By Balogun Ojetade
His name was Kamara Keita and he was the Master of Ngolo.
His ancestors created Ngolo long before they migrated from the forests of Gabon to the rolling, sandy plains of Senegal. He learned as a boy that his Grand Ancestor, Ngaa Mfumu, traveled throughout what is today known as Gabon and the Congo, asking women how they would escape this hold, block this sword strike, or execute this throw. In his wisdom, he believed that while men relied on strength, speed and ferocity in combat, women relied on masterful technique—a two hundred pound man would fight much differently than a hundred pound woman—and that a man could now add his strength, speed and ferocity to the technical genius of women and become the most formidable of warriors. And he was right.
Ngaa Mfumu began to train his family in his fighting system, which he named Ngolo—power.
A thousand years later, Kamara’s mother, the Nfumu’loo—Grandmaster—of Ngolo began offering her services as a protection specialist to the wealthy and powerful business people, Imams and Sheiks in Senegal and the young Kamara would tag along on these assignments and eventually assist his mother in her protection details.
When he was sixteen, young Kamara travelled to the United States for the first time to enroll in Howard University, where he remained until his second year of medical school, when his mother fell ill and, as her only child, he had to return to Senegal to take over the family’s protection business.
But after a while, no contracts came. Former clients preferred paying the less expensive off-duty police officers and thugs in suits that paying top dollar for the best security money could buy.
All those who had come to the House of Keita and their Ngolo were no more.
To make matters worse, most of Kamara’s young cousins were not interested in learning Ngolo, and those who were did not have the discipline to keep the system alive.
And so, Kamara shut down the family’s business and prepared to return to medical school. And then they came.
A young Black man came to Kamara’s door and, looking inside, saw nothing, except complete darkness.
“Hello,” the man said in English. Then in Mandinka, “Abenyadi.” Then, when he received no response, he said in French, “Umm… bonjour?”
“Try Wolof,” Kamara’s voice came from the dark.
“I knew you’d use that colonizer’s tongue,” Kamara said. “I said Wolof, not Arabic.”
“But you’re speaking to me in English, now,” the man said.
“Oh, okay,” the man said. “Umm… na nga def?”
“Very good,” Kamara whispered. “Mangi fi rekk. Na nga def?”
“Who are you?” Kamara’s voice now came from behind the man.
The man whirled about, his eyes wide. “My name is Antonio Jones, Guild Professor of the Bloodmen.”
“Yes. Assassinations are now legal worldwide as long as they are sanctioned by one of the world governments that is part of the International Alliance, as I’m sure you well know.”
“Well, we Bloodmen are the first guild of assassins to receive a charter. Our roster includes Black men from throughout the Diaspora that are former special operators for various militaries around the globe, former CIA and MI-6 black ops and former Nigerian Defense Intelligence Agency special agents.”
“We seek your services. We want you to train us. May I come in?”
They walk into Kamara’s house. Kamara claps his hands and the lights in the house come on, illuminating a living room with an oxblood leather couch and matching loveseat and chair. Kamara sat in the chair. Jones sat opposite him on the couch.
Kamara picked up a slim controller from the coffee table and turned off the fifty-inch television screen on the wall.
“Would you like some tea?” Kamara asked. Wait, you’re American. Coffee?”
“No, sir. So, what do you think of my proposition?”
“I’ve never killed anyone in my life,” Kamara said. “I protect, not kill.”
“Would you have killed to protect one of your clients?”
“I’m good enough at my job that I never had to.”
“You’ll be paid a shitload of money,” Jones said.
“I don’t need loads of shit.”
“What do you need?”
“Nothing from you,” Kamara said. “What martial arts do you Bloodmen study now?”
“We’re trying to stay true to our Diasporan culture and theme,” Jones said. “So, we’re studying 52 Blocks, Esgrima Con Machete and Capoeira Angola. Mixing it with military tactics and techniques.”
“All good systems,” Kamara said. “But Ngolo will take those systems beyond what you can fathom.”
“So that’s a yes?”
“As long as Ngolo is all the Bloodmen study.”
“And the military ops, of course,” Jones said.
“No,” Kamara said. “Ngolo only; or nothing.”
“But the firearms… the driving,” Jones said.
“All part of Ngolo,” Kamara said. “You think the Keita family has spent the last thousand years protecting towns, villages, politicians, religious figures and celebrities with kicks and punches?”
“Well, I thought…”
“Just Ngolo,” Kamara said.
“Well, my father told me to give you whatever you want, so just Ngolo.”
“And who is your father?”
“Guildmaster Stokely Jones,” Jones replied. “Founder of the Bloodmen.”
“And he is a Pisces.”
“What? How did you know?”
“Damn! Your martial training includes how to read minds.”
“Hell no,” Kamara said. “It includes how to find shit on Google really fast.”
Kamara held up a cell phone with Stokely Jones’ photo on the screen.
Kamara rose. “I’ll pack my things.”
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