Basque Boot

In the mid-eighties, I had a French training partner, and in between Muay Thai classes, we worked out privately in a local French restaurant. We would clear away some tables and mostly worked on our Boxing and Muay Thai fight preparation. Fred was a great training partner, powerful and an excellent boxer and fighter. 

During one of our training sessions, a family friend of Fred’s, who I had briefly been introduced to, watched nearby. Now and then, between sips of coffee, he would give Fred advice in French. After a while, I hoped he would shut up and go away to France, where I assumed he came from. Every time he said something, Fred would adjust, and I would receive a new counter punch in the face.  We moved on to Thai rules clinch work, and now the stranger was up and coaching hands-on. He was crushing my double collar tie and throwing me around. Total drag, really as that was meant to be my area of expertise.

We finished up training, and whilst the family friend was off getting his fifth cup of filter coffee and cigarette for the hour, I asked Fred who the unwanted coach was.  Fred said something like he’s high up in French Judo, which would explain his grappling prowess, and he has trained in French Boxing, sometimes called Savate.  My only view of Savate at that point was seeing magazines with guys in strange gear playing what looked like kickboxing.

To cut a very long story short, it came down to the stranger discussing my Muay Thai kicks with Fred as an interpreter.  He liked our kicks but wanted us to consider the shoe as a weapon. He also felt that I should play an outside game more to use my long reach. His advice was peppered with strange-looking kicks and movements in the air that looked like flicks. Finally, he said I will show you, and he kicked me in the lead leg with a kick that used the heel and shut down my thigh for a few days.

I became an instant believer; he had kicked me with training shoes on, and it felt like being hit with a hammer. Over the next two weeks or so, we got to work out with our new coach, probably at least twenty hours of actual training time and about the same socialising.  I was mainly interested in the street kicking and picking up some good boxing.

Here’s what I picked up during that limited time:

Muay Thai kicks are like being hit with a sharp baseball bat; the force cuts through the target (generalising a lot, but that’s a way of looking at it). Savate kicks are like being hit with a hammer; the force goes in deep and rattles around a bit. The targeting of the kicks splits muscle from bone and should leave small dents.

Constant movement in and out of position sets up the opponent for the kicks, and some sweet boxing deals with opponents who get close. Lots of evasive straight punches also keep the distance.

Boots or strong shoes are great accessories, and you need to train in them or at least some of the time. Training shoes are ok but not the same.

Boot kicks hurt, and they cripple.

After the two short weeks, I never got to train with the coach again, and it being the pre-internet era (letter writing instead of emails), I lost touch with Fred a few years later when he went travelling.

I placed my little knowledge of art into what I refer to as my boot-kicking module, and over the years, I have shown it as a subsection of my Combatives art. It’s a good match for Combatives guys as it is so brutal and it blends well.

I tried to seek further training in Savate, travelling to France several times and enjoyed the cross-training. However, the Savate I was shown had a slightly different flavour. My first coach lived in the Basque region and had picked up his Savate flavour there, hence his slang name for his art: Basque Boot.

Published by killickoffroadarts

Martial Artist, Adventurer and Privateer. Writer and Peace Activist. Duen de casa.

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