Saturday, February 07, 2009

Independent Bangladesh - Savate: The French Martial Art



Boxe Francaise savate, which roughly means "fencing with the feet and hands," is the national sport of both France and Spain. Developed in the 1800s on the sailing ships and back streets of France, boxe Francaise savate has become a highly effective means of self-defense and reality-based full-contact "kickboxing" sport. In fact, since some of its kicking methods are potentially lethal, they have been banned in modern-day competition.
Originally looked down upon, and thought of as an art of hoodlums and common thieves, savate, "French foot fighting," was mixed with English boxing to become boxe Francaise savate, the chosen art of the gentlemen and scholars. Boxe Francaise savate became highly developed and widespread until the start of the First World War. As a result of the large number of casualties inflicted by the war, many of the top savateurs were killed, and the art, too, almost met with extinction. Thanks to the effort and dedication of one of the remaining savateurs, Count Pierre Baruzy, who is credited with the rebirth of boxe Francaise savate, this art is once again blossoming in France and much of Europe, and to a lesser extent the United States. In fact, there are discussions on the table about boxe Francaise savate become an Olympic demonstration sport.
The first on-going instruction of boxe Francaise savate in the United States came through the efforts of a man named Daniel Duby. Duby’s instruction sparked interest in the art, especially in southern California, and because of his work many people became aware of the French art in this country. Boxe Francaise savate has enjoyed greater exposure as a result of the teaching efforts of Jean-Noel Eynard, Salem Assli, Francis Echenard, Barry John, Steve Crane, Jerry Bedka, Mike Young, and Nicolas Saignac and the promotional efforts of Fred Degerberg, and Dan Inosanto.
Boxe Francaise savate made its first large-scale U. S. appearance in October of 1988, with the First U. S. Savate Championships. The event, sponsored by the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts and Fitness, was held at Chicago’s Limelight club. There were well over 700 spectators in attendance at the ten full-contact events. Well-known guests in attendance included former boxing world champion, Tony Zale, taekwondo Olympic gold medalist, Arlene Limas, three-time French savate champion, Pascal Malis, and arnis grandmaster, Leo T. Gaje.
The Second U. S. Savate Championships, sponsored by the Southern California Savate Club, was held in March of 1989, at The Strand on Redondo Beach, California. This was another successful event, featuring ten full-contact bouts with well over 500 spectators. Well-known guests in attendance included former kickboxing champion, Blinky Rodriguez, pencak silat master, Paul DeThouars, ten-time European savate Champion, Richard Sylla, and Dan Inosanto.

What a Difference it Makes
How does boxe Francaise savate differ from other martial arts? The answer: It’s philosophy, uniform, ranking structure, kicking methods, and rules of competition. Boxe Francaise savate, not unlike other martial sports, is mainly concerned with sparring practice and training geared toward full-contact competition. In fact, after one has attained the level of silver glove (equivalent to a black belt), the savateur rarely does more in practice than spar. It is this training and hard-core mentality that makes boxe Francaise savate so devastating, in and out of the ring. The uniform of the savateur is simple.
All practitioners wear a one-piece, multi-colored tunic, ten-ounce boxing gloves, and hard-tipped kicking shoes. The tunic is made of a Spand-X type of material which allows for the judges to see clean technique, as well as a clear view of the targets being struck. The shoes are similar to those worn by wrestlers, with an extra support around the ankle, a flat rubber sole, and a hard toe kicking surface.
Rank in boxe Francaise savate is achieved on two levels: technical and competitive. Distinction of rank is worn on the practitioner’s tunic via a patch of a colored savate/boxing glove.
The structure of the technical rank progresses as follows: blue, green, red, white, yellow, silver (first through third degree). This is followed by the title "professeur" of savate. Rank is awarded on the basis of a savateur’s technical ability to perform the individual techniques and combinations correctly, and not on one’s fighting skill or competition abilities.
The structure of the competitive rank progresses as follows: bronze glove and silver glove (first through fifth degrees). Ranking at this level is awarded based on not only the technical skills of the practitioner but on his win-to-loss ratio in full-contact competition.
There are three types of teaching certificates which can be awarded. These are initiateur (apprentice), moniteur (instructor), and professeur (highest instructor). A gold glove is awarded only to those possessing exceptional skill and merit.
The kicking techniques of boxe Francaise savate are unique in structure when compared to the mainstream Asian martial arts. Many of the kicks are designed to be used both offensively and defensively, on either the low, middle, or high lines of attack. Moreover, all kicking methods can be employed as a means of displacing an opponent’s balance, making him vulnerable for a follow-up strike of your own.
Competition in boxe Francaise savate is categorized by weight class, age, and gender. Legal target areas for kicking techniques include the front and side of the head, body, and limbs, and may be directed to either the high, middle, or low lines of attack. Illegal target areas include the nape of the neck, the top and rear surfaces of the head, and the chest of females.
Legal targets for punches include the front and sides of the head and upper torso. For punching techniques, any strikes delivered lower than the pelvic region-or the chest of women-is strictly prohibited. There is no limit to the use of kicking combinations used during a competitive bout. However, there are limits to the use of punching combinations. All punching techniques must be executed in combination with kicking techniques (e.g., punch-kick or kick-punch).
There are three competitive stages in boxe Francaise savate: assault, pre-contact and contact. Assault competition is a contest wherein physical contact is limited, much like point karate competition. The fight is judged by a competitor’s delivery of techniques, precision of strikes, and their proper control. This level of competition keeps the risk of injury to a minimum, and aesthetic quality high. The so-called pre-contact competition level is a contest wherein contact to the body is allowed. However, the donning of protective equipment, such as headgear and shin guards, is mandatory.
While competition at this level is exciting, injuries are kept to a minimum.
Contact competition level is a full-contact contest wherein no protective gear is worn by the combatants, with the exception of a mouth piece and groin cup. In this type of match, all strikes to legal target areas, as well as knockouts, are acceptable. A competitor may receive three standing eight-counts through the course of a bout. However, on the third standing eight-count, a competitor will be considered technically knocked out, and the match is concluded.
There are many martial arts that teach self-defense. There are many that stress point-sparring competition or kickboxing. However, there are none as diverse as boxe Francaise savate, a French martial art and sport stressing practical self-defense and three competition levels. From the technical practices of those who do not wish to enter into competition, to the pin-point accuracy of swift kicking techniques, boxe Francaise savate stands complete as both a martial art and martial sport along side its Asian counterparts.
There are quite a number of kicks in le savate, just as there is a great variety of blows in English boxing, any one of which may knock out an opponent. One of these is known as the coup de pied tournant, which, because of the rapidity which it is delivers, is on of the most dangerous. In striking, the savatier turns half around and with the full swing of his body to land a long, sweeping kick on your head. This blow can be countered in two ways. In the one, the head can be guarded by the warm just as it would do if a blow were aimed with fists. The other, which requites considerable dexterity, is to so suddenly duck, and, as your opponents leg flies over your head, to lash out at this head with your fist. In this way, your blow is likely to upset his balance, because of this impetus which his own kick has given his body.
But the kick is generally performed so quickly, and I generally preceded by such clever feinting, that it requires great quickness of eye and nimbleness of a body to guard it. The most deadly kick of all, however, is one which one writer has not inaptly likened to a cavalry charge, and which is called the cross kick. "This vicious sample of the chausson", says a French writer in an article contributed to Pearson’s Magazine, "is delivered with a rush, impetus behind strength, and weight behind impetus.
Moreover, there are only two ways of frustration this attack: either to dump your two hands on the advancing foot, not to get out of its way. A beginner will find the getting-out-of -its-way parry the safer." The most ornamental trick of all, however, is the coup fundamental. To again quote from the article mentioned: "it is to la savate what the tail is to a peacock - chiefly for ornament. It plays round your head like summer lightening, taps your chest and pats your cheek.
It is the kick by which suppleness, stability, and quickness, may be maintained. In other words, it is practised to give ease and grace to the muscles. A good example of this kick is to be seen in a trick which seems to be common property among the professors. An assistant stands with a cigarette and holder in his mouth.
Crouching like a timer ready for the spring stand the professor measuring his distance. After a few preliminary passes, his god gains speed, and darts here, there, and everywhere with appalling recklessness, apparently just missing the vulnerable parts by the sixteenth of an inch. As soon as the bolting foot has been pulled up and got in hand, however, it settles down to business.
The settling down consists of three separate and distinct blows; a which sideways knocks off the ash, a downward blow releases the cigarette, while an upward stroke sends the holder flying across the room. This is but a picture of the chausson in a playful mood." In a combat there are all sorts of ways in which a combination of the hands and feet can be employed.
Sometimes the professor will very the proceeding by falling lightly upon this hands, supporting the body with his arms, and landing a powerful kick on the throat, or the shin. Sometimes a feint with the hands precedes a kick with the feet, and sometimes, vice versa; and at another time, the professor will, maybe, surprise you by catching the leg you are standing on with the back of his heel, and jerking you off your balance. Every movement is delivered like lightning, and only years of practise make perfect.

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