September 4, 2022

Savate vs Kickboxing: A Comparative Analysis

There are several distinct fighting styles in the world, and people of every corner practice these. Savate and Kickboxing are two such fighting styles that have been popular in many countries for several years. These are both forms of hybrid martial arts or freestyle fighting and involve punching and kicking. Because of their similar styles, there’s confusion sometimes.

Both martial arts involve a set pattern which is not easy to master mainly because of the different traditional styles that are so closely weaved into it each form. While Kickboxing lays emphasis on kicking and punching, Savate is French footing fighting which mainly involves precise kicking techniques.   

Let’s look at each style in detail to find out which one kicks harder. 

History and Origin

When one thinks of France, they think of the Eiffel tower. It isn’t very likely for people to be talking about martial arts while talking about this captivating country. But from the many revolutions, World wars, and anarchy sprung the fierce form of martial arts called Savate. 

The roots of Savate can be traced back to Pankration, which was a Greek fighting style. It is commonly referred to as Boxe Francaise in French and was founded by Charles Lecour in 1838. The direct ancestors of Savate are le Chausson and la Savate.

Vintage engraving of a contest between the english boxer Jerry Driscoll and the french Savate figher Charles Charlemont. L’Illustration, 1899

Both of these were freestyle fighting, which mainly included self-defense techniques using different body parts to strike. Later, Charles Lecour got inspired by English boxing and incorporated some of its techniques in le Chausson, thus giving birth to Savate.

Many believe that if someone wants to learn about martial arts, they should start their journey from Japan. Japan is one of the world’s toughest countries, and traditional Japanese martial arts have inspired many fighting styles. Kickboxing is one such fighting style inspired by Karate and boxing. 

It is the South Asian martial art form of Muay Thai from which Kickboxing sprouted. After it reached North America in the 1970s, it underwent many changes and was referred to as Kickboxing henceforth.  


Kickboxing is a contact sport where maximum force is used for kicking and punching. People mainly practice it for self -defense and fitness. Boxers use continuous kicks and various striking techniques to put down their opponents.

Being a fusion of Muay Thai and Western boxing, it involves different types of kicks such as Front kick, Axe kick, Sidekick, Hook kick, Spin kick, and Round kick. 

On the other hand, Savate is a street style of fighting, which mainly uses hands and feet for defense and offense. The sport is arranged in levels, and the color of the gloves decide at which level the fighter is. The fighters are judged on their footwork and scored on the basis of their kicks of various forms. 

Even though both Kickboxing and Savate are combat sports and are used for self-defense, they are key differences. Kickboxing is a coalition of many martial arts and mainly stress on kicking, punching, and striking techniques. It has no levels like Savate and is a hybrid form of martial arts practiced in America, Japan, Thailand, and many other parts of the world. 

Savate is a traditional French boxing style in which fighters throw kicks at the shin. They wear specially-made shoes for the sport, which can prove to be deadly during street combat. 

Clothing and gear

Both Savate and Kickboxing require almost similar clothing and equipment. Essentials in both martial arts are boxer shorts and protective equipment like gloves, headgear, mouth guard, and shin pads. 

Unlike other martial arts, Savate requires its athletes to wear specially designed shoes; these are very important as the sport mainly involves kicking, whereas Kickboxing is performed barefoot. 

Which is more effective? 

Savate and Kickboxing are two very different fighting styles, and under their set rules can easily beat each other. But Kickboxing is more effective when it comes to combat sports.

As Kickboxing focuses on kicks, punches, and striking techniques, in a one on one combat, it can take on any other fighter with ease. Kickboxers use their knees and elbows to clinch the opponent making it difficult for the latter to move.

In the case of street fighting, Savate has better techniques than Kickboxing. It mostly makes use of low kicks and has a well-formed defensive system. Savate fighters maintain greater distances that helps them employ powerful moves and protects them from injury. 

Which is better for a street fight?

In street fighting, Savate rises as the clear winner. It was born from multiple street-fighting ways practiced by people in France throughout the 17th century. It involves punching, kicking, wrestling, and grappling. 

The footwork of Savate is well known, and this is what makes it a powerful self-defense method also. Its well-defined techniques help fighters create hundreds of combinations that they can use against their challengers. 

Fighters are taught to adapt to change and can easily calculate the moves and speed of their opponents. It is a sport profoundly based on boxing, and its strong counterstrikes make it the best method for street fighting.  

Which is best for self-defense? 

Even though Savate began as a form of self-defense, Kickboxing is considered to be more effective. Muay Thai is considered one of the best martial art styles for self-defense, and since Kickboxing is a direct descendant of it, it beats Savate in this angle. Being a hybrid form of martial art involves Muay Thai, Karate, and Western boxing. 

There is nothing more damaging than a kick, and just as the name suggests, it involves a series of quick kicks and punches for self-defense. During self-defense, kicks and punches take command, and a strong punch can bring down even a professional fighter, let alone an inexperienced one. 

Apart from being a useful fighting technique, it also makes it easier for trainers to get into more traditional Kung fu or Karate styles. Fighters use muscle memory to train; they reportedly perform the same move multiple times until their body memorizes it. This technique helps them react quickly as they don’t need to think twice before making a move. 

Which is more popular? 

Today both Savate and Kickboxing are widely practiced, but Kickboxing gained popularity before Savate. Kickboxing involves techniques from different South Asian countries and Western boxing; thus, it quickly gained recognition in Asia and America. 

The World Kickboxing Federation provides a platform for athletes where they can showcase their skills to the world. Being a popular self-defense technique, it has slowly made its way into most countries.

On the other hand, Savate is a popular sport in many European countries and is being promoted in the US and Australia through different federations. 

Which is easier to learn?

All martial arts have specific techniques that need to be followed while training, and one needs continuous practice to master any form of martial art. But out of Kickboxing and Savate, Kickboxing is easier to learn.

 Both are very similar in style, but Savate has stricter techniques and can take a longer time to learn. The footwork involved in Savate can be challenging for beginners as it requires one to throw lower kicks while simultaneously using their hands. With every rising level in Savate, techniques become tougher to learn.

 In contrast, certain moves in Kickboxing can be learned in weeks. It follows a set pattern but is much simpler to learn than Savate, which is a more traditional form of martial art.

 To learn the basic moves, all one needs is a punching bag. Landing kicks on a stationary target helps in gaining precision. Being a combat sport, it needs to be practiced with others who are learning Kickboxing; this makes the fighter’s judgment sharper. 

Which one should you learn?

The answer to this question lies in the purpose of learning the martial art. For those who want to learn self-defense moves, Kickboxing is a better option out of the two. This is simply because the technique is useful, and at the same, it is easier to learn. It is a good sport for those who want to remain in shape or plan to take up a contact sport. Apart from teaching one how to defend themselves, it also helps strengthen the muscles and builds agility. 

Alternately, Savate is a martial art form mainly for people who want to take up fighting professionally. Much of it is inspired by English boxing, but the challenging footwork makes it a thing of interest mostly for those who want to gain expertise. The sport includes performing empty-handed techniques while jumping or standing, and there are many other skills taught to trainers under different names.

Savate is also an effective self-defense method as it originally was used for defense, but its fusion with boxing has made it more of an expert fighting technique. Nevertheless, Savate fighters have immense self-control and can confidently strike a deadly blow.


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