group wants to learn and perform the Haka, there are a few online videos available as tutorials.

Best Haka Dance Videos

The Greatest Haka everOriginal Maori Haka DanceKapa Haka | NPRMāori All Blacks perform their haka against IrelandThe Best Haka of all time?! #RWC2021

image credit

Views: 1,216



Haka, the dance of war, is performed at weddings, funerals and by Beyonce

Take a look at how this traditional performance, which uses powerful postures, is sending mighty messages without words.

One of the most dramatic examples of how we use body language is the traditional Māori performing art called the Kapa Haka. It's a dance that uses all parts of the body — the hands, arms, feet, voice, eyes and even the tongue — to express a range of emotions.

The term comes from to the words "kapa", which means to form a line, and "haka", which means dance. It is performed for a variety of reasons ranging from welcoming distinguished guests and at ceremonies to preparing for a battle.

We searched YouTube to find some of the most magnificent and emotional Haka performances out there.

In competition:

The New Zealand All Black’s rugby team, which is featured in The Nature of Things documentary Body Language Decoded, has one of the most well-known Haka performances. Before each international match, the team opens the competition with the "Ka mate, Ka mate" Haka. Composed around 1820, the “Ka mate, Ka mate” tells the story of the deceptive way Māori chief Ngati Toa Chieftain Te Rauparaha outsmarted his enemies.

The dance starts with the All Blacks facing their opponents and performing what Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, calls the “powerful postures.” “It’s kind of beautiful and intimidating at the same time,” she says.

However, the important thing to understand about the dance, said Cuddy, is that it isn't meant to intimidate, but prepare the performer for the challenge ahead. 

The All Black’s aren’t the only team to start off competition with the “Ka mate, Ka mate.” The tradition dates back to 1888, when it was first used by the New Zealand Native team.

To honour a guest:

The Haka is also used to welcome a distinguished guest. After Beyonce’s show in Auckland, the local crew honoured her with a performance. She joined right in.

At a wedding:

This surprise Haka performance brought the bride to tears. Although women don’t traditionally take part in the dance, an exception is made for weddings. Bridesmaids, along with the bride and a few guests joined in the performance.

At a funeral:

After one of their teachers passed away, all the students from the Palmerston North Boy's High School in New Zealand honoured him at the funeral by performing a Haka.

As the hearse carrying their teacher arrived, the stomping and screaming began. After performing the dance in unison, the teenagers fell silent and separated to let the hearse through.

In solidarity:

A group of people in New Zealand performed a Haka on the beach to show support for those protesting against the Dakota Access oil pipeline at Standing Rock.

Learn more about how we use body language in the The Nature of Things documentary Body Language Decoded.

ritual dance / Interesting / Articles / More / About everything

Not all ritual dances of different nations are lucky to find application in our time. The exception was the national dance of the New Zealand Maori tribe, which they themselves call "haka".

Haka (Maori haka) is a New Zealand Maori ritual dance during which performers stomp their feet, beat their thighs and chest, and shout out an accompaniment.

Haka was performed mainly in the evening for entertainment; there were purely male haka, women's, children's, as well as suitable for adults of both sexes. nine0003

Guests were also greeted with this dance. Welcoming dances usually began militantly, since the greeters did not know the intentions of the arrivals.

It was with this militant dance that the armed Maori greeted James Cook in 1769.

The Maori word "haka" means "dance in general" and also "song accompanying the dance". Haka cannot be attributed exclusively to "dances" or "songs": in the words of Alan Armstrong, haka is a composition in which each instrument - arms, legs, body, tongue, eyes - performs its own part. nine0003

There are several different legends about the origin of hack. According to one of them, this dance was first performed by women who were looking for a certain Kae, who killed a whale that belonged to the leader of the tribe. The women didn't know what he looked like, but they knew he had crooked teeth. Kae was among other people, and in order to identify him in the crowd, the women performed a funny dance with comical movements. Seeing the haku, Kae laughed and was recognized.

Christian missionary Henry Williams wrote:

“It is necessary to ban all old customs, dances, singing and tattoos, the main local orgy. In Auckland, people like to gather in large groups to demonstrate their terrifying dances.

Over time, the attitude towards dances on the part of Europeans improved, haku began to be regularly performed during the visits of the royal family.

Characteristic details of khaki - the dance is performed simultaneously by all participants and is accompanied by grimaces. nine0003


PolynesiaPolynesia is a gigantic region with a meager amount of land and a small population, the last inhabited on the planet and minimally affecting the judge eyeballs. The grimaces (movements of the eyes and tongue) are very important, and they determine how well the dance is performed.

The women who performed the haka did not stick out their tongues. nine0003

Non-military hacks may contain undulating finger or hand movements. The leader of the dance (male or female) calls out one or two lines of text, after which the rest respond in unison with a chorus.

The Maori, the original inhabitants of New Zealand, have always had a rich repertoire of cultural traditions, from myths, legends, songs and dances, to rituals and beliefs. The Haka dance is one of the most famous Maori traditions.

Over 1,500 students perform haka at teacher's funeral

There are several types of dance in the Maori culture:

  • Peruperu is a military dance that warriors performed before the battle. Sometimes he was shown to his enemies completely naked;
  • Toia Mai - community dance, which was always performed before the general meeting of the Maori;
  • Tumoto - dance of rage, which was shown by the war after the defeat in battle;
  • Poi - female variety of khaki, more calm and smooth; Horuhoru - dance for men and women; nine0058
  • Ka-mate is a modern version of khaki for athletes.

The origins of hack lie in the mists of time. The history of dance is rich in folklore and legends. In fact, it can be argued that New Zealand grew up with the haka tradition, going back to the first meeting between Maori and early European explorers, missionaries and settlers.

Although the latest traditions of the dance suggest that the haka was exclusively male, the legends and stories reflect other facts. nine0003

The story of the most famous hack - Ka mate - is a story about the power of female sexuality. According to legend, Haka was received from the sun of the god Ra, who had two wives: Hein-Raumati, who was the essence of summer, and Hein-Takurua, the essence of winter.

For most people, haka is a military dance. This is quite understandable because many have seen how the haka is performed before a fight or competition.

Although there are many differences between the types of war dance, the common feature is that they are all performed with weapons. At a time when Europeans had not yet discovered New Zealand, the haka was used as part of the formal process of meeting tribes. nine0003

At present, the Maori dance the haka without traditional weapons, but various aggressive and intimidating actions remain in the dance: such as slapping hands on the thighs, active grimaces, sticking out the tongue, stamping the feet, rolling the eyes. These activities are performed along with choral chants and war cries.

In the 21st century, haka is regularly performed in the New Zealand Armed Forces.

Haka at the funeral of a New Zealand Army soldier


Twice a year, since 1972, Te Matatini (Maori Te Matatini) haka competition has been held. Since the end of the 19th century, rugby teams have performed this dance before the competition, in the 2000s this tradition caused much controversy and accusations of the "All Blacks" in the "devaluation" of the haka.


Haka has become a symbol of the All Blacks' strength and status in the rugby world. The team leaves the impression of invincibility and cruelty.

Until the early 20th century, New Zealand rugby players almost always beat their opponents on the field. It was believed that this haka gave them such strength. nine0003

Since 1892, the New Zealand national team wore only black uniforms, and all team members had to be able to perform Maori ritual dances. Such behavior has been characteristic of the first New Zealanders since those distant times, when their canoes moored to the island shores.

New Zealand trade delegations and other official representations abroad are increasingly requesting groups of Haka performers to accompany them. It can be undeniably stated that haka has become a unique form of national expression. nine0003

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What is haka and who dances it? | Physical education and sports

It doesn't matter what their opponents wear. It doesn't really matter who took the field against the New Zealand All Blacks. The descendants of the Maori will sing and dance a frightening war song to any opponent. This article will focus on the ancient tradition of New Zealand aborigines popularized today - haka.

First, I want to tell you a little about Maori. But not about those that inhabit the "Land of the Long White Cloud" today, but about their warlike ancestors. According to legend, a millennium ago, seven canoes landed on the shores of New Zealand, carrying settlers from East Polynesia. It was they who became the first inhabitants of the island - the seven Maori tribes, thanks to which a unique culture began to form, based on the spiritual closeness of the natives with the outside world. But, despite the philosophy of unity with nature, the Maori were very skilled fighters, and their skills were honed in constant wars. The first Europeans to experience the wild hostile temper of the natives were the great travelers: Abel Tasman, and later James Cook. nine0003

Maori bloody civil strife has long since sunk into oblivion, but one of the military customs has not been forgotten and plays a very important role in the modern culture of New Zealand. Kapa haka is a whole ritual that includes dancing, singing, and peculiar facial expressions. For the first time, Haku began to be performed by Maori warriors hundreds of years ago: before each battle, they tried to intimidate the enemy with their frightening gestures and screams, goggle eyes and protruding tongues with their furious expression. Later, haku began to be used for peaceful purposes, telling through it about Maori traditions and beliefs. Today haka is an indispensable attribute of public and state events. nine0003

There are many different versions of traditional dance in New Zealand, there is even an army version. But, generally speaking, Kapa haka is not only a male dance accompanied by unfriendly cries. There is also a female direction of the ancient custom, which is called "poi". This is also a dance combined with juggling balls on ropes. Women's haka is naturally more relaxed than men's. Despite the fact that any kind of khaki is respected and revered in New Zealand, ritual singing accompanied by intricate movements has become popular all over the world thanks to the national rugby team. nine0003

The New Zealand rugby team was officially established in 1892. And in 1905, the newspaper "Daily mail", after the defeat of the English club by the New Zealanders, called the team All Blacks , which can be translated as "absolutely black". So, thanks to their dark uniforms and newspapermen, the national team of Aotearoa - the country of the long white cloud - acquired a sonorous nickname, which, together with the haka that the players perform before each match, has become their hallmark. nine0003

For nearly a century since the team's inception, the New Zealand team has been the best in the world, beating everyone and everything. But by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the descendants of the Maori slowed down somewhat: in recent years, trophies have eluded the All Blacks with enviable regularity. Maybe the whole point is that the opponents are used to the hack and are no longer afraid? The answer is rather negative, because the current performance of the dance is rather a means for New Zealanders to mentally gather and tune in, forgetting about everything that does not concern the game, than a means to intimidate enemies. nine0003

It's pointless to talk about how the Maori dance the haku. It needs to be seen. But what the players are shouting out needs to be said.

Initially, the All Blacks performed the "Ka mate" haka, or rather, part of it, which tells about the miraculous salvation of a warrior from enemies, which happened thanks to the Sun. I will give two key, in my opinion, passages of this hack: nine0003

Ka mate, ka mate! ka ora! ka ora!
Whiti te ra!

This is death, this is death! (or: I will die) This is life! This is life! (or: I will live)
The sun is shining!

At first, the Maori, resigned to a bitter fate, is preparing to meet his death with dignity, but after a moment he joyfully realizes that he will survive and shouts gratitude to the sun god. nine0003

In addition to this, invented hundreds of years ago by Chief Rauparaha, the All Blacks have adopted a new Kapa o-Pango ("completely black" in translation), created specifically for them, for the New Zealand rugby team. It does not talk about past exploits of the Maori, but about modern ones: about the desire of athletes to win, defending the honor of the country. One of the gestures of the new khaki speaks eloquently about what the New Zealanders are going to do with the enemy: the movement of the palm that cuts the throat. nine0003

The pre-match performance of the khaki by New Zealand players has become an integral part of world rugby. Martial dances have become the property of world sports culture. Some teams, such as Fiji or Samoa, perform their own dances in response to the All Blacks.

Learn more