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How to play tītītōrea

How to play tītītōrea

by Mattie Hamuera
Mon, 27 Jul 2015

For Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, we've pulled out Ngā Tākaro (traditional Māori games). Stick games such as tītītorea (short sticks) are a fun way to practice waiata and instructions in Te Reo. ​

Learning through play

Ngā takaro were important in traditional Māori society; as a form of entertainment and as a practice to hone skills such as rhythm and hand-eye coordination. Te Reo was an important part of ngā tākaro as each game was accompanied by a chant or song.

Ngā tākaro were played by men, women and children; although some games such as ti rākau (stick games) were particularly helpful for warriors to practice hand-eye coordination and spear skills.

Tītītōrea is usually played in pairs however it can also be played with an unlimited amount of players!

NZ Herald (1930s).Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-NEG-C51469

Variations of tī rakau

There were many variations of tī rākau, which were played with either long (rākau) or short sticks (tītītorea). Sometimes they were sharpened to replicate spears. Players sat in a circle or formed two lines, singing waiata as they threw the rākau at each other.

The popularity of traditional Māori games and sports declined during the 19th and 20th centuries, although tī rakau continued to be played in some schools and community groups.

Tītītōrea, played with wooden sticks called tītī, is one stick game that is commonly played today. The instructional language and waiata associated with the game makes it a valuable tool to encourage the growth of Te Reo. It involves two or more seated players, throwing sticks to each other in time to accompanying chants.

How to play tītītōrea

To begin, players are positioned opposite one another and they pass their sticks to each other in time with the rhythm, with the aim of the game being not to drop a stick.

This game is usually played in pairs however it can also be played in groups with an unlimited amount of players!

What you'll need

  • At least two people
  • 4 x tī rākau (short sticks)
  • Lots of people can play tītītōrea - just keep adding pairs to form two long lines!

Setting up

Kneel and face your partner. You need two tī rākau each.

There are four basic stages when playing tītītōrea.

Kataraina and Matia play tītītorea during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

1. Tahi

Begin by kneeling on the ground facing your partner. Hold a stick in each hand. 

2. Rua

Hold the sticks together with straight arms in front of you.

3. Toru

Hold your right arm out straight ...

4. Whā

Hold your left arm straight out ...

Now you've got the basics, it's time to throw the tī rākau!

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

As you push your arm out in steps toru and whā, gently throw one tī rākau to your partner. This means you will throw your tī rākau with one hand, then catch your partner's tī rākau with your other hand at the same time.

Once you catch the tī rākau, you can throw them again straight away (switch between steps toru or whā), or go back to step 2, rua.

It sounds tricky, but with practice you can do it, and even start mixing it up!

Here's a tip

It helps if you chant the steps as you go back and forward between them:

"TAHI, RUA, TORU, WHĀ, RUA, TAHI, RUA, TORU, RUA, TAHI!"

Check out the video below to see the Museum's Guest Educator Taiohi Team play tītītorea:

Even though our tītītorea game is hundreds of years old, we still love playing it today. So why not come down to Tāmaki Paenga Hira to learn more about the tītītorea.

Mauri Ora!

  • Post by: Auckland Museum

    Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its people, and their place in the Pacific.