About 150 men of all ages came together to learn the ancient practice of taiaha and weaponry at a wānanga held this month on Mokoia Island in Rotorua.
The annual event began more than 40 years ago and was established by rangatira Mita Mohi, with the aim of helping Māori men and boys reconnect with their culture.
"More than 40 years ago, my father was working for an organisation called Māori Affairs," Patrick Mohi said.
"Māori Affairs was a sub-department of what was then Social Welfare, which turned into CYFs, which has now morphed into Oranga Tamariki. So it was always based around social services.
"The wānanga was born of those sorts of concepts that he believed in - helping the culture and helping our boys, especially males because that was his field and so he started this wānanga. The wānanga was based around taiaha, because he knew it was a way our young men back then could connect positively with themselves as Māori."
Many of the students have now become tutors, passing on their knowledge to young and old.
"The key to our wānanga is self-discipline, self-pride and self-respect," Pouako Eraia Kiel said.
"It's what we teach through this traditional art form, the mou taiaha.
"The taiaha is a vehicle that carries our dreams, hopes and aspirations of our tūpuna and that our culture is handed down to the younger generation. Here you'll see boys as young as 6 come across to Mokoia and they're learning."
Kiel said his son had carried on the family tradition of teaching students on the island.
"A highlight for me is being able to bring my son here and for him to share the same experiences I had as a young boy and to see him now tutoring young kids."
Mohi said the benefits were around positive cultural identity.
"They're about role modelling, they're about how to be a healthy male in a healthy environment with healthy people. It's about keeping yourself safe and it's about all the great things that Māori are."
Ensuring the sacred practice of Māori weaponry lived on was hugely important, with benefits throughout the community.
"We continue the work because we're probably living results of it," Mohi said. "We all have a strong belief that our culture is our way forward. Working with others here on the island and seeing the progress that the young men make ... it's a definite positive and a definite treat for us here."
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