Savate is a combat sport that combines graceful kicking techniques and English boxing. It is a French kickboxing sport that also goes by the names boxe française, savate boxing, French boxing or French footfighting. Apart from boxing techniques, what distinguishes savate from many combat sports and martial arts, is that only foot kicks are allowed. The French word means ‘old shoe’. The early days of savate go back to the beginning of the 19th century when it was more of a type of street fighting common in Paris and the northern parts of France. In the south of France, sailors developed a different style of fighting in the port of Marseille. This style involved high kicks and open-handed slaps. The latter was to avoid a closed fist as this was considered a deadly weapon with legal penalties consequently. The style of combat became known as jeu marseillais (game from Marseille), and later changed to chausson. Meanwhile, over in England and the home of boxing, kicking was considered unsportsmanlike.
Michel Casseux and Charles Lecour are two key historical figures who can be credited with taking the sport from street fighting to the modern version we are familiar with today. Casseux opened the first establishment in 1825 and despite banning several techniques, it still could not shake the street fighting image. It was Lecour, a pupil of Casseux, who watched an English boxing match in France and later became further exposed through sparring with one of those boxers. He later trained in the art of English boxing and having learnt the new skill, integrated the two arts of boxing and chausson to create a new version of savate. Later a form stick fencing was added, but those who train purely for competition, omit this aspect. Savate was eventually codified by Count Pierre Baruzy, who is seen as the father of the modern version of the sport. Savate fighters wear specially designed boots, and a male practitioner is called a tireur, while a female is called a tireuse. As with all sports, the objective is recognition by the IOC and in 1924, it formed part of a demonstration event at the Olympic Games in Paris. It has not yet been recognised by the IOC but is by the International University Sports Federation (FISU).
The Fédération Internationale de Savate (FISav) is the highest authority and international governing body for the sport with their headquarters based in Thiais, France. The sport is fast-growing and one of the main tasks for FISav is to ensure the integrity and reputation remains in place as the participation expands to new member nations worldwide. The objective is official recognition by the IOC and inclusion in a future Olympic program, which is regarded as just a matter of time. FISav also oversee World Tour tournaments, Continental and World Championships.