of Boxing from the mid 18 century along with Wrestling and Streetkicking
was a direct result of social and economic changes brought on by the
Industrial Age. However the methodologies can be traced back to the
earliest Greek Olympics. In France kicking became the antithesis to
English boxing. The breeding grounds were about the Western Mediterranean
where the warmer climate and looser clothing allowed greater freedom
of movement. In Paris and some of the French provinces there was some
streetkicking and others that were influenced by local dance customs
It appears that the first
rational approach to streetkicking started around the beginning of the
French Revolution. It was the French Navy who developed Chausson
(pronounced Shoh-sohn) as a gymnastic game of fencing with the feet.
The term actually means 'slipper' and referred to the sailor's espadrilles.
It became a local street game about Marseille, Aubagne and Toulon.
In Paris the streetkicking
became known as La Savate (pronounced Sav-at) after the time tested
'old shoe' that so often delivered the final crippling blow. It was
not until the Napoleonic Wars did French prisoners of war detained on
convict hulks and their British captors came in direct contact with
Chausson and Boxing.
After the war boxing began
to appear with the Chausson, but with anti-British sentiment it took
nearly two decades before boxing gained acceptance in France.
Meanwhile Chausson enjoyed
a growth period. As a game it had different rules but generally the
kicks and paume (palm) hits were to touch the targets without causing
injury. Paume was a prominent element of the early Chausson and Savate
systems. In self-defence, Chausson was usually used with a knife or
an improvisation tool.
In Paris the streetkicking
of La Savate was used in the poorer quarters and the underworld. It
was this fighting method used by the ex convicts employed by Eugene
Francois Vidocq (1775-1857) the chief of the "Surete Nationale".
They were the first undercover detectives to work in the Parisian underworld
in obtaining information and evidence against felons and special criminals.
From about the 1820s the
activities started to attract the imagination of the young aristocrats.
Dressed in their formal clothes they found entertainment about the cities
music and dance halls. It became the fashion to deal with disagreements
of honour with some simple streetkicking. This was considered more dignified
and expedient than wrestling. Used with the walking Cane, it was very
effective in dealing with muggers and troublemakers.
The most famous instructor
of this period was Michel Cassaux (1794-1869) commonly known as Michel
Pissaux. Born in the Belleville district of Paris, he systemised the
streetkicking methods and named it the 'Art of Savate' and taught it
alongside Canefencing and Paume. He attracted many personalities including
the Duke of Orleans, Count Labattut, Lord Henry Seymore and artist Paul
His most outstanding student
was Charles Lecour (1808-1894). Born in Oissery he opened a salle in
1832 in Montmartre. He was a competitive athlete and an expert at the
Canne and Grand Baton. In 1838 he combined English boxing with French
streetkicking and is acknowledged for founding 'La Boxe Francaise'.
At first conservative Savateurs
did not accept the introduction of boxing. Nevertheless the majority
accepted La Boxe Francaise. Charles and his younger brother Hubert Lecour
(1820-1871) were very successful. Hubert was instrumental in refining
the kicks, punches and integrating grappling.
Their demonstrations were often displayed to music, a concept that was
later developed into a minor non contact gymnastic kicking discipline
of 'Adresse Francaise'. Their classes included nobility, aristocrats
and personalities such as Eugene Sue, Alphose Karr, Theophile Gautier
and the author of The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas.
There were many noted instructors
and one Louis Laboucher (1807-1866) developed many successful savateurs.
One of his students was Giocchino Rossini, the famous Italian Opera
composer. In Italy, a small following of the Laboucher method appears
to have climaxed around 1870.
One of the most charismatic
and competent fighters during the 1850s was Louis Vigneron (1827-1871).
Born in Paris he opened a small salle in 1848. He built a reputation
by teaching the military and beating challengers of any combat discipline.
He acquired the nickname 'Cannonman' by demonstrating the firing a cannonball
from a heavy cannon held on his shoulders to his partner. On the 22
August 1871 with a miscalculation of powder the fatigued cannon exploded
and he and his partner were killed.
In 1853 the military collage
'L'Ecole De Joinville' was established and part of the training included
La Boxe Francaise and stickfencing. This commenced a long association
with the military although it is believed that Chausson was practised
by the French Foreign Legion some twenty years earlier. The disciplines
became cultural arts, and through adventurers,
emigration and movements of the military they found their way across
Europe, Africa, England, Canada and America.
During the second half of
the 19 century physical education and gymnastics became compulsory with
the military from 1853 and boy schools from 1872. It saw the emergence
of international wrestling, the development of French wrestling (Parisian
lutte), and Savate as a sport and personal combat.
One of the most important
Savateurs to emerge in this period was Joseph Pierre Charlemont (1830-1914).
Born in L'Esdain he received his training from Louis Vigneron. He soon
gained a formidable reputation by defeating numerous exponents of various
combat disciplines. He consolidated a defensive and educational system,
revising the military syllabus and instructing recruits from 1865-1870.
In 1893 his son Charles succeeded him and Joseph wrote his famous book
'La Boxe Francaise' which was published in 1899.
Charles Charlemont (1862-1944)
was an advocate of physical culture at an early age. His most famous
encounter and acclaimed by the French was in 1899 when he defeated
boxer Jerry Driscoll. Unfortunately the contest was held in unsatisfactory
conditions and ended in a degree of controversy. Charles became a driving
force in establishing the sport of La Boxe Francaise.
One of Josephs outstanding
students was Victor Casteres (1866-1930) who opened his own salle in
1893. In London 1898 he defeated a boxer in a contest that was personally
judged by the Marquis of Queensbury. He wrote a book on Savate and from
his English promotions the first book in English, 'The French Method'
was written and published by Georges D'Armoric in 1898.
Pierre Vigny (1869-?) and
his brother Eugene operated a school in Geneva and in 1900 he moved
to London where he operated a successful school for several years. He
specialised in the canne and his method that was adopted by William
Barton-Wright (1860-1951) into his "Bartitsu" and adapted
by Henry Lang (1895-?) who taught it to the Indian Police, scouts and
instructors. The Israeli Jewish community adopted Langs book as the
official text for baton self-defence from 1941-1948.
In the 80 years since its
ruthless street fighting origins, Savate has integrated a wide range
of disciplines and has evolved into a professional combat science. It
could be practised as a sport, self defence and for recreation and was
practised in the trenches during the Great War.
From the beginning of the
20-century it created a lot of interest throughout Western Europe. For
the general public it became necessary to construct a simple self-defence
to cater for the non-athletic civilian. During the first quarter many
books and self-defence courses appeared for non-combatants.
La Boxe Francaise was a demonstration
sport at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Its success prompted a promotional
tour to London and in 1927 demonstrations were held at the famous Southwark
boxing stadium, "The Ring". The team created a lot of interest,
but English boxers protecting their own sport labelled the kicking fit
for "women and sissies". This circulated about English sportsmen
and destroyed its acceptance as a gentleman's sport. Further complicating
its image was its vicious reputation with the French apaches (hooligans),
gangsters and the streetkicking practises of the South and East Londoners.
This adverse attitude towards kicking was nurtured throughout English
speaking countries for some three decades before kicking as an athletic
discipline started to gain acceptance.
Ironically it didn't stop
elements being introduced into a number unarmed combat courses. In America
from the late 1920s and throughout the Second World War it was included
in the syllabus taught to the Marines, the F.B.I. and Department of
Justice. In France many of the Resistance were trained in Savate.
After the war a large majority
of traditional folk
arts disappeared from lack of interest. Others continued as if unaffected
by social and economic changes. In southern France, Chausson persisted
but was influenced by wartime unarmed combat methods. This new synthesis
became an underground sub-culture. It was never organised or promoted
and has only persisted through the practise of a minority.
A product of this period
was Alain Jebrayel (1898-1954) who commenced Chausson at an early age
under his father. He became a third generation exponent as passed down
from his grandfather. Athletically, he was a strong person with excellent
muscular control and a 'killer instinct'. After the war he opened a
small salle in Nice named 'Chausson de la Riviera'. He integrated some
commando-unarmed combat that he used as a resistance fighter. Two of
his foremost students Philippe Dufour and Marcel Villenaux continued
teaching after he died in an accident in 1954.
In Paris, after the war,
it was found that many prominent instructors had died and others had
simply lost interest. The Parisian's believed that for the disciplines
to be more widely accepted it was necessary for it be developed as a
Count Pierre Baruzy (1897-1994)
was instrumental in reorganising La Boxe Francaise-Savate (B.F.Savate)
and promoting the sport. He commenced practising under Charles Charlemont
in 1910 and became one of the most enthusiastic and productive savateurs
of the 20-century. Between 1922-1935 he won 11 championships and held
three titles in three weight divisions simultaneously and won two championships
at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. It was Pierre's enthusiasm and perseverance
that the ''Federation Francaise de Boxe Francaise-Savate et Disciplines
Assimilees" was founded with ministerial support. He was honoured
as President and Founder. In 1985 he was made Honorary President of
the "'Federation International de Boxe Francaise-Savate" that
was created for the international promotion of the sport.
Roger Lafond (1913-2011)
was another important Parisian instructor after the Second World War.
He was a third generation exponent whose grandfathers linkage can be
traced back to the Lecours. In 1955 he created "La Panache"
that included some Japanese hand to hand combat. At one stage he operated
the majority of the schools in Paris.
During the mid 1970's the
Chinese-American martial artist Bruce Lee (1940-1973) created a Kung
Fu craze through his movies. This resulted in a global following of
Asian martial arts by the 1980's. These arts varied from combat arts,
to arts of human movement. This variety has offered something in the
martial art spectrum to suit nearly every personality and need. Due
to the variety of applications, there has been an assessment and interaction
of information seeking improved efficiency, safety and knowledge. This
will continue in the future as old and new ideas, Eastern and Western
methods are constantly being challenged and reassessed to achieve a
is now an international kickboxing sport, and with its growth there
is an increase in interest in the traditional and self-defence aspects
of the art. This has placed pressure on the Federation, who with their
concentration on the sport, realise that there are only a few veteran
instructors able to teach Savate and its associated weaponry, as a collective
discipline. To overcome this problem the Parisians established "Savate
Defence" in 1995.
Bridgeman Savate Australia
est.1969, developed an innovative syllabus with an emphasis on recreation
and personal combat. It comprises a collection of integrated skills
from the traditional and contemporary systems of Mediterranean "Chausson"
and "Parisian 'Savate". "Savate Resistance ©"
and "Eurosticks ©" was established to describe the syllabus
in relation to its historical lineage and content.