May 9, 2012

Weapons & Warriors: The Taiaha of the Māori

Some might call it a spear or javelin, but this weapon was not made to be thrown. Despite the appearance as a short spear, the Taiaha is bulky and not designed with aerodynamics in mind at all. In fact throwing a Taiaha could be considered a grave insult to a Māori warrior, especially if it embeds itself in something other than an enemy.

The sharp end of the Taiaha is called a tongue, which protrudes from the thicker carved head. The tongue is sharpened and knife like and is used for stabbing or blocking enemy weapons. The shaft gives the Māori better range in close combat and increases the power of a thrust. Māori use this weapon with both hands. The bottom of the shaft was also flattened so that it could be used to thrust and wound enemies.

The Māori trained to use the Taiaha defensively as well as offensively, so that they were able to block attacks and counter with quick short movements. The Taiaha was the weapon of choice by Māori warriors before gunpowder and training began at a young age. Once they were old enough to go to war; they would be masters of the Taiaha. The Taiaha art is still taught today.

The Taiaha is carved from wood or whale bone. The head is etched and decorated to represent the Māori ancestors. The head includes a side with a face carved into it. The face is held away from the warrior’s body.

Believed to have been a guardian ancestor from Tūmatauenga, the father of men and God of War, the Taiaha is to be cherished and revered. The act of placing the head onto the ground would be considered an insult to Tūmatauenga and any Māori who witnesses it.

Here is a video demonstration of the Taiaha. You'll probably notice the Māori sticking out his tongue. This is meant as a threat that I will talk about in more detail in a later post.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. That dude in the video is totally hawt! Especially when he does that tongue thing. HAHAHAHA! Another great post, Tim. Thanks for sharing all this weapon info. I love this stuff!

  2. Haha! You're crazy Kendall. That tongue thing is actually an old traditional threat, but us Americans do see that differently. I'll talk about that along with the Haka later.