Grand Master Giuseppe Vuovolo: evolving legacy
Kick "Mezza Staffa"
In the Deep South of Italy, also called "Meridione", the Dark Age did not end up with the disappearance of the feudalism and not even, eventually, with the constitution of the modern Italian Republic in the XIX century. The Dark Age persisted somehow until the end of the Second World War. The social safety and the defense of the civil rights were essentially guaranteed to the dominant classes, such as Aristocracy, Clergy and bourgeoisie. However, the majority of people, unhealthy, organized often in forms of secret societies, finding the strength to protect themselves and their rights trough defensive arts.
The knife, as a weapon of honor (similarly to the sword for the Aristocrats) was the weapon of choice, the one mostly practiced, together with the stick.
Among many societies that were active in the past, and some still active today, one were particularly diffused across city districts (contrade) of the "Meridione" in South of Italy: The society of the "Uomini di vita" (Men of Life). A society that has its roots in a remote past, and its traditions belonging to ancient history, sometimes turned into a myth.
Also in Manfredonia, like in the many other traditions of the South, the elders talk about worth and noble knights and Crusaders (such as "Di Conte, Rosso and Fiorellin di Spagna), who made landfall in Calabria, the region in Italy next to Apulia. The myth talks about their first pupil, Peppino di Montalbano. Together they wondered in the Meridione of South of Italy (also called Mezzogiorno). In S. Severo, Salvatore Balsamo joins them. "Five, and not less of five" tells the tradition. Seven, including two "garanti di societa'" (Guarantors of Society). That was the core nucleus of each branch of the Society. Both the 5 and the 7, are recurring numbers with specific symbolic, sacred and technical meanings and use in this tradition.
This established society became a source of warrior ethic, codes and values. They took the obligation to assist, discreetly and in secrecy, the Justice for anyone in need. They supported and formed the youth delivering an Ethic based on honor and humility. They trained fighters with a strong and solid personality, character and wisdom. Teaching them the ancient fencing art, in particular knife and stick, for defending the weak and to maintain order and peace, following codes belonging to ancient knights orders. They were acting as warriors devoted to defend the others, mediate conflict, bring wisdom and restore peace and order.
Only trough cooptation was possible to reach the "source of humility", based on esoteric traditions, and the novice had to be accepted and admitted by the members of the society. Candidates, and all his family members for 7 generations, must had a clean and honorable history and background.
Once accepted, the aspiring member had to swear a vow of trust (giuramento di fiducia) to his new "family members", and to the head of the society (in dialect: "chepntest" or "chepndrii" - derived from the latin "caput" and the greek "andros" meaning "Leader of men").
The apprentice was then instructed on the "regole di vita" (rules of life), to learn how to conduct a new life based on honor, tolerance, trained into practices to manage fear and to grew a brave heart, with a lucid, focused and clean mind, in every situation. He was rigorously prepared in challenging physical training. He was educated in mastering fighting and defense with empty hands, with a stick and with the "coltello chiuso" (litt. "closed knife" or "fusto", a sort of a thin club).
At the end of this training phase, which could last many years, the candidate became an "associato" (associate), and he could start with his Master to serve the local community, the village or town where he was living or assigned to. He was taking part of "ronde notturne" (night watch and patrols), watching over the private and public security and protect them against the "indegni" (situations when someone goes out of line) of any kind, to mediate or reconcile personal or familiar conflicts, to the defense and protection of the weaker and helpless.
The last reported champion of that "fonte" (source) was Matteo "Ntrlingh", around a century ago. After learning this Art from a local elder, he moved to Buenos Aires, fighting and challenging others in public tournaments and earning also the title of "Champion of Argentina", before returning in his homeland, in Manfredonia, where he formed and trained in the Arts a selected number of candidates. Their legacy is still alive today.
The school of knife represented the beginning of the practice, since ancient times. Often wooden knives were used in training for obvious reasons
Following a specific athletic training of the body, the apprentice learns the five forms, called:
1) libera (free)
2) mezza chiusa (half closed)
3) chiusa (closed)
4) a tagliare (cutting)
5) lo specchio (the mirror)
6) la galeotta (the convict) also called "giro stretto" (the tight spin).
Each form includes a variety of techniques, combined together according to the situation and the requirements of the fight.
The favorite weapon was the "coltello a viso lungo" (knife by long face), with a blade similar to a scimitar. Another common blade was the "rasoio" (rasor), which traditionally was used to gash the face for situation of dishonor, such as infamous people and villains, a betrying wife, or a member of the "society of honor" who betrayed his vow to the "Source".
Duels "all'ultimo sangue" - to last blood (to death) - happened mostly to defend the honor of the family, the own life or the life of beloved people.
Another art in the arsenal of the "uomo di vita" is the stick. The stick includes 16 basic movements. Once the basics were mastered, the practiced continues with the "catena" (chain), working with partners with a series of attacks in sequence to upper and lower body targets. Only when the "catena" was mastered, the real practice of the fight starts.
In both the stick and knife, there are two ways to fight:
1) "a tempo di scuola" - where there are some rule to respect
2) "a chi piu' ne sa'" - where anyone can do whatever he/she can
Generally, an opening and a greeting "di sfida" (to challenge) open the fight.
Other weapon used is the "manichetta", sort of pruning hook or sickle, which includes the use of a red scarf around the wrist of the arm that does not handle the weapon, used like a whip, generally targeting the eyes. The "manichetta" uses extremes athletic movements and requires strong physical training. It incudes squatting positions and exploding movements and jumps and leaps against the opponent, enriched with several surprising movements.
Styles & Methods
The School of "Cavalieri d'Onore e Umilta'" of Grand Master Giuseppe Vuovolo mantains and preserves the ancient traditions it belogs to. Mantaining the purity that was passed to him by all his Masters, he has been committed to forming new generations of Knights of Humility, preparing them in the ethic and honor of the Code, rispecting the law, the order and justice, training them in the martial art pratices. In private and public places, sometimes showing into public tournaments and exhibitions, during special celebrations or in local festivals in the area of Manfredonia, Puglia, Italy.
Cavalieri d'Onore e Umilta'
The main Masters who passed different syles and methods to Giusppe Vuovolo, including his father.
Imaginary representation of the three mythological knights of the tradition of the Code in the "Onorata Societa'" - they were known as "Osso, Matrosso, Carcagnosso"; also known as "Di Conte, Rosso and Fiorellin di Spagna".
Grand Master Borgia and a young Master Vuovolo in a "tirata"
One of the symbols of the Vuovolo School (the motto says "Honor and Humility").
[Knight Order of Humility]
Puntata di Arresto in gioco stretto
in the "Galeotta" style
in the "Manichetta" style
Sfiancata a quartiatura
Master Verdini (right) and a student