of the Ofantine-Murgese Valley
by Domenico Mancino
The knife is just a tool for fencing.
However, “the art of fencing” is within the person.
In our fencing tradition with the knife, the shape or manufacture of the knife is not so important. However, the focus is on the ideas that give the shape to the knife fencing itself. Combining tactic and technical ideas employed in our tradition, it would be easily possible to do fencing with a nail or a pencil. There is not such a thing as an “Apulian knife” per se, or at least a knife typical of that region of Italy (at least I a not aware of any, but I could also be wrong). This aspect is probably due to the agro-pastoral nature of that region, rather than a tradition of knife manufacture. Differently from Sicily, for example, where there is a long and deep tradition of “coltelleria” (knife manufacture). Traditionally, Apulian people took advantage of neighbor regions, such as Lucania, Molise or Abruzzo, where the good quality productions of knives was supporting the agro-pastoral work in Apulia. Conversely, Apulia had a rich and variegated development of several different schools and styles of knife or stick fencing and combat, rather than an art of forging these weapons. The different knife fencing schools, historically known, can be synthetized as: a) of the Dauno-Gargantica region; b) of the land of Bari; c) of the Ofantine Valley; d) of the Murge; e) of the land of Otranto; f) of the region Tarantina-ionica; g) of the peninsula Salentina.
From the pictures, you can notice that these places are isolated and far away from overlooking eyes, such as private houses and isolated regions. Traditionally the fencing techniques and the tactics were transmitted in hidden and secret ways.
It is particularly exceptional that the last Masters depositary of this Art, have decided to show pictures and videos, and share them on internet.
For many years and generations the fencing of the Apulian Ofantine Valley, school “Cielo&Meraviglia”, has been kept in great secrecy. Only a number of few selected people could access to the knife fencing of our tradition. Still today, the traditions is respected and followed, even in the seminars rarely offered by myself.
My personal advice, is not to try to understand how a technique could be or how much effective can be, just based on the images. These are futile and sterile intepretations. My advice is not to filter the “new”, based on your own personal and previous experiences. This approach would just lead to an “involution”, and not to an evolution of the right things.
Said that, I wish you my best greetings and enjoy the pictures.