A chapter from a Treatise on the French method of the noble art of self defence, By George d’Armoric 1898.
This portion of the French method is, I believe, the centre of the attraction to the readers and to the witnesses of displays. It is the auxiliary to the French art that seems to throw some darkness, or at least, rather heavy shadows, over the high light of the picture. It is that position which causes objections and angry feelings – the outcome of unreasoned prejudice. And thus this unlucky intruder is ill-received by some, and summarily dismissed by other on the door steps when soliciting an introduction, and this for no other crime than being unknown or misunderstood!
We will try to soften this austerity, this rigid countenance, with our protégé attired in his best “togs” and made quite presentable try to ascend those lofty regions where all that is comme-il-faut dwells – and there crave for the favour of a hearing for his over abused little stranger.
His name is Chausson, the truest, most reliable, and mot sincere kinsman of dame La Boxe – but you, perhaps, have only heard of him before by his sobriquet of la Savate – another injustice. If related to what as you may suppose is low born parent, he may, in good truth prove the he reaches much higher, and, that as a matter of fact this rather ancient relation of his was of unimpeachable birth, and not, as you have hitherto imagines, a frequenter of the gutter.
Savate to day means an old, cast of shoe, ‘tis true, but its meaning was very different in the days or yore, and to answer the numerous enquiries I have received concerning the unfortunate Savate, its real name, real meaning and etymology, I will, with your permission, make a short digression from our real subject. At one time, and, as far as I am aware, even today, the shoemakers of France were or may still be divided into distinct classes.
The Bottier is that specialist in high top boots generally known as Wellington’s, and is pretty high in the scale. The Cordonnier holds a middle level of respectability – but again has his subdivision of rank, as it comprises the makers of boots and shoes of the general character for men and woman. But the Savatier is, or was the first and foremost in this social strata of leatheren fraternity – the premier of his craft, the real artist. It was he that made, and may still be making, the dainty feet of the tair look so bewitching; he is the specialist pour chaussures tine pour dames!
Thus these lovely concoctions of costly materials, something richly embroidered, these sweet and delicate slippers – all these were, in trade parlance, called “Savates,” and the artists a Savatier. It is probable that envy and jealousy may like the French Boxers reach pretty high, for they reached the Savatier and fought him with the most deadly of all weapons – derision and ridicule.
It was too much for him, and he seems to have succumbed; and today the lowest in the ranks have assumed his name, and the cobbler henceforth is known as a Savatier, and the worn out, shapeless, cast off shoe, as une savate – profanation of an art!
And now let us return to our moutons. I am not prepared to assert that the Savateur or tireurs de Savate of old, and originators of the art, wore “Savate” as then understood, I will even go as far as to admit of certain doubts, but I am quite certain that they were not “shod” with the disreputable article as understood today. In all probability they wore light, soft shoes, and only called Savate by courtesy, a commodity at no time everlasting, so that as time went on the covering of their feet resumed its proper and real name of Chausson.
Certain Coups de Chausson have, however, retained their old name of Coups de Savate, such as the Shin Hit, (Coup de Vache) due to the fact that the originators limited their hits to the front of the leg, and only from the ankle to the knee, but since that its movements have been progressive, and today they reach a man’s head and have no desire to go higher.
It will be seen that the suppositions of some writers that La Savate owed its origin to the unscientific kicks of street ruffians and bullies are erroneous. The kick of these is neither Savate nor Chausson.
It would be somewhat difficult to give any definite date as to the birth of this art, but although without positive proofs I feel certain that kicking must be a rather ancient practice, ad that even the early Britons made good use of their power in that direction; and as history give us but scanty information as to the nature of weapon and means of defence, used at times of attach before the stone age, I will submit my belief that those employed by all men were those of nature – his all fours!
What art, sport, or game, can make claim to such lengthy and respectable pedigree? Only in those days it was not, for obvious reasons, call either Savate or Chausson; nor can we ascertain what method was most in use in their fistic efforts; at all events, no one can gainsay that every race, Celtics and Saxons included, have administered a good number of kicks, off and on.
But now, nous avons change tont cela! And this portion of the French Boxing has been brought to an art. Its practice, n the gymnasium or on the platform, rather gives the impression of a dancing room entertainment than a performance for the Ring. It is airy, graceful, and a splendid specimen of mans agility. In assant or contest, the grace, the lightness of the delivery of parnes, and counters, is taken into account. A wilful blow, or a heavy hit, unless purely accidental, is considered unscientific, and may disqualify the hitter; still adepts do not expect to be kept in cotton wool, and may, at times, have to put up with occasional hard knock, and even black eyes; a rather awkward predicament if you are dinning out that day, but these incidents are relatively rare.
Contests are always courteous; a pure question of scientific points only, and never descend to an exhibition of brute strength.
To be a good boxer one must, in this, like in any other method, know his distance and his in-timing, well. The accuracy of distance is to make one sure of good results in attacks and counters – miscalculations is the cause of a miss and its consequences.
As a pastime the art is attractive, exhilarating, and fascinating; as an athletic exercise, it is healthy and useful, and as an appendage to English Boxing it is undeniably invaluable, for it adds to its resources and makes the whole art of self-defence complete.
It not only teachers you what you can do to others, but what you can prevent other doing to you. With it, you are prepared for all emergencies and know where, when and how to ward off any attack.
Surrounded as we are by the Bullies and the Hooligans our first care should be to eradicate these curs, but if found impossible we have but one option, to take up safe means of self defence; and la Savate as it pleases you to call it, has the value of effectively protecting you.
To give you a full theoretical explanation all possible attacks, counters and parries, would need much more spare than this pamphlet allows.
The accompanying illustrations will convey a fair conception of some of the results; all of practical vale.
I have not illustrated any of the Coups Fundamentaux, or showy play, for although graceful and interesting, as a display, they have no practical value.
The higher kicker could do much more in this line, the play being executed with pointed toe, but the real business demands something very different, and deliveries from the side of the foot or heel, have much power, but at the same time require special practice; and even the above mentioned high kicker would find some difficulty in performing these, and his first attempts at side hits will no doubt make him think that a man’s head is mighty high.
A Coup Direct or Toe Hit is seldom indented to reach higher than the belt and mostly used as a counter, or a guard.
The Coup d’arret, or Stop Hit is a power in itself and places the weaker man to better advantage against his stronger opponent.
The Coups Figure, or Face Hit, is most useful and very telling.
Les Coups tournant, or Round Hits, are some of the most powerful of all, they may be landed as high as the foe’s head, but are mostly used as kidney or mark hits.
Le Coup double, also called Coup renverse, executed as a riposte when the opponent has been sufficiently unwise to catch hold of the hitter’s foot is full of resource; it is accomplished by changing the use of the feet for the hands. It is also a useful stop when delivered at the opponent’s mark, if too much inclined to close quarters.
It is always dangerous to catch hold of the opponent’s foot, and if any inclination that way, the adversary will soon take full advantage and bait (tempt) with generally satisfactory results – to the hitter.