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Muay Thai Vs Savate: A Head-To-Head Comparison

muay thai vs savate
muay thai vs savate comparison

Hello again, I am here for the Muay Thai Vs Savate comparison. Before you start saying that I mixed apples and oranges, I must say that I understand your arguments. Different pieces of training equipment and rules are a perfect argument.

But have you ever thought of the similarity between ancient Siamese martial art and French kickboxing? Shoe and shin strikes are not the same, but trajectory doesn’t differ that much. Oh, a Savate strike can also put you to sleep!

Please read on to get to know the similarities and differences between the ancient Thai and the former French Olympic discipline. Yeah, you read well, the Savate competition took place in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924!

What Makes Savate Different Compared To Other Martial Arts?

In literal translation, Savate means “the old shoe”. It used to be a military martial art, where the soldiers used boots to get the advantage of the opponent. In its early stages, “Savate de Rue” (Street Savate) was allowing elbows and knees, sweeps, throws, locks, takedowns, and even headbutts and reminded more of a Lethwei or Wotore (the Polish version of MMA).

The modern Savate is pretty much a different fighting style with a strict rule set, but it is one of the rare martial arts that prohibit shin or knee strikes.

For example, Taekwondo doesn’t prohibit shin strikes, but only foot strikes score points. In the French version of kickboxing, you can get a penalty for an unintentional shin strike. Here is the list of legal and illegal strikes in Savate.

There are three levels of fighting in Savate boxing:

  • Assault – The competitors focus on technique, but the contact is very light, the excessive force leads to penalties.
  • Pre-combat – full contact, fighters wear helmets and shin guards.
  • Combat – only gloves, mouthpieces, and groin guards are allowed, full-strength sparring.

When it comes to dressing, the mandatory pieces of equipment are the Savate vest, trousers, and shoes or boots. French kickboxing is the only kicking and punching martial art that insists on striking footwear.

In Savate, the color of your glove symbolizes your skillset. You can choose a technical road, where the color of your glove can be blue, green, red, white, yellow, or three levels of the silver glove (violet if you’re younger than 17). If you pick the road of the competitor, you can wear a bronze glove of five levels of the silver one.

Boxing and some versions of MMA, like Shooto or Pancrase, also insist on boots, but here are the differences. Boxers don’t use their legs, while some MMA promotions allow the wearing of grappling/wrestling boots.

Muay Thai Vs Savate – Differences

I am aware there are many different aspects of the game, and I will try to post as many details as possible.


Some sort of grappling is allowed in Thai boxing – you can switch from Muay Thai plum to single-collar clinch, crossface clinch defense, over-under, and one under-hook in. In Savate, as soon as both of your arms are trapped, the referee will step in to restart the bout.


You are allowed to throw knees and elbows in Muay Thai clinch. Unfortunately, you are pretty much limited in Savate with punches, plus the referee will break you up quickly. You can’t hold much.


As soon as the fighter starts bleeding, the referee will call the doctor to inspect the fighter. In Muay Thai, as long as the fighter’s cut is not too deep, the ref will allow the bout to continue. Thai warriors take way more damage.

Fighting Philosophy

Muay Thai fighters mostly fight toe-to-toe with anybody, they are always ready to battle until the last dying breath. On the other hand, tactics play an important role in Savate fights.

Defensive fighting is normal in Savate, but in Muay Thai not. Only new era (Tawanchai) or very experienced old-school fighters (Saenchai) sometimes backpedal or go to the side.

Kick Specifications

Have you ever heard of shoe kicks? Savate is the only striking martial art where you can use the tip of your boot as an ultimate weapon to put your opponent to sleep. The special Savate boots design lets you destroy your opponent in the split of a second.


Muay Thai fighters only wear shorts and gloves, in Savate, you cannot fight bare-footed, boots are a mandatory piece of equipment.

Dressing Code

You can forget about armbands or headbands in Savate, plus shorts are not allowed. You must wear both trousers and boots (some competitions insist on wearing a vest too).


There is no Wai Kru ceremony, you just walk towards the ring, then enter between the ropes. I think this is the greatest on the list of Muay Thai vs Savate differences.

The Meaning Of Savate Rankings

The different color of gloves has a meaning in French kickboxing. Nowadays, fighters wear blue or red gloves in competitions because of judges, but every single color of the glove means something different. In Muay Thai, nobody cares about glove color (okay, maybe sponsors do).

Blocking Kicks

You’ll rarely see Savate fighters blocking kicks with their rear leg. In Muay Thai, the leading leg serves to protect, but your rear limb blocks too, especially when a southpaw meets an orthodox.

Muay Thai Vs Savate – Similarities

We’ve described the differences, but now I am going to show you that I am not mixing apples and oranges. Let’s focus on the similar aspects of Muay Thai and Savate.

Central Line

You don’t see Savate fighters moving to the side too often. Muay Thai also lacks lateral moves, unless the fighters train for a long time.


Punch combos are pretty much similar. Savate fighters like toe-to-toe punch exchanges and combos, just like Muay Thai fighters. The offensive hand strikes are way more important than defensive ones.

Step-Drag Forward And Backward, Lack Of Angle Change

Fighters tend to move forward and backward in more than 80% of cases, both in Savate and Muay Thai. Check hooks and angle changes aren’t very often, fighters will rather choose to trade bombs over outsmarting or out-edging the opponent.

Covering Up

Pretty much a similar pattern of defense in both styles. Double pillars protect the head, an elbow is put to the head to protect a hook, a head kick, or an overhand punch.


Sweeps are allowed in both martial arts. Yes, Muay Thai sweeps are more technical, and a greater number of variations can be seen, but you will earn points when you successfully sweep your opponent in a Savate combat too.


Fights take place in a ring of similar or the same dimensions. Of course, ONE FC Muay Thai fights to take place inside the Octagon, but aside from that, rings and ropes are very much dominant in Thai boxing.

Glove-Touch At The Beginning

Respect plays a big role in the world of Thai boxing. You’re showing it to your dojo, ancestors, coaches, and even the stadium. Savate is not that much about respect, but you have to touch gloves when the referee calls you and your opponent to say the rules.

Both Thai and Savate warriors mostly touch gloves one more time before the start of the bout. In Muay Thai, touching gloves in later rounds means you accept the loss, while in Savate, you can do it as many times as you want, but the judges don’t pay much attention to it.

Can Savate Help You In The Street Fight? Is It Better Than Muay Thai?

Well, it’s too technical and sports-oriented, you might have a hard time if somebody drags you to the ground or clinches up. Savate can help, but Muay Thai serves better thanks to clinching, elbows, and brutal knees.

The greatest advantage of Savate in the street fight is half-distance, long-range combos, and shoe strikes. Yet, Muay Thai is too dominant in the clinch, plus Thai fighters can create a significant amount of damage even when the distance between them and their opponent is less than 10 centimeters.

Thai boxing lets you land more different strikes from any range, which makes it more dangerous for a street bully. Muay Thai vs Savate – the ancient Siamese art scores one point over the French style of kickboxing.


I hope you enjoyed my Muay Thai vs Savate comparison. Savate is a pretty much unique fighting style cause you can make a significant amount of damage with your shoes, which could give any opponent a hard time. Thai fights are more brutal and rules are more liberal.

Both Thai and Savate fighters tend to control the central line by any means necessary and give an advantage to the offense over the defense. There is no stalling, and both styles are interesting to watch. Did I miss something? Did you enjoy my analysis? Would you like to ask something? Please let me know!

Last Updated on August 3, 2022 by Deni

Picture of Deni


Hi, I started training Muay Thai back in 2016 and fell in love with it. So I decided to create this blog in the pursuit of this passion and share my experience with you.

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