When I tell people I do a kickboxing sport, they often presume I have studied in Thailand, China, Japan – the orient.
“No”, I say – to their surprise, “the best kickboxing in the world…
World Savate Champion James Southwood.
Boxe-Française Savate is a unique ring fighting art. The kicks are French and the punching is from English boxing. Together, the result is an agile modern sport.
Modern Savate started in the early 1800s, springing from the Southern-French slipper fighting art of Chausson, plus Savate (meaning old boot) which was used in street confrontations in Paris. Meetings between English and French fighters brought pugilism to the style. Several practitioners have refined the art across the years, notably Charles Lecour in the 1830s, who created Boxe-Française Savate after reputedly being beaten by English boxer Owen Swift.
Although French in origin, today Savate is practised around the world.
Savate is a great complement to other kicking sports, using angles and strikes that are typically not found in Thai boxing, kickboxing or MMA. Jeet Kune Do followers still debate the influence of Savate on the art that Bruce Lee developed.
Grading awards in Savate are called ‘gloves’ and progress towards technical mastery:
- Blue Glove. Striking: I touch without being touched.
- Green Glove. Blocking: I avoid being touched and touch in reply.
- Red Glove. Moving: I avoid being touched and reply on a different line.
- White Glove. Anticipating: I touch before I am touched.
- Yellow Glove. Feinting: I create an opportunity to touch.
- Silver Glove. Mastery: I have complete technical proficiency.
There are two types of competition in Savate:
- Assaut – fighters score points for touches; all force/pressure is excluded.
- Combat – full contact is used to seek a KO.
Rounds typically last 1.5-2 mins with 3-5 rounds to a bout.
At London Savate we usually train for the first type of bout (Assaut), meaning we can spar without getting hurt and use jumps and spins to score points, which would be impractical for most full contact matches. We also have Combat fighters in our stable, who train to be strong with knock-out power.
- Canne de Combat is a stick-fighting system that uses many of the same body movements and mechanics as Boxe-Francaise.
- Savate Defense is another extension of the art, in which street self-protection is learnt, without the sporting aspect.
- Savate Forme is a workout or dance in which the moves of Savate are utilised, but no contact is made.