As Rugby World Cup 2011 fever is in the air and the New Zealand All Blacks team are very much in the running, I thought I would expand on why the All Blacks use the Haka, and how it is used in our team building activities, ice breakers and energisers. For many generations, the All Blacks have used Haka as a primary challenge and initial team focus against their opposition on the pitch.
With it, a ‘tribe’ demonstrates its strength, solidarity and determination to the opposition. In doing so, members of the tribe are also looking for uncertainty or signs of weakness in those they challenge.
Traditionally, the Haka was often the last stage of communication before actual war or battle commencing, so it was the very last chance to size up the enemy and make the serious decision of whether to fight or flee!
Back on the rugby pitch, performing the Haka lets players draw from all their past successes and then prepare to succeed in their next objective. Our own Haka Masters tell us that the All Blacks really admire and respect opposing teams when they face up and confront their Haka. This shows a great mutual admiration for tradition and all adds to the drama of the pending match.
How does all this relate to corporate team building? We find that our Haka option provides the basis for an amazing teambuilding experience, which is fun for all participants and yet has serious messages. Let me describe a Haka session we delivered this week as a perfect example.
Within an all-day conference of 180 delegates, the senior management team slipped out under the guise of a conference call. What they really did was meet our Haka Masters in a separate room, to quickly learn the Haka, before re-joining their colleagues!
As the conference session came to an end, perfectly on cue from the speaker, our Haka team entered into the conference room in full traditional dress. The audience was stunned. Our team performed the Haka on stage to rapturous applause, and then gave participants the traditional welcome in the Maori language.
We then asked for a few volunteers and motioned to the front row that contained the secretly-rehearsed managers. The audience laughed when their senior managers were selected. Their faces soon dropped in astonishment when they performed the Haka perfectly alongside the Maori Masters! This was a fantastic beginning to the session.
On the way to becoming provisional Maori warriors, our participants heard about the history and background of the Haka from our authentic Maori Masters. The feedback we always receive from our clients is how much everyone is fascinated about the story, the symbolism and purpose of the Haka.
Also, everyone is always interested to learn of the Hongi, which is the traditional Maori greeting in New Zealand. This involves grasping each other’s arms, and going nose-to-nose and breathing in together. This is the simple celebration of sharing a breath together and the remembrance of the breaths you have taken so far in your life.
People taking part then learned the words and actions of the Haka, which was great fun and a challenge in itself. We split the group into two, so each group could develop and perfect its own unique Haka performance. Some ‘warriors’ were also elected to have traditional face markings put on.
Finally, we all regrouped for one face-off, before joining as one team again and focusing the very last Haka on a company objective that needed to be overcome. The power of everyone in the room doing this together was absolutely incredible and is one of the reasons why the Haka is one of our most requested teambuilding activities.
So does the Haka build teams together? According to WikiAnswers, the All Black rugby team is the most successful sporting team in history, with an overall win ratio of 75% over nearly 100 years. The All Blacks have held the top ranking in the world for longer than all other countries combined. There might just be something in it!
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