Haka (singular is the same as plural: Haka) is a traditional warrior dance performed by the Maori of New Zealand and comes in many forms (with or without weapons). It performed for many reasons, prepare for battle, for amusement, and welcome guests.  It is only performed by men; the only time a woman is involved in any way is by providing support singing in the background.  When prepare for battle, performed Haka to intimidate their opponents.  To do this the Haka has many parts to make them seem more powerful, such as hitting their arms and thighs.  They would show their muscles and chant very loudly mixed with roaring cries and grunts.  While dancing they would make angry facial expressions, including sticking out their tongues.   By doing this they would build up their courage and adrenaline, as well as bringing further unity to the warriors. It was believed that if it was not performed in unison then it was a bad omen for the battle to come.

Now the Haka is performed by the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, before every game rather than before a battle.  This started a trend in the Polynesian rugby teams and American football teams such as the University of Hawaii football team.  It has also made appearances for tourists and in screen productions, like Gangster No. 1 and advertisements on British television.

Here is the Ka Mate chant that the All Blacks perform, with English translation.

Maori Translation

Ka mate, ka mate     
Ka ora' Ka ora'         
Ka mate, ka mate     
Ka ora Ka ora "       
Tēnei te tangata
Nāna i tiki
  (whaka)whiti te rā   
Ho Upane...Ho Upane          
Upane Kaupan"       
Whaka whiti te rā,!  

English Translation

I die, I die,
I live, I live, 

I die, I die 
I live, I live, 

This is the hairy man

Who caused the sun to shine again for me 

Up the ladder...Up the ladder

Up to the top
The sun shines! 


Kailao is a war dance performed by the Tonga, but the dance it’s self is a Wallisian war dance.  It is performed for the same reasons as the Haka, but the dance it’s self is different.  There is not singing or chanting in the Kailao, instead beating slit drum or tin box sets the tempo.  The dance uses stylized clubs that can be used to emulate fighting; sometimes there is even mock combat between dancers.  The Kailao dancers wear long skirts and occasionally headpieces.  

While researching the warrior dances we noticed that the Kailao is more of a performance dance than the Haka.  The Haka is very angry while the Kailao seems to be more subdued and meant to be performed for the tribe rather than intimidating their opponents.  This dance was chosen because I performed it with the class and was something new and interesting.  When I performed the Haka in class it filled me with energy and aggression.  When I watch the All Blacks perform their show of power made me afraid and make me think they will win.  This form of dance tells me a lot about those who created it.  It tells me that they were an aggressive people and they knew how to survive.  

By: Yan Chen