Savate traces its history back to the 1800s. At the time a Southern French slipper fighting form known as Chausson or jeu marseillais practised high kicking. Savate was the name of the northern French street fighting style. It is easy to imagine neighbourly rivalry, 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 Owen 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. Other disciplines are related to Savate, and came from that era. There is la canne (walking-stick) and le bâton (stick), which were usually taught along with the punches and kicking techniques.
Despite its roots in the dangerous streets of old France, savate is now a relatively safe sport to learn. Savate is still a very lively sport practiced all around the world, with competitions at the highest level. The techniques used are put under stress test all the time, whether in Savate competition or with cross-training and fighting. Modern codified savate provides for three levels of competition: assaut, pre-combat and combat. – Assaut 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. For canne fighting practitioners, there are also canne fighting competitions.
First of all, as the name suggest, Savate is practiced with shoes that are quite rigid and use as weapons. Contrary to kickboxing or Muay Thaï, the strikes are delivered with the foot, not the shin. This change the stricking range and the pace of the delivery. Modern codified Savate allows the following techniques in competition: For the kicks: – fouetté (literally “whip”, roundhouse kick making contact with the toe—hard rubber-toed shoes are worn in practice and bouts), high (figure), medium (médian) or low (bas) – chassé (side (“chassé lateral”) or front (“chassé frontal”) piston-action kick, high (figure), medium (médian) or low (bas) – revers, frontal or lateral (“reverse” or hooking kick) making contact with the sole of the shoe, high (figure), medium (médian), 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 Except for the low kick, all the other kicks can be also delivered with backspin or jumped. Catching or checking kicks is not allowed. Rather it’s possible to dodge, evade or parry them. For the punches, like in modern boxing : – 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 des Rues. In addition to kicks and punches, training in Savate des Rues (Streets Savate) includes knee and elbow strikes along with locks, sweeps, throws, headbutts, grappling and takedowns.
Savate is a combat sport in which all kicks and punches must be performed with precision, according to clear principles, and with respect to its core values : Ethics, Aesthetics, Education and Effectiveness. Ethics Savate is a disciplined sport, sharing the Olympic values of participation, fair-play, respect for the rules and for others, and promoting personal development as well as mastery of technique. Aesthetics Combining flexibility, agility and fluid movement, Savate is an aesthetic sport that values precision and artistry rather than mere confrontation. Education Through rigorous and structured training programme, participants in Savate gain an understanding of the strategies and personal values, as well as the physical skills and attributes required in competition. Effectiveness A complete and enjoyable syllabus allows the high standards of Savate to be passed on to participants of all ages. Training in Savate promotes self-confidence and all aspects of physical fitness: flexibility, mobility, speed, strength, stamina, skill and co-ordination.