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Savate Boxe Francaise

Updated on October 6, 2014

French Boxing

Savate is a combat sport that originated in France about two hundred years ago. It is also known as boxe francaise, French boxing or French foot-fighting.

Savate is a dynamic sport combining traditional French foot-fighting techniques with elements of English boxing. The word Savate actually means an "old shoe". I have heard it used on Paris streets to mean "a kick". "J'ai lui donne un savate" - I gave him a kick. The shoe or boot is fundamental to the sport. In Savate competition, you can't strike with the knee or shin, only with the boot.

Savate is practiced in around 90 countries, but the highest concentration of savateurs is in the home country of the sport, France. The French Federation of Boxe Francaise Savate has more than 50000 members.

This photo was taken by Ollie Batts at a training day, at our club, Cambridge Academy of Martial Arts. It is copyright to Ollie, and can only be used with his permission. See more photos on our website

More than "just a sport"

Savate has two inseparable parts: savate boxe française and savate defense. Savate boxe française, the sport, includes Savate Assaut, Savate Combat and Savate Pro. These are "one-on-one" fighting disciplines, which take place in a ring, with judges, a referee and rules. The fighters, called "tireurs" wear gloves, similar to boxing gloves, and special boots, called chaussures. Savate Defense, however, is a form of self-defense, and as such has no rules.

Other associated disciplines include canne de combat, canne & baton defense. Savate forme is becoming very popular with fitness fans.

Photo by Ollie Batts

Savate Assaut

I took this photo at the University World Championships, in Nantes, 2010.

Assaut is a form of competition in which accuracy, good technique and good control are essential. Contact can be with the gloves or boots, but there should be no force in the "touches". Knock-outs are forbidden in assaut.

An assaut bout can take place in a ring or on a matted area. The bout is controlled by a referee, and judges award points for each round. Bouts are normally of 3 rounds (1.5 or 2 minutes in length) with a short rest between rounds.

Fighters are separated into age and weight categories. In senior competitions, there are usually eight weight categories for men and eight for women.

The most recent World Championships were held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in autumn 2012. The results were:

under 56kg Charles HERBERT (FRANCE)

56/60kg Sinisa ZELKOVIC (SERBIA)

60/65kg Jeff DAHIE (FRANCE)

65/70kg Vincent MICHAUX (FRANCE)

70/75kg Reda KAROUM (ALGERIA)

75/80kg Sebastien CARRE (FRANCE)

80/85kg Kevin MONZA (FRANCE)

over 85kg Brahim ANNOUR (FRANCE)


under 48kg Sarah HAMOURIT (ALGERIA)

48/52kg Marion TROUILLET (FRANCE)


56/60kg Marina HORVAT (CROATIA)

60/65kg Marlene CIESLIK (FRANCE)

65/70kg Helene LELANT (FRANCE)

70/75kg Adeline BOUCHET (FRANCE)

over 75k Melissa QUELFENNEC (FRANCE)

Savate Assaut on Video

This is my video of some of the fights from the 2007 European Championships, which took place in Tournai, near Lille.

Savate: French Foot Fighting - by Bruce Tegner

Savate : French Foot Fighting was probably the first book written about Savate in the English language. It includes historical information and practical application.

Savate: French Foot Fighting
Savate: French Foot Fighting

This is a classic book - a must for any Savate practitioner


Savate Assaut Gala, London - February 2013

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013
Photo copyright: Andrew Wood, Feb 2013

Savate Books

There are many Savate books available in the French language, not so many in others. But, if you look carefully, you can find some excellent Savate books in English.

Les bases de la savate boxe francaise et des boxes pieds-poings (French Edition)
Les bases de la savate boxe francaise et des boxes pieds-poings (French Edition)

This excellent book is currently only available in French, however, it is well worth studying if you want to improve your skills in Savate.

La préparation à l'assaut en savate boxe française : Les clés de la performance
La préparation à l'assaut en savate boxe française : Les clés de la performance

Also available only in French, this book explains how to train to improve your technique and tactics - how to be a winner!


Savate Combat

Championnats de France combat Savate 2009
Championnats de France combat Savate 2009

This photo was taken by a friend, Yonnel Kurtz, at the finals of the French championships in 2009. For more of Yonnel's excellent photos, visit his Flickr photostream

Combat is a form of competition in which knock-outs are allowed. Fewer people take part in Combat competitions due to the high level of training and conditioning required.

Combat bouts are fought in a ring, with a referee to control the fight, and judges to give a score, if the fight "goes the distance". In tournaments, the bouts are normally three round of two minutes, but in championships there can be as many as five rounds.

The most recent World Combat Championship Finals were held in Clermont Ferrand, France, in November 2013 and Hainan, China, in December 2013. The results were:

Senior Men

under 56kg Ousmane SARR (FRANCE)

56/60kg Jonathan BONNET (FRANCE)

60/65kg Laurent Olivier CRESCENCE (FRANCE)

65/70kg Georgy FERNANTE (FRANCE)

70/75kg Tony ANCELIN (FRANCE)

75/80kg Damir PLANTIC (CROATIA)

80/85kg Alexey SHACHIVKO (RUSSIA)

over 85kg Fabrice AURIENG (FRANCE)


under 48kg Elisa PICOLLO (ITALY)

48/52kg Margot BOUYJOU (FRANCE)

52/56kg Anissa MEKSEN (FRANCE)

56/60kg Cyrielle GIRODIAS (FRANCE)

60/65kg Julie BURTON (FRANCE)

65/70kg Blandine JOUARD (FRANCE)

70/75kg Nives RADIC (CROATIA)

Junior Men


60/65kg Cedric KHELIF (FRANCE)

65/70kg Jeff DAHIE (FRANCE)

70/75kg Herve KIRCH (FRANCE)

75/80kg Dylan COLIN (FRANCE)

80/85kg Jovan IKIC (SERBIA)

over 85kg Drazen KURAJA (CROATIA)

Savate Combat on Video

A compilation of clips of Savate Combat, including finals of the World Championships. I filmed this at Trebes, France, in December 2007.

Latest News

The qualifying tournament of the European Combat Championships took place on 13th & 14th June 2014 in Bugeat, in Correze, France.

Taking part in combat sports

I took this photo at the semi-finals of the French Championships in Lorient, March 2013.

Do you participate in a combat sport?

See results

World Youth Championships

Children and young people can participate in Assaut competitions, as fighters and as officials. In July 2011, the first World Championships for cadets were held in France. Boys and girls aged 15, 16 and 17 years took part in two days of competition. This excellent video by Jamel gives a taste of the event.

The second World Youth Championships took place in Karatas, Serbia, 7-11th July 2013

A little history

The history of Boxe Française - Savate is traceable back to the early 1800's. Charles Lecour combined the hand skills of Boxe Anglaise (English Boxing) with French kicking techniques. The kicks were taken from the old fighting methods of savate and chausson. The word "savate" is a slang term for 'old shoe' or 'old boot', while 'Chausson' was the name of a sailor's deck shoe.

The image above is taken from the "Denver Republican" newsaper, published in Denver, Colorado on 20th June 1896. It shows a variety of kicks and other techniques in use at that time.

For a detailed history of the development of Savate, have a look at Ollie Batts'


Savate Fight in 1894

This video shows an early photo animation of a savate fight. Photographed in 1894, it shows kicking techniques similar to those in use today. Hand skills have developed a lot since that time.

More reading on Savate

Including classic books by Bruce Tegner, Salem Assli and Richard Muggeridge

Savate in Germany

Savate is a popular sport in Germany too!

Are martial arts and combat sports good for self-discipline? Or fitness? Is it just a fitness fad? Does martial art training make you more controlled or more violent? What do you think?

Have your say!

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    • brianvallois lm profile image

      brianvallois lm 

      5 years ago

      Self discipline & fitness..

    • ianjames25 lm profile image

      Ian Tamondong 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      A martial art with a significant philosophy behind it produces students who are groomed for self-defense and most importantly...self-discipline. A very good example would be Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I learned TaiChi. Beginner :)

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Sabre1000: Savate has been around a long time!

    • Sabre1000 profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh man Savate!

      The first time I ever heard of that was wayyyyy back in a Captain America comic when he fought Batroc who was a savate expert.

      This was like 1966

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @WriterJanis2: The assaut competition is more technical, with "touch" contact only, so it shouldn't be brutal.

      Thanks for visiting!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      7 years ago

      This look like it could be quite brutal.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @mihgasper: Yes, a well-respected martial art

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      I like tai chi. Depending on the point of view, this too qualifies as martial arts, right?


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