Boxe Française

Excerpt from Salem Assli’s upcoming book ‘‘Savate, French Boxing and Cane’’

...Boxe Française (French boxing) is the fighting art from France. It is the offspring of various systems of street fighting in the late XVIII century, but exploded in popularity as early as 1820.

Before la Boxe Française was officially founded by Charles Lecour in 1838, two main stream systems of empty hand combat were already very popular; La ‘Savate’ and Le ‘Chausson’. Savate was a unique form of street fighting system using all part of the body for striking, while chausson a more mild system is, for the most part, the ancestor of the sport of Boxe Francaise. They were both being taught as a mean of self-defense. It is because of his defeat during a friendly sparring match with Owen Swift, a famous English prize rule fighter and author of several books on the subject, that Charles Lecour came up with the clever idea to combine chausson and Savate with English boxing, and created la boxe Française.

Following this event, the next few decades will see tremendous changes in the art of Boxe Française, partly due to the social events and the colorful masters of this time period. It is finally with the advent of the publishing of Joseph Charlemont’s book “l’Art de la Boxe Francaise”, that it will become a codified ring sport.

Boxe Française is extremely graceful and beautiful, its elusive footwork combine with outstanding combinations make it a highly effective method of combat that Bruce Lee himself was very fond of.  It might be compared to fencing, but using the hands and feet instead of a sword as a weapon. According to Charlemont's original definition; “La Boxe Française is the art of personal defense using arms and legs, feet and fists as powerful weapons”.

During practice or competition, the “tireurs” (in English ‘shooters’) wear specially designed shoes for kicking. The shoe is the primary weapon in Boxe Française, and it can become a deadly weapon in a street-fight. La Boxe Française is strong on traditions; however, it is continually evolving, a living method of constant progress and refinement. But despite the fact that Boxe Française is an excellent and proven method of self-defense, its street application has always been considered secondary by the F.F.B.F.S., as they see Boxe Française above all as a sport of competition. La Savate on the other hand is being use exclusively for street fighting/self-defense.

So one can ask, if Boxe Française is a subset of La Savate, why would any martial artist be interested to studying Boxe Française? The answer is that Boxe Française develops attributes that aren’t necessarily emphasized in Savate. Timing, distance, precision, fluidity, and footwork are the foundation of the art of Boxe Française, and all that, Bruce Lee understood it right away. When he got his hands on the Black Belt issue of March 1967, he immediately rendered three of the pictures as drawings in his notes the Tao of Jeet Kune.

In my opinion, la Boxe Française Savate as it is known today should be part of the training of all martial artists who strive to be complete, especially kickboxers, MMA fighters and therefore all serious Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do practitioners.