Does Height Matter In A Fight?
For as long as martial arts and combat sports exist, there’s a debate about whether it’s better to be taller or shorter in a fight. At first glance, it seems that being tall gives you a significant advantage because you can reach your opponent easier.
But, if the shorter fighter knows how to utilize his lack of size like Mike Tyson did, then you’re in trouble. So, does height matter in a fight?
Height plays a much more significant role when you’re a beginner because you can naturally keep your opponent at bay. That usually happens in street fights with untrained fighters. But, in martial arts, a skilled short fighter can be a big problem for higher opponents.
The answer is not that simple, as both types of fighters have advantages they can utilize and disadvantages they should try to neutralize. Yes, height does matter in a fight, be it tall or short, but only if you know how to use your size to your advantage. Here’s what I’ve learned from years of martial arts experience.
Is It Better To Be Taller Or Shorter In A Fight
Whether it’s better to be taller or shorter in a fight is debatable, and it highly depends on both fighters’ skill levels. We’ve seen tall fighters such as Muhammad Ali and the Klitschko brothers utilize their height to perfection. But, we’ve seen short, strong fighters such as Mike Tyson, that knew how to neutralize the height disadvantage with power and quickness.
The answer depends on several factors. What kind of a fight are we talking about here? Is it a street fight with no rules or a regulated martial arts fight? If it’s regulated, is it a striking martial art, such as kickboxing or Taekwondo, or a grappling martial art such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling? How skilled are both fighters? Are they in the same weight class?
Every answer you get about the importance of height in a fight stems from these questions. A tall fighter will have an advantage when striking because he can damage his opponent without ever letting him fight back. On the other hand, short fighters have a much lower balance center, which gives them an advantage in grappling situations.
It’s not that much about height, but how the fighter uses it. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons for both types of fighters.
Pros And Cons For Being Taller In A Fight
Tall fighters are usually what we call out-styled fighters. That means they will circle around, keeping their distance, using jabs to prevent the shorter opponent from reaching them. Nobody can even touch you if you can do it right, which is clearly a huge advantage.
Also, having longer limbs means your jabs, roundhouse kicks, and hooks will have more power, even if you don’t put your body weight behind them. It’s simple physics - the longer the lever, the higher the force. It can also help block shots, especially leg strikes. You can simply lift your knee up to prevent body shots, even high kicks.
All these advantages are handy when fighting an unskilled fighter in a controlled environment. It can also prove to be a disadvantage when fighting somebody who knows how to use your height against you.
If you’re much taller than your opponent, you’ll usually be a lot less explosive, meaning they will be much quicker. One miss can lead to your opponent shooting in and taking you down by lifting you from your feet. Remember, their center of gravity is a lot lower, so they have the upper hand when it comes to balance.
It’s a lot harder to “work the body” when you are much taller than your opponent, especially in boxing, making you a one-trick pony. And, if the guy knows how to be an in-style fighter, shooting in and neutralizing your reach, you’ll be in big trouble.
Also, if you get into a grappling match, quickness and agility are everything, and it’s usually something that shorter fighters have more of. Finally, if you are in the same weight class, the taller guys will always have less muscle mass, as most of the weight goes into their height. That means the smaller guys can be a lot more buff and have more muscle mass at the same weight division, and more muscle mass means more power.
Pros And Cons Of Being Shorter In A Fight
Being shorter usually means being quicker and more agile, meaning you’ll have the upper hand to push the tempo and control the pace in a fight. You’ll be at an advantage if the fight gets taken to the ground and will have more muscle mass than the tall guy in the same weight class.
Also, short fighters are usually “swarmers” or in-style fighters. They constantly push forward, getting inside and working on short hooks, uppercuts, etc. It also enables you to work the body of your opponent. It may not lead directly to a knockout, but it can prove crucial both for points and for your opponent’s exhaustion in the later rounds.
People say that you lose power if you’re shorter because you have to strike upwards, not forward, and can’t quite generate your body’s momentum. But, you can still generate it with your legs, meaning your overhands and uppercuts will have significantly more power.
The cons are obvious, though. If you’re a beginner, you’ll have trouble finding the range and breaking that distance between you and your opponent. Also, they need far less flexibility to throw a high kick when your chin is as high as their chest. You need to be far more aggressive and take risks to shoot in and hope to land punches.
The Bottom Line
When it’s all said and done, it all comes down to every individual for himself. Height matters only as much as the fighter knows how to utilize it. Taller guys have the reach, while shorter guys have the balance, quickness, and agility. Being tall or short can prove beneficial in a fight if you learn how to utilize the advantages and neutralize the disadvantages.
On a beginner’s level, taller fighters will have a natural advantage, as they can use simple jabs and “teep” kicks to maintain distance. However, as you progress with your training and learn how to cut distance, parry, block, slip, and evade, that reach advantage quickly evaporates and becomes insignificant.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends. Being shorter and stocky can yield advantages VS a tall skinny guy. Daniel Cormier is between 5'9-10 and had great success using wrestling against taller, skinnier opponents well over 6 ft. Shorter fighters will have a lower center of gravity, which means it will be easier to get under the opponent's center and throw them off balance.
For taller fighters, and for striking, reach is something that needs to be considered. Taller people often have a longer reach, so in this case, they can use this to their advantage and strike from longer distances. Grappling from above is something that can be advantageous as you can use gravity to an advantage.
None of these skills are easy to master, but what it also shows is that there are options available that can be mastered to make you a dangerous threat to any opponent.
In boxing, height is something that matters. Boxing requires the use of arms to punch the opponent. A taller height is usually accompanied by a longer reach which can be highly advantageous when faced with a shorter opponent, as the taller person will be able to hit the shorter person from a distance that the shorter person can't.
There are some advantages of being a shorter boxer, as this usually means being more explosive, and body shots, which are also more commonly landed than headshots will be easier to perform, and there is a greater chance of landing a devastating blow to your opponent.
Physical attributes definitely play a role, but skills are more important. We have seen both shorter and taller fighters excel against opponents who were considerably shorter or taller.
It is about using what you have and honing those skills, adapting to fighters of varying stature. A taller person such as Jon Jones uses his reach to his advantage through jabs and kicks and is one of the best fighters of all time. For a taller fighter if you can learn to utilize and time your reach to strike your opponent from a distance where he can't reach you.
In a street fight, it is far more likely that the fighters will be untrained, with a limited skill set, and no weight classes. So size is something that comes into play will far more so than in a professional bout. The person will have the advantage of raw power,
There is always a 'puncher's chance' for someone in a fight, but without proper training and with significant body weight and height difference, size will be a key factor in a street fight.