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Obscure Martial Arts Profile: Lutte Parisian
The art of “Lutte Parisian”, or “Parisian wrestling” played a major role in the progressive development of Savate during the 1800s. In France, the Greco-Roman style of wrestling was practised as early as the 1st century AD, and by the 19th century it had become so popular that it was simply referred to as “French wrestling”. French wrestling attracted all classes of society, from ordinary commoners to members of royalty itself, and the popularity it commanded was considerable. Indeed, one of the most famous men in the whole of France during the Renaissance period was a wrestler and swordsman called Pietro Monte. And more significantly, it is said that in 1520, King Henry VIII of England was challenged by King Francis I of France to a personal wrestling match. The actual outcome of this bout is inconclusive at best, as each of the two countries claim their own king was victorious on the day – beliefs that were perhaps born of national pride rather than historical fact. From the mid 1800s, mixed matches between Lutters and Savatuers were common, and as a result, the exchange of some fundamental techniques occurred between the fighters of both these French martial arts. Famous Lutters of the period who reportedly cross-trained in Savate include Bernard, Rambaud and Marseille. Bernard, who fought under the name “Father Bernard”, was reportedly an excellent Savateur and Lutter from Southern France, but was also a competitor who would intentionally foul an opponent at every opportunity. In 1850, Bernard met his match, when he was knocked out by a kick to the chest by Rambaud. Rambaud went on to defeat another excellent Lutter of the era called Aprin (“The Terrible Savoyard”), and later contested three bouts with Vigneron. Vigneron was a colourful and renowned fighter of the period. Also known as “the cannon man” (after his habit of hoisting a cannon on his shoulder while approaching the ring), Vigneron was a superb Savateur, Lutter and weightlifter. He competed in, and won, many mixed martial arts bouts, fighting English boxers, and French Lutters and Savateurs alike. Vigneron’s protégé, Joseph Charlemont, was responsible for many of Savate’s lasting refinements. He codified the existing methods of Savate, and introduced elements of Fencing footwork, and Lutte, and in his endeavours he wrote several books on savate. The most famous of these, “L’ ART ET LA BOXE FRANCAISE ET DE LA CANNE – 1899”, includes a large grouping of Parisian Lutte techniques in addition to the more traditional kicking, boxing and cane fighting. Where the Greco Roman system only permitted grips, holds and throws from the waist up, Charlemont integrated single and double leg pick ups, leg captures, and take-downs from the free style methods. Many of these techniques would also be used to combat the superior punching lines of the English pugilists. The use of Lutte dominated the infighting range of the typical 19th century Savate fighter, resulting in his repertoire of kicking and boxing skills being delivered from a longer distance. At the same time, the typical French boxer could initiate strikes from out of distance by way of en marchant attacks, croises, shifts, lunges or drop steps -- always carefully placing his kicks and punches so as to avoid his limbs being grabbed. Unlike in the modern sport, which is based on continuous movement and combinations, a contemporary Savate fighter could expect to be thrown head first into the ground if he attempted to engage in infighting with a traditional French boxer skilled in Parisian Lutte. Even in spite of wrestling’s popularity at the time, Charlemont’s manuals (and other savate manuals written during the era) made no mention of ground wrestling. From a self-defence standpoint, this is strategically advisable, as spending excessive “time on target”, especially in the street, can result in the grounded victim being on the receiving end of a potential stomping or weapon attack. La Lutte techniques that were feasible in Savate were utilized in conjunction with hitting skills. Strikes were used to soften up the opponent before, during, and after a grappling manoeuvre, and many of the take-downs were designed to throw the opponent onto his head, against a wall, or body-slam him heavily into the ground. By the 1970s the last of the Parisian Lutte techniques had been removed from Savate so as to promote a clean international kickboxing sport. Various groups however, particularly the Italian schools and several overseas academies, continue to include the Lutte skills in their syllabus. The following images demonstrate a small grouping of “Prise de jambe” and “Enfourchement” techniques that were commonly in use by Savateurs during the 1800s. 1- Ankle hook and riposte with a punch- Sight the opponents chest using your peripherals to track his prime movers (in the case of kicking the hips and thighs) when movement is detected lean back and rotate your body into a lateral plan taking your prime targets of line .Use a straight arm guard to deflect the incoming linear kick (coup de pied direct) to the outside. Open your hand and hook the opponent’s ankle and follow up with a strike from your rear hand. The object of this exercise is to continuously strike the opponent while he is standing on a single base of support. 2-Counter to the ankle hook- Turn the captured knee towards the ground by rotating the hips and dragging the foot down and out – follow with a low chasse 3- Ankle hook and scissors hold, riposte with a kick – After guarding and hooking the opponents ankle pass the left hand outwards and over his ankle, both arms crossing and securing the foot. Lift his leg as high as possible at the same time delivering a low kick.