Story: Traditional Māori games – ngā tākaro

Page 4. Games of physical movement

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Moari (also known as mōrere) were large swings. They consisted of a pole (usually kahikatea wood) sunk into the ground, with flax ropes suspended from the top that riders held on to as they swung round. Moari were often set up over water or over the edge of a drop. People riding the moari over water would swing out, chanting:

Ka rere au, ka rere au
Ka rere au i te morua titi, morua tata
E kohera, e kohera pō
Ki roto wai titi.

As they said the last word they let go and dropped into the water.

Memorial moari

Two moari were constructed near Ruatāhuna in Te Urewera to mourn people who had been killed by a neighbouring hapū. A song was composed to be chanted while the people swung on the moari. There were also other mourning ‘games’. Sometimes at Matariki the kite of a person who had died the previous year would be flown. Pōtaka tākiri (humming tops) could be part of ceremonial mourning, along with an accompanying song called a whakaoriori pōtaka. Often the top would be spun following the completion of each verse of the chant.


Tārere (also called moari, kautārere or hīmorimori) were bush swings made from aka (vines) or plaited ropes tied to a branch. A piece of wood was lashed to the bottom of the vine or rope to sit or stand on. Sometimes another rope was attached that could be pulled to keep the swing going.


A pīoi (or tiemi) was a see-saw made from a pole balanced across a log or a flexible tree branch.


For piu (skipping) usually a long rope was used, swung by two people as they chanted a rhyme. There could be a squad of 10 or more jumpers.

Hiding and running games

Taupunipuni (also known as taupupuni, whakapupuni and piri) is equivalent to hide-and-seek.

Wī is a game similar to tag, with many variations. Whoever is ‘it’ chases the ‘kiore’ (rat), attempting to papaki (tag) them. The kiore weaves through the other participants, who stand in circles or in lines. The person who is ‘it’ must follow the same route as the ‘kiore’. In a variation, players try to reach the wī (a circle marked on the ground), which is guarded by the player who is ‘it’.

Māui and his brothers play niti

Niti – darts – was one of the games that the demigod Māui was expert at. When he went to find his family, his brothers were playing. Each said his own name as he glanced his niti off the mound of earth. Māui made his brothers lie down and used their backs as the mound from which to launch his own niti, and his always went furthest. This is said to be the reason for the hollows in people’s backbones.


Niti, also called teka, are darts. Children played a game called piu teka or toro teka using kōrari (fern stalks) and kākaho (toetoe stems) with flax wound around the point to form a weighted end (pōike).

The marae toro teka (dart-throwing ground) was a flat clearing with a mound formed from earth. Players would run towards the mound and throw the dart underarm, aiming to skim the top of the mound and fly their dart the furthest.


Ripi (also called paratiti, tipi and kaitipitipi) was the universal pastime of skipping stones across water.

How to cite this page:

Ross Calman, 'Traditional Māori games – ngā tākaro - Games of physical movement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Ross Calman, published 5 Sep 2013