Welcome to New Zealand

The New Zealand Maori had spears, slings and stones, and two kinds of fighting club -  long clubs or staffs, and short hand clubs, which were held in one hand to strike, jab, and slice in quick motions. Short clubs were made of wood, bone, basalt or nephrite, the most prestigious material.  These weapons were coveted battlefield trophies and precious heirlooms, often passing through multiple generations.  Closely associated with the god of war and the shedding of blood, they were highly tapu (the Maori equivalent of sacred, though there is no direct translation).  When not in use, these clubs were hidden, for possession of such treasures was a great responsibility.

The most common type of long club was the taiaha, a staff that could measure more than eight feet in length, depending on the height of the user.  In battle, a warrior held the taiaha in both hands, using it to parry and thrust, keeping his opponent at a distance.  If his opponent broke through this defense by knocking away the taiaha, the warrior would move in with his short club.   
Maori boys were trained in the arts of warfare, including the use of the taiaha.  The symbolic importance of this weapon in Maori culture is still evident today.  In the movie Whale Rider, based on the novel by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, the grandfather teaches boys the techniques and tactics for fighting with the taiaha, which he refers to as a “sacred thing.” The taiaha also appears on the New Zealand coat of arms, which features a Maori chief holding a taiaha.  In 1999 one of two crossed British swords on the official crest of the New Zealand Army was replaced with a taiaha.