In late 1995 at the age of 22, he, together with some members of his Black Shaolin Guards left Pumula in Bulawayo for Harare where he set up a brown and black belt instructors only club.
Then in 1996 at the age of 23, he turned his back on Zimbabwe and flew to the United States of America to join his father. By then he had changed his name to Walter Grahams.
Since he left, he has never set foot in Zimbabwe again, but it is believed he usually visits Malawi, his country of origin, although he was born and bred in Zimbabwe. This is a brief summation of one of, if not the greatest and mystical martial arts figure to ever emerge from Pumula in Bulawayo. His birth name was Ndodana Gonde, but everyone knew him as Master Ndo.
"It's Ndo not Ndoe as I have seen some people write," Simbarashe Simango, one of his surviving students told Chronicle Sport. Master Ndo had a good sense of fashion Simango told us that Master Ndo went to Robert Sinyoka Primary School and Gifford High School. Master Ndo loved his food and if he missed breakfast and lunch, he would demand those meals whenever he returned home. If he came back towards supper time, he would first have breakfast and then lunch before climbing into his supper. That's just how mystical Master Ndo was. Master Ndo's father stayed in Pumula East, while he stayed with his mother in Old Pumula.
"Master Ndo grew up in Pumula and as for martial arts, he developed an interest due to those movies that were popular during that time. He started practising martial arts as a young boy, training under Dragon which was headed by Silas Manaka for about six months and from there he started training alone and that is probably where his talent and what he believed in started. He copied some moves and skills from the movies and would change some of those skills to suit his liking," says Simango.
At the age of 17 in 1990, Master Ndo formed his own martial arts club and named it Master Ndo Martial Arts School and by then his fame had already gone beyond Pumula. Inside one of the rooms at Pumula Open Arena (above), there is Master Ndo's footprint two metres from the ground implanted as he was demonstrating to his students.
"When I joined the club in 1990, I found other guys like Givens Dube, Shepherd Khumalo, Maxwell Dube, Nhlanhla Mkwananzi, Welcome Shiro, Patrick Gomo and Dumisani Ndebele. Gomo and Ndebele are in the United Kingdom, while others are in South Africa and some unfortunately are now late. We used to conduct our training sessions at the local hall, Pumula Open Air Arena and sometimes we would shift to the other hall since he (Master Ndo) was a well known person who was loved by the community," Simango said.
Just like in the Kung Fu movie where masters train with their students, but always stay well ahead of them, they would also have individual and private training sessions. Master Ndo also did the same. Simango reveals that there was a place in Pumula called China, Master Ndo's secret skills honing place.
"He used to have his own private training place in the bush which he called China. Even now if you ask senior residents here about China, they will tell you where the place is. He called his type of martial arts, Master Ndo Martial Arts. He said it was different from the Chinese one and we tended to believe him in that.
"He combined different types of martial arts; what he learnt from Manaka, what he saw from the movies and what he invented himself. Maybe we can call it mixed martial arts now," said Simango. When his club grew, he changed its name to Master Ndo Martial Arts and the Black Shaolin Guards, who were nine.
"Master Ndo's work ethics were something else. He would start training as early as six in the morning before us and at 2pm he will be at the club with one class and at 6pm he will be with another class. One other mystery thing about him was that when he got home in the evening, he would want to find his porridge, his tea and even lunch. His family knew very well about that because wayehlupha once he doesn't find his meals," reveals Simango.
Black Shaolin Guards (from left) Denis Sibanda, Simbarashe Simango and Khumbulani Mpofu
Simango said as Master Ndo grew in stature and age, he became much closer to his father and in hindsight, it was probably the reason he eventually decided to relocate to Harare where he formed another martial arts club in Waterfalls which was strictly for instructors only whereby only those with either a brown or black belt were allowed. It was during this time that Simango and Khumalo, who had relocated to Harare with Master Ndo, learnt that their master was now using the name Walter Grahams.
"When people were asking him his name, he would say Walter Grahams. I remember Dorothy Masuka (the late musician) used his original name which she knew from Pumula when they met in Harare, but Master Ndo remained adamant that his name was Walter. "Master Ndo left Zimbabwe in 1996 to join his father, who had sold his Pumula house and migrated to America," Simango said.
According to Simango, Master Ndo left an angry man because he wanted to go with them to America, but they first wanted to inform their parents, something he was never comfortable with.
"When we left Bulawayo for Harare, he had told us that he was going to organise passports for us then we go to Malawi and open a martial arts club there and after a while we then go to America. Somehow there was a change of plans and he suddenly wanted us to go with him to America. He never took no for an answer, that was Master Ndo for you," Simango recalled.
Although it has been 25 years since he left Pumula, his fame still abounds in the neighbourhood that he cultivated his mystical figure and surrounding suburbs.
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