The taiaha is a wooden or whale bone weapon used by the Maori peoples of Aotearoa(New Zealand). It is usually 5-6 feet in length and is made up of the arero(tongue) tip which is used for stabbing, upuko(head) which is like a guard, tinana(body) which is the long flat part of the weapon used to parry or to cause blunt force trauma.
A martial system by the name of Mau Rakau which literally means “to bear a weapon” teaches the use of the weapons which the Maori used including the taiaha. It’s said that Mau Rakau was taught at the whare tu taua(house of war) to the young toa(warriors).
The most visible usage of the taiaha today is the wera ceremony where a toa challenges a visitor with his taiaha to determine if he is friend or enemy. He leaves a token at the feet of the visitor and if the visitor picks it up he is a friend but if he stomps on it and attacks he is obviously an enemy. The taiaha is more than a weapon and is seen as a physical representation of the warriors’ ancestors. Since it is held in such high regard there are definitely some things which are considered highly disrespectful when handling this weapon such as placing the upuko on the ground. When presented to someone the eyes carved on both sides of the upuko look forward and back representing the all seeing vision of their ancestors. The feathers protruding from the upuko represent hairs of the ancestors of the warrior wielding this weapon. The tongue is represented as the tip or arero which was stuck out to taunt the enemy pre-battle. The outstretched tongue meant ‘I will eat you and take your strength’.