I recently had a writer for Discovery Channel Magazine call me from Singapore to interview me about Maori warrior arts. I had done my Masters of Philosophy on Maori Warrior Arts and Strategy as well as being former Kiwi Army officer, trained in unarmed combat and blah blah. During my time in the NZ Army in 1994, I had led an Army project team which researched the Maori taiaha as a viable close quarter battle weapon which could form an integral part of the NZ Army martial art culture called Ngati Tumatauenga.
Anyway, the magazine was covering 6 warrior cultures: Shaolin, Ninja, Samurai, Sumo, Dayak and Maori. The interviewer wanted to cover various weapons of war such as shaolin nine-section whips through to Dayak blowpipes to Ninja eye-blinding sachets of ash through to Maori taiaha. The importance of the metaphysical influences such Dayak tattoos, Maori moko, Ninja kuji and other spiritual forms. Various training, skills and legendary warriors. Who was the best etc?
I was reluctant initially because every warrior style is relevant to its culture, its environment, its lifeforce. This emphasis on pure combat, who is the best warrior has always struck me as odd. The last man standing. So macho. Bit like the Mixed Martial Arts inside cages. So dense. Gladitorial. Something needs to change. Blending of Opposing Forces. Brute Force with Gentle Form. Hard Hand and Kind Heart. Unity of Opposities. We need something bigger than video games and reality TV. We more likely to get road rage, TV rage, queue rage at MacDonalds than face an actual armed attack. You do the calculations. Work out the chances of being attacked physically. We will more likely suffer self-inflicted negative thoughts or emotional upsets than getting shot today. This is the time to serve something bigger than just being a video game warrior. Kids particularly boys are spending more time being warriors on video games. Getting extra weapons for killing more people. Go back a stage if you get killed then resurrect your character. Lots of blood, severed limbs, burnt bodies. In real life, getting cut, burnt and bashed stills hurt. But kids act out what they see in video games, movies and TV. This global market for gratuitous violence and multiple entertainment is what was really driving the Discovery Magazine article in my opinion.
I asked the interviewer, “I don’t want to hype up the Maori warrior – the myth or the reality. Nor diminish any of the other warrior cultures. The greatest warrior will one day die as surely as the sun sets. Just another memory beneath the sands of time. I look at the modern world, what is the point of being the greatest warrior race on a dying planet”? Is not the greater global battle the one where we unite to defeat our own predatorial behaviours and heal our own aggression towards the Earth and each other. Save the oceans, forests, rivers and eco-systems of the planet. Where is the Shaolin warrior to defend the dying rivers of China. Or the Dayak to defend the diminishing forests of Borneo? Or the Sumo warrior protecting the Japanese children from nuclear radiation? Or the Maori warrior defending her tribal seabeds from oil drilling. Yes, they exist but not in the traditional warrior image carrying weapons of war. It is less about the tradition but more about the spirit. The definition of warrior is not about physical combat. It is more subtle. It can involve legal battleground. It can be the workplace. In a classroom. At home. Or against racism. Or sexism. Or tribalism. Or religion. Or corporatism. Or the simple act of surviving. Feeding your family. The struggles of life itself.
We all have a warrior spirit. Inside the body we have. When have we put ourselves in harm’s way. When have we stood up for something. When have we admired someone for doing something they believed in. It is there inside us. Your very own nature will show you, give you clues. It is not purely defined by large muscle, sharp intellect or combat skills – these are essentially tools for the warrior spirit to use.
We must cultivate this warrior spirit. It is an energy that can empower us, give us inner strength. It needs to be respected and used as needed. Just know that you have it in you. It will give you strength that you thought impossible. Not just physical. You must contemplate it. Sharpen it with daily reflection. Strengthen it with prayer. Your body will grow old and life will change you. Your muscle and bone mass will atrophy and age will take its toll. Be like the seasons of nature. Even an old tree can turn a green leaf in spring. So learn to live in accordance with the seasons. Yet remember who you really are? You are more than just a physical body…
We are living in uncertain times. Death is approaching in many forms.
PS. Here is a link to the finished Discovery channel article. Read it with an open mind. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/77895095/discovery-warrior.pdf.
Tena koe Hirini,
I enjoyed reading your article on the Maori Warrior. Peace and equality just shines out of every sentence you write. I teach Mau raakau from Te Whare Maire by an old master like yourself who served for his people during WWII in C Company. And the one remark made by my Uncle that remains to the fore front of our Mauraakau waananga is “Never strike first.”
To me this remark had so many meanings and after many years pondering on what my Uncle said I realised that teaching my tauira to develop an awesome defence is first and foremost. Learning to protect life is more precious than learning how to destroy life.
Nga mihi o te waa
Really clear website , thanks for this post.