A family legacy
5 generations of knights of humility
Giuseppe Trimigno Sn.
Antonio di Tullio
Giuseppe Trimigno Jr.
Antonio La Torre
The art of Bastone and Coltello Pugliese has now been codified and is being taught in this school in Manfredonia, in the Gargano area of Apulia.
However, the fighting style originally developed in Manfredonia is the result of many different influences, intrinsically embedded into the history of the harbor-city of Manfredonia.
The area of Manfredonia (Sipontum) was settled in ancient times by the Greeks, founded by Diomedes. A flourishing colony, fallen eventually in the hands of Alexander of Epirus in 335 BC, uncle of Alexander the great. Conquered in 189 BC by the Romans, became a critical junction of the Adriatic coast. Destroyed by the Slavs in the 9th century, was then for a time in the power of Saracens, until in 1042 the Normans made it the seat of one of their twelve countries.
Abandoned after the 1223 earthquake due to unhealthy stagnation of the water in the lagoons, the city was rebuilt as the modern Mafredonia in 1256-1263 by Re Manfredi (king Manfred). The area had several headquarters of knight orders, who were moving to and from the Holy Land during the crusades. In particular, the Templar Order, present in the ancient Manfredonia with several Domus, and the Hospitaller Order (as reported by two documents: the first dated 1274, the second dated 15 May 1299, describing a shipment of the Templar order, leaving the harbor of Manfredonia, and directed to Templar Order itself and Hospitaller Order in holy Land); and the Teutonic Order nearby.
Attacked by the French in 1528 and by Turks in 1620, the area has been always an active hotspot due to its commercial trade zone across the Adriatic sea trough its harbors.
In this multicultural environment, different influences affected and contaminated the fencing arts of Manfredonia. Moreover, it was habit to "play" and practice stick and knife fencing also on the boats, during the long trips across the Mediterranean sea, importing influences from all Mediterranean areas.
Manfredonia among the ruins of Siponto - Watercolor, 1773
Siponto in XIX century - Di Gualdana et al., 1887, Ed. Chapman&Hall
The Castle Svevo-Angioino-Aragonese
- first contruction 1279, until 1620
Harbor and castle of Manfredonia - Oil, 1790
Passionate duels among cactus figs, olive trees and ancient walls
The Apulian stick from Manfredonia is characterized by a conical shape, made of hard wood, such as beech wood, of oak wood or ash wood. Practiced by ancient peasants, farmers and shepherds among cactus fig plants or ancient olive trees.
The stick was used as a defense against wild animals and bandits. Eventually turned, over the centuries, into a game of fighting ability and dueling among champions of different families and groups.
Generally the teaching of the Art was initiated with many years of training of the stick, and only later the novice could start the training on the knife.
These arts are traditionally passed within family members. However, generally the father was not teaching the son, but his brother instead was taking over the nephew's education and training. There are several reasons for this. Partially this tradition belongs to ancient knight orders and the traditional use of the knight training and formation. The young kid, generally around the age of 7, was sent to his uncle to learn and become an apprentice. Moreover, it was also a question of honor, as the son had always to respect and to fear the skills of the father, without never fighting with him. The father could be his advisor but not his mentor in the Art.
The Art has its own language, called "lingua serpentina" (language of the snake) or "favella" (the word). It was used as a code to share the rules of conduct of this Art among initiates, with different access and understanding according to the level of the associate. The "favella" was used within closed societies. From these ancient traditions and communities, across the centuries, this society became known are "onorata societa" (society of honor) until, for historical reasons, divided into two orders: the "uomini di vita" (man of life and honor also known as "Cavalieri di Umilta' or Knights of Humility") and "uomini di malavita" (man of bad-life, what later will become criminal undeground organizations knows as Mafia, Camorra and Ndrangheta). The Men of Life were men of peace, a closed group with its rules and hierarchy. The head, called "Capo di societa'" (head of society) or "Capo bastone" (Head of the stick) was acting as a Judge and a Peace-Keeper in his own town or region, and he was consulted for a variety of different reason by common people. In 1920 there is evidence of the first written documentation, showing evidence of this organized societies in Manfredonia.
The modern practice in Trimigno System
The open door
Trimigno system started with Michele Trimigno, grandfather of Luciano Trimigno, and his father Giuseppe Trimigno, at the beginning of the end of the XIX century.
In the 70s, part the Art has been organized in modern forms that can be shared to public, offering also a prctice based on sport and competitive tournaments.
The bouts are always one vs one, with three minutes duration each. The referee assigns scores based on the targets. The basic trategy and tecniques resembles the one of classical fencing (molinello-punta), but with many variations and surpsiging actions, jumps and kicks. In the past there was no use of protections. Recently however, the use of protecting gears are part of the practice.
The school has now several academies promoting the art in Italy (Lombardia, Emilia Romagna, Abruzzo, Molise) and abroad (Russia, Australia).
The styles includes single stick and double sticks (manichetto), long stick, and short stick for the practice of the knife.
The first Italian championship of this discipline has been held in 2011. The region is also known for Scherma Di Coltello Pugliese (Apulian Knife)which is further subdivided in three local styles: Taranto, Foggia/Bari and Brindisi/Lecce. One of the most renown experts of this art is Maestro Luciano Trimigno, who learned the art from his father and his grandfather who was one of the most renewed knife and stick fighter of the last century. The entire family of Master Luciano Trimigno (including his father, now in his old age, his cousins and his son Giuseppe) is involved in running his school. Trimigno's students have participated in international tournaments. European championships of knife fencing were held in 2012, 2013 and 2014, with athletes representing various countries, including Italy, Russia and Ukraine. The Italian team was trained by Maestro Trimigno and showcased the skills of Scherma Di Coltello Pugliese.
The spiritual work
A closed door
The Art of "Uomini di Vita" incorporates body, mind and spirit. The practice trains to improve and elevate the three aspects all together.
Not much can be said about this. But a deep esoteric meaning and practice binds the art of knife and stick of the Knights of Humility.
The Order is devoted to the seven Archangels. First above all, the ancient cult of Archangel Michael, connected to warrior traditions of all the Indo-European past ages.
The ancient crypt dedicated to Saint Micheal Archangel, at Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo (Mountain of the Saint Angel)[VI century] - nearby Manfredonia - connected to previous ancient oracle traditions, first mentioned by Timeo, historician of Siracusa of the IV century BC "...Calcante, living on the Gargano in Apulia, a bristly man with large wings, living in a cave on a mountain and protecting pilgrims and predicting the future (aruspici)...". On the site, archeologists found sources of the Bizantine period and of the Roman Emperor Marco Aurelio period.