(Stacy Kirk, Stuff.co.nz) A Kiwi-inspired fitness craze sweeping through Germany has taken parts of the New Zealand haka and turned it into “Maori Tae Bo”, which has academics and Maori authorities questioning its legitimacy.
The programme, called Aroha, is taught in more than 200 gyms throughout Germany, according to its website.
It was created by former Les Mills Germany fitness instructor Bernhard Jakszt , who said he “just finds the Maori culture so inspiring”.
“Haka evokes the force in the middle, an inner centre, that leads to a general well being,” the website says.
Jakszt has also trademarked the term Aroha – meaning love in Maori – and has used a number of koru patterns on associated merchandise.
Auckland man Reuben Hamill came across the site after his German father-in-law asked if he’d heard of Aroha.
Hamill said after watching a promotional video on the site it was evident “this guy has taken a Maori work, used the German love of all things Kiwi and created some kind of fitness scam”.
He said it could only be described as “Maori Tae Bo”.
Victoria University senior lecturer Aroha Mead said it was not just about the use of haka in their exercise routines.
They use Maori language names in all aspects of their branding, they have trademarked ‘Aroha’ and placed a registration mark on other Maori generic names.
She said they also used Maori iconography in their t-shirts, clothing, studio and videos.
“While acknowledging they have been inspired by Maori culture in New Zealand, it is a big jump to be inspired and then trademark a Maori name and use all Maori images and movements in their products.
Te Matatini executive director Darrin Apanui said it was a good thing other countries were taking an interest in the Maori culture, but it was important the art form was being performed properly.
“The big question is where have they learnt this? If they’ve been taught properly, by someone who knows the movements and what they mean then it’s not so much of an issue. But we would be questioning whether they had been.
“For us the main thing is that the art form is performed properly and not desecrated for financial gain.”
Te Matatini host the National Haka Championships every year and the Te Matatini Kapa Haka group hold the 2012 title.
They have just wrapped up a tour of German museums, where they were also hosted as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Museum Riverbank Festival.