When you are taller than the average joe, the world seems to be cut out for you.
Research suggests that taller men are more attractive to the opposite sex. You might even have a career advantage because taller men are likely to be paid more, and also likely to be more successful.
Jeez! Talk about life being unfair.
But if you are looking to delve into combat sports, you might have heard that the scales are not tilted completely in your favor.
How true is that? Are martial arts designed to be advantageous for shorter guys and girls?
Tall martial artists certainly appear more menacing and there’s an apparent psychological advantage as you look down at your opponent.
But is the advantage limited to that? Not really.
Most martial arts rely heavily on kicks and punches, with the occasional one focusing extensively on ground-fighting, with clinches and locks.
Irrespective of how tall you are, you will mostly have the advantage. Some martial arts will heavily shift the odds in your favor.
For instance, combat techniques that allow you to use your long limbs, your reach, and your stride, which are your strengths. There are many that tick these boxes.
The Best Martial Arts for Big and Tall Guys
Ideally, any big and tall guy should be able to do reasonably well in any martial art. It all boils down to the amount of time and effort that you are willing to put in.
Don’t let hearsay on the internet fool you into believing otherwise.
We read a post the other day on a messaging board that Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun Kung-Fu is not exactly suited for tall guys. But we have seen Wing-Chun practitioners who are 6’5 performing some amazing, fluid moves during combat.
However, what we are looking at over here, are martial arts that will tilt the scales significantly in your favor.
There are four that come to our mind.
#1 – Boxing
Boxing is a martial art that gives tall and big guys an edge over their shorter opponents. This does not mean that there haven’t been professional boxers who were short. But if you look at the average, most boxing champions over the years have been taller than 6-feet.
The only exceptions that I can think of are Rocky Marciano, who was pretty close at 5’11 and Iron Mike at 5’10. But it’s a well-known fact that Mike Tyson struggled against taller opponents, especially in the later part of his career.
The current guys are just monsters. Tyson Fury is 6’9 and Deontay Wilder is 6’7. God bless a short guy who steps into the ring with them.
But what is it about boxing that makes it a better martial art for big and tall guys?
The Tall Guy Advantage – Reach
If you look at some of the best fights in boxing history, tall guys have used their long limbs and their reach to the advantage. They find it relatively easier to keep a shorter opponent away, while advancing with their long strides and making targeted strikes. Even at the gym, taller guys seem to land more punishing blows at a freestanding or hanging punching bag than most shorter folks.
The Tall Guy Disadvantage – No Kicks
The only possible disadvantage that a tall guy has in boxing, is that they cannot use their long legs to kick. But in a combat situation, even that can be used, especially if one has been making the most of their standing punching bag sessions to hone their kicking skills.
Is Boxing Helpful in Real-World Combat?
We tend to look at Boxing as a sport and rightly so. But a lot of times, we forget that Boxing evolved from bare-knuckle street fighting, but then the sport has advanced to include the use of pro and amateur boxing gloves and of course, shoes too (these can be high top or low top boxing shoes). Not forgetting, it also has a set of rules for fighters’ safety. But mostly, a lot of boxing fundamentals are aimed at defending yourself from your opponent.
Be rest assured that if you ever find yourself in a self-defense situation, boxing can save your life.
#2 – Taekwondo
This Korean Martial arts form took America by storm in the 60s when it was introduced to American soldiers.
Taekwondo uses a combination of punches and kicks, but the emphasis is slightly more on kicking. So if boxing doesn’t catch your fancy, Taekwondo certainly will.
The Tall Guy Advantage – Kicks
A lot of big and tall guys find themselves off balance when they try to perform kicks. But Taekwondo training focuses a lot on flexibility and balance. In fact, for the first few months, you will work solely on improving flexibility, which will help you immensely as you progress.
Once you start becoming more flexible, most of the kicks, like the roundhouse, and the Axe kick will become a lot easier than it appeared to be. That’s when you start to realize the advantage that you get with those long limbs.
Best part is, you can train at home using different types of punching bags, like a free-standing ones like the Wavemaster XXL or the 2XL. You can also use an aqua bag or a heavy bag (with the former being an amazing option if you are looking for a portable punching bag) to do all sorts of kicking techniques.
If you put in the effort, most of your short opponents will find it impossible to reach you.
The Tall Guy Disadvantage – Time
While it’s not related to the anatomy of a tall or big guy, Taekwondo is more time-consuming than boxing.
It takes years to master. Part of this has to do with the emphasis on flexibility. Taller guys might discover that they have to work really hard for a very long time, to improve flexibility and balance.
Is Taekwondo Helpful in Real-World Combat?
We don’t see a reason to disbelieve that Taekwondo would be beneficial in a real-life combat situation. Some of those flashy kicks are very effective at knocking down an opponent. Besides, if you are fast, you can spring a surprise, which is definitely advantageous.
#3 – Krav Maga
Here’s another load of crock that’s being peddled online. ‘Any martial arts involving grappling is not suited for tall guys’. That’s one of the most absurd things that we’ve heard.
If you believe this, then I recommend that you try Krav Maga, the military self-defense and fighting system created by the Israeli Security Forces. This is a hybrid martial arts that sources techniques from Aikido, Boxing, Wrestling, Taekwondo, and Judo.
Krav Maga will show you how to use your height to your advantage in combat.
The Tall Guy Advantage – The Clinch
What’s often touted as a disadvantage can actually be a blessing in disguise. Let’s assume that you are somehow toppled over (chances are slim) by a shorter opponent. You can clinch them in a deadlock that they would find impossible to break out of.
The reason? You have bigger arms. It’s as simple as that. There’s no mystery here. It’s plain old science.
Effective clinching is about positioning yourself and about leverage. Every additional inch gives you that advantage. Ask any Krav Maga practitioner whether it’s fun going on the ground against a bigger, taller guy. It’s not because you have a clear advantage due to your size.
Since we have already covered the striking part in Taekwondo, we will not repeat that.
In a nutshell, Krav Maga is a great all-around martial art that will not only teach you to strike from a distance but also how to deal with an opponent on the ground.
The Tall Guy Disadvantage – Center of Gravity
This is only a slight disadvantage for a skilled martial artist. But can be a big one for a beginner. A shorter opponent might struggle to reach you. But if they are fast, they will find it easier to get under your center of gravity, which increases the possibility of you being toppled.
Once you are on the mat though, the advantage should tilt again in your favor as we explained above.
Having said that, a skilled shorter and stronger opponent can use the center of gravity to their advantage and clinch you in a lock as well.
Is Krav Maga Effective in Real World Combat?
Absolutely. In fact, it is the only martial art that’s designed for maximum efficiency in a real-life combat situation. You’ll discover that most of the moves aim to attack the vulnerable parts of the body.
For this reason, most Krav Maga training is closely monitored and the moves are often left incomplete, because finishing the move might result in permanent injury. In some cases, even death.
#4 – Muay Thai
Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing is a martial art that originated in Thailand. But it’s now widely practiced all around the world and is quite renowned for its effectiveness in combat.
A lot of people use the term Muay Thai and Kickboxing interchangeably. But the fact is that these are different martial arts. While Kickboxing uses a combination of punches and kicks, Muay Thai also allows you to use your elbows and knees, which makes it a more lethal martial art, especially if you have managed to build bigger quads for solid leg strength, and training your biceps and triceps strength as well, and of course, spent enough time perfecting your skills on a punching bag – be it a pro one or a homemade tire punching bag.
With all the emphasis on kicks, Muay Thai makes for a perfect martial art for a big and tall guy.
But it’s not merely kicking, mind you. Muay Thai also places a lot of emphasis on body conditioning, which means that you will spend a lot of time performing cardio after your workouts and lots of flexibility drills. This helps improve your balance and strengthen your core.
The Tall Guy Advantage – Punches, Kicks, and Elbows
If you look closely at a Muay Thai fighter, you’ll find that they recruit almost every punch in the boxing manual. They use jabs, hooks, uppercuts, cross punches and then club it with nasty elbow hits to the face.
This means that as a tall and a big fighter, you get the reach advantage from Boxing for your punches. You should be able to fend a shorter opponent off easily.
Anytime a shorter fighter tries to bridge that distance, your legs come into play. Right from low leg kicks, which can throw an opponent off balance, to front kicks and roundhouses, Muay Thai fighting allows a tall fighter to make complete use of their strong points.
Then there are the knees and elbows which are considered to be the best tools against shorter opponents. To give you a real life example, Saenchai is one of the most decorated Muay Thai fighters. However, he’s just 5’4, and uses his speed and technique to bring down much bigger opponents.
The 41-defeats in his career have mostly come against taller opponents, such as the French-Italian fighter Fabio Pinca (5’9) and Thai fighter Singdam Kiatmuu9, who’s 5’9 as well. These two fighters used the clinch and rained elbows on Saenchai, which was difficult, even for a fighter of his caliber to tackle.
The Tall Guy Disadvantage – Balance
Just like in Krav Maga, a shorter Muay Thai fighter might be able to topple you over, especially if they have a strong, sweeping low kick. But that’s subject to a lot of factors. If you look at the average, taller American Muay Thai fighters with barely 10-20 fights to their credit, often defeat seasoned Thai fighters who have a lot more wins under their belt.
The reason? It’s because Americans have the size advantage. Even if the Thai Fighter somehow manages to knock them down, they quickly gather their balance and use the clinch to their advantage.
Is Muay Thai Effective in Real-Life Combat?
It’s one of the most complete martial arts and hence, is extremely effective in a combat situation.
Despite all the advice, it’s not uncommon to have doubts about a certain martial art and whether it will suit your height and weight. After all, you have to be sure about your choice considering that you will be investing a lot of time and effort into it.
Well, here’s a brief FAQ that aims to answer some of the common doubts that you may have.
Are These the Only Martial Arts that Are Suited for Tall and Big Guys?
This is not an exhaustive list of martial arts that tall guys have an advantage in. It is generally accepted that if you are taller and bigger, you are more difficult to fight than someone who’s shorter. That’s precisely why weight classes have been introduced in combat sport. It’s to prevent athletes with different weights to go against each other, because one person might have an unfair advantage over the other. So, you can very well retain that advantage in any martial art that you try.
Is There Any Martial Art that Is More Advantageous to A Shorter Guy or Girl?
That depends on how skilled the opponent is. But in general, Judo with the hip throws is considered more advantageous to a shorter fighter. However, in a real life combat situation, rules go flying out of the window and most opponents will use any unfair advantage that they get. In such a situation, a taller and bigger guy will always have an edge.
The takeaway is that do not let your height or your weight dissuade you from pursuing any martial art.
The height and weight already shift the advantage in your favor. With practice, you should be able to overcome any minor disadvantage that you might have.
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