Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Savate (French pronunciation: [savat]), also known as boxe française, French boxing, French kickboxing or French footfighting, is a French martial art which uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques. Only foot kicks are allowed unlike some systems such as Muay Thai, and Silat which allow the use of the knees or shins. "Savate" is a French word for "old shoe". Savate is perhaps the only style of kickboxing in which the fighters habitually wear shoes. A male practitioner of savate is called a savateur while a female is called a savateuse.

Early history

Savate takes its name from the French for "old boot" (heavy footwear that used to be worn during fights; cf. sabot and sabotage). The modern formalized form is mainly an amalgam of French street fighting techniques from the beginning of the 19th century. There are also many types of savate rules. Savate was then a type of street fighting common in Paris and northern France. In the south, especially in the port of Marseille, sailors developed a fighting style involving high kicks and open-handed slaps. It is conjectured that this kicking style was developed in this way to allow the fighter to use a hand to hold onto something for balance on a rocking ship's deck, and that the kicks and slaps were used on land to avoid the legal penalties for using a closed fist, which was considered a deadly weapon under the law. It was known as jeu marseillais ("game from Marseille"), and was later renamed chausson ("slipper", after the type of shoes the sailors wore). In contrast, at this time in England (the home of boxing and the Queensberry rules), kicking was seen as unsportsmanlike. Traditional savate or chausson was at this time also developed in the ports of North-West Italy and North-Eastern Spain.

The two key historical figures in the history of the shift from street-fighting to the modern sport of savate are Michel Casseux (also known as le Pisseux(1794–1869), a French pharmacist, and Charles Lecour (1808–1894). Casseux opened the first establishment in 1825 for practicing and promoting a regulated version of chausson and savate (disallowing head butting, eye gouging, grappling, etc.). However the sport had not shaken its reputation as a street-fighting technique. Casseux's pupil Charles Lecour was exposed to the English art of boxing when he witnessed an English boxing match in France between English pugilist Owen Swift and Jack Adams in 1838. He also took part in a friendly sparring match with Swift later in that same year. Lecour felt that he was at a disadvantage, only using his hands to bat his opponent's fists away, rather than to punch. He then trained in boxing for a time before combining boxing with chausson and savate to create the sport of savate (or boxe française', as we know it today). At some point la canne and le baton stick fighting were added, and some form of stick-fencing, such as la canne, is commonly part of savate training. Those who train purely for competition may omit this. Savate was developed professionally by Lecour's student Joseph Charlemont and then his son Charles Charlemont.

Savate was later codified under a Committee National de Boxe Francaise under Charles Charlemont's student Count Pierre Baruzy (dit Barrozzi). The Count is seen as the father of modern savate and was 11-time Champion of France and its colonies, his first ring combat and title prior to World War I. Savate de Defense, Defense Savate, Savate de Rue ("de rue" means "of the street") is the name given to those methods of fighting excluded from savate competition. The FIS (International Savate Federation) is the official World Federation.

Perhaps the ultimate recognition of the respectability of savate came in 1924 when it was included as a demonstration sport in the Olympic Games in Paris. In 2008, savate was recognised by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) – this recognition allows savate to hold official University World Championships, the first was held in Nantes, France in 2010. The 25th anniversary of the founding of the International Savate Federation, in March 2010, was celebrated with a visit to Lausanne, to meet with IOC President Jacques Rogge. FIS President Gilles Le Duigou was presented with a memento depicting the Olympic Rings. In April 2010, the International Savate Federation was accepted as a member of SportAccord (previously known as AGFIS) – a big step forward on the road to Olympic recognition.

Modern history

Despite its roots, savate is a relatively safe sport to learn. According to USA Savate, "savate ranks lower in number of injuries when compared to American football, ice hockey, football, gymnastics, basketball, baseball, and inline skating".

Today, savate is practiced all over the world by amateurs: from Australia to the USA and from Finland to Britain. Many countries (including the United States) have national federations devoted to promoting savate.

Modern codified savate provides for three levels of competition: assault, pre-combat and combat. Assault requires the competitors to focus on their technique while still making contact; referees assign penalties for the use of excessive force. Pre-combat allows for full-strength fighting so long as the fighters wear protective gear such as helmets and shinguards. Combat, the most intense level, is the same as pre-combat, but protective gear other than groin protection and mouthguards is prohibited.

Many martial arts provide ranking systems, such as belt colors. Savate uses glove colors to indicate a fighter's level of proficiency (unlike arts such as karate, which assign new belts at each promotion, moving to a higher color rank in savate does not necessarily entail a change in the color of one's actual gloves, and a given fighter may continue using the same pair of gloves through multiple promotions). Novices begin at no color.

Depending of Association or Commission that one belongs too, a savateur can compete. In the French Federation a Yellow Glove can compete, in Belgium a Green Glove can compete, in USA savate the Competition levels start at novice (6 months) and in Russia No Gloves.

The ranking of Savate: Boxe Française is divided into three roads that a savateur can choose to take. The Technical road is Blue Glove, Green Glove, Red Glove, White Glove, Yellow Glove, Silver Glove I, Silver Glove II and Silver Glove III (Violet Glove for less than 17 years of Age) Competition Road: Bronze Glove, Silver Glove I, Silver Glove II, Silver Glove III, Silver Glove IV and Silver Glove V Teaching Ranks: Initiateur, Aide-Moniteur, Moniteur and Professeur

In some clubs there is no rank of Aide-Moniteur, while in other Associations there is no rank of Initiateur. 8 to 12 years on average are necessary for a student to reach Professeur level, 8 years in the Italian Federation, and but 2 years in some federations. In France the professional professeur must have a French state certificate of specialized teaching (CQP AS, BEES 1rst, 2nd and 3rd degre,1rst de CCB BPJEPS, DEJEPS, DESJEPS). These diplomas are university level education in Sports with specialization in Savate (supervised by the FFBFSDA). The international Federation, however, is still allowed to award professeur instructorship to non-French nationals without requiring such rigid system of education. French Nationals have to submit and succeed to the rigid system of education and prove themselves in competition as well as being respected by peers, in order to have a slight chance to become a DTD (Directeur Technique Départemental). Like any sport Federations in France, the French and International Federation of Savate are under the control of France Ministry of Sport and Youth. This make theses two Federations extremely powerful Federations on the world scene. These two Federations have to obey to a set of national traditions.

Nowadays, savate is just a term meaning Boxe-Française Savate. In the 1970s the term "savate" was rarely used in France to refer to the formalised sport: people mostly used the term Boxe-Française Savate, B.F, B.F.S. or simply Boxe-Française. The term savate remains in use mostly outside France or when speaking a language other than French.

The global distribution of schools (salles) today is best explained through their stylistic approaches:

    La Boxe Française-Savate (1980–present): the technical abilities of both Savate's major kicking arsenal and English Boxing were merged into a definitive sport of combat.

    La Savate Défense (1994–present): was first presented by Professeur Piere Chainge then produced into Self-Defense by Eric Quequet in 2000. After the French Federation dismantled Prof. Change and placed Michel Laroux in charge of the formations. It's based on La Boxe Française Savate, La Savate of the late 19th century, La Lutte Parisienne and the discipline* of La canne de Combat (stick) *includes also Le Bâton Français (staff), Le Couteau (knife), Le Poignard (dagger), La Chaise (chair) and Le Manteau (overcoat).

    Re-constructed historical savate: some savate has been re-constructed from old textbooks, such as those written in the late 19th or early 20th century. As such, this form of savate would be considered a Historical European Martial Art. Re-construction of these older systems may or may not be performed by practitioners familiar with the modern sport and is not at present likely to be particularly widespread.

    La savate forme (2008): Cardio-kickboxing form of La Boxe Française-Savate.

These are the different stylistic approaches of the French arts of pugilism in the world today.


In competitive or competition savate which includes Assault, Pre-Combat, and Combat types, there are only four kinds of kicks allowed along with four kinds of punches allowed: .


    fouetté (literally "whip", roundhouse kick making contact with the toe—hard rubber-toed shoes are worn in practice and bouts), high (figure), medium (median) or low (bas)
    chassé (side ("chassé lateral") or front ("chassé frontal") piston-action kick), high (figure), medium (median) or low (bas)
    revers (frontal or lateral "reverse" or hooking kick making contact with the sole of the shoe), high (figure), medium (median), or low (bas)
    coup de pied bas ("low kick", a front or sweep kick to the shin making contact with the inner edge of the shoe, performed with a characteristic backwards lean) low only


    direct bras avant (jab, lead hand)
    direct bras arrière (cross, rear hand)
    crochet (hook, bent arm with either hand)
    uppercut (either hand)

Savate did not begin as a sport, but as a form of self-defence and fought on the streets of Paris and Marseille. This type of savate was known as savate de rue. In addition to kicks and punches, training in savate de rue (savate defense) includes knee and elbow strikes along with locks, sweeps, throws, headbutts, and takedowns[citation needed].

There are six basic kinds of kicks, and four kinds of punches for savate de rue:


    fouetté (literally "whip", roundhouse kick making contact with the toe), high (figure), medium (median) or low (bas)
    chassé (side or front piston-action kick), high (figure), medium (median) or low (bas)
    chassé italien (aimed at the opponent's inner thigh, with the toe pointed at the opponent's groin. Contrast the chassé bas lateral, which targets the front of the thigh.)
    revers (frontal or lateral "reverse" or hooking kick making contact with the sole of the shoe), high (figure), medium (median), or low (bas)
    coup de pied bas ("low kick", a front or sweep kick to the shin making contact with the inner edge of the shoe, performed with a characteristic backwards lean) low only, designed to break the shin bone.
    coup de pied bas de frappe (coup de pied bas which is used to strike the opponent's lead leg).


    direct bras avant (jab, lead hand)
    direct bras arrière (cross, rear hand)
    crochet (hook, bent arm with either hand)
    uppercut (either hand).

In popular culture

    Savate was also featured in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, where Dutch savate champion Gerard Gordeau beat a sumo wrestler and an American kickboxer.
    Savate was employed by the Captain America foe Batroc the Leaper.
    In the Tintin book Flight 714, Professor Calculus mentions being an old Savate performer.
    Savate is used by the main character in the Belle Epoque-based 2004 feature film Arsène Lupin and The Tiger Brigades (as well as the 70s TV series they are adapted from).
    In Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben mentioned about as well as performed a Savate move when he and Gwen were practicing on the punching bag.
    Savate was also the martial arts style of the French antagonists and police officers in the 2001 Jet Li film Kiss of the Dragon.
    In the X-Men series the mutant Gambit incorporates Savate into his basic fighting style and is shown to be extremely proficient in it.
    Savate was featured on the TV show Human Weapon, in Episode 4. The hosts, Bill Duff and Jason Chambers travelled to France to learn basic techniques of Savate. After practising the techniques they have learned they then used the moves against the instructor.
    Savate was mentioned in Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers. Captain Frankel and Sergeant Zim were said to be very proficient in it, and the style was part of the training curriculum during basic training at Camp Arthur Currie.
    In the 1995 film Savate, Olivier Gruner plays a savate expert French officer, who wanders into Texas to get revenge of his friend.
    In the manga and anime One Piece, one of the main protagonists, "Black Leg Sanji," uses kicking techniques very similar to Savate.
    Remy from Street Fighter III: Third Strike uses Savate as his fighting style.
    In the manga Medaka Box, one of the main protagonists "Hitoyoshi Zenkichi" uses Savate as his general fighting style after being taught by his mother.
    In the film "The Matrix" Savate is mentioned as one of the fighting styles programed into Neo.
    In Meredith Duran's novel "Wicked Becomes You", the hero practices a form of savate.
    Dick Grayson, the original Robin, was a master of Savate and other forms of martial arts.

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