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Forums > Technical Discussion > Maori Warriors - Any references?

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Mucky
Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA
Member Since: 7th Apr 2008
Total posts: 227
Posted:So, just about any online history of poi includes an off-hand line about how Maori warriors may have used poi as a strength training exercise, but thus far I haven't found any solid references for this claim. At first glance, it isn't unreasonable to assume that poi, or a related exercise, might be used as a training tool, but if you think about it it doesn't seem very likely.

Spinning poi are entirely too light to offer any real strength benefit, and even an excessively heavy variety still wouldn't be as efficient as, say, a set of Indian clubs. From the little I know of traditional Polynesian weaponry, they consisted mainly of clubs and staves, for which you can't train effectively with a flexible weight. You have to train the muscle groups you'll use, as well as the muscle motions you'll use.

I only ask because it seems to be a widely-known "fact," but no article ever furnishes evidence for this. If a poi-like flail was used as a striking weapon, that might be one thing, but its use as a training tool is usually specified. The likeliest thing I can imagine is that warriors may have prepared stones for battle by tying a short length of cord to them to make it easier to throw it further (same principle as a sling) evidence for this technique is seen as early as Neolithic China - the precursor to the rope dart.

Any insights would be appreciated! ubbidea Thanks!


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ElectricBlue
ElectricBlue

Now with extra strawberries
Location: Canberra
Member Since: 11th Feb 2002
Total posts: 810
Posted:I don't know much about the subject or wherter they were actually used for training, but seem you have forgotten that there are many aspects to training other than strength. There is agility, coordination and aerobic fitness all of which could be trained using poi.



Also remember that the Maori poi style is very different to the fire spinning poi style. They are shorter and spun very fast with and emphasis on rhythm.

EDITED_BY: Blueberry (1207632247)


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Mucky
Mucky

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Location: Macungie, PA, USA
Member Since: 7th Apr 2008
Total posts: 227
Posted:Right, there are other things to learn, but as with anything else, training in something only makes you better at doing that. That is, just lifting weights makes you better at lifting weights, and while *some* of that strength translates to battle, at a certain point the ratio starts to diverge greatly. Similarly, any type of spinning activity will make you a better spinner, but not necessarily a better fighter. You can also become more agile and coordinated with other activities more closely related to battle - sparring, in particular.

Also, I know it was a different style of poi, but the kinetic principles are similar. The coordination you get from spinning is virtually useless when fighting an individual - things like timing are much more valuable. I didn't mean to single out strength training; my real point is that this is a commonly propagated piece of knowledge, but nobody offers any evidence for it.

It's just a matter of curiosity for me; I'm a somewhat avid student of martial arts history, so the suggestion of using poi as a training tool interested me to some extent. But with the martial arts, you really can't take any statement of "fact" at face value - I guess that's true of a lot of things.


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CaffeinatedKatie
CaffeinatedKatie

Teacher, Dancer, Artist, and General Smartass
Location: Portland, OR
Member Since: 29th Jan 2005
Total posts: 149
Posted:I'm glad you're bringing this up, because I've noticed it come up often but without really anything to corroborate it. The only way that it makes sense is in relation to agility, though I agree there are other activities to be done that would benefit agility (and even strength at the same time).
I guess I'm not really offering any information, but the point is, I've wondered too.


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Mother_Natures_Son
Mother_Natures_Son

Rampant whirler.
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia!
Member Since: 1st Aug 2007
Total posts: 2418
Posted:Well... I think its entirely plausible, in fact I think it'd be a great training tool...

I myself use it as a training tool, I dropped 3 belt holes in about 4 months, most of which was toning, my abs, pecs and arms have a lot more muscle tone and I've not even been doing it properly.

I use much heavier poi than usual and do exercises that target specific areas.

The muscle coordination has helped me enormously, I can play tennis at an intermediate level, having only played 4 times!

As for fighting... i used to be a reasonably well trained fighter and haven't done anything of the sort for years, but having recently stepped in to spar I've lost nothing of my skill which I would attribute to poi, the strengths and agility that it has given me.

What has to be remembered is that poi would not be the ONLY training they'd be undergoing, it would be part of a larger training schedule.

No clue about the validity, but I can certainly vouch for its viability to no end.


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akgraphics
akgraphics

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Location: Churchill College, Cambridge
Member Since: 25th Jun 2006
Total posts: 133
Posted:My friend who went to Womad festival in England (world music festival) said there were Maori doing a little parade/festival routine and they had people spinning poi - apparently they are very short, and spun super fast, close to the body. Did anyone go to Womad 2007, could you corroborate this?

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Mucky
Mucky

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Location: Macungie, PA, USA
Member Since: 7th Apr 2008
Total posts: 227
Posted:Mother Nature's Son, thanks for the input! If you don't mind my asking, what kind of fighting have you trained in? Also, how heavy are your poi, and what kind of targeted exercises do you do?

I used to practice historical fencing, and I definitely understand the merit of any physically demanding repetition of motions, whether you're swinging balls, swords, staves, or clubs.


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CaffeinatedKatie
CaffeinatedKatie

Teacher, Dancer, Artist, and General Smartass
Location: Portland, OR
Member Since: 29th Jan 2005
Total posts: 149
Posted:I also sometimes practice with heavier poi, with the idea that then when I perform with lighter poi, I'll be able to perform longer or not get as winded or something. I think there's something to it. And I have build some pretty respectable arm muscles (though nothing as Mother Nature's Son-- 3 belt loops! awesome!)

When I've seen really *traditional* poi, they have always been with really short lengths on the poi. It seems to me, that having them longer takes more energy and agility though.


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CaffeinatedKatie
CaffeinatedKatie

Teacher, Dancer, Artist, and General Smartass
Location: Portland, OR
Member Since: 29th Jan 2005
Total posts: 149
Posted:Not exactly what you were looking into... but thought you might be interested anyway.

http://www.flight-toys.com/bolas.htm


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Mucky
Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA
Member Since: 7th Apr 2008
Total posts: 227
Posted:biggrin I used to be pretty handy with bolas! I was actually thinking of making another set the other day. If you design it right, they're surprisingly easy to use. And really effective.

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Mother_Natures_Son
Mother_Natures_Son

Rampant whirler.
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia!
Member Since: 1st Aug 2007
Total posts: 2418
Posted:I used to do a bit of muay thai, but most of the fighting I did was on the streets with kids who wanted to cut me with knives...

I have a few sets of heavy poi... ranging from about half a pound to two pounds...

The targeted exercises are reasonably varied... Some of them I can't put properly into words...

One of them is doing the buzzsaw with arms out as far as you can but bending the elbows a bit, this works the pecs, you should be able to see them moving quite a lot, if not move them round.

Another one is in a horizontal plane do stalls to either side of your body, keeping your legs about shoulder width apart, tensing your stomach muscles, twisting at the stomach, that'll work the abs really well, lean backward if you want to hit the obliques moreso, raise the poi in more of an arc so they're almost going over your head, that'll hit your pecs, the muscles near your biceps and your upper abdominals.. Then theres antispin flowers and stuff like that that really work the arms, same with just holding your arms out to the side and doing split time, really works the arms. Theres others but I can't explain em very well, theres too many things you need to be doing just right...


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hamamelis
hamamelis

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Location: Bouncing off the walls.
Member Since: 5th Jan 2006
Total posts: 756
Posted:I'm not sure about the 'strength training', I just heard they were used (at the Maori Cultural Museum) to 'keep the wrists supple'.. which does make sense if you watch the traditional style.

Traditional poi don't seem to be too heavy, the ones I've looked at in museums looked to be mainly flax, and weren't big enough to contain any stones of significant weight. Certainly not a pound or more, and given that they were used pretty much as percussion, by hitting the arms, I'd guess they're not going to be too heavy..


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