September 22, 2005

New haka the cutting edge of sport : A throat-cutting gesture at the end of a fierce new All Black haka symbolises the cutting edge of sport and not the slaughter of opponents, says the haka's composer. This story is nearly a month old, just checked the archives and noticed it flew under the radar. If you haven't seen the new haka, check it out. Forget national anthems and exchanging pennants and flowers and all that crap, the haka is the best pre-game ritual in world sports. I've been digging around for some good video, and so far the best I have found is the one on the NZRU website -- it sputters and starts, but it's the only thing I've found online. Some people think the haka pushes psychological gamesmanship to the limit and gives the ABs an unfair advantage -- what do you think?

posted by the red terror to culture at 02:13 PM - 23 comments

Isn't this a spin-off of Pacific native posturings between tribes to avoid actual conflict? Island raids would be conducted, and a ceremonial battle between warriors would ensue that entailed making war faces/gestures/etc. at each other, possibly for hours on end, with the first sign of weakness signalling defeat. Unfair advantage? Not exactly. Cutting edge of sport or slaughter gesture. I'll go with the latter, regardless of what the 'composer' claims.

posted by garfield at 02:50 PM on September 22, 2005

I think it's cool as hell. And also cool that the other team (Australia?) stood and watched - they didn't go about their warmups pretending not to see it, nor did they flip out and taunt/interrupt/whatever. I'll be visiting NZ in late November, which is unfortunately out of rugby season.

posted by mbd1 at 03:04 PM on September 22, 2005

The haka is a throwback to the amateur[*] days of rugby union. It has no place in the professional game. Not to say that the All Blacks shouldn't perform the haka, but it should be done before the captains contest the coin toss. In it's current form how can anyone say that it doesn't give the All Blacks a psychological advantage? [*] Of course in the old days, "amateur" was a pretty elastic term.

posted by salmacis at 03:04 PM on September 22, 2005

so, it disrupts the game? interupting the normal sequence of pre-match events? if the other team is allowed a demonstration of their own, or atleast not specifically barred from performing one, why is it unfair?

posted by garfield at 03:08 PM on September 22, 2005

What's to stop other teams from having their own versions of this (if they can dream something up)?

posted by trox at 03:14 PM on September 22, 2005

Bear in mind this haka hasn't replaced "the" Haka (Te Raupraha's haka), which will still be used for most matches. garfield: Haka can have multiple roles. Visiting dignitaries are usually greeted with a haka, and are supposed to face it, and then pick up a token of peace. Once they do that they're all good. And other teams have and do perform pre-match equivalents, typically nations such as Samoa. Comments such as those from salmacis reflect the mind set that some "fans" would happily destroy a century of tradition if they thought it improved their own team's (usually minial) chance of winning a match.

posted by rodgerd at 03:40 PM on September 22, 2005

I think this is like the whole Sumo pre-fight ritual. Except, in this case, it's a whole team, and only one side is doing it. Every other team that has to play the All Blacks should come up with their own. It would totally blow everyone away when one of their opponents pulls out their own haka for the first time.

posted by worldcup2002 at 04:06 PM on September 22, 2005

I'd like to see someone do a whole dance routine from "You Got Served" ... or maybe 12 guys pulling the Jennifer Beals "Flashdance" bit.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:25 PM on September 22, 2005

The chant they recite is begging to be mixed down into some hip-hop. Someone get on that.

posted by rocketman at 05:06 PM on September 22, 2005

Most Pacific Island rugby teams have an equivalent of the haka. It's a great tradition and a great experience, especially during a game like Samoa vs Tonga, where it represents so much more than just rugby. By the way, it's considered disrespectful NOT to watch the haka - hence Australia standing close to the All Blacks during the performance.

posted by owlhouse at 05:43 PM on September 22, 2005

Hell yeah, it's an unfair advantage. And cool as hell. Keep it up. I dunno what a team from somewhere like, say, Austria (not Australia) could come up with in response, though. Maybe something based on the Lonely Goatherd song from "The Sound of Music"? Or would that be cruel and unusual?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:14 PM on September 22, 2005

That is cool as hell. It probably would make some people think twice before playing against them, hell some of them just had that weird look in thier eyes. I don't see any problem with it though. I'm actually surprised nobody's doing it right back yet.

posted by jojomfd1 at 12:34 AM on September 23, 2005

The opposition facing the haka was the South Africa Springboks, who have been facing All Black hakas for nearly a century, and given the titanic battles between these sides forever they presumably respect it as much as anybody. Springbok captain John Smit said after the match that he knew immediately it was a new haka. "It was an honour for us to stand before them when they did the new version of the haka. It was fantastic." BTW One of the best hakas I have ever seen was NZ vs Tonga at the 1991 World Cup, one team all in black, the other all in red, facing off and delivering hakas at one another. It definitely gets the blood and adrenaline rushing to the kick-off.

posted by the red terror at 07:57 AM on September 23, 2005

I saw the NZ basketball team do this once pre-game. Awesome stuff. It would have been even cooler if they all had ornate facial tattoos.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2005

Haka = cool. And cool trumps all. Go get 'em you mildly frightening exhibitionist Kiwis!

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:42 AM on September 23, 2005

lil brown bat----Maybe they could do the dance thats in European Vacation---That would be funny as hell

posted by MNJ1193 at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2005

Right on, Hugh. Definitely have to do facial tattoos. It would be awesome if say, Austria (tip o' the hat to lil_b_b) or Australia or hey, England, came out with facial tattoos (hey, they could be temporary) and did their own haka. I mean, seriously, they could hire some consultant to train them, and they should be doing it all serious-like, with the full rage, buggy eyes and KISS-like tongue-hanging-out routine. I really think NZ would just get thrown off their game. BONNNNNGGGGGG! (I think the parody approach would backfire, but hey, since we're talking about it, yeah, maybe Austria could do some yodel-leh-dee-hoo thing from "Sound of Music", England could pull some Pythonesque dance -- choreographedby John Cleese, of course -- and America could do something from West Side Story. Oh my ...)

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2005

I dunno, maybe the USA could do the barn-raising dance/brawl from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Can you imagine England coming out of the tunnel doing the silly walk? By the way, I like the way you spell that ringing sound, worldcup2002.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:04 PM on September 23, 2005

Well, they tried to institure the Baby Elephant Walk with the UVM Men's Hockey Team a few years back. Didn't go so well.

posted by yerfatma at 01:33 PM on September 23, 2005

Hey thanks for getting that fucking song stuck in my head, fatty. do do do doot do do doot doot do doot...

posted by Samsonov14 at 05:42 PM on September 23, 2005

Right, the song's the problem there, not the image of a dozen freshman hockey players bent over each other naked holding onto their "trunks". On second thought, you're right. Damn song.

posted by yerfatma at 06:34 PM on September 23, 2005

Ireland have twice taken a novel approach to facing the haka. In the early sixties (can't find a link, but have heard the story from so many people who claim to have been there that it might even be true) they stood opposite the All Blacks and did the hokey cokey. Then, in 1989, they adopted a slightly odd tactic and "linked arms and began to shuffle forward into the mass of black jerseys." It's a traditional Irish response to a challenge... shuffling. It worked wonderfully too. The Kiwis only beat us 23-6 in the end. I don't think it gives them an unfair psychological advantage - for one thing, as has been said, it's not like they are the only team permitted to do such a thing, but also, most people who have stood and faced a haka must be inspired by it. I can't see how it wouldn't lift you even as an opponent.

posted by JJ at 07:03 AM on September 24, 2005

Just a bit of follow-up---British journo Mick Cleary of the Telegraph is disturbed by the new throat-slash, and it looks like the Boks got their own mindgame surprise as they had apparently cooked up a secret response to the haka.

posted by the red terror at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2005

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