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.

In Part 2 of this classic Black Belt article from 1967, J. Delcourt, founder of the French Federation of Karate and Associated Disciplines, describes the techniques, training, power-generation methods, rank structure and competition rules used in the French fighting art of savate. “French boxing is a kind of fencing, but with the feet and fists,” says one savate expert. “It aims to develop the beauty of the style and of the gesture, the aesthetics of the movements, and the pleasure of practicing a manly sport.” And like karate, the avowed aims of the masters of the art are to also develop the physical and spiritual qualities of man. There are several other similarities to karate. For instance, outdoor training is very popular with savate enthusiasts. They like to run through the woods, especially through bushes and thorns, to practice lifting their legs high. French boxing is practiced amid an atmosphere of aristocracy and good manners, and with a chivalrous spirit as the aim. With those ideals, the French savate practitioner, like his counterpart in the Japanese martial arts, doesn’t emphasize the physical at the expense of other aspects. The practice of the art is the important thing, not just the pure physical perfection of it. Techniques Savate in recent years has continued to develop. Fist techniques have been introduced more and more of late. The classical posture used to be stiff and static, but now movements are becoming more fluid thanks to the introduction of English boxing techniques.

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The stance is interesting and contrasts with that used in both Japanese and English styles of boxing. The upper body remains upright because French boxers never move into a crouch position, believing that it doesn’t make for efficiency in their style of kicking. They practice with their supporting leg stretched out, while the karate stylist will often bend this leg to get as low as possible. The French kicking position is a beautiful thing to see. The fundamental principle is to have the supporting leg straight, the chest arched and the head upright. The whole body is then flung at the opponent like a bullet. Another important element is to use one arm as a counterweight and hold the other ready to protect against an opponent’s attack. This is the reason there are those marvelous postures of French boxing, with one arm flung to the rear while the leg kicks forward. The kicks are classified as high, medium or low. Like karate, there are front kicks, side kicks and even jumping kicks. But usually one foot is placed flat on the ground and the kick delivered with the other. The kicking foot is shot out like a piston and returned swiftly in preparation for another attack. The body is arched far back to avoid a retaliatory kick from an opponent. Power “Everything depends upon the legs, the stance and how you shift your weight,” says Bernard Plasait, a top teacher and two-time featherweight savate champion of France. He’s the son of a well-to-do manufacturer and is a versatile athlete, being skilled in skiing and the art of cane fighting, which is usually taught along with savate. He’s also a flying enthusiast and pilots his own plane. “Power, speed and impact are most important, Bernard Plasait says. “French boxing can be fought from either side, with the guard on the right or left. We also employ all sorts of combinations and counterblows, feints and stop-kicks.” One of Bernard Plasait’s favorite techniques is the side kick. He explains: “First, the kick is thrown from the side. The balance is established by the speed, with the forward arm protecting you, the chest outward, the head erect, the leg tensed straight and the body on the same plane. To maintain balance, the body must be in a circle around the vertical plane, with the kicking leg still with the heel on the ground. In delivering the kick, the leg shoots out and returns immediately. The power is due to the speed with which the kick is delivered and is augmented by the balance of the whole body.” Training French boxers go through vigorous workout sessions, in which they exercise a great deal. Training to strengthen the abdominal muscles, so necessary for executing the arched-back positions, is important. But power training with weights is never engaged in. A typical session at the gym begins with warm-up exercises, followed by individual workouts and training (like kihon in karate). Then they engage in shadowboxing on four sides, emphasizing quick position changes, rhythm and about-faces. Many of those last exercises look similar to those of karate. This series of exercises is called forme in French, which means the same as kata in Japanese. There are several styles of fighting engaged in. L’assault is a courteous bout judged according to “touches” scored. In tireurs, as in the style of fencing, the boxers try to deliver subtle punches and kicks without any violence. But in Ie combat, blows are struck with power and the bout is for real. Competition Tournaments are widely held in French boxing. There are four great competitions each year: the French Championship, the Paris Match Cup, the University Championships and the Teachers Cup. Bouts take place in a ring similar to that used for English boxing. They last two, three or four rounds, with each round two or three minutes in length. The officials are a ring judge and two side judges. Any combination of kicks can be used in competition, but only two punches in a row can be thrown at any one time in an attack. After two successive punches have been thrown, the boxer must switch to a kicking technique or step back and start his attack over. The following are prohibited: wrestling; holding the opponent’s head; delivering blows with the elbow, knee or head; delivering blows with an open hand or the wrist; and hitting an opponent on the ground. Final decisions are of three types: victory by hors de combat (knockout), victory by points and a draw. French boxers fight in eight weight categories — from flyweight to heavyweight, just like in English boxing. Eight-ounce gloves are worn. French boxers wear close-fitting uniforms. The top is like a T-shirt, but the leggings are similar to the leotards used by ballet dancers, only of heavier material. A soft leather boot with a buffalo sole completes the outfit. Usually, the color of the shirt and trousers are the same as the club’s colors. Rank As with the Oriental martial arts, savate has a grading system. It’s similar to that of judo and karate, with the boxers classified into beginning and advanced ranks. But in savate, the ranks are graded according to gloves: blue, green, red, white and yellow for the lower ranks; and blue, green, red, silver and gold for the higher ranks. The ranks are displayed on the gloves by a stripe around the bottom. The lower ranks have a narrow stripe; the higher ranks are shown with a broader stripe. Ranks are given out after grading tests before a commission of judges. As in judo and karate, a number of women also have taken up the sport. With its emphasis on grace and beauty as well as self-defense, it’s easy to see why savate would appeal to women. However, female savate members are never allowed to compete.

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With the emphasis on grace and manners, and its appeal to a wealthier class of people, it would seem that savate will never enjoy the popularity of the more democratized system of Japanese karate. In today’s environment, with its mass entertainment and mass audiences, this old emphasis on the aesthetic tastes and good manners of the aristocrat seem touchingly out of date. Yet savate members insist it’s possible to retain its values and still seek a wider audience. And they are setting out to prove it. (To read Part 1 of this article, click here.)
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: or go to

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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