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What is savate?

Savate is a one-of-a-kind ring fighting technique that combines English boxing with kicking techniques. Originating in the late 1800s, it was a hand-to-hand combat style developed by sailors and wasn’t considered a lethal fighting form. It’s a modern fighting sport practiced by individuals around the world, and since the combat is done wearing shoes, practitioners need to wear appropriate footwear when they train.

The foot is the sport’s major striking weapon. However, various forms of both kicking and punching are incorporated to protect oneself. When taking the upper body into consideration, savate’s four basic punches are the uppercut, cross, hook and jab.

How is it practiced as a martial art?

Savate involves beauty and grace but is also an effective method of self-defence. In its earliest form, kicking, punching, wrestling, grappling and the use of weapons was practiced, but, as a martial art, it teaches fighting techniques using empty hands. These can be delivered either while standing or jumping.

While training, the savateur (modern practitioner) has to use footwear specifically designed for kicking. The shoes trainees wear are considered their primary weapon. The practitioner attacks their opponent using a combination of strikes and can come up with new strategies involving real strikes and other manoeuvres. Fighters need to adapt to changes quickly while demonstrating their awareness of space and timing while using identifiable footwork.


What is the ranking system used in savate?

The ranks of practitioners are marked by coloured bands on their gloves that must be worn during all official competitions and tests. The ranks are:

  • No colour – Novice
  • Blue glove – Technical rank, first degree
  • Green glove – Technical rank, second degree
  • Red glove – Technical rank, third degree
  • White glove – Technical rank, fourth degree
  • Yellow glove – Technical rank, fifth degree
  • Silver glove (First degree) – Technical rank, sixth degree
  • Silver glove (Second degree) – Technical rank, seventh degree
  • Silver glove (Third Degree) – Technical rank, eighth degree

Practitioners aren’t eligible to compete in competitions until they reach the red glove level. However, even if they’ve earned it, they need to seek permission from their instructor. At the yellow glove level, students should know all of the strikes necessary to attain gloves at the higher levels.

Savate did not start as the respected sport it has become but emerged as self-defence practiced in the backstreets of Marseilles and Paris. It has evolved into a sport whose practitioners understand different phases of a fight while incorporating various defensive and offensive techniques. Students need to master the fundamentals and condition themselves to learn every move to ensure they can become a powerful mixed martial artist.