By Craig Gemeiner ©2006
English translations by Martin Prisse 2001
The kicking skills that have traditionally made up the defense dans la rue syllabus were adopted, for the most part, from the older Lecour system of savate. During the early 1900s savate master Julien Leclerc, representing the Lecour method, wrote his outstanding manual entitled “ La boxe pratique offensive & defensive”. Leclerc’s manual contained several distinct differences in the area of low line kicking, which set it apart from the commonly practiced Charlemont method.
Defense dans la rue kicking techniques are grouped into 3 simple categories these being coups de pied bas, coup de pied chasse and the coups de pied pointe. The majority of these kicks are delivered with very little arming or chambering of the knee and target the groin, knee, shin, ankle and foot. The spinning, hopping and high kicks found in the sportive and academic systems were often too dangerous to execute on uneven surfaces and weren’t terribly effective in the confined areas of urban living.
Julien Leclerc writes in his “observations for combat in the street”-
“High kicks are blows used exclusively for assaut (sparring). In combat on the street I advise not to employ high kicks, one should employ the low kicks, such as the coup de pied pointe , and fist blows”.
Jean Joseph- Renaud, a professor of defense dans la rue comments on high kicks –
“It’s a very big mistake to believe that we can kick higher than the belt without risk. I know of circumstances in the street where these kicks have produced the best effect ,but it often happens when the opponent goes down on his knees, we can then kick the body or face without lifting the leg to much and consequently loosing balance”.
Kicking techniques were always practiced while wearing shoes or boots. A shod foot offers various points of percussion for stabbing , stomping and hacking into targets. Renaud thoughts on boot kicking –
“Don’t forget that the foot with a shoe is a strong weapon, but it must strike sensitive areas in order to immediately end a fight. A violent kick thrown without precision will have less effect than a much lighter kick delivered at the right spot. In the real world there is no point to simply hurt your opponent , if he is dangerous this would only upset him and multiply his anger and strength, we must, I insist, end the fight immediately”.
Coup de pied bas
The coup de pied bas is a premier kick in the defense dans la rue system. The kick is generally delivered from the rear leg and should, where possible, be executed from a false or opposite guard to that of your adversary. When delivering the coup de pied bas from a false guard the inner edge of the boot has a better chance of hacking into the enemy’s foreleg. The front of the shin is the prime target and when struck with enough force may cause trauma to both the tibia bone and the anterior tibial nerve
From his manual “La Defense Dans La Rue” author Joseph J Renuad comments on the coup de pied bas –
“ I will try here to apply to serious fights and defense sports , but it is impossible as I have already said, to describe in detail every blow and then explain the technical terms .
This excellent manual will provide some useful information to readers ignorant in boxing.
About the different opinions that I have with authors, who , then, only think of the ‘sport’ side of boxing, I will not forget to mention them.
Kicks represent something like the artillery in the defense if I can explain it like that. A kick, if executed at the right place, is generally good enough for a knock out. It can also be used to menace and keep the adversary in respect.Don’t forget that an average strength man can give a toe kick in the stomach or a heel kick to the heart harder than a Jack Johnson punch!But very often we are to close to the adversary to use the legs . Then we use the infantry which means our fists.
Le coup de pied bas
The coup de pied bas is a premier kick under certain conditions.
- It should be executed from a false guard, which means to strike at the shin and not the calf. In the true guard , when two adversaries have the same leg in front , the coup de pied bas only reaches the calf and the only result that could be produced- with a large superiority of weight and muscles- would be a loss of the adversary’s equilibrium.
- The body does not lean backward with the arms falling behind the kidneys
Also this strike will have maximum effect if the adversary’s weight is on the leg receiving the strike.
The arms must strictly stay in front of the body as the coup de pied bas exposes you to follow ups so your fists must be able to do something during the movement. When given as indicated in fig4 the coup de pied bas reaches far and with more violence, it is certainly not as pretty, but we don’t practice boxing for the photographer. The sport has lost a lot by researching less the practical reality than the dance attitudes and the strikes producing an effect for the public. The lower the kick is given, the more effect it will produce. Non the less if we are of superior size we can drive the strike up into the knee cap, from low to high, a little bit like the direct kick but always with the edge of the sole.
The Charlemont and Lecour method
I will have to often compare both the Charlemont method and the Lecour method now represent by J. Leclerc. May these excellent masters, who were both my professors, and whom I like dearly, forgive me to criticize sometimes their teaching . They are to smart to be offended, and they to cannot argue that if French boxing doesn’t take some more combative directions , it may disappear , leaving room for the high finance contests of English boxing.
In the Charlemont method the coup de pied bas is delivered with the leg completely straight from the beginning of the leg to the top of the foot and this from the commencement to the completion of the strike. Accordingly, this method comprises a guard almost with the legs completely straight.
In the Lecour system the guard is more bent, to deliver the coup de pied bas the back foot first passes the front with the leg bent ,then , at the right moment it springs forward – a little like a bent floor board held with both hands that could be let to spring forward. The impact on the opponent’s leg is quicker plus the entire action is rapid. Delivered this way the coup de pied bas is not elegant, but it prevents the body leaning back and the arms falling along the legs.
In the Charlemont method, the action of the body leaning backward moves the leg forward. I have often discussed with the brilliant master about the point of letting the arms either fall along the sides of the body or to keep then in front of the chest during the low kick.
Here is his response:
“On the coup de pied bas given at a good distance you can be stopped at the front ( meaning the chest uncovered by the arms while going backwards) only with a stop hit using the point of the foot (coup de pied flanc) delivered while jumping at an equal speed of course, you can easily bring your arms back into a position to parry. The projection of the arms gives one more balance and depth”.
Theoretically, Charlemont is right, but we can make a mistake, we can deliver the coup de pied bas with the adversary being to close, he can come inside the strike by moving the attacked leg to the side while moving forward. He can also cope with the strike (by resisting the pain because the strike was not precise and did not reach the shin precisely) and jump in on you or run in on you ; in all these examples and a lot of others , the opponent will be very close to you before your body can get back to a balanced en guard position.
Definitely Lecour’s method in which the return to en guard is faster from the coup de pied bas , the arms staying on the chest are ready to act and the position of the body, is more prudent.
Certain practitioners deliver the coup de pied bas , for example, with the left leg, the left arm dropping down and bringing the right arm across the sit of the stomach, in the coup de pied bas with the right leg it’s the left arm which will be placed on the stomach and the right arm that falls down along the body. This intermediate process is not negligible . The arm thrown to the rear facilitates balance while the placement of the other arm guarantees security to a most sensitive part of the body .Yet when dealing with an English boxer, this intermediate way of delivering the coup de pied bas seems dangerous , and instinctively we should avoid using it this way. This method is very familiar to me and in a lot of assaults of English boxing against French boxing that I have been in , I wouldn’t use it. While giving the kick , I brought both my fists in front of my chest , simply, this was not a result of any reasoning or calculation, I felt that it would have been dangerous to uncover myself any more.
We can never work enough the coup de pied and the various ways of executing it. It is a simple way of attack and one of the most efficient. It is to French boxing what the straight left is in English boxing. After a few lessons ‘beginners’ will believe they know it completely. On the contrary, if we want to deliver this kick well, it will need lots of practice and study to strike with strength and precision. At the same time it must be extremely fast and strong , touching the opponent’s leg is not good enough, it needs to be felt.
Also the return to en guard must be done with very good speed. Many fighters make the mistake to deliver this strike with a push , it is only by striking a bag with’ town boots’ that we will properly reach and strike with speed and strength which will offer value to the coup de pied bas.
Le chasse bas
The English translation for “chasse” means to chase, pursue or hunt .This kick is one of the most powerful found in the defense dans la rue syllabus. Offensively the chasse can be delivered from the front and rear legs or used as a stop kick against the adversary’s attack..
Defense dans la rue professor Joseph Renaud comments on the chasse and the Lecour influence-
The low chasse is an excellent strike but is generally not well executed; it must be delivered in a single time action and not in the Charlemont method which is really 2 times.
I have often said to C. Charlemont that I admire a lot the way he practices and teaches the high kicks, I don’t appreciate his low strikes and especially his low chasse.
A few days before his fight with Driscoll, I had given him this advice: “Your low chasses are slow and push a lot more than they hit, leave them to one side , they expose you to a rushing attack , and if you succeed then they would not hurt much your adversary”.
The experience showed that my advice was not wrong. None of the chasses given by the honorable professor weakened his opponent, Driscoll was beaten because of a few toe kicks. When Chabrier , who practices the Charlemont method, regarding his kicks, fought the British Meekins , I gave him the same advice, he succeeded a few splendid low chasses but the effect they had was to push and not hit, he was getting back up without any injury. Chabrier then simply used pure English boxing , he recognized too late that my advice was right. A tiny move on the side is enough to counter Charlemont’s low chasse but not the Lecour method which is delivered in a single time and like a punch hits dry and hard. Lecour’s excellent method is currently represented by Julien Leclerc who executes the low chasse extremely quickly, but maybe not caring enough about power, his preparation includes only turning the top of the foot a little inward, which removes part of its force.
Theory of the low chasse;
This is how the strike should be executed: being in the right guard for example, almost entirely facing and the legs bent.
- The left foot passes rapidly by the right, the point (of the shoe) turned to the rear the legs always bent.
- Then quickly extend the left leg as it passes by the right foot , the top of the left foot turns inward in order to hit with the heel: the weight of the body is on the right leg which must be very bent so as to allow the left leg to reach as far as possible. The body turns strongly to the right. The two times must of course be only one , the twisting of the body and the extension of the left leg are all made together. To return back to the en guard position just do the same movement in reverse.
The Lecour method of performing the rear chasse
It is important;
- To bend the legs at the beginning otherwise the strike wouldn’t have any strength.
- To start the strike facing otherwise the strength coming from the side of the kidneys will not be there at the end. Especially don’t jump when delivering the low chasse instead slide along theground. Train on a hard target and use the cane drill like you would for the coup de pied bas.The opportunities for the use of the low chasse are the same as the coup de pied bas. But the coup de pied bas uses a lot less feinting than the low chasse.
Some have claimed that the chasses executed in the Lecour system without bending the leg (towards the chest) have no power , this is a vain objection, the guard position in this excellent method sits on a folded back leg. There is naturally sufficient bend in the leg.
Faint a punch with the front hand followed by a low chasse is a practical combination.
To effect a hard low chasse , the body weight must first be on the front leg we can easily get to this result by feinting a direct (straight punch) with the front foot eventually taking a step forward – the strike (chasse) must follow immediately with out any pause in time.
The more pronounced the feint the easier the kick.
In the street an inexperienced adversary will certainly parry the feint and receive fully the chasse, this will probably result in a broken leg; in any case he will be out of the fight.
If the adversary feints with high kicks , you have a very good opportunity to deliver a hard low chasse the instant his leg returns to the ground.
The feint of a low chasse and then jump in with a straight punch at the face is very handy in the practice of assaut (sparring) in French boxing. If your opponent is a real boxer, you could try to feint a low chasse, feint a punch and then deliver a low chasse .Or feint a low chasse, feint a punch and deliver a high chasse, but watch for the stop hits. Against someone in the street these movements are much to complicated .
The low chasse , I repeat , is one of the best ways to attack and counter attack in French boxing, it is necessary to understand it fully.
Be careful of its recovery .
Many students at Leclerc’s salle are not executing it well, like there professor , they turn the point of foot inside and are not bending the legs the moment they start the kick. Once again the strike must be made on a bent guard position and almost facing. Avoid especially making a sound with the sole of the rear foot which means you are jumping , if you do then you don’t have control with the ground , is it slippery?- you will fall on the floor, is it clumsy ? – your strike will have no power.
The problems with the chasse croise .-
Well executed it is extremely powerful, it moves the adversary easily, sometimes sending him on his back but without hurting him. It pushes more than it hits and if attempted on a heavier adversary we can find ourselves falling on the floor like we were trying to push a wall. Also it requires a lot of space, it is more powerful when executed from across a distance. In this condition an opponent fast with his legs can avoid the kick by moving to the side and then we (the kicker) find ourselves in an annoying position. But the main problem , I repeat, is that it pushes more than it hits.
The Charlemont method of performing the chasse croise
I advise a simple change of foot, the back foot replaces the front foot as taught and made by the professor Albert. Don’t bend to much the leg that is striking , we should start ( from the guard position) with the legs bent lower. This blow is shorter, and strikes better in a single time; plus it can be delivered closer and its speed is greater.
The defense dans la rue method for delivering the chasse replacement
Catching the leg
It is important to be well trained in catching the leg and the ways to bring the adversary of balance, it is also dangerous to deliver a kick if we don’t understand how to properly escape the leg captures.
A good French boxer easily escapes when his leg is caught. Charlemont’s method is particularly good; his students almost never have their legs captured. It is possible to follow up a leg capture with a lock (read further into jiu-jitsu).
On the street
In the street the kick you will receive is usually the direct (vertical or diagonal toe kick) it is sometimes possible to stop it with the heel like the coup de pied bas – if this happens the adversary is most probably out of the fight. In any case, it is easy to catch the leg, especially if at the same time we change our guard back. The leg-lock following immediately the fall has a sure effect, if made while pushing the forearm into the middle of the calf , it causes a large amount of pain but not injury, as it would certainly dislocate the foot if made a little higher: we can choose the result in regards to the circumstances.
The leg- lock as recommend by Renaud
In a real fight not in a ring but in a café or the street , it often happens that we are too close to be able to deliver kicks, in any case its exceptional if you can deliver two, if the first one misses we will certainly be too close to deliver a second one. But if the first one succeeds well, meaning you have chosen the opportunity and delivered the kick well , the adversary is surely out of the fight.
Even well trained in French boxing , never deliver a kick when you are two close or without knowing where you are kicking . Nothing unsure .
But if the leg or the stomach of the opponent is offered kick with all your strength, preferably the coup de pied bas or the coup de pied horizontal very tight to the stomach and with the thought to immediately continue the battle if necessary with punches.
To many French boxers deliver strikes anywhere as they are in the habit of being content when hearing from the adversary that they were touched . They never ask themselves –
< in a real fight what would have been the real result >?.
If the case is grave, don’t neglect the coup de pied direct to the lower belly from the lead or rear ,and if you have succeeded I advise as a general rule to turn the adversary and get behind him such as in fig 49(16).
I don’t pretend to compose a course in French boxing no more than I desire to compose a draft on la canne. I believe the readers are aware of the terms used in our national methods. I just wanted to showcase what French boxing must be in the point of view of real combat
Charlemont. J: “ L’art De La Boxe Francaise Et De La Canne” 1899
Leclerc Julien: “ La Boxe Pratique La Combat Dans la Rue” 1910
Renaud- Joseph Jean: “ La Defense Danss La Rue 1912