March 17th 2021 marks 23 years since the formation of the Great Britain Savate Federation. From the humble beginnings of six enthusiasts, the Federation has gone on to produce over a dozen well-established clubs, has consistently delivered International medals and continues to expand with the growing popularity of Savate and its associated disciplines.
Savate training in the UK dates back to the 70’s, with notable practitioners being Phil Reed and Richard Muggeridge. The two produced and published a book entitled: ‘Boxe Française Savate – Martial Art of France’, one of few publications on Savate written in English to this day.
Phil and Richard went on to train with Martin Ross, later forming the Guildford Savate club between them. In forming the club, Martin convinced twin brothers and long-time Savateurs Charlie Howes and Richard Howes to return to the sport, having previously trained under Phil Reed. The Howes twins continue to train and compete to this day.
In 1991, founders of Cambridge Academy of Martial Arts, Ollie Batts and Dr Julie Gabriel, now president of FISav (the International Savate Federation) hosted a two-day seminar with Professeur Salem Assli. This would be the first of many seminars featuring esteemed Savateurs, including Gilles Le Duigou, Florence Suire and Amri Madani, spawning a foundation of high-level practitioners in the UK.
In the late 90’s, an effort was made to bring all UK-based parties training in Savate together, to form an umbrella organization. Shortly after, an inaugural meeting was held in Brixton, London, on Tuesday 17th March 1998. Present at that meeting were: Peter King, Brixton (Chair), Martin Ross and Richard Muggeridge, Guildford, Dr. Julie Gabriel and Ollie Batts, Cambridge, Fred Rado (Brevet d’Etat), Walthamstow and the President of the International Savate Federation, Michel Roger of France – who had been invited over to be involved in proceedings. The Great Britain Savate Federation was formed on that day, with Peter King becoming the first President.
In the years that followed, Savateurs from both Guildford and Cambridge would go on to become qualified instructors, founding many of the existing UK Savate clubs. As participation grew, the GBSF began hosting yearly National Competitions, with the winners of each category being offered the opportunity to compete at World and European Savate Assaut Championships. With the combined experience of high-level seminars and elite competitions, the GB team would go on to earn several international medals. Most notably in 2007 when Lizzy Hawkins became the UK’s first European Champion in Assaut, and in 2014 when James Southwood, lead instructor at London Savate, became the UK’s first World Champion in Assaut.
In 2009, Rafal Tichanow of CAMA broke new ground by participating in the World Combat Eliminations in Serbia. Raf was accompanied by Julie Gabriel (coach) and Jasbir Nagi (official). In 2014, Sian-Marie Frosini became Team GB’s first female athlete to compete in Combat, participating in the European Combat Eliminations. A year later, she was joined by Morgan Alexander as the two became the first Team GB women to participate in the World Combat Eliminations. With her Bronze, Morgan became the UK’s first medalist in Combat.
Since then, a large team from the UK has competed internationally every year, bringing home medals on every occasion. Membership and affiliated club numbers continue to grow, with Northern Ireland Savate setting a trend for youth participation, sending multiple high-level fighters to World Youth Championships.
Despite the Covid-19 Pandemic bringing training activities to a halt, the GBSF has continued its work behind the scenes. Online training continues to take place, as does planning for a return to training and competition in the coming months and in January 2021, several new Executive Committee members were voted in to help further grow the UK Savate scene. Led by President Sam Byford-Winter, the new exec aims to build on the 250 memberships currently active in the UK.
The Federation can proudly reflect on twenty-three years of growth, development, inclusivity and competitive accolades, driven by a community of those passionate for the art of Savate.