Awhile ago, I was in a small English cottage lounge to watch the All Blacks play England on television. Our host, an elderly Englishman, asked if my son, Eru, my mate, Mattie, and I would do the haka to record on his video camera. My wife and daughter were also there and we agreed to do the haka with vocal support from the females.
When he went upstairs to fetch his camera, we had a quick practice of Ka Mate and decided to give it everything. The room was so small the sound would be thunderous despite our small number.
Upon our host's return, he held the camera against the stairway post for support and, when I asked him if he was ready, he replied "Yes thank you Ngahi" in his beautiful English accent.
We crouched, paused and engaged and, from the first "kia kau", his camera started shaking, which worsened as the haka got louder. At the end, the camera was shaking so much I was sure our host couldn't see anything through the viewfinder and thought he'd drop it at any moment.
And when the haka was finished, he brought the camera down slowly, face as white as tissue paper and looking as if he was on the verge of a heart attack.
Asking him if he was okay, he stuttered: "I think so Ngahi. However, the filming may be a bit shaky."
As an international leadership speaker, I have been privileged to perform the haka in many countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, England and even the Google office in New York. Every time I have performed the haka, I am aware of my ancestors being there to add volume, ihi and wehi and I know many of you have experienced similar support.
The haka is an icon of New Zealand and, in particular, the Maori culture of Aotearoa. It symbolises strength, perseverance, honesty, truth, energy, team unity, grief, anger, courage and many other attributes which have been portrayed by Maori kapa haka, Kiwi sports teams, soldiers including the 28th Maori Battalion, other warriors and various groups of people.
So when was the last time you did the haka? It needn't be Ka Mate as many haka can be put into action for many reasons.
The haka is an opportunity for our whole being to communicate through our reo, tinana, ahau and wairua.
The haka is the personification of who we are and a way of letting the universe know we exist.
It is the ultimate exercise and I am surprised no one has invented Zumba haka or something similar.
So when you do develop your haka exercise classes (Kushla?) just make sure there are no elderly Englishmen around with heart problems. The haka is difficult enough for them to watch - let alone perform.
Ngahihi o te ra is from Te Arawa and is an international speaker, author and consultant. His book is available at McLeod's book store and the Lakeside cafe in Rotorua. His website can be viewed at www.ngahibidois.com.