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Games and Pastimes of the Maori

Ti Ringa

Ti Ringa

This game, which calls for much practice, is known by several names, as ti ringa in the north, matimati in the Matatua district, and ku among Ngati-Porou of the East Coast. The game is played by two persons. Certain movements with the hands are made by one player with great rapidity, and a certain phrase repeated. The other must make precisely the same movement and repeat the phrase correctly so quickly that the two appear to be simultaneous. In some cases the element of uncertainty as to movements, as mentioned by Yate and Thomson, seems to be lacking. In the Tuhoe form of the game, described below, the same movements, made in the same order, are employed apparently, and the same phrases repeated, in which case quick observation is not required of the player, but merely a facile use of the hands. Further enquiry, however, is necessary in the different districts, in order to ascertain as to how far the game was conducted on a fixed basis in regard to its details. See Fig. 10 (p. 70).

The Rev. Mr. Yate made the following remarks anent this game:— 'Ti is a game with their fingers, in which they count, and are remarkably dextrous in detecting an error. He who the greatest number of times can place his fingers instantaneously in a certain position, on the repetition of a word chosen out of a given number, at the option of the opponent, is the winner. The rapidity with which the words are spoken, and the dexterity with which the hands are placed in the required position, are astonishing: practice from childhood is requisite to make a person perfect master of the game."

Taylor, in Te Ika a Maui, gives this brief note:—Ti is a game played with the fingers, also the komikomi, which consists in opening and shutting the thumbs and fingers. The correct form of this name is apparently komekome.

page 70

Thomson, in his Story of New Zealand, writes:—"Two games are known by the name of ti. The most common is that played with the fingers by two persons. The object of the game is to hold up certain fingers on the repetition of certain words, the selection of the words being at the option of one player, and ten is the highest number counted. Good players look at the mouth of the player crying out the words more than at the fingers, as the words are observed on the lips before they are formed by the fingers."

Fig. 10 The Game of Ti-ringa, as performed at Rotorua. Dominion Museum Photo

Polack contributes the following remarks:—"The game of ti is much indulged in. It consists of a party counting in unison with their fingers; on a number being given the players must instantly touch the finger denoting the said number, and an error in this active performance is productive of much mortification to the native. The dexterity with which it is played can only be accomplished by continual practice." And again, he says:—"The game of ti consists of counting on the tips of the fingers, in which each person must place his fingers in certain positions on the instant the chosen word is repeated by an antagonist. The people are very dexterous at this game, which requires unwearied practice from childhood."

page 71

We read in Dieffenbach:—"A very common sport amongst children consists in opening and shutting the fingers, and bending the arm in a certain manner, when the following words are said, the whole of which must be completed in a single breath:—

"Ka tahi ti, ka rua ti, etc., etc. See below.

Mr. John White gives the following jingle as having been repeated during the game:—

"Ka tahi ti, ka rua ti
Ka haramai tapa ti, tapa tore
Ka raua, ka raua, ka noho te kiwi
Ka pohewa tatau
To pi, to pa ka huia mai
Ka toko te rangi
Kai ana te whetu, kai ana te marama
O te tiu e rere ra runga o te Peraheka
O hua kauere
Turakina te arero
Wiwi, wawa—ke—ke—ke
Te manu ki Taupiri."

Other versions of this rhythmical effusion differ somewhat in the wording, and it is also employed in connection with other forms of amusement.

The following notes throw a little further light on the modes employed. The two players invariably sit facing each other about a yard apart. When playing such games the players belted or folded their cloaks round the waist and left the upper part of the body uncovered, thus securing free play for their arms. The game consists of placing the hands in different positions with great rapidity. One form of the game, termed matimati among the Tuhoe tribe, seems to have a set form of such motions and words to accompany them, the aim of the players being to make these motions and to repeat the correct phrase at the same time and with great rapidity.

In another method one player makes a movement with his hands which is imitated by his opponent as rapidly as possible, the aim of the latter being to imitate such movement so quickly as to give the impression that the two are simultaneous. In one movement the fingers of the two hands are interlocked, in another the two thumbs are placed together, in another the two clenched fists are put together, in another the backs of the hands come together, and so on. Each one watches the hands of his opponent closely.

In commencing one form of the game, both players hold up their hands and cry 'Ti,' then the game proceeds. The object of the watcher is to make the same movement as his opponent does, and so win the game, and each time that he makes a correct move, he makes, with his right hand, a rapid pass or movement to his right. At the first of such passes he cries 'Ti tahi,' (one ti), at the second 'Ti rua,' page 72and so on to Ti ngahuru or ten ti. The first to make ten successful moves wins the game, as the game proceeds each player must keep repeating his count as "Ti rua, ti rua, ti rua" and so on. On making another successful move, he will change his cry to "Ti toru, ti toru, ti toru," and so on. Thus each player knows the tally of his opponent.

The following, contributed by the late Tuta Nihoniho, of Ngati-Porou, East Coast, introduces another name for the above game:— "The game called ku much resembles that termed matimati, and is performed in a similar manner by two persons. No. 1, the leader, opens the game by darting his hands swiftly about, up or down, to one side or another, the word ku being repeated at each movement. The aim of No. 2 is to imitate, as quickly as possible, the actions of No. 1, or even to forestall them. If No. 2 makes a wrong move, he loses, but if he anticipates No. 1 and makes the same movement perhaps a fraction quicker, he then wins. Both keep repeating the word ku, as Ku! Ku! Ku! Ka tahi ku, ka rua ku. Ku! Ku! Ku!"

The following is a part of the jingle repeated by players of ku:— "Mate ka mate rawa; toro ka toro rawa; nihi ka nihi ono; whete ka whete rawa; iwa ka iwa haka; tuku ka tuku mai; ake, ake, atoe."

This seems to be the same recital as that rendered by players in the form of the game called pokirua among the Ngati-Porou folk. Two young men playing this form at Whare-ponga were observed to make the various movements simultaneously, and with great rapidity.

The first cry was "Ka mate rawa," This was repeated five or six times. Then came "Ka ngihi ono." Possibly some phrases were omitted between the two given above.

The next repetition was "Ka whitu waru," then "Ka iwa haka," then "A kei! a kei! a kei!" This was the last.

One takes the initiative in movement and speech, but the other is so quick that they are practically simultaneous. If the leader makes an error then the other takes the lead and scores a point.

On the East Coast of the North Island different forms of this hand game were employed. In one of these the following words were repeated rapidly by the performers:—

The two players face each other. and, as they repeat these words, perform the rapid hand movements. They must not make the same movement at the same time, each makes a different one, hence they
  • "Mate rawa, mate rawa!
    Mate rawa, mate rawa!
    Aue mate!
    Aue mate!"

page 73watch each other's hands closely. If No. 2 player makes the same movement as No. 1 player, he is piro, or out.

Another form of the game, as seen at Poverty Bay, has similar rules, but the lines repeated are as follows:—

"Whakaropiropi ai
Tenei mate homai
Kai te tahi nei ano."

This is repeated nine times, the numeral being altered each time, as "Kai te rua nei ano." This form is known as hikawai.

In the case of the form of this game played among the Tuhoe tribe, and termed by them matimati, we are enabled to give the details of motion and cries of a game actually witnessed, as follows, both players repeating the correct phrase for each movement, and making the same motion with their hands at the same time:—

First cry—"Matimati!" Players strike their closed hands together.
Second " "Tahi matimati!" Same action.
Third " "Rua matimati/" Hands opened, fingers apart, right thumb struck across left.
Fourth " "Tom matimati!" Right hand clenched and struck on open palm of left hand.
Fifth " "Wha matimati!" Two open hands brought together and fingers interlocked.
Sixth " "Rima matimati/" Thumb of right hand struck between first and second fingers of left hand.
Seventh " "Ono matimati!" Same as first movement.
Eighth " "Whitu matimati!" Same as third movement.
Ninth " "Waru matimati!" Bases of palms struck together.
Tenth " "Iwa matimati/" Same as first movement.
Eleventh " "Piro matimati!" The open right hand struck successively on back and palm of left hand.

The first words of the cries, tahi to iwa, are the numerals 'one' to 'nine,' hence the cries are "One matimati," "Two matimati," and so on. The word piro is equivalent to our term 'out,' as used in playing games. Any failure on the part of a player to make a movement correctly and swiftly denotes a failure, and the contest will probably be commenced again.

page 74

The following is the recital employed by some women who gave the Arawa form of the matimati game at Ohinemutu:—

E mati ra
E toru nawa
He ngiono, whitu, waru
Te iwa haka tuku mai."

In Labillardiere's account of the Dentrecasteaux expedition in search of La Perouse, he mentions a game resembling the above as having been observed at the Tonga Group in 1793:— "We had before observed among these people a game with the hands, which they call leagiu, and which requires great attention. Two play at it, and it consists in one's endeavouring instantly to repeat the signs made by the other, while the former makes signs in his turn, which the other is to repeat in like manner. We saw two in a party at no great distance from our market, who were so quick at this exercise, that our eyes were scarcely able to follow their motions."