Germans crazy for 'Maori Tae Bo'

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".

According to the website, Aroha is a mix of haka, kung fu and tai chi. The haka component apparently "demonstrates the extraordinary force that is slumbering within every human".

"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.

Darrin Apanui, executive director of Te Matatini Kapa Haka Aotearoa, said it was good other countries took an interest inMaori culture and kapa haka, however issues could arise over improper use.

"From a Te Matatini kapa haka perspective it is about the integrity of the art form especially in this context where an overseas company is using elements of haka with other martial arts to promote fitness and obviously run a business operation. 

"My concern is about the proper use of the haka movement and performance, the competence of the instructors, and whether those that taught the instructors are recognised exponents of kapa haka as judged by Te Matatini."

Te Matatini host the biennial National Haka Championships. Kapa Haka group Te Mataarae I O Rehu from Rotorua currently hold the 2012 national and world titles.

The group has just wrapped up a tour of German museums, where they were also hosted as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Museum Riverbank Festival.