Constitutional Reform in focus
April 24, 2024
Two Thousand Hail Mary Devotion
April 24, 2024

On bois, blood, and water

By Matthew Woolford

According to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”

Saturday, April 13 was probably my assigned day for the Sacrament of Baptism, as I attended two rites of initiation on that date. At the first, I facilitated and at the second, I received.

That morning, I attended a baptismal ceremony at the Minor Basilica of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where I undertook the responsibility of godfather of Aidan, one of the new entrants to the Church.

In the evening, I attended a ‘Stick Fight and Self-Defence’ Seminar at Lakou Wi, 12 Warner Street, Newtown, Port of Spain, where my ‘new godmother’, Abeo, baptised me with a ‘bois’ in the ‘gayelle’, receiving me as a new entrant into the discipline of Calinda or stick-fighting.

Blood flowed from the left side of my nose. I told her afterwards that there was no need to apologise as, from what my over 30 years in martial arts have taught me, these things only happen when one is seen as strong enough to receive the best from one’s opponent.

In other words, I was grateful for the confidence she had in me as I continued my journey of personal development.


The day after…

The next day, as I was sitting in the back of the Sacred Heart RC Church, Port of Spain, listening to Fr Emmanuel Dafe’s homily on the witness to the Christian faith through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, I began to reflect on the drum beats of the night before, and the internal dialogue they ignite within the ‘soul of a fighter’.

At this moment, my mind immediately took me to an image and representation of my deceased maternal grandmother, Myrtle Williams, who fought for and with me, every day of her life.

Tears flowed from my eyes.

It was then that I knew the healing power of this nationally underdiscussed, underappreciated, and misunderstood artform.

According to the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago (

“The Kalenda (Calinda), a stick dance, owed its origins to pre-colonial times, as early as the late 1700’s.  The term Kalenda emerged as a general term for the stick-fight, the dance, the songs and other performances that accompany it. Contrary to some mythology, Kalenda is not a hybrid of African stick fighting and European fencing but is more closely related to the African-descended martial arts.

Kalenda, a lively and skillful dance, is an elegantly violent cultural practice that requires dancers to engage in mock combat with their sticks (bois) in the middle of circle called a gayelle to the accompaniment of drumming and singing, often in patois. They were led by a lead singer (chantuelle or chanteuse) whose duty it was to either encourage or deride the dancers. The chantuelle, in turn was backed up by a chorus of women.”

Blood and Water

According to John 19:32–34, “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe.”

Earlier in this passage, John 19:25, the ‘eyewitness’ also reported on seeing a chorus of women: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.”

The epiphany of this weekend left me pondering the following questions:

  1. Was the Cross Jesus’ greatest gayelle?
  2. Was Jesus the first ‘bois man’ to ever live?
  3. Was His fighting style part of an underdiscussed, underappreciated, and misunderstood artform?

My incomplete assessment of the Cross is that for probably just one, ‘everlasting’ moment, Jesus knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He loved and was loved, on Earth as He was in Heaven.

And from my limited life experience, to know this is to witness both a powerful and reconciling event. This was so transformational that Jesus went on to defeat death, even raising Himself back to life.

I was not present at that moment of truth, but I do believe in the eyewitness’ account.

To add to my conviction, I have no doubt that it was probably in that Holy Land, at that Holy Moment, and on that Holy and Wooden Cross that the phrase “No Bois Man, No Fraid”, was created.