The Taiaha is a wooden staff about 5 to 6 feet in length. It has three main parts:
- Arero (tongue)- a sharpened end, sometimes made from jade, used for stabbing the opponent.
- Upoko (head)- the base from which the tongue protrudes.
- Ate (liver)- the flattened wooden end which is used for striking and parrying.
- Mid range
- 5 feet
- l.5 lbs
- Carved wood and nephrite jade
In the show, strikes from the Ate where mainly tested and demonstrated. Because the end is flattened, the force of the blow is concentrated on a smaller area, resulting in greater damage. The Arero was mainly shown to be used for stabbing opponents on the ground, though it was still capable of stabbing at a standing foe.
Mau rakau is the martial art that teaches the use of the taiaha and other Māori weapons in combat. As with other martial arts styles, students of the taiaha spends years mastering the skills of timing, balance and co-ordination necessary to wield the weapon effectively. The taiaha is widely known due to its use in the wero — the traditional Māori challenge during the Pōwhiri (formal welcoming ceremony). A wero is commonly given to heads of state and visiting dignitaries welcomed to New Zealand.
The Tewhatewha was a wooden staffed weapon similar to the Taiaha, but designed to be an axe or halberd in design and function. Since Maori rarely wore armor, the swifter Taiaha was prefered yet this axe was still quite common and just as decorative and respected.