Which Has the Best Kick: Savate or Muay Thai?


In my post on the shoe as a weapon, I began thinking about kicking. If you read this blog you know that I am a believer in the effectiveness of Thai boxing as taught to me by my teachers, Khru Paul Metayo and Khru Ike Villaflores 0f Dumaguete, Philippines. I practice and prefer the Thai round kick (Seen here.)

But then I started to think, “To what extent does a person’s footwear influence kicking?”

The Japanese kick with the ball of the foot, because in the traditional arts Japanese were often barefooted. Kicking with the ball of the foot isn’t much of an option when you’re wearing rigid shoes.

The word “savate,” in fact comes from the word “old shoe.” Wikipedia states that “Savate is perhaps the only style of kickboxing in which the fighters habitually wear shoes.” Savate kicks (the fouetté, or “whip”) use the toe as a point of contact.

Someone explained that the difference between Muay Thai and Savate is that Muay Thai kicks are like using a bat. In Thai boxing the long shin bone is the striking surface and hits like a baseball bat. In Savate, the kicks are like a hammer, where the foot (which is wearing a shoe or boot) hits like the weighted end of a hammer.

Savate Techniques

I always wear either slip-on shoes, like tasseled loafers to work, or tennis shoes. With this footwear, the Thai roundhouse with the shin makes sense. Kicking with the toes doesn’t make much sense with a thin leather shoe.

The only time in my life when I’ve worn boots was when I took a motorcycle class and was required to wear over-the-ankle boots. I wasn’t used to the weight of the boots and the immobility/inflexibility of my ankles. With thses boots, a Savate kick with the toe might very well be the most effective kick. For the person who works on the docks and wears steel-toed boots or rides a motorcycle and wears heavy boots, the toe kick makes sense, and a kick with a heavy boot to the head can kill a man.

It’s easy to get caught up in the whose-style-is-better debates, but the truth is that so much depends on your individual circumstances. The best fighting art is based on the life you live, the clothes you wear, and the environments you find yourself in. And the best kick depends on the type of shoe you’re wearing.

Ball-of-the-Foot Kick with These?


16 Responses to “Which Has the Best Kick: Savate or Muay Thai?”

  1. This is why it is important to take your training outside the dojo. I don’t care which way a person was taught to kick in their school when they were barefoot, can they still do it in footware? It is hard to use the ball of the foot in most boots, and if it’s a steel toe boot forget about it!

    Also, can you do a high kick with 2-3 pounds of boot on your leg?

    Keep your kicks low and use whatever footware you happen to have on to your advantage.

  2. As Bas Rutten has said: “never underestimate a kick in the balls”! A heavy steel-toed brogan just adds to the festivities!

  3. Tommy,

    I saw some of Bas Rutten’s videos –very impressive and nitty gritty.

  4. jimmyfatwing Says:

    The older French art of Defense dans la Rue has different foot techniques like shin scrape style kicks, and Savate has a variety of kicks also. I would say it’s more the person on the “giving” end of the boot….I’ve seen people make both arts look great, and dire! They do have that different ‘feel’ though as you described.

  5. So Savate is more of a sport form of Defense dans la Rue? Like Jujutsu first, then along comes the sport Judo.

    Do you have a time frame of when each was in use? When did Savate become established?

  6. I think, that best way to go is to combine best of both worlds – Savate and Muay thai. Many techniques overlap, so it is possible to train both at the same time. Of course mixed training makes it hard to prepare for specific sport competition. In that case you need to traing exclusively the copetition variation a month or so before.

    • I know the Inosanto people train both. I think savate is dependent on wearing shoes. For the situation where a person is wearing shoes, savate may be the answer.

  7. Defense dans la Rue was an attempt to rekindle the more effective base of savate before it become overly sportive and apply it with English bare knuckle boxing, Swiss wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

    It’s formulation was obviously effected by the creation of Bartitsu another combined art made up of roughly the same group of arts and practices.

    Defense dans la Rue also involves a study of defence with and against two handed stick, walking cane, knife and other situational self defence.

    The main advice given for kicking has already been stated, unless your a professional fighter stick to low kicks in street fights.

    These kicks are mainly aimed and damaging the knee and shin and in some cases ankle while other kicks may go as high as the floating ribs, groin or even solar plexus.

    kicks are separated between those that strike with the heel, the ball of the foot, the instep and with the toe point.

  8. Charles Kent Says:

    From what I’ve read and people I speak to, Defense dans la Rue was not influenced by Bartitsu , it developed on it’s own. Peter who teaches Savate in New Zealand, are there any real qualified instructors?


  9. About DDLR and Savate. There were different names for the kicking-punching art what we call now Savate, and is a combat sport. Also, in the different training halls (called salles) people trained with different style and intensity. Also the gangs trained/played a kind of kicking/punching/slapping art, which was of course pretty different compared to the one played by the upper class.

    So, sometimes the ancestor of savate was more like a touch if you can game, like at Charlemont, in other cases it was more like full contact kicking and punching, like at Leclerc. There was no unification of the system, as it is now.

    Défense dans la Rue means nothing else but street defense. The instructors faced with the question that how this kickboxing art could be used on the streets or in a self-defense situation, when someone grabs you, etc. They tried to add techniques and solutions to they system (which was very different for every instructor). On of the best system was Renaud’s, who published a book with the title Défense dans la rue, and his system contains english pugilistic boxing, savate (Charlemont and Leclerc), a HUGE amount of jiujitsu, knife fighting, street tricks and defense against street tricks, self-defense solutions for womens, style-vs-style fighting, etc.

    His book is partially translated to english, and can be downloaded from:


    We don’t know, whether his system of self defense was influenced by bartitsu, or not, he could have read the articles from Barton-Wright, he learned from the same jiu-jitsu instructors, but his cane fighting is pretty much different, and he has knife fighting, so my idea is that he learned everything what he could, and then he came up with his own system.

    There are no “official” instructors in DDLR, because it is an extinct style, there are DDLR researchers, who teach what they found out. The same applies to Bartitsu.

  10. Kevin Ward Says:

    Agree with your open minded assessment of both styles. I personally think Muay Thai & Savate are complimentary styles & that the environment / your mode of clothing & footwear will dictate the most effective techniques to neutralise any threats. A Savate kick with assault boots will stop anyone , but the MT classic round kick delivers sheer power !!

  11. i’m just curious how you can throw a thai round kick while wearing shoes? Wouldn’t you twist your ankle pivoting on the supporting leg? I’ve always felt the thai round kick is a competition only technique – it would only work barefoot on very smooth floors such as in a boxing ring.

  12. In the late 80’s or early 90’s in Milan, Italy there was a match between Francoise Pennachio,the French Welterweight Savate Champion and Ramon Dekkers a Champion Thai Boxer. Ramon Dekkers is a legend and fought many battles in Thailand.At that time he was best muay thai boxer in Europe and the Western World. Dekkers was well known for the destructive power of his kicks and knees. However Muay Thai footwork is more static, while savate’s is very nimble and the mechanics of Savate are intended to deceive the opponent as to what attack is coming and from where. As you can see in this movie of the match, Savate prevailed over Muay Thai, as Pennacchio was able to strike at will thanks to superior agility which negated the power advantage held by Dekkers:

    That match shocked me and changed history forever for me
    Pennacchio won again against other Thai Boxers. The match below again showcases the skills of savate, although this time the thai boxer is much less experienced than Dekkers…..

    If you are a muay thai practitioner,my advice is: do not underestimate Savate. the Tireur’s kick will come out of nowhere and when you try to respond he is already out of reach and all you hit is air….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s