Kickboxing vs Savate What’s the Difference

Savate and kickboxing are two similar types of martial arts. Because of the similarities they share, many would like to know what differentiates the two and what similarities they share. So, what is the difference between savate and kickboxing? Let’s check out and analyze them one after the other.  

What is kickboxing? 

Kickboxing is typically a modern combat sport. It started in the early 1960s in the United States. It is an inspiration from English boxing and savate and there are mainly two types: American kickboxing, feet and points, and Japanese kickboxing.  

Historically, we are therefore rather far from karate, for example, which has more than 1,500 years of existence. But the media coverage of large tournaments such as the K-1 World Grand Prix or the K-1 World Max will have made this discipline even more popular.  

Some athletes in this sport, like MMA, have become real stars, and this complete and spectacular discipline still attracts a lot of public.   

Finally, across the Atlantic, there are many variants and disciplines that are included in kick-boxing, such as full-contact, French boxing savate, Indian boxing, sambo, but also types of boxing from Southeast Asia like Muay Thai, Burmese boxing, or Vietnamese boxing. 

The rules of kickboxing 

Depending on the discipline, the rules vary. In American kickboxing, fighters can only use their fists and feet. In the event of a collision, the two kick-boxers are quickly put back at a distance.

For Japanese kickboxing, elbows and knees are allowed, and the kick-boxers are allowed to stand a little longer if it is to try to send blows, in particular, to reduce the distance. 

The fights take place in a ring. In professional games, the objective is to put the opponent out of state (KO). Kickboxers fight by category of rank, but also by weight. In most countries, it has the same categories as for savate: 

From 7 to 17 years old 

  • Mosquito: less than 24 kg 
  • Pre-mini-fly: from 24 to 27 kg 
  • Pre-mini-rooster: from 27 to 30 kg 
  • Pre-mini-feather: from 30 to 33 kg   
  • Pre-mini-light: from 33 to 36 kg 
  • Mini fly: from 36 to 39 kg 
  • Mini-rooster: from 39 to 42 kg 
  • Mini-feather: from 42 to 45 kg 
  • Mini-light: from 45 to 48 kg 
  • Fly: from 48 to 51 kg 
  • Rooster: from 51 to 54 kg 
  • Feather: from 54 to 57 kg 
  • Super-feather: from 57 to 60 kg 
  • Lightweight: from 60 to 63 kg 
  • Super-light: from 63 to 66 kg 
  • Medium: from 66 to 70 kg 
  • Super-welterweight: from 70 to 74 kg 
  • Medium: from 74 to 79 kg 
  • Medium-heavy: from 79 to 85 kg 
  • Heavy: over 85 kg 

From 18 years old 

  • Flies: less than 48 kg 
  • Roosters: 48 to 52 kg 
  • Feathers: from 52 to 56 kg 
  • Lightweight: 56 to 60 kg 
  • super-light: 60 to 65 kg 
  • Lightweight: 65 to 70 kg 
  • S / M / Medium: from 70 to 75 kg 
  • Medium: from 75 to 80 kg 
  • Medium-heavy: 80 to 85 kg 
  • Heavy: Over 85 kg 

If the two boxers arrive at the end of the fight without having been knocked out, then the winner is decided by judges who will have counted the points throughout the confrontation. Whoever has totaled the most points wins the fight. 

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Among amateurs, and especially among the youngest, the blows are light. We speak of medium-contact or light-contact. In this kind of duel, unless there is an injury, the fight always comes to an end. The search for a knockout does not exist and only the points decide between the two fighters. 

What is Savate 

Also known as French boxing,  French foot fighting, or boxe française, savate is a percussion combat sport. Two opponents equipped with gloves and slippers strike each other with the fists and the feet unlike Muay Thai and the silat, in which opponents use the knees. 

It appeared in the XIXth century in the tradition of French fencing. The savate is a combination of western martial arts including western boxing. Known from its appearance as the “slipper” or “art of savate”.  

It was, throughout the XXth century, designated by the name of “French boxing.” Then finally (and officially), it was renamed “savate boxe française” again in 2002. It is currently an international discipline that belongs to the group of foot-fist boxing.   

Savate means “old shoe” in old French. It is perhaps the only style of kickboxing that fighters usually wear shoes in.   

A man who practices savate is called a savator or shooter while a woman is called a savateuse. It is a very hard-hitting and very effective sport although it is relatively unknown. 

In savate, two specificities are involved: 

1. The assault 

It is a form of contact via “touch” where all power of the blows is excluded. This kind of confrontation is especially for women and young people. The assault is only a possibility for those under 18. 

It is a form of duel between two shooters (of the same sex). The assault is judged using a single score which takes into account, on the one hand, the technical mastery and style demonstrated by the shooter and on the other hand the precision of the hits from which any power is strictly excluded. The search for “hors de combat” is therefore totally prohibited. 

2. The fight 

It is a form of duel among two shooters and is judged on the technique, the precision, the effectiveness of the shots, and the combativeness of the shooters. 

However, wearing the mouthguard, cup, chest protector and pubic protector is mandatory. 

Form of encounter which allows the power of the blows: the search for “out of combat” is, therefore, possible and authorized. 

So, what is the difference between savate and kickboxing? 

Savate and kick-boxing differ mainly in that savate is practiced with special boots. Shooters, or savate fighters, use the boots to strike (toe, heel, etc.), while the kickboxer fights barefoot, so he hits mostly with the tibia. 

As for technique, it depends on who teaches it and how, but the savate focuses a lot on the movements and dodges. So, roughly, it could be said that it is a bit more complicated than kickboxing.

The punching technique is practically the same, that is, that of classic boxing. Regarding the gyms where it is practiced, the truth is that it is not a discipline that has many followers in many countries. 

Kick boxing and savate are different and the fact that those who practice one or the other can fight indistinctly does not mean that they are the same. 

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These are the fundamental differences: 

1. Techniques 

In savate, you can use the tibia neither to attack nor to defend, in kick, it is fundamental. This creates added difficulty for the savate practitioner forcing him to always be at the proper distance to strike with the boot.  

The kick fighter has less difficulty in that sense since if he is far away, he hits with the instep. And if he is close, he hits with the tibia. 

On the other hand, savate is more demanding in terms of technique. It requires that the technique be done correctly to score. For example, the hips must be aligned with the blow in a “fouetté” (circle) or a “lateral chasse.” That kind of thing is not required in the kick. 

The blows must also be “armed” so that they are precisely delivered, that is to say, that you cannot hit as in kick with the straight leg.   

In summary of the technical part, the savate is more technically demanding than the kick. And the kick is easier to learn and a result is reached earlier.  

2. Tactics   

The fundamental difference between the kick and the savate is the tactical aspect.  

  • Kick: the one who hits the hardest is the one who wins. 
  • Savate: We will quote the first level that sums it all up “Playing without being touched.” Kickboxers fight almost exclusively from the front. But in savate, the displacement work is very important.  

3. Historical   

Savate is not a sports discipline of the twentieth century like kickboxing, but it is before many “millennial martial arts”.   

In its beginnings, at the end of the 18th and early 19th century, it was a personal defense system that also included head butts, knees, projections, etc. 


So, once again, what is the difference between savate and kickboxing? The two styles have technical differences but they both work with the same principles.  

As we have seen, the savate is a little more technical and there are some different rules and stops. But they do not differ much. The vast majority of people who practice savate also practice or have practiced kickboxing. 

There are numerous differences that it would take too long to define here. We just have to say that they are two different worlds although very similar. But, at this point, we must not fall into the topic of which is the best. Both savate and kickboxing are simply two different approaches. 


Hi - I'm Jonathan, and I've been passionate about fighting ever since I was a little kid. I did some Karate, Judo, and Kickboxing, and always wanted to try Aikido. I started this site to indulge my passion for Martial arts, answering all the geeky questions I had. Now I want to share all the information I've learned with you guys.

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