An introduction to the art of Savate
La Boxe Francaise, commonly know as Savate is a French martial art which employs the use of boxing and kicking techniques. Historians can point to several points in time when Savate was formed, and like most things in history, it can be open to one’s interpretation.
Some would state it was born from the street fighting styles developed in Northern France and Paris in the 19th century whilst others pin it to the dangerous port city of Marseille, where sailors developed a system incorporating high kicks and open hand slaps.
I’m sure most could agree that both points had a strong influence which ultimately led to a unique and devastating system. In its modern form today, like several other systems, it is practised as a combat sport in France and around the world.
Savate in Bartitsu
Savate incorporates a catalogue of strikes which present a different range and set of angles to which the common opponent may not be familiar with. The typical pugilist is used to combating an individual at a set range, focusing on the fists as the familiar threat to consider.
Savate includes many typical boxing strikes but incorporates bone-crunching low kicks, skull shaking high kick and probably one of the most famous strikes in Savate, the liver kick.
Using Savate in Bartitsu allows you to control a range typically longer than traditional Pugilism whilst giving you several opportunities to strike in a way your opponent may find unfamiliar.
Strikes of Savate
In competition Savate, many of the hand strikes are similar to modern-day combat boxing and include:
DIRECT BRAS AVANT: A lead hand jab.
DIRECT BRAS ARRIERE: A rear hand cross.
CROCHET: A hook, a bent arm punch with either arm.
UPPERCUT: An upward strike.
The early forms of Savate included open palm hand strikes including:
LA MUSETTE: Delivered in an upward or linear trajectory the palm of the hand was used to strike the adversary’s chin or nose.
LA BAFFE: Delivered with the palm of the hand in a horizontal plane.
LE REVERS DE BAFFE: A backhand slap delivered to the face or neck to cause a brachial stun.
In Savate, there are a variety of kicks and usually come in the forms of high (figure), medium (médian) or low (bas). The kicks below are the typical strikes you will find in competition Savate:
FOUETTE: A roundhouse kick making contact with the toe.
CHASSE: A side or frontal piston style kick.
REVERS: A frontal or lateral hooking kick which makes contact with the sole of the shoe.
COUP DE PIED BAS: A low front or sweep kick to the shin, typically using the inner edge of the shoe whilst the operator employs a backward lean to maximize damage and distance.
The further you look at the historical records, you will find other variety of kicks within Savate.
Though Savate isn’t as widely popular as other martial arts, it is still practised worldwide. Other than finding a Bartitsu Club, you may want to find a pureplay savate club.
Savate clubs in the UK: https://savate.org.uk/clubs/
Savate clubs in the US: https://ussavate.org/savate-school-directory/
Savate clubs in France: https://www.ffsavate.com/annuaire/trouver_un_club_par_departement
(Please comment below if you have any records of clubs from your country which you would like us to add.)
How can I learn if there are no Savate clubs near me?
There are several options at your disposal, using historical and printed materials you could self learn.
If you decide to go down this route I’d recommend doing this and introducing some kickboxing or tae kwon do into your training. Though the techniques are different, you will become accustomed to using your limbs in a similar manner.
Youtube and online materials are another great way to see how the techniques performed.
And of course, as mentioned earlier, join a Bartitsu club and learn the techniques which have been adopted into the art of Bartitsu.