The tradition of the Ofantine Valley
from XVIII century, arts for combat and surviving
"The knife fencing of the south of Italy is not jumping back and forth with a knife in your hand. The fencing of the south of Italy is technique, tactic, strategy, planning, tradition, balance, power, strength, calm, hatred, rancor, fury, patience, perseverance, determination, memory, blood, sweat, being mortified, delusion, tears, joy, fun, sacrifice, impulse, rhythm, vengeance, instinct, reasoning. And much more. "
[Grand Master Domenico Mancino]
Grand Master Nunzio Galante with his Grandfather
Grand Master Domenico Mancino with a student
In the North of Puglie, in the Ofantina Valley, is the "Cielo e Meraviglia" (Heaven and Marvel) school. This school is not focused on the dueling art but mostly on self defense, and evolved from the Italian fencing tradition, probably in the XVIII century, within the agropastoral environment of the "Masserie", fortified and isolated micro villages within olive tree plantations. In the Masserie, the "Frantoiani" (artisans and producers of olive oil, an expensive and precious product at that time) could not afford to pay private soldiers and warriors, and so they had to develop specific methods with the stick and the knife, their common tools, to survive for defending themselves and the precious olive oil from the continuous attacks of bandits. The recreational or dueling aspects of this school are indeed minimal, due to the hard life, isolation and limited social life that characterized the Masserie. The school is characterized by very short distance and uses not only a sophisticated strategy but also physical strength and dexterity, typical of "Frantoiani" due to their hard job requirements. More diffused in the past, even if secretly kept among masters, the only Masters alive of this art are now Nunizo Galante and Domenico Mancino, who learned it at a young age from Nunzio's grandfather and from several of the other Frantoniani alive, most of them now deceased or in a very old age. Grand Master Mancino defines the School he inherited more like an artisanal art, based on master to student direct teaching and slow learning, rather than a "tradition", transmitted to a larger audience or shared in social events, like it might have happened in schools that were more social or focused on combat and ritual dueling.