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Savate

Savate (sometimes called boxe Francais) is a French art of foot and fist fighting that dates back to the 19th century. Savate has two possible origin stories.

One story states that French troops learned kickboxing skills from Chinese armies and fighters over the years. The French version explains that during the French Revolution (1789-99), French navy personnel developed chausson, a gymnastic game of foot fencing that became a local street game in Marseille, Aubagne and Toulon.

In Paris, the art of foot fighting became known as la savate (author Alexandre Dumas was supposedly an expert).

In the Basque region, there’s a kicking and walking-stick art called zipota that is believed to be an offshoot of savate’s known cane-fighting skills. The ancient Visigoth warriors, who learned their fighting techniques from the Chinese via the Huns, might have influenced zipota.

Though savate is largely renowned for precision kicks to the body’s vital points, savate’s hand techniques are similar to Western boxing. It’s a popular full-contact ring sport in Europe.

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  1. Savate: The French Manly Art of Self-Defense (Part 2)

    Savate: The French Manly Art of Self-Defense (Part 2)

    In Part 2 of this classic Black Belt article from 1967, the founder of the French Federation of Karate and Associated Disciplines describes the techniques, training, power-generation methods, rank structure and competition rules used in savate.
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  2. Savate: The French Manly Art of Self-Defense

    Savate: The French Manly Art of Self-Defense

    In March 1967, Black Belt gave the martial arts world its first in-depth exposure to savate. Read the first part of the article here, then pick up a copy of the April/May 2013 issue to learn how the French fighting art influenced Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do.
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  3. Dr. Mark Cheng’s Top 10 Martial Arts for Self-Defense

    Dr. Mark Cheng’s Top 10 Martial Arts for Self-Defense

    Almost every day at Black Belt, we’re asked the same question: “What’s the best martial art for self-defense?” To find out the answer, we asked Dr. Mark Cheng, an expert in Chinese medicine and martial arts.

    “I chose the following arts because of my personal experience with them,” Dr. Mark Cheng
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  4. La Canne: Savate’s Walking-Stick Weapon Art

    La Canne: Savate’s Walking-Stick Weapon Art

    By the 19th century, the walking stick had become the hallmark of distinction, authority and strength. For the gentlemen of the era, it was not only an indispensable fashion accessory but also a source of confidence, security and nonverbal deterrence on the streets of Europe. In its various designs and
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  5. Antonio Graceffo Travels to Thailand (Part 1)

    Antonio Graceffo Travels to Thailand (Part 1)

    Antonio Graceffo takes you to the other side of the world in this video supplement for his Destinations column, appearing monthly in Black Belt magazine. In Part 1 of his trip to Thailand, he discusses martial arts training and the variety of styles available to partake in, including muay Thai,
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  6. Savate: From The Back Alleys Of France To The Martial Arts World

    Savate: From The Back Alleys Of France To The Martial Arts World

    Most martial artists know that savate is the official fighting art of France, but beyond that, they would probably be hard-pressed to recite any details about the style. That’s unfortunate because it possesses a long and distinguished history that makes it a valuable addition to the world of martial arts.
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