Savate – How It All Began
People can trace the discovery of Savate or boxe française back to the early 19th century on the streets of France. Derived from street fighting techniques, many sailors began to use high kicks and open-handed slaps when entertaining with casual brawls. One of the primary reasons for this was to adapt to the rocking ships and provide them a means to maintain their balance by holding onto something with one of their hands. Moreover, at the time, fighting with a closed fist was the same as using a lethal weapon under law. To protect themselves from legal issues, they adapted the aforementioned method of fighting. Overtime, this type of fighting was soon coined ‘chausson’. It means slipper in French – a name derived from the type of shoes the sailors would wear.
Around the year 1825, a man named Michel Casseux established a place for savate. In his observation of the kick-centric fighting styles prominent around France at the time, he hoped for his training gym to be a spot where people could refine their kicks more properly, rather than ignorantly throw them out without thought.
Not too long after setting up the first official establishment for practicing savate, one of Casseux’s students – a man named Charles Lecour – brought forth a suggestion. It completely changed and redefined savate from there on out. Having recently lost a match with an English boxer at the time, Lecour realized that many French fighters stood too far at a disadvantage when up against skilled fist-fighters. Mostly because they mainly used their hands for blocking or slapping.
Therefore, to mitigate these limitations, Lecour moved to England to receive proficient training in boxing. Two years after, he returned to France and incorporated everything he had learned into the French kicking fighting style. He eventually established what we know as Boxe Francaise or Savate.