What the Haka is a Haka Dance?

Most folks can’t answer that question, but many sports fans were enlightened in 2007 when controversy sparked after the University of Hawaii Warriors were charged a 15 yard penalty for performing the dance. The haka is a form of traditional Maori dance, practiced in ancient New Zealand as a prewar ritual and more recently adopted by the All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team, as a pregame pump-up. Though the dance is certainly an ancestral homage, sports teams have learned to take advantage of its intimidation techniques—muscular athletes slapping their thighs, flashing their tongues, and chanting in angry unison surely doesn’t instill warm and fuzzy feelings in observing opponents.

Perhaps this was the line of thinking of the referee who penalized the UH Warriors for doing the pregame dance. Considered a taunt by the NCAA, the routine was recognized by UH coaches as a Polynesian tradition, important to the people and players of Hawaii. The controversy sparked the creation of a new pregame warm-up for the Warriors. The full squad now performs a traditional Hawaiian war chant, quite reminiscent of the haka, prior to their games, and faces the stands, rather than the opposing team. The Warriors continue to incur the penalty for their new, fierce dancing, but who can blame them for gettin’ jiggy wit’ it.

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Comments 1

  1. Yes, the Haka is traditionally used in warfare. The slaps, chants, and facial expressions were used to intimidate opposing tribes and European invaders. Seeing it being added to sports games recently – wonder if this is culturally appropriate.

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