The classical training guard of Defense dans la Rue

© Craig Gemeiner 2010

There are two En Guard structures within Defense dans la Rue that accommodates both the French Savate and English boxing distances. Both these guards are designed to operate from either the right side leading or the left side leading.

In this article we will provide a short technical break down of the training guard favoured by Julien Leclerc and his student Emile Andre. In the salle, or training room, both these instructors exercised the majority of stand up fighting techniques from this primary guard structure. (1)

False guards. Leclerc early 1900s



Begin by placing one foot forward with the point of the boot in line with the adversary. The rear leg is positioned back approximately 30-40 centimetres behind the lead foot. You are not standing on a tight rope. The heels are not in line with each other; instead they are slightly spaced apart so as to allow for an uninstructive path for the delivery of rear leg kicks. The toe of the rear boot points slightly outward, this will permit an increase in the range of motion at the knee, aiding in effective power transference during the extension phase of punches and kicks. Slightly flex your knees and distribute your body weight evenly over both legs.

Torso and head

Angle your torso to reduce your body’s target area’s by pulling the rear shoulder diagonally back from the lead shoulder. Your head leans slightly forward towards the lead shoulder and your chin is lowered, into a comfortable position, towards your chest.

The arms

The lead arm is flexed and the elbow rested against the waist. Raise the forearm to a height that forms a right angle, the hand is supinated and the fist lightly clenched. Regarding the rear arm, flex the elbow so the forearm lays across the stomach with the fist centred just below the opposite pectoral. Acting as a type of protective armour the rear forearm adheres to the body during the majority of kicking manoeuvres. When you observe the accompanying photos and diagrams you’ll notice that the guard is, for the most part, waist orientated.

Andre early 1900s



With the forearm and fist parallel with the ground the lead hand can effectively deliver straight punches into the face of a crouching opponent.

Grappling manoeuvres such as under-hooks, over-hooks, elbow controls and general clinching are very difficult to achieve with the elbows pressed against the body.

Often individuals, who lack a practical understanding of this classical training structure, will comment that the waist guard seems static, exposing the head to attack. Nothing could be further from the truth. You won’t be frozen like a shop mannequin blocking punches with your head. Instead by using constructive footwork and head movements you’ll have the ability to better maintain and control your fighting measure, while producing effective counter manoeuvres.

Renaud early 1900s

Another aspect of its practical use is the Savate kicking distance in which the waist guard is designed to operate within. At this distance the first line of attack and defense is initiated not with the hands, but instead with the feet. For this reason it is essential to understand the relationship between classical Savate kicking and English boxing in order to successfully apply the waist guard within the system of Defense dans la Rue.

Leclerc early 1900s



Fluid guard

Traditionally the lead and rear arms cycled through a range of motion that carried them forward and back along a circular path. This served two purposes, the first was to reduce fatigue in the arms and second, to keep the opponent guessing as to which point of the circumference punches would be delivered from.

John L. Sullivan displays the cycling actions of the arms along with blows emanating from this attitude.

Initially it will not be easy delivering strikes from such a fluid guard. However with diligent training you will learn to throw punches from wherever your hand is located along the line of the circle, without drawing it back.

In addition the cycling action offers minimal opportunity for your adversary to find an opening in your guard. However should an opening occur it could be rapidly covered up again using a number of defensive guards.

Remember, only serious and sustained training will truly yield an insight into how this guard actually works under pressure. The training may cost time, money and pain but the pay off will always be sweeter.

A true master in motion. In this YouTube clip Carl Cestari provides expert commentary on the strategies of  older Western boxing skills.

(1) Emile Andre advised that in real combat, unlike what occurs during assaut in the salle, one does not have to take a guard. He suggested that it could be a useful tactic to disguise your intent so as not to present over confidence when opposing your adversary.


Andre , Emile “L’ART DE SE DEFENDRE DANS LA RUE ” 1899


Andre Emile ” MANUEL de BOXE et de CANNE'” 1904


Leclerc Julien ” LA BOXE Anglaise et Francaise” ( No date)


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