Savate Boxe-Française is a unique ring fighting art that fuses French kicking with English boxing. It is an agile modern sport that is practised by men and women of all ages around the world.
What does Savate mean?
Savate means literally an old shoe or boot in middle French. This is why suitable footwear is obligatory for Savate training. Savate kicks adjust to using the boot effectively – some utilise the heel, some the toe, some the blade or side of the shoe. The word ‘Savate’ has its etymological root in ‘sabot’, from where the word ‘sabotage’ comes. The word Savate now embraces a set of arts – or associated disciplines – around the French art of fighting with the shoe.
History of Savate
Savate traces its history back to the 1800s. At the time there was a Southern French slipper fighting form known as Chausson or jeu marseillais incorporating high kicks. Savate was a northern French street fighting style. It is easy to imagine neighbourly comparison, with the English – who settled duels by boxing with the hands – regarding foot fighting unseemly, and the French seeing fist-fighting as graceless or uncouth. Of course the two came together, which is no surprise for two countries which were at war with each other in the early part of the century. Savate’s foundation myth is that French fighter Charles Lecour was beaten by a young English boxer named Own Swift, although doubts are cast on this story. Nonetheless it was Lecour who formalised the art of Boxe-Française Savate in 1838, to which date the founding of Savate is normally ceded.
Development of Savate
Savate was included as a demonstration sport in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Many practitioners were likely lost owing to the French military casualties of the two World Wars of the first half of the 20th century. From the 1970s onwards, a renewed interest in martial arts in the west has swelled the ranks of Savate practitioners. From the year 2000, international Savate competitions have spread the sport around the world and the Federation International (FISav) has member countries worldwide. Savate is a FUSU World University sport and is on the path to Olympic recognition.
Savate vs boxing / thai boxing
Savate punching technique is practically identical to the sport of boxing, itself codified properly since the the Marquis of Queensbury (1865-67) rules were made. It is to this amalgamation that the term Anglo-French might reasonably be applied to Savate. Savate kicks all must strike with the shoe (see above for naming) and in this regard it differs from Thai Boxing and kickboxing, which use the shin and swing the leg in a different manner.
Savate for MMA
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) find lots of uses for effective stand-up technique, and the heel strike in the Savate Chassé – literally meaning ‘to push/get away’ – is often in evidence. Several professional MMA fighters train with Savate coaches (an observation of this author).
Savate and JKD (Jeet Kune Do)
Bruce Lee used studies in Savate when writing about Jeet Kune Do. There are many JKD clubs with a Savate basis or a Savate syllabus. The precise and often analytical techniques of Savate fit naturally with the conceptual style of JKD training.
Grading awards in Savate are called ‘gloves’. The progression is a clever way of learning to spar with composure and understanding.
|Blue Glove||I touch without being touched in reply.|
|Green Glove||I avoid being touched and touch in reply.|
|Red Glove||I avoid being touched and reply on a different line.|
|White Glove||I touch before I am touched.|
|Yellow Glove||I create an opportunity to touch.|
|Silver Glove||I have mastery of all phases.|
‘Savate’ refers to a family of Associated Disciplines
is a ring sport using gloves and boots, in which punches and kicks are used to win either by KO or by judges’ decision. In Assaut fighters score points with touches, and all force excluded. In Combat full contact is used to seek to win by KO.
Canne de Combat
is a stick-fighting competitive art using many of the body movements of Savate.
is a self-defence system using locks, empty hand strikes, and throws.
is a workout co-ordinated to music using Savate punches and kicks, but no contact between participants.