Savate takes its name from the French for "old shoe" (heavy footwear, especially the boots used by French military and sailors) (cf. French-English loanwords sabot and sabotage and Spanish cognate zapato). The modern formalized form is mainly an amalgam of French street fighting techniques from the beginning of the 19th century. Savate was then a type of street fighting common in Paris and northern France.
In the south, especially in the port of Marseille, sailors developed a fighting style involving high kicks and open-handed slaps. It is conjectured that this kicking style was developed in this way to allow the fighter to use a hand to hold onto something for balance on a rocking ship's deck, and that the kicks and slaps were used on land to avoid the legal penalties for using a closed fist, which was considered a deadly weapon under the law. It was known as the jeu marseillais (game from Marseille), and was later renamed chausson (slipper, after the type of shoes the sailors wore). In contrast, at this time in England (the home of boxing and the Queensberry rules), kicking was seen as unsportsmanlike.
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