A key element to learning the game is to learn the story behind it first....
The Legend of Rahi
How Ki-o-Rahi, the game of Rahi-Tutaka-hina, came into being....

Rahi-Tutaka-hina
had a beautiful wife named Ti Arakura-pake-wai. One day a Patupaiarehe raiding party from a far off mountainous area kidnapped Ti Ara while she was working in her whanau gardens. Her abductors then cast a magic spell on the forests behind them as they made their escape with her. Ti Ara's tribe became alerted by her screams however the kidnappers' spell caused the bush to sprout thick vines of kareao so that it was impenetrable and none of them could follow the raiding party on foot.

Rahi was determined to find Ti Ara. With the help of his family and tribe he constructed a huge kite, named Manu Tangata. Before setting off on his journey, Rahi prepared several "ki" (flax bags) filled with the large Moa (extinct New Zealand bird) eggs, for nourishment during his journey.
Several of Rahi's tribespeople helped launch him into the air and Tawhirimatea, the god of wind, blew Rahi and his kite high in the sky. The turbulence caused some of Rahi's ki, laden with moa eggs, to loosen and fall, far below into the nest of Namu, the giant eagle, which provided life giving sustenance to her chicks. Eventually Rahi landed on a red tipped ponga far into the bush.
As she was being taken through the forest, Ti Ara secretly folded back leaves of the "silver fern", (New Zealand tree fern) exposing the silvery underside of the leaf. Rahi was able to follow the silvery trail that Ti Ara had left.
Ti Ara’s abductors, however, eventually became aware of Rahi's approaching presence. The tohunga (wizard, priest) of their tribe cast another spell, which caused a huge scorching ball of light and heat to appear in the sky alongside Tama-nui-te-ra, the sun. Immediately the green luscious forest dried up in the heat, and its withered leaves fell like brown snow onto the once green forest floor. Then a hurricane gusted, sucking up the forest floor and topsoil, leaving nothing in its wake but a vast sandy desert.
Surrounded by desert, and without a trail to follow, Rahi was unable to determine in which direction to continue. Very soon he became dehydrated in the searing heat.
A large yellow rock came into view, and Rahi, prostrate on the ground, sought protection in its shade. He sensed that this rock was his "Tipuna". Rahi threw the ki he had to the rock. The mauri, or life force, in the ki comforted the rock and gradually it stated to turn a cool green. Rahi then crawled to the rock and as the rock turned totally green, Rahi also became rejuvenated and energised.

Just at this moment, Namu, a giant friendly eagle that lived near Rahi's pa arrived, and perched on top of the rock (see illustration). Gently the giant eagle trickled water from her beak onto Rahi's face.
Suddenly, however, an enormous lizard appeared. The lizard tried to charge, but was unable to approach near enough to the rock owing to the double force field created by both the rock and Rahi's "mauri" (life force, essence of life).
Frustrated, the lizard changed its tactics. It began relentlessly circling the rock, its huge tail thrashing all the while, flicking rocks, stones and sand in Rahi's direction.
The persistent circling and thrashing of the lizard eventually produced a deep canyon surrounding the rock. These deep ravines soon filled completely with refreshing spring water, to form a lake, and the giant lizard transformed into a huge "taniwha" called Utumai.
Rahi now found himself marooned on an island. And, as if this was not enough, the tohunga of the raiding party cast a further spell that made the two suns disappear, producing a cold dark night. Namu the giant eagle remained perched on the rock to comfort Rahi although she was so cold that she was in danger of freezing to death. She tried to warm Rahi by blanketing him in her feathers, as the night continued to get colder.
Presently Rahi looking towards the night sky and saw three stars aligned in the heavens. These stars he realised were a sign that his father, Eru, had sent with a magic spell from the top of their "maunga" (mountain). As Rahi watched from sky to ground, an ice pathway formed from his island to the mainland.
Summoning all the strength that remained within him Rahi lifted Namu onto his back, and slowly began to edge his way across the narrow ice walkway towards the shore and to safety. Just when Rahi and Namu were on the point of reaching the shore, Utumai rose up, some distance away, from out of the waters. Realising it could not swim fast enough to get to Rahi the taniwha angrily whip lashed it's own head, ripping loose its large razor sharp teeth from within its own huge mouth, which sent them flying through the air like spears.
The teeth exploded into the ice about Rahi. Shards of ice and teeth whistled through the air and if it wasn't for the black cape of Namu's feathers serious injury may have occurred. Fortunately no harm came to Rahi and Namu. As they reached the shore, in the distance Utumai, with broken neck, floated lifeless on the lake surface.
As if to celebrate the sun came out. In the healing rays, Namu was soon warm enough to fly. Rahi was able to join his tribe, who had been desperately searching for him, and altogether they headed for the mountains to battle with the Patupaiarehe and free Ti Ara.

Rahi and his tribe eventually arrived at the entrance to a cave, situated at the foot of the mountains, where they remained, hurling menacing threats to Ti Ara's abductors in the interior of the cave.
After a while, Rahi and his tribe used a number of heavy boulders to block the thermal steam vents and hot pools which covered the thermal mountain. Very soon the temperature inside the mountain began to mount, discharging fierce billows of hissing steam. Ti Ara's abductors were forced to flee the cave in panic - Ti Ara among them.
As Rahi and Ti Ara fell into each other's arms earthquakes and shockwaves began to take place all around, forcing everyone to flee to safety. For hours everyone ran and ran away from the impending danger. The next day an enormous explosion took place, hurling the mountain high into the sky.
Te Puhuru, the tohunga who cast spells during the abduction of Ti Ara, had remained inside the mountain. When it exploded Te Puhuru was blasted into the heavens, where he now remains, continuing to play out his mischief.
The two tribes gathered on the shores of the lake, where Rahi had been marooned on the island, and decided to make peace. Peace came about when Rahi approached the Patupaiarehe chief, Whanawhana, and said, "He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata", and offered him a poitoa (a large poi used in games). Whanawhana took it in his hands and with great deliberation wove the rope around the ki (thereby making a ball) and gave it back which implied his tribe were also interested in playing games rather then fighting. The great taniwha was cooked, and for many days the two tribes feasted and discussed their situation. They came to the conclusion that it was quite possible to live peacefully in harmony, without war.
It was here, on these shores, that the two tribes created a means to ensure everlasting peace. They formulated a game from the abduction of Ti Ara, a means whereby they could remember the folly of kidnapping and of the ardent pursuit of Rahi.
The game became played with a Tupu rock placed in the centre of a circular playing area. The idea was to feed the rock with a flax "ki", or ball, to give it sustenance. Kites, large circular and the eagle shaped ones, were to be flown while the game was being played as an open invitation to all tribes to join in the celebrations. The round and bird shaped kites would also drop ki, or balls, into play, as part of the tikanga, in remembrance of Namu.
This is how the game of Ki-o-Rahi came into being.
According to legend, the game of Ki-o-Rahi is conveyed throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand by fog. The mystic fog emanates from the lake of Rahi and is swept along by Tawhirimatea, quietly and serenely, to tribes which embrace peace and harmony.
(Thanks to the NZ in History website. The Legend of Rahi is adapted from information at http://history-nz.org/kiorahi.html and from the korero of elders at Turangawaewae Marae, Ngaaruawahia)