Fighting to stay conscious I focused my gaze on my friend, in the front row, locked eyes with him, thereby finding the strength to ignore the need to throw up. The ringing in my ear persisted for an
extended period of time and I couldn’t help but compare the moment with what is portrayed on television, on a side note, I must say that movies capture the experience of a concussion quite accurately.
There was a blood moon that night, but I didn’t realize until I looked up at the sky when we stopped at a pharmacy to get the drugs I needed. Despite prophecies that claim the blood moon to be a sign of the end, this moment was the true beginning of my journey into the martial tradition known as ‘stickfighting‘. This is where I decided to ‘pick up the slack’ left by my father’s generation and his father’s generation. I am retracing my roots to that of my great-grandfather James Moodoo, a stickfighter from Moruga.
Moments before my busshead I forgot one of the most important principles of the gayelle, ‘Any Boisman Could Cut Any Boisman’, and got ‘caught up’ in the ‘lavway’ (call and response song), drumming and ‘karray’ (stickfighting dance). So much so that I got lost in my perceived superiority over my opponent that, instead of conscientiously ‘braixing’ each blow from my opponent I parried his blows in a manner akin to showboating. The irony of the situation is that it was an imagined gayelle, my concussion occurred during a play.
“WHO LEGGO DE TIGER!” the Shantwelle raised a new lavway which, when combined with the gallop of the drums, made the fight quite intense. That is when it happened. “Joe Prengay Lend Meh Yuh Bois to Play…” something came over me, or possessed my character for I was living the moment as the character and forgot that I was acting and the showboating began. It was the closing night of the show, and the director threw all caution in the wind asking us to extend the stickfight scene and instructing the ‘Shantwelle‘ to sing more songs during the scene. Despite our protests, the play moved from moment to moment seamlessly until the fight scene. My opponent’s bois (stick/rod) broke and in character he exchanged his bois for a younger pois stick and the fight continued, however, the choreography was almost done when his bois broke and we were unable to communicate with each other without breaking character whether to restart or continue. The fight scene moved from a choreographed fight sequence into an actual fight, then egos set in.
Blood trickled down my head, down my sideburns, near the edge of my eyes, over my lips, down my shoulders, down my right leg eventually creating a sizable puddle on the stage. I looked to my friend and he looked back knowingly, he knew that his gaze was the only thing keeping me conscious. My first thoughts were “I blocked that shot, how did I still get hit?” then “I cyah dead, my wife would kill me”, then “my character was supposed to injure his foot not get a busshead…how could we make this work…” then “I can’t move”. The lights went down and I felt someone hold me from the back so I let go of my bois which was keeping me standing and I let myself fall into the arms of my fellow actors.
Having the sense knocked back into my head on that night of the blood moon, I decided to seek out training and to do so more seriously now with proper guidance. Forgetting ego, and focusing on discovering more meanings, lessons and histories. While my only memory of him is of his funeral when I was three years old, I embark upon a path similar to the one that my great-grandfather would have walked. May my footfalls echo his and carry on to awaken the dance of my ancestors in my children and their children and their children’s children and so on. Ase!