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But games like ti uru, ki o rahi and horo hopu made a comeback in Dunedin yesterday with the running of the Otepoti Maori Games Wananga.
The games were hosted by the University of Otago School of Physical Education and run by Rangatahi Tu Rangatira (R2R), a Maori health organisation based in Wellington.
The R2R programme was established in a bid to improve the health and physical well-being of Maori youth by encouraging them to participate in sports and physical activities, with a particular focus on Maori games and the use of Maori values and custom.
University of Otago School of Physical Education lecturer Anne-Marie Jackson said more than 80 people posted entries for the games, but numbers had to be limited to 35.
While some participants were "seasoned pros" at the games, many had never played before, so tutors explained the objectives and rules of the games.
Dr Jackson said stories of Maori history and genealogy were woven into the games, making them a great teaching tool.
For example, the game of ki o rahi is based on the legend of Rahitutakahina and the rescue of his wife, Tiarakurapakewai.
They invented the game as a way to resolve disputes peacefully.
The R2R programme has created such a resurgence in Maori games that an annual national secondary schools ki o rahi tournament has been established.