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It is a wooden, or sometimes whale bone, close quarters, staff weapon used for short sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts with quick footwork on the part of the wielder. Taiaha are usually between 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 m) in length. It have three main parts: the arero (tongue), used for stabbing the opponent and parrying, the upoko (head), the base from which the tongue protrudes, and the ate (liver) or tinana (body), the long flat blade which is also used for striking and parrying.
Mau rakau is the martial art that teaches the use of the taiaha and other Māori weapons in combat. As with other martial arts styles, students of the taiaha spend years mastering the skills of timing, balance and co-ordination necessary to wield the weapon effectively. The taiaha is widely known due to its use in the wero — the traditional Māori challenge during the Pōwhiri (formal welcoming ceremony). A wero is commonly given to heads of state and visiting dignitaries welcomed to New Zealand.
The taiaha is one of many cultural items which are used to introduce youngsters in school to Māori culture. They are also used in present-day kapa haka competitions, and training with the taiaha is seen as part of the Māori cultural revival.
- The New Zealand Army includes an image of a taiaha in its official badge,
- The coat of arms of New Zealand depicts a Māori warrior with a taiaha.
- The taiaha was featured in the award-winning 2002 film, Whale Rider and more briefly in the film Once Were Warriors.
- In the TV series, Deadliest Warrior, the taiaha is one of the Māori warrior's weapons in a contest with a Shaolin monk.
- The taiaha was also featured in two video games for the PlayStation 2, The Mark of Kri and its sequel Rise of the Kasai as a weapon for the games' hero, Rau. In The Mark of Kri, the taiaha is plunged into the ground but, in Māori culture, this is an offense as the taiaha itself is seen as a guardian ancestor related to the War God Tumatauenga, the Father of the first man Tiki.
- Jgeeks use taiaha in all their contemporary kapa haka performances on New Zealand's Got Talent (series 2)
Other Māori weapons:
- Hiroa, Te Rangi (1949). "Long Clubs". The Coming of the Maori. Māori Purposes Fund Board. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "Taiaha (long club fighting staff)". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "Rangatira: Pita Sharples". New Zealand On Screen. NZ On Air. 1997. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "The Army Badge". NZ Army. NZ Army. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "Coat of Arms". Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
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