While “haka” may be a general term for Maori dance, today’s most identifiable haka is a ferocious chant in which dancers pound on their bodies, using themselves as percussion, building confidence and cameraderie before going into battle. According to Haka.co.nz’s introduction to haka (note: there is just a bit of grown-ups only information in this link without the kids), “also essential to the art of haka are pukana (dilating of the eyes), whetero (protruding of the tongue performed by men only), ngangahu (similar to pukana, performed by both sexes), and potete (the closing of the eyes at different points in the dance, performed by the women only).”
The best-known haka is “Ka Mate.” Composed in 1820 by a chief named Te Rauparaha, “Ka Mate” is a rousing chant adopted by New Zealand’s deeply beloved national rugby team, the All Blacks. Watch the All Blacks haka. Amazing. (Watch the national team of Tonga respond with a haka of their own.) Of course the All Blacks don’t have exclusive rights to the haka. Watch this extraordinary haka below, performed by New Zealand’s women’s rugby team, the Black Ferns.