Boots and Self Protection in the Civilian Environment

By T B Butler

© T B Butler 2007


By ” Boots” I mean any sturdy shoe or boot that provides good protection to the foot. Some trainers can be strong enough to protect the feet when kicking especially the cross trainer types of shoe. The common trainers are less effective in my opinion BUT are better than bare feet!

Wearing sturdy shoes/boots provides an effective close combat weapon, which is often overlooked by an attacker. Indeed many attackers in my view concentrate on intimidation by being close up and threatening from very short range staring into the face. A sturdy shoe/boot slammed into the shin comes as a nasty surprise and totally changes their game plan! The kicks, described in this article, are best used from very close range and especially when the victim is seized in some manner,e.g. a front bear hug.

Mike Calvert of WW2 British Army fame is reputed to have killed a bare footed Japanese soldier when wearing his boots(!) whilst bathing in a river. He considered that his boots gave him a major advantage .

They should be of medium weight to aid speed with a prominent welt and heel, firm toe and non slip sole (not leather soles). Traditional leather shoes,e.g. English Brogues, with non leather soles such as commando ones are the sort that are suitable. “Chelsea Boots” are also ok. Steel toe capped safety boots are not really necessary under normal street conditions! They may also be difficult to justify in law unless you need them for work. Some statistics apparently show evidence that kicks cause more damage than other “tools”.

Boots are better than shoes since they don’t come off so easily. The early street Savate  was performed whilst wearing boots, sometimes hobnailed!

Targets are the lower leg/shin, top of the foot and the knee cap. The impact surfaces of the boots are the edges and heels. A straight  toe kick into the shins can also be effective but does need accuracy. The kick should be kept low and direct smashing into the shin and legs.

In this  example a scrape down the attacker’s shin, with the outer or inner edge of the boot, Figure 1& 2, is extremely painful and takes a long time to heal. Also the effect of this type of kick can be increased by “walking” onto the shin as the scrape is performed.

Fig 1

Fig 2

Savate kicks such as”Coup de Pied Bas” ( a low kick in which the inner edge of the shoe clad foot is slammed into the shin), Figures 3,4,5,  “Fouette bas” (low snapping roundhouse type kicks ) into the knee/thigh area and the “Chasse bas ” (a low stomping /thrusting type of kick) can be very effective.

Fig 3

Fig 4


A ” high Coup de Pied Bas” direct to the underside of the knee cap is also a powerful strike.

Fig 6

Stomping versions of these kicks are especially useful for women if seized in a bear hug in potential abduction. Even whilst wearing light shoes with high heels, such as a “stiletto” heel can be stabbed onto the top of the attacker’s foot. Also a light shoe scrapped down a shin is painful.

These kicks can be very difficult for the attacker to avoid. Generally he will be concentrating on securely holding a struggling victim and smashing a boot edge into the shins or a heel onto the top of the foot comes as a very nasty surprise.

An effective technique is : knee to groin, slamming the leg back down and scrapping the shin (with the boot edge) and/ or slamming the heel into the top of the foot.

Another old street Savate kick is the straight leg (knee NOT bent) swung from the hip with the toe impacting into the crutch, this can be a devastating kick -fig7 (1). In training, kicking with light power, the author managed to penetrate the pad and bruise his training partner.

For reasons of surprise and speed the leg is NOT drawn back before striking (“Chambering”), NB: a “concealed” chamber can be achieved by stepping forward a little with the NON kicking leg, leaving the kicking leg behind. Targeting can be difficult since it is necessary that the body is facing the kicker and legs open.

Fig 7

This author believes that many of the 19th Century street Savate kicks, in boots, were intended to be one shot stoppers. The aim was to break the leg.

A low “Revers” (crescent type kick) impacting with the front edge of the heel to the knee can be very effective, Figures 8-10; it can be very fast and totally unexpected . The author was taught this kick by a friend some thirty years ago, who served in the French Army and had been trained in Savate and seen it used in practice. Indeed the same friend also said that the “Fouette” he’d been taught also used the front edge of the heel as the impact point as well as the toe.

Fig 8

Fig 9

Fig 10

Also as a general point unless very practiced (and fast) in kicking it is better to cover the kick by opening with hand strike or feint prior to unleashing a kick(s). This is especially so when, if attempting a stamping kick by raising the leg prior to a stomp; this can alert the attacker that a stomp is coming.

These kicks are not lethal strikes and therefore are better from a legalistic viewpoint than those aimed at, for example, the throat or head region.

Whilst such kicks delivered by a powerful man in hobnails can break legs this is unlikely to be so for the average victim in a normal street environment. What such kicks will do is cause considerable and immediate pain enabling the victim to break free and either run away or use other strikes to disable their attacker.

What the victim must NOT do is stand there goggling at the now hurt, angry, and thoroughly aroused attacker hoping he will  stop – he may not!  As soon as the kicks have been delivered and the victim cannot for some reason run off, if the villain hasn’t collapsed but is still attempting to renew the attack, despite being partially disabled, he must be rendered unable to renew the assault.


 1 Unarmed Combat by James Hipkiss, 1941 (“Popular Edition”), Pub F W Bridges, London

2. DVD Defense Dans La Rue Volume -1 Savate Street Kicking  by Craig Gemeiner, 2005


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