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Playing Ki-o-Rahi
The Ki-o-Rahi field layout



    Te Ara – the pathway along which the Kioma players travel, between Te Ao and the Pawero. Permanent fields have Te Ara pathways of sand. Usually 2 metres wide and 7 metres long.

    Te Kahaaraiti – the circle between Pawero and Te Roto. The circle is 200mm wide.

    Kahaaranui – the circle between Te Roto and Te Ao.

     Pawero – one of two zones in the Te Motu, occupied by Kioma players. It is 2 metres wide.

     Nga Pou – the boundary posts that the Kioma players need to "touch" before attempting a Tupu Manawa ("try"). There are seven (7) positioned equidistantly around the field, and two or three metres infield from the Tapaparoa. Permanent fields have pou carved logs, each with a dedicated name. Sometimes live trees are grown, as pou, to create a park like setting. On modern fields, large plastic cones 1metre high, are used as pou.

     Tapaparoa – the outermost boundary circle.

     Te Ao – The outermost zone of play. Usually 10 – 12 metres wide.

     Te Marama – the circle from which a Kioma player starts the game and from which the game is restarted after each Tupu Manawa ("try") is scored. It has a 2 metre diameter.

     Te Motu – the entire zone within, and inclusive of, the Kahaaraiti circle - includes the Tupu (centre target) and the Te Wairua and Pawero zones. On permanent fields the Pawero is sometimes made into a large circular sand pit, with a smoothly concreted Te Wairua and a large permanent Tupu. It has a four metre radius.

     Te Roto – the zone of play between the Kahaaraiti circle and the Kahaaranui circle. It is seven metres wide.

     Te Tupu – the "‘target" which occupies the centre of the field. At "permanent" fields, Te Tupu is usually a large rock or carved log with a name dedicated from the genealogy of a hapu or Iwi. Modern fields use large cylindrical drums with dimensions that vary between 1 to 2 metres high x ½ to 1 metre in diameter.

     Te Wairua – Te Wairua – the central zone, part of Te Motu, in which Te Tupu is centrally positioned. It has a two metre diameter.

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Te Kawa o Ngati Raukawa : 
How to play Ki-o-Rahi, (rules according to the Ngati Mahana, a sub-tribe of Ngati Raukawa) 

It is important to note that rules of play vary in other areas of New Zealand - the rules of the game are not standardised, hence the process of " Tatu" - whereby teams from different areas negotiate the rules of play for the day.

--› These are the rules for Ki-o-Rahi as played by the Ngati Mahana, a sub-tribe of Ngati Raukawa.

Two teams play against each other. These teams have names - "Kioma" and "Taniwha". The Kioma team's basic aim is to score "tries" (Maori term is "Tupu Manawa") while the opposing Taniwha team attempts to score "'hits" (Maori term "Tupu Wairua") on the large centre target (called a "Tupu"). The team which scores the most points wins the game, OR the team which scores ten times in a row.

Kioma Team

At the start of play the Kioma team have their players positioned as follows : three players in the "Pawero" zone, three players in the "Te Ao" zone and one player in the "Te Marama" circle. The player positioned in "Te Marama" commences play by throwing the ball to team mates in the "Pawero" zone

--> remember that "'own hits" (striking the "Te Tupu") can be scored.

Once the throw-in has been completed the player joins his team mates in the "Te Ao" zone. The duty of the players placed in the "'Pawero" zone is to pass the ball to their team mates in the outer "Te Ao" zone, and to prevent their opponents from kicking the ball onto the "Te Tupu". "Pawero" players may "handle" the ball with any part of their body.

Once the Kioma players positioned in the "Te Ao" zone have received the ball, they may inter-pass it amongst each other. They then attempt to score a "try" - there are two parts in this process (A and B as below) :

a) One player firstly, attempts to "touch" (Maori term "Wharongo") a boundary "pou" while holding the ball (all seven "'pou" may be tagged in this manner). They cannot "touch" a pou more than once. While the players attempt the "touches" on the pou, the opposing team will be endeavouring to gain possession of the ball by tackling the ball carriers.

b ) Secondly, once a "pou" has been touched the Kioma players in Te Ao continue to inter-pass the ball, attempting to "touch" more pou, until one player attempts to run, while holding the ball, through the "Te Roto" zone and into the "Pawero" zone, for a "try" (Tupu Manawa). The opposing team will attempt to tackle this runner (Maori term "Teitei") to prevent a "try" from being scored. The points value of the "'try" depends on the total number of "pou" touched before hand - the more "pou" touched the higher the "try" value.

Each pou touched is worth one point if the try is successfully scored. "Try" values vary therefore, from one to seven points.

--› Note : only the Kioma player, with the ball in hand, can run into the "Te Roto" zone. Once within that zone the player cannot pass the ball.

Taniwha Team

At the start of play the Taniwha team have their players positioned as : seven players anywhere in the "Te Roto" and "Te Ao" zones. The Taniwha players attempt to take the ball from the Kioma players. To do this they may tackle their opponents, and try to rip the ball from their grasp.

Most contestations for possession occur in the "Te Ao" zone. The Taniwha players must also prevent the Kioma side from gaining touches (Maori term "Wharongo") on the boundary "pou" and from scoring "tries". When the Taniwha players obtain possession of the ball in the "Te Ao" zone, they quickly pass the ball to their players in the "Te Roto" zone, to prevent the Kioma players from regaining possession.

The Taniwha players in the "Te Roto" zone may handle the ball in any way they wish. They may hand pass, bounce and kick the ball to each other when attempting to score on the Tupu (the large centre target). However, to score a Tupu Wairua, the ball must firstly make contact (e.g. bounce) in the Pawero zone, or be deflected off a Pawero player onto the Tupu - the ball cannot hit the Tupu on the full directly from a Taniwha player throw or kick. If it does the Tupu Wairua is disallowed.

Game Start

A Ki-o-Rahi match is divided into quarters. Sides swap around from Kioma Team mode to Taniwha Team mode each quarter. The Kioma side always start the quarter with a throw in from the "Te Marama" circle.

Restarts after a "Try" (Tupu Manawa) is scored :

After each "try" is scored the ball is thrown in again by a Kioma player positioned in the "Te Marama" circle.

Restarts after a "Hit" (Tupu Wairua) is scored :

After a "hit" is scored, the ball is immediately placed in the "Te Roto" zone for Taniwha team possession.

Time Limits

Fast play should always be encouraged, and time wasting discouraged. If necessary, time limits should be imposed to speed up play. If the Kioma team has not touched a "'pou" within 30 seconds, or managed to score a "try" within 60 seconds, the ball possession should be given to the Taniwha side.

If, within 30 seconds, the Taniwha team has not had at least one kick at the "Tupu", the ball possession should be given to the Kioma players in the "Pawero" zone. Once they have possession, the Kioma players in the "Pawero" zone should be given no longer than seven seconds to throw the ball to their team mates in the "Te Ao" zone.

Self Reffing

The concept of "Tewhatewha" :

One player from each side is responsible for their players abiding by the agreed rules - these players are called "Tewhatewha". These two referees work together, and communicate throughout the game. "Tewhatewha" need to inform their players when they are getting close to breaking the rules - and if rules are blatantly breached, that player needs to take personal responsibility and take themselves out of the game (commonly for 30 seconds).

Rules may be added or amended to fit in with the flow of the game and wishes of the players.


Once opposing teams have agreed on the rules they will play to, it is expected that these will be adhered to. Rules to determine tackle style (whether full contact or "scrag" or a touch variation) need to be decided. It is usual for over vigorous tacklers to be substituted, or to have a 30 second "sit down" on the field or on the boundary. Ball possession then passes to the non-offending side, who will quickly restart play anywhere on the field.

Player Numbers

It is common to play seven players aside on the field at once - eight if the "Tewhatewha" is a non-player. Any number of substitutions may be made. But player numbers are flexible, although three Kioma players in the "Pawero" is usually the maximum allowable, unless there are more than twelve players aside.

Player Zones

The Kioma players in the "Pawero" zone cannot interfere with play, or attempt to obtain the ball in the "Te Roto" zone. These "'Pawero" players cannot run through the "Te Wairua" zone or handle the ball in this area unless it has stopped. The "Kahaaraiti" circle is "in" for both teams, which means ball possession may be contested for on that 200 mm wide line.

The Kioma players in Te Ao cannot interfere with play, or attempt to obtain the ball, in the "Te Roto" zone. Only one Kioma player, who is carrying the ball, can enter the "Te Roto". Kioma players in the "Pawero" zone and the "Te Ao" zone can swap positions by running along the "Te Ara" - players in the "Pawero" zone can also assist their "Te Ao" zone team mates by running out along the "Te Ara".

Kioma players in the "Te Ara" zone cannot interfere with play or handle the ball. The Taniwha players can occupy both the "Te Ao" and "Te Roto" zones. They cannot interfere with play inside the "Te Marama" or "Pawero" zones. They can attempt to intercept the throw-ins from the "Te Marama" zone. They cannot interfere with Kioma players running along the "Te Ara".

Kioma Catches On The Full

If a Kioma player in the "Te Ao" zone catches the ball on the full, from a throw by a Kioma team mate in the "Pawero" zone, they may attempt to score a "'try" immediately (without having to touch a boundary "pou" first) - the "'try" is worth one point. 

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© The above text is copyright. Please do not use without the author's express consent.
"Nga Taonga Takaro - Maori Sports and Games" (Paperback) by Harko Brown : available on


Hapu Subdivision of a tribe, or sub tribe.
Ihi Power.
Iwi A tribe which traces descent from a common ancestor or ancestors.
Kawa Procedures.
Ki The traditional Māori name for the small flax woven ball used in play.
Kioma The playing side who primarily occupy Te Motu and Te Ao, who inter pass the ki and attempt to score tries.
Mahana The throw-off from Te Marama by the Kioma side to begin and restart the game.
Manuhiri Visitors.
Mauri Life force, life essence.
Mo A catch of the ki (ball) on the full.
Mowera "Awesome" defence tackling by the Taniwha team.
Namu A "scrag" or "bear hug" tackle on a ball carrier. This keeps the tackled player standing and ‘embraced’ which restricts them passing.
Nga Taonga Resources.
Nga Taonga o Nga Tupuna Māori Treasures of the ancestors (there is an increasing identification by people reciting their pepeha to include Iwi or Hapu specific rehia - "pleasurable past times").
Ngahau "Awesome" ki (ball) movements by the Kioma side using switch passes, fakes, "back handers", feints and scissors moves.
Ngaro A "shy" playmaker / tackler.
Oka Running while carrying "weight" e.g. carrying another player who is trying to tackle you.
Paupane A head high tackle.
Pawero "Awesome" Tupu "‘protection" by the Kioma players in Te Motu.
Rehia Pleasurable past times.
Ringawera Quick passing of the ball by hand.
Takaro Play.
Takepapo A "‘hit" on Te Tupu by a Taniwha player in Te Ao.
Takou Kioma players who assist the Teitei player in Te Roto.
Tangata Whenua Local people.
Taniwha The "tackling" side who attempt to score "hits" on Te Tupu.
Tatu The process before the match whereby players and supporters from both sides discuss, decide and agree on rules to be played.
Teitei The Kioma player, in Te Roto, attempting to score a "try".
Tepuru Any type of leg tackle on a ball carrier using the arms.
Tewhatewha The traditional system of "reffing" whereby two players (one from each team) takes on the responsibility of "reffing" their respective side’s to the agreed rules, and who continue to make rulings by consensus during the match.
Tupu Manawa Colloquially known as a "try", which is scored when a Kioma player who is holding the ball, runs through the Te Roto zone and into the Te Motu zone.
Tupu Wairua Colloquially known as a "‘hit" – when the ball contacts Te Tupu.
Turangawaewae "A place to stand" (indicates rights and obligations to a certain place).
U A long, hard, flat throw between players.
Utumai Any type of full contact tackle on a ball carrier. between the legs and neck.
Whaikorero Formal speech making.
Whanaungatanga Kinship.
Wharongo A "‘touch" on a boundary pou.
*macrons not used
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