18.4.2014 Good Friday

I drive through rain and very strong winds and when I get to the camp I can hear the boys chanting as I make my way around huge puddles and have to remind myself that I am not driving a 4×4 here. As soon as I park the car, one of the instructors comes towards me – it´s Jade, my contact, that I now finally get to meet. We do the nose to nose, forehead to forehead greeting that is already growing to me due to its complete sincerity. There is no half way like there sometimes is with the European kisses to the cheek that are quite fleeting and almost superficial if compared. With this greeting, you linger a few seconds. Its the most beautiful greeting I have ever had the joy to experience.

Jade is the most warm and welcoming person and starts talking to me straight away about what the boys are doing and that he brought some things that he would like to show me. So he packs some weapons in my car and we drive around the corner. With this style, women are not allowed to use those weapons, that´s why he wants to take me off the grounds, so the boys can´t see. And here is where I learn some first facts; Jade explains that this does not apply to all tribes and styles and that honestly he wishes “good luck to any guy who wants to tell a Maori woman that she can´t fight, cause its is in their blood as well”. Apparently the “no women” rule originates in the missionaries who taught the Maori where the place of the women was according to their laws. The Maori women have very important roles within the tribes and communities.

Jade explains to me that the balance is very important – between the male and the female. So it really is like the Chinese Yin and Yang. You find both forces in everything. The rise and the fall. The male and the female. The outward and the inward and so on. The Maori traditions are no different. So while the men have a role of physically protecting a tribe, the women take on the role of the spiritual protectors. When entering a marae, a woman chants to protect everyone before they enter (I recognize this from yesterday where we only proceeded inside the marquee after one woman started chanting standing in front of the entrance, and the second women leading our “procession” answered her in chanting leading us towards the marquee). Another interesting fact that Jade mentioned is that during tribal meetings, any woman has the right to “interrupt” a man who for example keeps talking for too long. “She can just get up and say – ok ok… we heard enough, let´s sing this song” and start chanting.

So back to the weapons. And here I quickly learn another lesson. The Maori don´t call their weapons weapons. They call them treasures. And if you are lucky enough to see and to hold some of those treasures, you know why. Most of them are handed down from generation to generation, so they hold the spirit(s) of the ancestors. And it is true that if you call a taiaha a treasure, your attitude and feeling towards that wooden staff changes immediately. So for example it is forbidden to step over a taiaha. Well, you don´t put it down on the ground in the first place. And none of the treasures is ever placed in the trunk of a car. “It´s like putting your grandfather in the boot” sais Jade… makes sense.  Jade then shows me how to use a few different weapons (Clips will follow).