Savate: Martial Sport of France (2023)

Martial Sport of France

By Mark V. Wiley

Savate: Martial Sport of France (1)Boxe Francaise savate, which roughly means "fencing with the feet and hands," is the national sport of both France and Spain. Developed in the 1800s on the sailing ships and back streets of France, boxe Francaise savate has become a highly effective means of self-defense and reality-based full-contact "kickboxing" sport. In fact, since some of its kicking methods are potentially lethal, they have been banned in modern-day competition.

Brief History

Savate: Martial Sport of France (2)

Originally looked down upon, and thought of as an art of hoodlums and common thieves, savate, "French foot fighting," was mixed with English boxing to become boxe Francaise savate, the chosen art of the gentlemen and scholars. Boxe Francaise savate became highly developed and wide spread until the start of the First World War. As a result of the large number of casualties inflicted by the war, many of the top savateurs were killed, and the art, too, almost met with extinction. Thanks to the effort and dedication of one of the remaining savateurs, Count Pierre Baruzy, who is credited with the rebirth of boxe Francaise savate, this art is once again blossoming in France and much of Europe, and to a lesser extent the United States. In fact, there are discussions on the table about boxe Francaise savate become an Olympic demonstration sport.

Savate in the United States

Savate: Martial Sport of France (3)The first on-going instruction of boxe Francaise savate in the United States came through the efforts of a man named Daniel Duby. Duby's instruction sparked interest in the art, especially in southern California, and because of his work many people became aware of the French art in this country. Boxe Francaise savate has enjoyed greater exposure as a result of the teaching efforts of Jean-Noel Eynard, Salem Assli, Francis Echenard, Barry John, Steve Crane, Jerry Bedka, Mike Young, and Nicolas Saignac and the promotional efforts of Fred Degerberg, and Dan Inosanto. Boxe Francaise savate made its first large-scale U. S. appearance in October of 1988, with the First U. S. Savate Championships. The event, sponsored by the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts and Fitness, was held at Chicago's Limelight club. There were well over 700 spectators in attendance at the ten full-contact events. Well-known guests in attendance included former boxing world champion, Tony Zale, taekwondo Olympic gold medalist, Arlene Limas, three-time French savate champion, Pascal Malis, and arnis grandmaster, Leo T. Gaje.

The Second U. S. Savate Championships, sponsored by the Southern California Savate Club, was held in March of 1989, at The Strand on Redondo Beach, California. This was another successful event, featuring ten full-contact bouts with well over 500 spectators. Well-known guests in attendance included former kickboxing champion, Blinky Rodriguez, pencak silat master, Paul DeThouars, ten-time European savate Champion, Richard Sylla, and Dan Inosanto.

Other demonstrations and champSavate: Martial Sport of France (4)ionships were to follow, but none were really able to catch the eye of the mainstream American martial artist. And while the American BF Savate Federation is the governing body for the promotion of the art in the United States, there are a number of renegade schools and instructors in the country who are not members and who are promotinf the art in their own way. Until such a time as they all work together, however, this French martial sport will remain an "underground" art.

(Video) 16 Savate French Boxing

What a Difference it Makes

How does boxe Francaise savate differ from other martial arts? The answer: It's philosophy, uniform, ranking structure, kicking methods, and rules of competition. Boxe Francaise savate, not unlike other martial sports, is mainly concerned with sparring practice and training geared toward full-contact competition. In fact, after one has attained the level of silver glove (equivalent to a black belt), the savateur rarely does more in practice than spar. It is this training and hard-core mentality that makes boxe Francaise savate so devastating, in and out of the ring. The uniform of the savateur is simple. All practitioners wear a one-piece, multi-colored tunic, ten-ounce boxing gloves, and hard-tipped kicking shoes. The tunic is made of a Spand-X type of material which allows for the judges to see clean technique, as well as a clear view of the targets being struck. The shoes are similar to those worn by wrestlers, with an extra support around the ankle, a flat rubber sole, and a hard toe kicking surface.

Rank in boxe Francaise savate is achieved on two levels: technical and competitive. Distinction of rank is worn on the practitioner's tunic via a patch of a colored savate/boxing glove.

The structure of the technical rank progresses as follows: blue, green, red, white, yellow, silver (first through third degree). This is followed by the title "professeur" of savate. Rank is awarded on the basis of a savateur's technical ability to perform the individual techniques and combinations correctly, and not on one's fighting skill or competition abilities.

The structure of the competitive rank progresses as follows: bronze glove and silver glove (first through fifth degrees). Ranking at this level is awarded based on not only the technical skills of the practitioner but on his win-to-loss ratio in full-contact competition.

(Video) SAVATE - Incredibly underrated - FIND OUT WHY!

There are three types of teaching certificates which can be awarded. These are initiateur (apprentice), moniteur (instructor), and professeur (highest instructor). A gold glove is awarded only to those possessing exceptional skill and merit.

The kicking techniques of boxe Francaise savate are unique in structure when compared to the mainstream Asian martial arts. Many of the kicks are designed to be used both offensively and defensively, on either the low, middle, or high lines of attack. Moreover, all kicking methods can be employed as a means of displacing an opponent's balance, making him vulnerable for a follow-up strike of your own.

The Competition

Savate: Martial Sport of France (5)Competition in boxe Francaise savate is categorized by weight class, age, and gender. Legal target areas for kicking techniques include the front and side of the head, body, and limbs, and may be directed to either the high, middle, or low lines of attack. Illegal target areas include the nape of the neck, the top and rear surfaces of the head, and the chest of females.

Legal targets for punches include the front and sides of the head and upper torso. For punching techniques, any strikes delivered lower than the pelvic region-or the chest of women-is strictly prohibited.

(Video) World Combat Games 2013, Final -80kg Savate Combat

There is no limit to the use of kicking combinations used during a competitive bout. However, there are limits to the use of punching combinations. All punching techniques must be executed in combination with kicking techniques (e.g., punch-kick or kick-punch).

There are three competitive stages in boxe Francaise savate: assault, pre-contact and contact. Assault competition is a contest wherein physical contact is limited, much like point karate competition. The fight is judged by a competitor's delivery of techniques, precision of strikes, and their proper control. This level of competition keeps the risk of injury to a minimum, and aesthetic quality high. The so-called pre-contact competition level is a contest wherein contact to the body is allowed. However, the donning of protective equipment, such as headgear and shin guards, is mandatory. While competition at this level is exciting, injuries are kept to a minimum.

Contact competition level is a full-contact contest wherein no protective gear is worn by the combatants, with the exception of a mouth piece and groin cup. In this type of match, all strikes to legal target areas, as well as knockouts, are acceptable. A competitor may receive three standing eight-counts through the course of a bout. However, on the third standing eight-count, a competitor will be considered technically knocked out, and the match is concluded.

There are many martial arts that teach self-defense. There are many that stress point-sparring competition or kickboxing. However, there are none as diverse as boxe Francaise savate, a French martial art and sport stressing practical self-defense and three competition levels. From the technical practices of those who do not wish to enter into competition, to the pin-point accuracy of swift kicking techniques, boxe Francaise savate stands complete as both a martial art and martial sport along side its Asian counterparts.

(Video) Savate: old school Kickboxing from France

About the Author:

Mark Wiley is an accomplished martial artist and leading authority on a variety of Philippine and Chinese martial arts, French savate, tae kwon do and karate. He has served as Martial Arts Editor for Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co., Book Publishing Editor for Unique Publications, Editor of Martial Arts Legends magazine and Associate Editor for the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. He is author of eight books on martial arts and qi gong and over 100 articles published in a variety of martial arts magazines. He also serves as Associate Editor for

(Video) All the Savate kicks (and their names).


Savate: Martial Sport of France? ›

Savate (French pronunciation: ​[savat]), also known as boxe française, savate boxing, French boxing or French footfighting, is a French kickboxing combat sport that uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of English boxing with graceful kicking techniques.

What is French foot fighting called? ›

savate, (Middle French: “old shoe”) French sport of fighting by kicking, practiced from the early 19th century. It occurred mainly among the lower orders of Parisian society.

What is French kickboxing called? ›

Also known as Boxe Française, Savate is a French martial art which uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques.

Which sport is also known as French boxing? ›

Savate (French Kickboxing) Savate, pronounced as “sa'vat”, is a French martial art that involves hands and feet as the only weapon for defense and offense. It is also known as French boxing, French footfighting, and French kickboxing.

Is savate better than kickboxing? ›

To conclude, if your strengths are power and physicality, you are probably better off with Kickboxing. But, if your goal is to be versatile and able to defend from all kinds of attacks, you should try Savate.

What is a French martial art? ›

Savate (French pronunciation: ​[savat]), also known as boxe française, savate boxing, French boxing or French footfighting, is a French kickboxing combat sport that uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of English boxing with graceful kicking techniques.

What is the French military fighting style? ›

The french military is trained using "corps-à-corps" or "close-combat". It is a mix of Savate ( or French boxing) and judo. The soldier is also trained to use what ever he can find as a weapon like a pen or even... a magazine !

What are 3 popular French sports? ›

Sports in France are as intrinsic to French culture as croissants and red wine. Participation is high as is the interest; the French people are extremely proud of their athletes. Some of the most popular French sports include football (soccer), tennis, cycling, handball, basketball, and rugby.

What is a traditional French sport? ›

While organized rugby and soccer (le foot, en francais) are extremely popular national pastimes, the sporting event most decidedly "French" is the Tour de France. More than a hundred years old, the cycling race covers 2,235 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the course of three weeks.

Can you punch in Savate? ›

Punching technique in Savate is largely that founded on the Marquis of Queensbury rules (1865-67) and those of the international boxing federations that followed. It is not unusual to use English terms for punches in Savate, while using French words for the kicks, which preserves the split in their origin.

What is the highest unassisted martial arts kick? ›

The highest unassisted martial arts kick by a female is 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) and was achieved by Alison Johnson (USA), in McKinney, Texas, USA, on 20 April 2019. This record was set at the 2019 Texas Hanmadang State Championship.

Did karate get its kicks from Savate? ›

The truth is that Karate's modern kicks were copied from a French martial art that was introduced to mainland Japan long before the Okinawan masters arrived. It's called “Savate”. And one Japanese sensei used it to revolutionize Karate…

How many techniques are there in savate? ›

The main ones are the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. The foot techniques of savate fall into four categories: low shin, side, roundhouse and reverse. Variations include kicks executed with the lead leg and the rear leg, as well as spinning, jumping and cross-stepping methods.

What is Dutch kickboxing called? ›

Dutch Kickboxing Style

Dutch kickboxing, unlike American kickboxing, incorporates techniques from three martial arts: Kyokushin karate, Western boxing, and Muay Thai. Athletes schooled in the martial art of the Netherlands use Kyokushin-style kicks to the legs, head, and body to attack their opponents.

What does savate mean in English? ›

: a form of boxing in which blows are delivered with either the hands or the feet.

What martial art does the French Foreign Legion use? ›

Canne de combat
Also known asLa canne, Canne d'arme
Country of originFrance
Famous practitionersPierre Vigny
3 more rows

What are European martial arts called? ›

Historical European martial arts (HEMA) are martial arts of European origin, particularly using arts formerly practised, but having since died out or evolved into very different forms.

What is Italian martial arts called? ›

Naples. Bastone Napoletano is the newest stick fighting discipline to come to the limelight in Italy. Like many other regional styles it has been in existence for centuries but was formerly taught by individual masters on a one on one basis. The discipline is also known as "Varra" and uses a long stick of 1.60 meters.

Is there a German fighting style? ›

German Ju-Jutsu (or German Jiu-Jitsu) is a martial art related to traditional Japanese Jujutsu, developed in Germany in the 1960s using techniques from Jujutsu, Judo, Karate and various other traditional and modern martial arts. Its governing body in Germany is the DJJV (Deutscher Ju-Jutsu Verband).

What was the French fighting style in the French and Indian War? ›

Guerrilla warfare, at the time referred to as irregular warfare, was significant in the outcome of the French and Indian War from 1754-1763.

What was the French defense line called? ›

The Maginot Line, an array of defenses that France built along its border with Germany in the 1930s, was designed to prevent an invasion.

What is France most known for? ›

France is known all around the world for Paris and its monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre-Dame cathedral. French people are very passionate about their culture and art, which is showcased in many museums like the Louvre.

What sport are French good at? ›

Aside from soccer and rugby, the French are also masters of handball, basketball, and volleyball. In another recent triumph, the men's national team beat the Americans to win the 2022 Volleyball Nations League. France also hosts some of the world's flagship sporting events.

What is the national animal of France? ›

The Latin word “gallus” means both "rooster" and "inhabitant of Gaul". Certain ancient coins bore a rooster, but the animal was not used as the emblem of the tribes of Gaul. Gradually the figure of the rooster became the most widely shared representation of the French people.

What sports do French children play? ›

Soccer, bicycling and tennis are favorite sports in France. In some areas, pelote, a traditional handball game, is popular.

What is Italy's most popular sport? ›

The most popular sport in Italy is football. Italy's national football team is one of the world's most successful teams with four FIFA World Cup victories (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006). Italian clubs have won 48 major European trophies, making Italy the second most successful country in European football.

What's the most popular sport in the US? ›

American football

What is the oldest sport in France? ›

Wrestling is regarded the oldest sports in the world and we have proof. The famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France, dating back to 15,300 years ago, depict wrestlers.

What is the French version of bocce? ›

boules, French Jeu De Boules, also called Pétanque, French ball game, similar to bowls and boccie. It is thought to have originated about 1910, but it is based on the very old French game of jeu Provençal. Boules is played between two players or teams.

What sport is played in Paris? ›

Paris loves sport! On the programme: tennis, handball, horse racing, athletics, basketball, judo, cycling … The Stade de France, the Accor Arena, the Parc des Princes and Stade Roland Garros have high-class facilities that enable them to host top sporting events every year, some of which are major international events.

Is savate a sport? ›

Savate is a traditional French combat sport in which fighters employ kicking and striking techniques.

What is savate Assaut? ›

Savate Assaut

Assaut is a very popular form of Savate for training and competition. In assaut, the emphasis is on style and technique, and strong contact is not allowed. All touches must be controlled, which makes the sport both safe and fun. Savate French Boxing.

Who has the hardest punch in combat sports? ›

Mike Tyson - The Hardest Puncher in Boxing Ever! The World of Boxing!

What is the hardest kick to master? ›

The hardest kicks to learn in martial arts are spinning kicks because they require great balance, full-body strength, and impeccable technique. One of the most challenging spinning kicks is the meia lua de compasso, but any kick that involves twisting and full-body spinning will be hard.

Is there a martial art that uses pressure points? ›

In the martial arts community, those who practice kyusho-jitsu (pressure-point fighting) are often subjected to criticism. It all started when their self-defense moves were first brought into the limelight and onlookers didn't even want to believe the techniques were real.

Is there a fighting style that uses only kicks? ›

Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, as compared to other martial arts such as karate.

What martial arts do they do in Cobra Kai? ›

Cobra Kai Karate is it's own style derived from Shotokan and Tang Soo Do. It uses lot's of side kicks, knee kicks, round house kicks, and Sweeps in combination with straight punches, backfists, and chops. Cobra Kai is a derivative of American Tang Soo Do, popularized by Karate Champion Chuck Norris.

Did ninjas use karate or kung fu? ›

Do ninjas do kung fu? They may incorporate techniques from other arts, like karate or kung fu, but it is only a small part of true ninja training, which begins from a young age and runs through a student's entire life.

Is the crane kick a real karate kick? ›

The crane kick is a fictionalized version of the Mae tobi geri (Japanese: 前飛蹴). The move was created by Darryl Vidal for the classic film The Karate Kid (1984). The move is taught by the character Mr. Miyagi to Daniel LaRusso and eventually used in the final scene with his arch rival Johnny Lawrence.

What is Lethwei fighting style? ›

Lethwei (Burmese: လက်ဝှေ့; IPA: [lɛʔ.ʍḛ]) or Burmese boxing is a full contact combat sport from Myanmar that uses stand-up striking including headbutts.

What is Orthodox fighting style? ›

In combat sports such as boxing, an orthodox stance is one in which the boxer places their left foot in front of the right foot, thus having their weaker side closer to the opponent.

What is the Naruto fighting style called? ›

Naruto uses boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Aikido and Kung Fu. Those are the martial arts that the main character uses. But what about other characters? We did a little research and managed to pull out some really interesting things about martial arts used in the series.

What is ninja fighting style called? ›

Ninjutsu (忍術), sometimes used interchangeably with the modern term ninpō (忍法), is the martial art strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare and espionage purportedly practised by the ninja.

What is illegal in Lethwei? ›

Headbutts can turn a match around in the blink of an eye. This is why Lethwei warriors are held in high regard and rightly feared as opponents. Even though headbutts are allowed in Lethwei, they are banned from most other combat sports – including mixed martial arts, kickboxing, and Muay Thai.

What is Tiger style fighting style? ›

The Black Tiger style is characterised by its extensive footwork, acrobatic kicks, low, wide stances, and unique fist position (where the thumb is curled in the same manner as the other fingers, rather than wrapped around them).

What are the 9 limbs in Lethwei? ›

Often referred to as “The Art Of 9 Limbs”, Lethwei allows the use of fists, knees, elbows, feet, clinches, and headbutts. Yes, headbutts. Headbutts are an outright game-changer in combat sports, and they are heavily encouraged in Myanmar's ancient sport.

Did Mike Tyson use orthodox? ›

Also not known to many, but Mike Tyson is also a left-hand dominant boxer who chose the orthodox stance. So having success with this method has been proven. Interestingly, all of these boxers have been known for their left hooks, which is no coincidence at all considering it's their strongest hand.

What is the Philly Shell defense? ›

In a Philly shell guard, you stand more sideways with your lead hand across your body and back hand up. Your lead shoulder is also lifted a little higher with your head back. Connecting all of these parts of the guard together creates sort of a shell, where the guard gets his name.

Is Mike Tyson a South Paw? ›

Mike Tyson

He originally fought as a southpaw, but one of his trainers, Cus D'Amato, converted Tyson to an orthodox stance and his power showed especially in his hook and uppercut punches, his left hook especially being the focus of many highlight reels throughout his career.

What fighting style is Ryu? ›

Shotokan-style Karate

What is Japanese fighting style called? ›

The four most common styles of Japanese martial arts are aikido, iaido, judo, and karate. A brief introduction to each follows.

What fighting style does Sakura use? ›

Sakura Kasugano
OccupationHigh school student Arcade employee
Fighting styleSelf-taught imitation of Ryu's Ansatsuken fighting style
6 more rows

What is samurai martial arts called? ›

It is kendo, or the way of the sword. Kendo is one of traditional Japanese martial arts, or budo, that arose from the samurai, or warrior in feudal Japan, fighting with bamboo "swords."Kendo players wear protective gear like armor over kimono-like training wear. Kendo differs from many other sports.

Is there a difference between ninjutsu and jujitsu? ›

Jiu-Jitsu and Ninjutsu both are somewhat unique forms of martial arts. Jiu-Jitsu is based on ground fighting and grappling for getting submission holds and applying body locks while ninjutsu is based on punches, kicks, espionage, and strikes.

How many styles of ninjutsu are there? ›

18 Ninjutsu Skills (Ninja Jūhakkei)

Though some of them are the same, the techniques of each discipline were used with different approaches by both samurai and ninja. The 18 disciplines are: Seishin-teki kyōyō (spiritual refinement) Taijutsu (unarmed combat, using one's body as the only weapon)


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