This article is based on research results lead in Sicily by Grand Maestro Oleg Maltsev, and on the basis of the documentary on the basis of these research “Shid God” by “Unsolved Crimes” newspaper. We are going to talk about the system which has proven its efficiency in wars and time, which has preserved its effectiveness and uncompromising effect up until now. A reader will have an opportunity to get acquainted with Palermitan fencing system for the first time, the system which is hidden from prying eyes; it consists of 21 blocks and became the basis of the Spanish military system, having passed the test of the conquest wars of Charles V era.
We are going to look into the reason and relevance of this study. If you look from the historical point of view at the order that is established in the modern world, then Spain had played one of the main roles in it.
“In my empire, the sun never sets,” – Charles V, King of Spain, King of Germany, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Europe’s most powerful statesman during the first half of the sixteenth century, he had made the greatest contribution in history among the rulers of that time.
Medieval wars of conquest in Europe (Italy, Sicily), the Philippines, South and Central America in the era of Charles V provided the Spaniards wealth, power and strength that no one can withstand. What was the reason for such invincibility and uncompromising work? The answer is obvious: the military system.
Which military system has such features that it could preserve its incredible effectiveness throughout the centuries? It would appropriate to recall the words of the officer of the Spanish army, Nicola Terracusa and Ventura from the treatise Genuine Neapolitan fencing. Maestro of sword handling” (1725):
“No other school should exist except Neapolitan one. No other school in the world can withstand ours.”
Proceeding from this we can make a conclusion that the Neapolitan fencing school is that secret technique used by the Spaniards in wars of conquest. However, unfortunately this school had disappeared and if it were not for the scientific work of Grand Maestro Oleg Maltsev on the restoration of Neapolitan fencing, nothing would have been known about this school until now.
Photo: Backstage of “Ship God” documentary filming.
“Neapolitan fencing is a counterpart of Sicilian fencing, but with shorter movements.”
Theoretical and practical treatise on sword and epee by Cesare Alberto Blengini, year of 1864
As we see, the Neapolitan fencing was born in the Sicily. Geographically, Sicily is not a monolithic island. The lifestyle of the Palermo side is fundamentally different from the right side of Sicily. As for the martial art system of Palermo, according to Professor Antonio Merendoni, it is the oldest not only in Sicily, but also on the mainland Italy.
Based on the data from the above-mentioned ancient treatise, one can draw an intermediate conclusion that there is an ancient Palermitan style, which is called a twin, a counterpart of Neapolitan fencing – the main secret of Spanish triumph, according to the military elite of those times.
Photo: Palermitan style
The technique of blade work in Palermo had been forming over many centuries. But one of the most important events in history, which can be considered as a starting point is the Sicilian Vespers of 1282. One of the bloodiest episodes in the history of Sicily. Genoese and Venetians armed the Sicilians with swords and long knives. For six weeks about four thousand French people were killed throughout Sicily. They killed everyone, including women and infants. It was the revenge of the Sicilians for the period of over the 20-year of French king – Charles the First of Anjou reign.
The events of the 16th century influenced the formation of Palermitan fencing as well. This is the next point in history. It was at this period of time when the monks of the Order of the Franciscans came to the island and established a secret just society “Beati Paoli”. Official history says that it was a secret organization that stepped in as a counter-system and protected ordinary people from violations of officials and arrogant nobleman. There is also a description of their external appearance: black coats with a hood, which resembled more to a monastic attire.
Thus, the military system was divided into two parts: duel and murder.
Of course, there is a reason for the emergence of the society “Beati Paoli” as a Palermitan organization. This organization was in fact a criminal structure that destroyed political opponents of the Spanish crown without a trial and investigation. At the same time, residents of the city, as you remember, considered members of this organization to be heroes and Robin Hoods. Thus the first criminal structure is established in Palermo, the founder of which is the King of Sicily Charles V.
In an interview for the documentary film “Ship God” Grand Maestro Oleg Maltsev says that the Palermitan system is not a martial art, it is not an easy system as it might seem, and for the first time in the history he has demonstrated 21 blocks of the Palermitan system, which later turned into the legendary Neapolitan fencing.
Let us present to your attention Palermitan blade work system:
Block #1 “Playing with a blade”: Defense from an attack. Theory of defense.
Block #2 “Broken Spear” Pair weapons, simultaneous work with stiletto and a stick
Photo: Palermitan System Block #2
Block #3 “Spears in two hands”: two hands work with a stiletto or cane
Photo: Palermitan System Block #3
Blocks # 4,5,6 “Blows to hands of an opponent. Strikes into ⅔ of the shield” Baston vs Epee; three blocks are blended into one and have a complex relation among each other
Block #7 “Firmness and softness”: Blade strike training
Photo: Palermitan System Block #7
Block #8 “Striking feet”: kicks
Block # 9 “Dancing feet”: Defense against several opponents
Block #10 “Force over Force”: Block which deals with clinching positions
Block 11 “Breaking point of a claw”: Disarming
Block #13 “Crushing blows”: jumps from above
Block #14 “Broken balance”: Delivering blows to feet
Block #15 “House as a fortress”: Defense from all types of strikes
Block #16 “Criss-Cross”: Criss cross like motions with two weapons
Block #17 “Sea-Urchine”: Feet strikes
Block #18 “Snake bite”: Work with two stilettos
Block #19 “Bird of prey”: Long range
Block #20 “Death Mask”: tricky feints, head strikes
Block #21 “Strike through a coat”: One defeating strike
We shall remind that both parts of Sicily are very different from each other. If the right side is reigned by democracy and people unite around the author fencing schools that emerged in the 20th century, then on the Palermitan side (left side of the Sicily) there is a reign of a strict order. And to have an access to knowledge it is necessary to earn trust and become a member of the family.
In the Sicilian blade tradition, the left side of the island is characterized by a combat system aimed at defeating several opponents, that is, a battle against superior enemy forces. It is a chivalric system, system of a noble knight. Moreover, it is blended with Franciscans monks order, with Templars, with Hospitaliers, Dominicans, with Venetians and Genoese. As a result, there is an “alloy” of the best technology which is obtained on the basis of superior technical blocks, each of which, in essence, is a martial art; the content, the depth of each block is a full-fledged military system. These blocks can work together as well as independently, all by itself.
Let us, however, look back into history. One of the key factors in the military success of Charles V was the Neapolitan fencing. The twin brother of this fencing is Palermitan style, as we have already seen from an ancient treatise. At the same time, representatives of academic science consider Palermitan fencing to be more ancient, which is confirmed by an analysis of historical events and documents. The earliest mention of Neapolitan fencing is seen only in 1669 in the treatise “Impossible is possible” by Senor Francesco Antonio Mattei (in the first talk of the treatise “Impossible is Possible. Handling the Sword and an Epee” it is proven that fencing is not an art, but a science).
“Science and fencing – this is what leads to the proper state and regulates the place where the order is broken. However, it is impossible to learn our noblest Neapolitan fencing without the live voice of the Maestro”.
Given the foregoing analysis, we come to the conclusion that the Palermitan style is the “elder brother” of the Neapolitan fencing, and thus the foundation of the Spanish triumph is a Palermitan style.
Main peculiarity of this style is occupation of certain angles towards an opponent and at the same time swinging the pendulum. Besides, pendulum can be swung in different ways: swing the pendulum on feet (using shins), we can raise our heels, turn shoulders, and hand moves. Consequently, an enemy has a constant swinging target, and he cannot find a point of force exertion, which is the essence of Palermitan technique.
There are two historical puzzles to consider. During a scientific expedition in one of the churches of Corleone (Sicily), scientist and Grand Maestro Oleg Maltsev had discovered an unusual icon. Icon has a person with an eastern face features resembling a Filipino. But what is the connection between the Philippines and Palermo? Answer is simple: Conquest wars of Spain. In this case, the question may arise about who have taught whom? Needless to say, low standard of living of the Filipinos and the number of defeats in military operations says a lot. In order to ascertain this, one may study one of the reputable books on Arnis Escrima “The Secrets of Giron Arnis Escrima” written by Antonio E. Somero. Comparative analysis of the 20 blocks described by Antonio Somero and blocks of the Palermitan style show that they have identical structure. In the beginning of the article we have mentioned 21 blocks of the Palermitan martial system, but in a comparative analysis of Philippine and Palermitan system there are 20 block. One might ask reasonable question about wherefrom is one more block in Palermitan style?
There was a second system which was looked at by Grand Maestro Oleg Maltsev in the course of research on Sicily. The system is meant for bare hand defense against a blade. It also includes technique of cane work and bastone (which is not dismantled, it looks like a Venetian one with iron handgrip). Originally, this system and Palermitan one were single and made 21 blocks. Later on they had split and in the result there were 20 blocks and 1 separate block.
21 blocks techniques is the Palermitan fencing in its fullest, in other words 21 martial arts systems blended together.
It has to be pointed out that there is no system worldwide which possesses such characteristics
Photo of backstage of “Ship God” documentary filming
“If you intend to criticize me for that I love my motherland too much, I will reply. The truth was always on the first place for me. Going around Italy, Spain and France, I do affirm that Neapolitan fencing is a flower of all nations”
Nicola Teraccusa and Ventura, the treatise “Genuine Neapolitan Fencing, Sword Maestro”, year of 1725.
Coming from this, we may surely claim that military officers of the Spanish army did not hide their admiration for Neapolitan fencing, which is the younger brother of the Palermitan style.
Let us consider the armament and technique of the Spanish military system of the era of Charles V and its correspondence to the Palermitan style. In order to do this, we shall take a journey to the Canary Islands, to the birthplace of Pacheco de Narvaez, Jerónimo de Carranza, and the legendary Destreza.
In April 2017, head of the school Anatael Palmero Ramos came to Odessa (Ukraine) to conduct a joint research with the head of the Memory Institute Dr. Oleg Maltsev. In the result of the research, there were following facts:
1) Double dagger, which is used exclusively by European Chivalry, is identical by its size and handling technique of the dagger used by Filipino knighthood.
2) Double-edged dagger strictly corresponds to Spanish Firyaki
3) Spanish Toletto grip ( ⅔ of the weapon) and the distance which is left to deliver strikes corresponds to the length of Genoese boarding sword – 60 cm. Going back to the event which took place owing to the Venetians and Genoese – Sicilian Vespers, 1282, that we have marked as a starting point of the research. They had instructed and armed the Palermitans, whose military style disseminated among representatives of the Madrid court during the reign of Charles V.
4) The next weapon is Varra. Probably it is the most peculiar weapon out of all. One may deliver Baston type of strikes, one may deliver Tolette type of strikes. One can deliver short boarding spear like blow or a knife type ones. With same success one may deliver sword type strikes and like an epee. All these different weapons are in one.
5) In the result of the, it was found that the Spanish garrotte corresponds to chivalric battle axe.
6) The Spanish masa corresponds to the flanged mace, which was exclusively used by European chivalry.
All these are parts of single Norman system, which was used in the army of Charles V.
To conclude, it can be certainly said that the armament of the Palermitan system strictly corresponds Spanish armament. Technique of work has some differences, but insignificant ones. In Palermo today, they use more bladed weapons, as on the Canary islands – weapons are wooden. But this is probably due to conditions of today’s world. Systems do not differ in armament neither in technical elements, they are distinguished only by the methodology. This is confirmed by results of conducted research provided in this article. Spanish military system was formed in Palermo, passing through conquest Spanish wars, it was cleared from delusions, returned to Naples and brought the world such a “flower of nations” as the Neapolitan fencing school.