Savate | Fighting Styles


Savate, also called French boxing or boxe française, refers to a French martial art that makes use of both feet and hands as weapons and matches graceful kicking tactics with Western boxing elements.

This French fighting style was created by Charles Lecour, who was a French baker’s son in 1832. Before that, a fighting method existed in Paris, in which combatants just kicked each other wearing their daily shoes.

The more common name for street shoes back then was “savate”, which meant “old shoes”. Because of this, the term became associated to this street fighting method. Those earlier street brawls also included head butting, wrestling and gouging.

The very first person who attempted to make a system out of savate was Michel Casseux, who opened the first training establishment for it. Sadly, savate did not get recognized as more than a street fighting style, so it only attracted people with dubious characters and means in the beginning.

Soon, le baton and la canne stick fighting got added to the mix, along with a kind of stick-fencing. People who purely train for competition might not use this, though. Savate was professionally developed in the end by LeCour’s student called Joseph Charlemont along with his son Charles Charlemont.

Today, foot kicks are the only ones allowed, though, unlike several systems like Silat and Muay Thai that allow the overall use of shins or knees, as well. Savate is probably the only kind of kickboxing where fighters usually wear shoes. Savate practitioners are called savateurs (male) or savateuses (female).

It is said that these kicks are done to let kickers make use of their free hands to balance properly and slaps and kicks were put to use to stay away from legal penalties that closed fists brought with them, which were at the time considered as fatal weapons by the law.

From the origins of street fighting all the way to self-defense of aristocracy and hidden sub-cultures and even unarmed counter-terrorist combat, savate has created an improvisation approach of multiple disciplines for personal combat.

Savate has since then evolved into a system of grappling and hitting, where the feet play major roles in strategy. Combined with one-of-a-kind weaponry, it provides educational and time-tested disciplines for personal combat and recreation. From artistic efficiency to pure mayhem, this one-of-a-kind, modern yet ancient system has a 21st century expression.

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