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La Scuola della Gallina

The school of the chicken

of the Ofantine-Murgese Valley


Knife and Garment


by Domenico Mancino

Use of clothes for defense in the knife fencing

The "Scuola della Gallina" (School of the chicken) is one of the elements that compose "Cielo e Meraviglia", and includes the use of different garments in defensive strategies.


Kind of garments:


1. Jacket, canvas bag used to collect olives, shoes, boots, etc.

2. Clothes worn by the opponent

3. The use of the cape


We can summarize this concept in two pedagogic tactics:

1) the first is when the garment is activity involved in the fencing action, such as wrapping the right arm like if it was used a shield to create a protection. 

2) the second is more based on opportunist concepts, and is based on using the opponent’s clothes to your own advantage, creating a defense. 


The first idea (wrapping a garment around an arm) generated several schools in the south of Italy, based on knife and garment. For example: certain schools use the arm protected with the garment in front guards, keeping the hand armed with the knife behind and hidden. Other schools use the front guard with the knife threatening the opponent, while keeping the protected arm behind and on top of the knife. Moreover, other schools keep the garment (generally a jacket) on the shoulder and keeping the knife pointing at the opponent, so to use the cloth to generate disturbing actions while fencing with the knife. 


In our tradition of knife fencing, our methods that has been passed across generations, is based on wrapping half of the forearm, covering entirely the hand while maintaining the motility and the grip of the weapon, in a specific strategy to apply tactics and techniques more appropriate with the situation. 


The use of the opponent's clothing called

"a pighiè’ lë vësazzë"

(A prendere i lembi dei camiciotti - to grab the edges of the smock overalls)

This method is based on grabbing parts of the opponent’s clothes, and to use them in the execution of the fencing action. They are used to close "Dead" spaces, as they are identified in our school. They are also used to block the opponent's arm, trapping it. It is a method primarily opportunistic. it is used normally if the opponent is distracted or a moment, or not particularly expert. 


The definition "A prendere i lembi" is explanatory of the origins of this method, derived from the practice of grabbing the edges of heavy jackets, vests, garments with large hanging pockets, typical of the hunters of that region. Similarly, the vest "glie'", with long pockets, in the past commonly used in the agro-pastoral world. 


The use of the cape

for self defense in the knife fencing

The cape is a sleeveless cloak very common in the agro-pastoral world of the past age. 

The poor condition of farmers and shepherds did not allow them to afford warm jackets, expensive clothes for those times, to protect from the cold weather. 


The cape, together the use of the knife fencing, became a very effective supporting tool in helping the self defense against another knife.


This method developed into specific tactics and techniques within the school of knife fencing "Cielo e Meraviglia".



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