Fighter (Part 2)
At seventeen, I was not a novice anymore. I had gone way past the ten-thousand-hour mark in mastering my skill. Battle ready, I had been champion for many years in both Karate and Judo. I had dabbled into Taekwondo to learn fancy kicks and I attained blue belt status, but found the sport to be a little too crowded—seven members of the Chukwumerije family had Taekwondo on lockdown, a story for another day.
While studying economics at University of Lagos (Unilag), I was also on the Lagos State Karate and Judo teams, and was invited to join the national Karate team. One day, in the second semester of my first year, I was chilling in my hostel, King Jaja Hall, with my roommates. Someone knocked on our room door and said I had a visitor who asked that I meet him downstairs. I thought this strange but headed downstairs.
My visitor introduced himself as Scarface. He stood over six feet tall with pecs like a bouncer. Someone had used a knife to carve his face, leaving a scar. He said he was interested in Hadiza, a gorgeous female friend of mine, and my friendship with her was an issue. Gesticulating, he demanded that I desist from speaking to her. I thought this was ludicrous and immediately conveyed my inability to comply with his request because I had been friends with Hadiza since high school. I encouraged him to approach her and share his feelings with her.
Slighted by my advice, he proceeded to try to slap me. I blocked his hand and simultaneously punched his throat. He bent over to wrestle me. I locked my fingers behind his neck and while jumping, thrust my right knee into his head, pulling him towards me. I knocked him out cold and stood over him for about twenty seconds, laughing and waiting for the blood in my head to cool down. He was another casualty in my three-strike-fighting combination. I then walked away leaving the crowd gaping.
I didn’t say a word to my roommates, but soon after, people came to our room to give me advice. They explained that Scarface had spent six years at Unilag studying for a four-year degree course. He was also a member of the dreaded cult, Black Axe. They advised that I leave my hostel immediately because once word about the incident went round, I would be on a hit list and my “karate kid” skills, though impressive, could certainly not stop a bullet or mob attack. I had heard about cult activities on campus and rumours that members of the deadly gangs had committed unspeakable crimes. They were secret societies, so unless you were a member you didn’t have tangible confirmation. I thanked them for their genuine concern for my safety but insisted that I was not running away over this altercation because it was a simple case of self-defense.
The next day after lectures, I hung out with friends near the social area of the economics and accounting departments, as we usually did. Around 6 p.m., I noticed large groups of people hurriedly start to walk away. I turned around and saw the reason for the mass exodus. A dozen well-built men were approaching us. Scarface was among them, and his head was bandaged. Did I say approaching us? My friends had vanished, and I was left all alone with my august visitors.
Since I was not born with flight genes all I could think was how to turn my three-strike combination into a two-strike combo. I scanned for the alpha males in the group to take them out first in order to discourage the mere mortals among them.
To my surprise, their leader who was huge and shifted his weight as if he was in charge, smiled and exchanged non-threatening pleasantries. I smiled in response but remained on edge. He gestured for us to sit a little removed from his entourage, which I appreciated as it deflated the tension in the air.
He started by apologizing for the clash with Scarface. He said they were shocked that I handled myself so well. This was not how I thought the “meeting” would go. He asked why I didn’t join social clubs like Rho Club or ABC since their members were preppy kids like me. I explained that I wasn’t preppy and didn’t like male-only clubs. Since I had friends in different clubs, I could attend all their parties without paying club dues. Better yet, I was not restricted to girls who were loyal to one club. He laughed and agreed with my rationale.
Then he gave me a quick lecture about confraternities, which operated like cults, for instance, Buccaneers and Pirates, and explained why Black Axe stood out. He said the confrontation with Scarface was a test because they had heard about my martial arts skills but didn’t think it translated to proper street fighting. He wanted to know if I would consider joining Black Axe.
I was relieved. I thought about his invitation for a second and politely declined on the grounds that I didn’t join male-only clubs. I however asked to be invited to their parties. He then offered me protection. I chuckled and said given the way the fight with Scarface ended, I would actually be happy to offer them protection. He threw his head back in a full belly laugh, turned to his entourage, and said, “Dis guy head nor correct but I like am,” meaning we were cool. With that, the meeting adjourned.
I’m no longer that hot young blood, lithe and quick with my fist. These days, I just laugh a lot. Here are some lessons about the entrepreneurial fighting spirit from my story.
1. Know your craft. Constantly strive for mastery and excellence.
~ I had spent over 10,000 hours to become an expert. I was ready when opportunity knocked.
2. Bring your ‘A’ game, every single time; someone is always watching.
~ The leader noticed me because of my impressive skills. Who’s noticed you lately?
3. Assess the risk; know when to use the escape or MAC clause and regroup.
~ Knocking out 2 men is brave; 12 is suicidal. Do you need to pause that new idea or stop the losses on the existing business?
4. Negotiate but stay true to your core values. Do you have any?
~ As I made the decision not to join a confraternity early on, it was easy to instantly turn down the offer.
5. Make friends with the competition, but know your brand.
~ Your 20% friend is not your 80% enemy; build bridges where you can. Who are your industry ‘friends’?
6. Question everything, especially the rumours.
~ Rumour had it that I would not survive on campus. What rumours have paralyzed you?
So share your ‘fighter’ stories. I would love to hear them!