Origins of Savate
Savate originated in France in the eighteenth century among the sailors of the port of Marseilles, who on the return from long trips in the eastern lands began to acquire and import local martial arts kicks techniques by combining them with the use of reeds and sticks, “savate cannes et baton “. The purpose was purely defensive but soon spread even in the underworld villages and underworld environments of the whole nation.
In 1794 Michel Casseux (called “pisseau”) studied the differences in various styles created from the south to the north of the country. In fact, in the former, “Chausson” foot techniques were preferred, while “Savate” slap hand blows were combined with the same techniques in the north. He learned and simplified learning at best and in 1820 formed the academy “Art de la Savate”. Despite the success achieved thanks to the creation of this discipline, he died in misery, and his work continued thanks to one of his students who distinguished himself compared to the others: Charles Lecour.
Lecour immediately realized that the savate so conceived, whilst remaining an excellent method of self-defense, was still incomplete because of the limited use that was made of the arms, actually not very productive to the extent of combat. He then went to England where “boxing”, the future English boxing, was starting, and he learned the art of the fist from the Swift master.
Returning to France he integrated the French discipline with what he had learned in England, thus creating the “French boxing”. In fact, even today, in boxing technique of Savate the influence of English boxing is clear. Hubert Lecour, instead, brother of Charles, made French art a refined art and was the star, together with his brother, of memorable performances in the most famous café in Paris.
At the same time the Lecour brothers lived other important figures, such as Charles Ducros of montpellier and Louis Lebucher of Rouen. The first was an excellent teacher in Paris and became famous for having beaten the famous boxer Tom Cribb for “out of action”. Louis Leboucher, antithetical to the refined boxing of Hubert Lecour, preferred a boxing that was extremely practical and based mainly on self-defense: he used to encourage his students to experience street fights. His treaty of “defense of the traveler” that he gave to foreigners in only three lessons is known.
Later on, other athletes contributed significantly to the development of French boxing: Louis Vigneron was born in Paris in 1827 and was the strongest athlete of the time, unbeatable in sporting fights and even more in street fights. He also managed to beat famous athletes in other sports such as the wrestler Michel Arpin, called “the terrible Savoyard” and the boxer Dikson. Joseph Charlemont, born in 1839, a probable pupil of Vigneron, was an exceptional tireur. He later became a great master and created new combinations of foot strokes on the basis of more intense athletic training and more suited to the new technique.
His school churned out formidable athletes including his son Charles. He was the most famous and renowned tireur of French boxing of all time. He was a middleweight and also became famous for his epic duels sustained with equal weight of English boxing at the time coming out always victorious: famous his victories at the London games of Queen Victoria in 1887 and the one in Paris in 1893 on the boxer Jerry Driscol.
In 1896 he met Michel Ginoux, last great exponent of the chausson and beat him for K.O .. Victor Casteres was another excellent athlete and was chosen as the opponent of Charles Charlemont for the dispute of the only world championship of savate that has ever been disputed. Casteres lost to the points after a very balanced match. Charles Charlemont was also an excellent teacher and many good athletes came out of his school, among whom was distinguished Pierre Barozzi, known as Baruzi.
He was a nobleman of Italian origin, a great athlete who for eleven times was absolute champion in France. He had the merit of keeping French boxing alive when he risked disappearing as a result of the disasters of the two world wars in which the best masters died, a circumstance that did not last determine the prevalent popularity of English boxing.
Despite the successes achieved by these great athletes, the savate entered a phase of decline just when it had gained considerable popularity. Even the nobility began to practice it but modifying its nature and transforming it into a kind of dance, since such a hard discipline with full contact shots was not within everyone’s reach and probably even less to “fine skin” nobles, who they certainly did not need to fight to make a living.
In 1903, to stop this process of decline, the “French Federation of English Boxing Societies” (Federation Francaise des societes de Boxe) he tried to merge the two boxing contests, savate and English boxing, under one banner (widely spread, also thanks to the betting round), but Charles Charlemont refused this proposal.
A new boost came from the presentation as a demonstration sport at the Paris Olympics in 1924, and from the organization, in 1937, of the first French championship. These events, however, failed to revive the discipline and the advent of World War II forcibly stopped the work of dissemination.
At the end of the war, Count Pierre Barozzi (called Baruzy), of Venetian origins, a student of Charles Charlemont, contributed to the revival of the discipline becoming president of the French Boxing Commission. Thanks to people like Bernard Plaisait and Marc Kunstlè and to the work of enthusiasts and practitioners, today the French savate boxing is widely known and practiced, both at amateur and professional level, even outside of France.
From a technical and competitive point of view, in Savate there are only a few types of kicks and punches permitted by the regulation. Here they are:
Kicks can be thrown low, medium or high, and hit is also permitted to all parts of the body, including legs. Main ones are:
- Fouette: literally means “whip” and is a roundhouse kick that hits with “foot neck” and toe. It is one of the most used kicks in Savate.
- Chassé: technique is similar to that of the Fouette, with the difference that heel hits with the sole of the foot; Chassé can be both frontal and lateral. his type of kick is very useful to block the execution of a kickr technique from the opponent, and is also an excellent solution for attacking.
- Reverse: kick with a tense leg that impacts with the sole of the shoe, and which consists of a circular motion that hits the face or move the opponent’s gloves to reveal the face and then hits it with fist techniques.
- Coup de pied bas or Charlemont: low kick that hits the opponent’s tibia; when attack is performed, athlete bends backwards.
Kicks can also be performed in rotation (tournant) or in jump, but these are complex techniques that usually only experts use.
They are practically identical to those used in boxing.
- Direct bras avant: jab (fist with arm forward)
- Direct bras arrière: direct (fist with the arm behind)
- Crochet: hook (punch with circular and horizontal trajectory performed with the bent arm)
- Uppercut: upright (upward fist to the mouth of the stomach or chin).
COMPETITIONS IN SAVATE
In Savate competitions do not allow athletes to fight barefoot, but with particular shoes without heel or roughness that can in any way hurt the opponent.
The savateur wear a characteristic uniform, called “Academic”, which is very reminiscent of the tight-fitting suits used in the last century to practice sports. However, unlike those garments, which look funny and impractical, modern Academics are made of technical materials (lycra) and are variously colored; usually each team creates a personalized uniform with characteristic colors and designs.
Protections as very important too: mouth guards, gloves, parapiedi, shell for men and paraseno for women. In some categories also shin and helmet are used.
It is allowed to hit the opponent in any part of the body, with the exception of nape and genitals; every time a valid stroke is scored, the savateur is assigned a score based on the difficulty of the technique (the punches are worth less points than kicks, and low kicks in turn are worth less points than those brought to face).
Striking back is allowed, but does not register any score. As for kicks, the only part of leg that can be used to hit the opponent is the shoe (then neck, sole and back of foot): it is forbidden to use shins, which clearly makes Savate a different martial arts compared to styles such as Karate.