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FRENCH BOXING (la boxe francaise)

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 352 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FRENCH BOXING (la boxe francaise) dates from about 183o. It is more like the ancient Greek pankration (see PUGILISM) than is British boxing, as not only striking with the fists, but also kicking with the feet, butting with the head and wrestling are allowed. It is a development of the old sport of savate, in which the feet, and not the hands, were used in attack. Lessons in savate, which was practised especially by roughs, were usually given in some low resort, and there were no respectable teachers. While Paris was restricted to savate, another sport, called chausson or jeu marseillais, was practised in the south of France, especially among the soldiers, in which blows of the fist as well as kicks were exchanged, and the kicks were given higher than in savate, in the stomach or even the face. It was an excellent exercise, but could hardly be reckoned a serious means of defence, for the high kicks usually fell short, and the upward blows of the fist could not be compared with the terrible sledge-hammer blows of the English boxers. Alexandre Dumas pere says that Charles Lecour first conceived the idea of combining English boxing with savate. For this purpose he went to England, and took lessons of Adams and Smith, the London boxers. He then returned to Paris, about 1852, and opened a school to teach the sport since called la boxe francaise. Around him, and two provincial instructors who came to Paris about this time with similar ideas, there grew up a large number of sportsmen, who between 1845 and 1855 brought French boxing to its highest development. Among others who gave public exhibitions was Lecour's brother Hubert, who although rather undersized, was quick as lightning, and had an English blow and a French kick that were truly terrible. Charles Ducros was another whose style of boxing, more in the English fashion, but with low kicks about his opponent's shins, made a name for himself. Later came Vigneron, a " strong man," whose style, though slow, was severe in its punishment. About 1856 the police interfered in these fights, and Lecour and Vigneron had to cease giving public exhibitions and devote themselves to teaching. Towards 1862 a new boxer, J. Charlemont, was not only very clever with his fists and feet, but an excellent teacher, and the author of a treatise on the art. Lecour, Vigneron and Charlemont may be said to have created la boxe frangaise, which, for defence at equal weights, the French claim to be better than the English. See L'Art de la boxe francaise et de la canne, by J. Charlemont (Paris, 1899) ; The French Method of the Noble Art of Self Defence, by Georges d'Amoric (London, 1898).
End of Article: FRENCH BOXING (la boxe francaise)

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