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Canne de Combat - the French Connection

Updated on August 24, 2015

Cane-Fighting, A Dynamic French Sport

Canne de combat is a modern dynamic sport, developed from an ancient French form of self defense. This very French sport places an emphasis on agility, co-ordination and graceful movement, not on aggression. It is often referred to as "La Canne", although this term actually refers to the complete art, including self defense skills, as well as the sporting aspect.

Canne is a product of the history and culture of France, having begun as a method of self-defense taught alongside French boxing. More about the history later.

This photo is copyright of Ollie Batts. It was taken at our gym, in 2009, during the British Championships. See more photos on our website. Please do not copy without permission.

If Cirque de Soleil and Mortal Kombat had Babies...

I filmed this Canne de Combat demo in Trebes, in the south of France, in 2007, during the Finals of the World Savate Combat Championships. Actual competitions take place in a circular "aire", not in a roped ring.

Canne de Combat in the 19th Century - Some history

La Canne developed in early in the 19th century. Around this time, French Gentlemen often carried canes as fashion accessories, but they were also useful for self-defence.

In 1843, Professor Leboucher published a series of lessons on the use of the cane. The practice of Canne continued to flourish throughout the 19th century - it was taught in gyms, schools and in the military services.

During the first and second world wars, the arts of Savate and La Canne came close to extinction when many top instructors were killed. Between the two wars, however, the techniques of canne were taught in a few Savate boxing clubs, and even featured in the programme of national sports in the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Cane fighting techniques of the late 1940s to 1960s were influenced by a small number of highly-skilled individuals, including Comte Pierre Baruzy and Roger Lafond. Maitre Lafond, was born in Paris in 1913, and died only recently. He trained at Joinville-le-Pont. Taken captive during the second war, he was released from a prisoner of war camp in 1945, and was still involved in the sport at the age of 96.

My photo shows an Italian Sword stick on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Latest Developments

Canne de Combat canes are made of chestnut wood. They are very light, slightly tapered, and 95cm long. They come in three weight categories:

1) black, the lightest at around 100g - 125g, is used for competition

2) red, for practice, is a little heavier at 125g - 150g

3) green, for manipulation practice, is between 150g and 190g

Green canes are often engraved and presented to fighters who take part in major championships.

Cannists wear a padded suit and gloves. They also use fencing masks with padded covers for extra protection. The sport was standardized, by Maurice Sarry, in the 1970s.

Fighters compete in a circular arena, with judges raising flags to show points as they are scored.

Sebastien Pilot, a French cannist and wheelchair-user, has been a pioneer of cane-fighting for individuals with reduced mobility. Wheelchair cannists can compete, in equality, with the same striking techniques and regulations. They can also show the same level of combativeness.

World Combat Games - St Petersburg, October 2013

Jon West and Thomas Horstmeyer
Jon West and Thomas Horstmeyer

Canne de Combat attracted a lot of attention at the World Combat Games in St Petersburg, Russia !

Gold medal : Benjamin Latt, France

Silver medal : Peter Nyilasy, Hungary

Bronze medals : Thomas Horstmeyer, Germany, and Matthieu Paquette, Canada

The 2016 World Championships will be in Varazdin, Croatia.

Cane Making & Collecting

Many cannists are interested in the history of canes and fencing, making canes and collecting canes. Participants in canne de combat championships are often presented with engraved canes to commemorate the event.

Make Your Own Walking Sticks: How to Craft Canes and Staffs from Rustic to Fancy (Fox Chapel Publishing) 15 Step-by-Step Woodworking Projects, 25 Topper Patterns from Lora Irish, and Stickmaking Tips
Make Your Own Walking Sticks: How to Craft Canes and Staffs from Rustic to Fancy (Fox Chapel Publishing) 15 Step-by-Step Woodworking Projects, 25 Topper Patterns from Lora Irish, and Stickmaking Tips

In this book, you will find step-by-step projects for beginners, as well as more sophisticated projects for experienced woodworkers. Includes information on the techniques, materials and best types of wood to use.

Canes Through the Ages: With Value Guide (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Canes Through the Ages: With Value Guide (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

With this useful book, you can also find out the value of your canes.


Carving your own Cane

If you enjoy carving, and a looking for a new project, why not carve your own unique cane.

Carving Animal Canes & Walking Sticks with Power (Schiffer Book for Carvers)
Carving Animal Canes & Walking Sticks with Power (Schiffer Book for Carvers)

Learn how to carve animal-handled canes, using power tools. This informative text and more than 180 photos show all the tools and techniques you will need. Includes patterns for fifteen projects including elephant, bear, chimpanzee, horse, dog, cobra, lion and more.


World & European Championships

The first World Championships were held in Ile de Reunion in 2004. Four years later, in 2008, Germany hosted the championships in Frankenburg. From 2012, the World Championships will take place every two years.

There have also been three European Championships: Schiltigheim (France) in 2006, Cambridge (England) in 2010 and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) in 2013.

The 2012 World Canne de Combat Championships took place on 22nd & 23rd September, in Saint Herblain, Nantes, France. The men's category was dominated by the French team, but Slovenia and Germany took medals in the women's event. Results for the 2012 World Championships:

Men: Champion du monde Benjamin Latt (France)

Women: Championne du monde Selenia Claudin-Mabire (France)

The men's and women's team competitions were won by France

The 2014 Championships were held in Budapest, Hungary in September 2014. In the 2014 World Championships, Benjamin Latt (France) and Selenia Claudin-Mabire (France) retained their titles.

Canne de Combat Masks

For safety, fencing masks are used in training and competition. A padded head cover is attached by velcro to give extra protection to the back, top and sides of the head.

Trying A Combat Sport?

Would you like to try a combat sport? If so, which?

See results

Hi, thanks for reading this article on Canne de Combat - Any comments?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      wow, everyday i learn new things however this is one the best!!!!

    • Richard-H profile image


      6 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      I've never heard of cane fighting, but it looks like it would be fun to watch :)

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      I live in France but have never heard of cane fighting. I'll keep my eyes open for this sport in future.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @MaggiePowell: Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have the chance to see Canne de Combat close-up one day!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow... you've brought up all sorts of images in my mind ...of well dressed men who are actually spies. Very cool. Thank you for introducing me to this sport!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for introducing me to this.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I never knew about this sport either, but it's fascinating and looks like it could be enjoyed on lots of different levels.

    • EMangl profile image


      7 years ago

      first time i read about it, interesting!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Never head of this, very interesting! Post some more vids and maybe explain the scoring system? It looks like those canes could hurt!

    • microfarmproject profile image


      7 years ago

      I have never heard of this before. Very interesting!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting! Sounds a lot like 'Silambam'- a South Indian sport

    • Rangoon House profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      I hadn't heard of canne de combat. Thank you for the introduction to it - it was interesting to read of it's background and current exposure. Blessings.

    • KateHonebrink profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a new idea for me - I'm going to show it to my husband - I know he'll love it! Thanks for the info!

    • magictricksdotcom profile image


      7 years ago

      Never heard of this sport until now. Thanks for the information.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      7 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Very interesting. Great topic!

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Really cool stuff and very interesting!

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      7 years ago

      i understood the sport as cane of combat or combat cane. sport is very new to me but now i know it exists. thank you for sharing.

    • Winter52 LM profile image

      Winter52 LM 

      7 years ago

      I have never heard of this sport either but I'm sure that you could burn a few calories! ;)

    • BestRatedStuff profile image


      7 years ago

      This was new for me, it was very interesting.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @LaraineRoses: Hi, thanks for your angel blessings - it's a real encouragement to continue!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Thank you for introducing this sport to us. It is interesting how it came to be a sport. Angel blessings.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @JoshK47: Thanks! It's a great sport!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting, and very cool!


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