Congratulations to all of the kapa haka who performed in the Matatini Kapa Haka competitions in Rotorua last week.
Every group made significant contributions to the success of the Te Arawa iwi-hosted event. You also ensured te reo Maori me ona tikanga a kapa haka continues for many generations into the future. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.
Many summers ago, I was a member of the Ngati Rangiwewehi Kapa Haka midgets. I have fond memories of Sunday practices at Awahou Marae that included rugby games with cousins refereed by uncle Trevor Maxwell who did his best to make sure we played the ball and not the man.
These titanic battles were followed by refreshing swims in the Awahou River and there was always someone laughing.
When we travelled long distances to places like Christchurch, us kids slept lined up head to feet like a line of sardines in the aisle of the bus. No seatbelts in those days.
I eventually graduated to the juniors which was really cool because I was allowed to perform with the seniors at fundraising concerts in amazing venues such as the Tama Te Kapua meeting house and the Rotorua Convention Centre known as the concert chambers in those days.
I recall all the popping flashbulbs on cameras as we performed, the fitter men jumping off the stage to frighten the pretty women in the audience and the numerous pukana stances I made up for the photo shoots after the concert, to try to make my skinny frame look less skinny. That didn't work though cause my nickname was always Slab.
Kapa haka is an ultimate endurance and team event. Countless hours have gone into preparing each kapa haka for Matatini including composing waiata and haka, creating a unified team and whanau, designing and making costumes, learning to sing and haka - without losing your voice and developing the choreography.
However, the most preparation goes into the individual performers who have to prepare themselves physically, spiritually, mentally and relationally. Each group performed for 20 minutes, but there are years of preparation invested in that 20 minutes.
So what challenges you physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally?
Kapa haka is one of many opportunities available to challenge us to the very core of our being, alongside activities such as iron Maori, waka ama and marathons. For some people, it may be a 20-minute walk each day and others may struggle just to get out of bed due to illness.
Matatini performers have completed their goals and will no doubt be resting as they set goals for their next endurance event.
Whatever you are preparing for, I hope you have excellent referees around you to ensure everyone stays safe and plays the ball and not the man. I also hope you have more success than I did in ditching nicknames like Slab.
Ngahihi o te ra is from Te Arawa and is an international speaker, author and consultant. His book is available at Mcleods book store and the Lakeside Cafe in Rotorua. His website is www.ngahibidois.com