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Games and Pastimes of the Maori



The exercise of wrestling was a common practice among the natives in former times. It was known as whatoto, nonoke, and mamau or takaro mamau; Taylor records the name of takaro ringa-ringa. Takaro, as a noun means game or play, as a verb 'to play' or sport. Taylor remarks, "Wrestling is a very general amusement of young men, who pride themselves on their skill in throwing one another."

Young women occasionally took part in wrestling, we are told. Old Kurawha, of Maungapohatu, she who always greeted the writer with the quaint old salutation—"Ina na!" was a famous wrestler in her youth. In some cases one young man would wrestle two young women, but Kurawha was enough for any man to handle. She might be termed a good all-round man, for she shouldered a musket in the Mohaka raid, and she and Whaitiri (another Amazon) were two of the leading spirits in the vigorous rearguard action when Te Kooti retreated from Rotorua, pursued by Te Arawa under Tawa the Tireless.

The use of charms whereby to strengthen oneself for the contest, and also to weaken an adversary, was apparently common in wrestling bouts. Among the Tuhoe tribe, when a man was about to engage in such a contest, he would expectorate into his hand, close it, and repeat the following in order to acquire desired strength:—

"Taku uaua ko te rangi e tu nei
Taku uaua ko Papa e takoto nei
Whiri kaha, toro kaha te uaua."

Having repeated this effusion, he then opened his hand, and proceeded to recite a second charm whereby to weaken his adversary:—

"Te umu a te ruhi, a te ngenge, a te paro
A tineia kia mate
Te umu tuku tonu te ika ki te Po
Te umu tuku tonu, heke tonu te ika ki te Reinga
Ka mui te rango, totoro te iro
Kaki whatia."

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The following charm is another employed by wrestlers and by those engaged in spear throwing competitions:—

"Karo taha, karo taha te karanga a te po
Tahuri atu, tahuri mai, e tipi ki ninihi
I aua hoki taku kiri nei kia tu maniania
Kia tu pahekeheke, kia tu mai whakaariki
He wai, he wai kai taku kiri
E haramai ana te kumara i ao nui, i ao rangi
I a tuturu ki te rangi, i a apaapa ki te rangi
Tuturu ki te rangi, ka mau ki te rangi
Puehu nuku, puehu rangi
Puehu nuku, puehu rangi
Tutae whererei."

This formula was used among the Ngati-Porou folk of the East Coast, who also gave the following as terms describing certain actions in wrestling:—

Mamau A general term for the exercise of wrestling.
Nonoke A general term for the exercise of wrestling.
Ta. Contestants grip each other by arms; not a body hold; fall caused by a sudden thrust.
Kairaho. To grasp opponent by legs, lift and throw him.
Whiri. To throw adversary across out thrust leg.
Mutu. A sudden yielding to opponent's pressure, and quick recovery, turning opponent's body undermost.
Mamau. Another form of arm grip.
Awhiawhi. A body grip.

The Tuhoe folk employ the following terms:—

Awhiawhi Whiri
Urutomo Whiu
Taha Rou

(The term rou denotes the out thrust leg.)

The following charm was one repeated by wrestlers on the East Coast, repeated quickly and silently just prior to clinching:—

"Tipua te mamau, tahito te mamau
Hei kona koe noho mai ai
Noho ki tipua, noho ki tahito
Noho ki marua a nuku
Te hongi, te kata, te tangi te umere."

Usually each man seems to have endeavoured to clasp his opponent under the arms. Quarrels and even serious affrays are said to have sometimes arisen out of wrestling contests.

Wrestling held an important place among exercises at Tahiti, where it had its own tutelar deity, and spectacular exhibitions were page 29given. Ellis gives a detailed account of such meetings, and the ceremonial that preceded and succeeded them. Women sometimes engaged in wrestling.