Why did France and Britain go opposite in wrestling style philosophy? Considering Savate VS Boxing was often an argument of kicks vs fists?


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Jan 3, 2017
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As a someone who just started exploring Savate, a common meme I notice across internet articles and historical texts is not only just how ingrained was the Boxing vs Savate is in nationalistic rivalries esp France VS Britain.......... But it becomes a reflection of kicks vs punches and later on complete striking system vs fists only after boxing was added into Chausson styles.

Just like how when karate and other styles were being introduced to North America and the UK resulted in trash talk between boxers and Greco-Roman and American derivatives wrestlers vs Asian martial arts, lots of bouts took place in the 60s-70s and the pattern was almost similar to Savate in that the "arms" only Westerners would defeat other Western practitioners of karate and kung fu and other exotic Asian styles. For much the same reason formalized Chausson professors did (lack of physical conditioning by most instructors and inexperience with dealing with fury of quick close range strikes tied with lack of footwork along with overcrippling specialization in this case kicks and overemphasis on flashy impractical techniques among a bunch of other stuff too many to mention here).

The pattern basically parallels Asian martial arts in the West. In order for many American and European TKD practitioners and other "Traditional" Asian stylists to survive against pro-boxers and wrestlers, they adopted a bunch of stuff from the Western fighting styles such as boxing punches, wrestling, stances, etc and eventually they were able to defeat boxers and wrestlers when they were able to combine long lost techniques still existing in Western sports that were removed from their "traditional" Asian martial arts.

Much like how after Lecour re-introduced punches and other basic boxing fundamentals into chausson and was able to train fighters who could defeat British boxers including a few regional champs with relative ease and thus transformed chausson into the modern sports variant called Boxe Francaise (and eventually leading to what is now modern Savate).

Of course this didn't end the style vs style arguments and it would evolve into the "complete system vs fists only" debate wars instead of the original "punching vs kicking" argument just as people still continue Boxing VS MMA arguments today and both sides in the Britain vs France style wars cherrypick isolated incidents of Savateurs beating and losing to Boxers and vice versa to prove "my style is the best!" just like it still continues today among MMA and Boxing fans.

With that said I am very curious about one thing. While in striking styles France initially went with pure kicks against Britain's punch only approach and eventually it became an argument of one kind of strikes (punching and other hand-based attacks) vs complete system (which Boxe Francaise created by blending in boxing with kicks and street moves like open palm to the nose and knee to the groin).........

In grappling both countries went the opposite direction. French wrestlers would create the Greco-Roman style which would not only become the dominant style practise in France esp the sports arena but even one of the first sports accepted into modern Olympics and has remain one of the events that has been part of it every year since.

As someone with a brother who practised Greco-Roman wrestling as his primary style in MMA, to sum it up this style of wrestling only allows you to use your arms. You can only do throws, grapples, take downs, and other wrestling moves strictly if your arms is the only thing involved in the moves. Sweeps, ankle locks, even trips and other stuff are forbidden.

In addition the Greco-Roman style does not allow you to tackle someone's legs not does it allow you to pin or submit your opponent with a leg lock or some other hold where you are aiming at the legs during the ground game.

In Britain a whole bunch of wrestling styles came up and they almost all universally allow leg techniques such as sweeps, trips, and more as well rushing at your opponent's legs for a takedown and legholds and some other specific techniques for pins and submission involving controlling the leg.

Some styles of British wrestling even allowed leglocks, leg throws, and a bunch of other stuff only allowed in Asian grappling styles particularly Judo and esp BJJ. At least one local allowing foot steps ,kicks, and stomps

So basically Wrestling went the opposite direction for either countries in contrast to Savate VS Boxing. Britain was the nation that ended up relying heavily on leg techniques while France only went strictly arms-only. Hell much like boxing, today Greco-Roman is the epitome of grappling martial arts in the West esp North America before Judo, BJJ, and other styles were introduced and a lot of the early years of Asian grappling style's introduction involved Greco-Roman wrestlers defeating Western practitioners of Asian styles with ease and quickness. This is actually a large part o the reasons why BJJ was developed-to add in what was often lost in Western dojos regarding grappling and blend it in with Judo and westernized Jujitsu quite similar to how boxing was adopted by Charles Lecour to Chausson's arsenal and many Western karatekas, TKDists, and kung fu artists learned the sweet science after getting KOd so easily within the first few rounds.

A fair number of the early Greco-Roman wrestlers and British wrestling styles did end up with French winners and British wrestlers tended to believe their emphasis on using leg techniques automatically made free style superior. However much like Savate VS Boxing, eventually freestyle became big on using the arms and nowadays Freestyle emphasizes both arms and legs equally. At college levels you need to master the fundamentals of both similar to how Boxe Francaise made it essential to thoroughly train in basic boxing along with Savate kicks in order to compete. So both freestyle and Boxe Francaise became a 50/50 approximate use of legs and arms.

I am curious why did the British and French have opposite mentalities concerning grappling styles esp in wrestling? Why was Britain so much against kicking and insisted on fists only while the French was initially pure kickers and adopted boxing after humiliating defeats? On the other hand where did the French get the idea of just only using your arms for wrestling? While the British despite their looking down on kicks, found it completely acceptable to attack someone's legs for a hold and submission and especially use your legs directly to trip and sweep your opponents and more? Its so silly that one country thinks using your legs to hit someone is unmanly and useless as a technique but also believe using your legs to unbalance someone is OK in a grappling match! While at the same time I cannot believe that a country that initially relied purely on kicking for its martial arts and later adopted punches because of defeats in the ring would emphasize "hands based wrestling" as the proper style while thinking trips and aiming at the legs is ungentlemanly and inefficient!

Can anyone explain why the French and British went completely in different directions with grappling in contrast to their emphasize on striking? Its unbelievable as you'd think Britain would be the one to invent Greco-Roman wrestling and France with Savate's emphasize on kicks would prefer to create Freestyle! But instead its the other way around! Why???!!!!


Sr. Grandmaster
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Oct 13, 2006
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I read it (fast reader) and you didn't miss anything, it's a stream of consciousness posting with some strange ideas.
'wrestling style philosophy ', the UK has many different styles of wrestling including stand up grappling so not sure what that's about. I'm positive Savate isn't argued about in the UK, pretty sure none of us compare it to boxing either, kick boxing perhaps but that's not wrestling.grappling

Perhaps the OP could refine and condense the post so we can see what he means?