When I first moved here, one of the at-home-comforts that I was searching for was a proper boxing gym. Since the Côte d’Azur isn’t exactly synonymous with martial sports I thought I’d be lucky to find a room with a heavy bag and some free weights. A quick Google search and I came up with Frank May’s Nice Boxing team, specialising in Savate boxing.
Savate involves both the hands and feet as weapons combining Western boxing with kicking techniques. It originated in Marseille during the 19th century as a form of street fighting and cleaned up its image enough to be a demonstration sport in the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Frank May is the former French champion, a title he won many times. He now runs his gym where he promotes the sport through training competitive and non-competitive practitioners of this unique French sport. His boxing gym is the largest Savate boxing club in France for the fourth consecutive year. Frank, who describes his profession as “Sports Instructor” explains, “We create a social bond through Savate boxing. We are entrusted with a public service to Nice and represent the city through regional, national and international sporting events. The city recognizes the work we do and supports us both logistically and financially.”
Among the martial sports, Savate is unique because it is the only feet-hand combat sport where you wear shoes. Says Frank, “It’s only when you practice that you appreciate the significance and effectiveness of the shoes. Hits or strikes come from the foot, not with the tibia and the kick path must be perpendicular to the target.”
Getting hit sounds dangerous It’s been my experience that most boxing gyms are either practical boxing gyms where you’re taught to spar and eventually compete or practice a non-contact form of boxing; Frank’s gym is rare in that it offers both. There are practical classes that combine proper technique and open sparring each session. And there’s Fit’Boxing, taught by Frank’s wife Jo, that stresses form and combinations in an hour-long cardio class. Frank’s entire family, in fact, is involved in Savate. His two daughters are Savate champions: Marine, the eldest was Vice Champion of France and Adeline won the French title four times as well as the World Champion Under-18 category.
What do you need to know before starting Savate? Frank: “The address of Nice Boxing … Seriously, though, you’ll do hard work without taking yourself too seriously. We offer two free introductory classes in French for those interested so you’ll risk nothing financially to get started.” But hitting – and getting hit – sounds dangerous and intimidating. “It’s far from the most dangerous sport,”
Frank claims, “especially when Savate Boxe students – men and women, by the way – defence as well as how to control their power and respect their partner and the rules of the sport. This minimises the risk, controls fear and channels the energy of the participants in the proper manner.” For those who want to stay with it membership fees are €260 for the September to June season, which gives you unlimited access to boxing lessons and Fit’Boxing classes. As somebody who has been studying various martial sports since the age of seven, I’d highly recommend Frank’s gym to anyone interested in learning about boxing or wanting to get in shape. But know that it’s a French-speaking club.
Nice Boxing (nice-boxing.com) is at Salle G. Carpentier (5 avenue du XVeme Corps, Nice) next to the Jean Bouin sports complex.