In case you didn’t win the genetic lottery and ended up being a small guy (thanks dad and mom) trying to pick out a martial arts that is suitable for your body type an be quite the challenge.
Some martial arts are best suited for guys with long legs that give them a reach advantage, while others are advantageous for individuals that are big and strong.
So then where does this leave the person with a small stature?
You may feel left out but don’t fret.
There are literally hundreds of different martial arts styles that exists today and even within those styles, you have variations of that martial art.
There will always be a martial arts style that will be suitable for an individual regardless of their height or build.
In this article, I’ll talk about what my recommendations are for the best martial arts for small guys.
The best martial arts for small guys in my opinion include the following:
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Wing Chun
Boxing is a very efffective form of martial arts that anyone can quickly pick up.
Its simplicity makes it easy for just about anyone to learn.
While simplistic on the outside, there’s actually a lot of sophistication that goes into boxing techniques that the untrained eye could never pick up such as learning how to dodge attacks by bobbing and weaving side to side, using a shoulder roll to evade attacks which was made popular by the world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather jr, and landing quick yet lethal combinations on an unsuspecting opponent.
While a larger opponent will be able to generate a lot more power compared to a smaller guy due to sheer size alone, boxers regardless of size can still generate lots of power behind their punches through the use of their hips, which is powerhouse for generating punching power.
Now while a larger person can produce more force, a smaller person does have an advantage as well, and that’s speed and agility.
Have a look at this fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya. The smaller Pacquiao was able to outbox the larger De La Hoya.
Being able to go in and out in the blink of an eye can be the difference between getting knocked out cold or safety evading an attack and preparing for a counter punch.
Being much quicker and mobile will allow you to easily counter punch someone and dish out major damage.
In addition to learning how to throw perfect punches in boxing, you will also work on your footwork, evasive maneuvers, as well as stamina and body conditioning.
This can make all the difference in a fight where one person has taken way too much damage or they gas out due to poor conditioning.
I know I sure have been at the receiving end of the stick when I sparred in boxing but had poor conditioning after taking an extended period of time off.
Muay Thai is one of the most deadliest martial arts that someone could learn.
Not only will you learn to dish out some of the nastiest knees, elbows, and leg kicks towards your opponent, you will learn how to take an insane amount of punishment too.
Muay thai would work well for a shorter person.
First, you will learn how to throw out those devastating leg kicks.
For a shorter guy, sometimes trying to kick high enough to reach a tall opponent’s head may not be possible or favorable as they can easily catch your leg.
This rules out a lot of traditional martial arts such as Karate or Taekwondo.
But if you are throwing out low leg kicks, especially as a shorter guy, they will be much more difficult to grab a hold of while inflicting major crippling pain for your opponent that could render them unable to even walk afterwards!
How’s that for effective?
In addition, you will also learn how to throw punches similar to a boxer, with the added benefits of learning how to generate more power behind your punches and kicks.
Its similar to comparing a taekwondo roundhouse kick to a Muay Thai roundhouse kick.
A Muay Thai fighter throws all of their weight behind each attack, thus magnifying its power.
And let’s not forget the clinch. That deadly hold that Thai fighters have on their opponents which usually leads to a barrage of knee strikes to either the body or head of their opponent.
Since a smaller guy does not possess reach advantage, he would need to minimize his weaknesses by getting close to his opponents, which is where the clinch comes in handy.
Lastly, Muay Thai students get the opportunity to practice contact sparring in a controlled environment which helps the students apply what they learned and get experience in the ring.
In the unfortunate event that you end up in a real life fight outside, you’ll be sure that you won’t choke in the face of fear.
Aikido is a Japanese martial arts that falls under the soft style categories of martial arts such as Tai Chi or Hapkido.
Rather then meeting force with force as in a hard style, the practitioner seeks to deflect the force and use the attacker’s force against them while utilizing minimal movements.
This makes this martial arts especially suitable for guys that are smaller in stature as they will be able to take advantage of a larger opponents power and use it against them.
In Aikido training, students learn throws, joint locks, weapons training, how to roll or fall down, as well as how to defend against multiple attackers which makes this martial arts very practical for the street.
Throwing opponents off balance, redirecting attacks, and applying pressure to nerves and joints are all trademarks of Aikido.
The actor and martial artist Steven Seagal is a practitioner of Aikido which helped launched him into stardom.
Here you can see him demonstrating some aikido moves:
Judo is a martial arts best known for its incredible throws and grappling skills, along with chokes and joint locks.
Unlike a striking art that favors a larger and taller opponent, having long legs can work against you as it can make you more susceptible to having your limbs being used as leverage for a shorter person.
In this case, a shorter person with a lower center of gravity will benefit from this martial arts as it makes it easier to take down opponents and to defend against take downs as well.
Using maximum efficiency and minimal effort to take down large opponents is one of the core philosophies of Judo.
In addition to learning how to throw and apply joint locks and chokes to opponents, students will also be taught how to roll, and safely fall down, which may come in quite handy in a street fight where your opponent is trying to face plant you onto cement.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground based grappling and submission martial arts that originated in Brazil.
This martial arts is a favorite among mixed martial arts practitioners due to its practicality in combat sports and also real life self defense situations.
Students are taught how to take down opponents, defend against take downs, grapple, and apply submissions to opponents.
Applying the concepts of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a smaller person is able to subdue a much larger opponent.
A great example of this was Royce Gracie, the son of one of the founders of the martial arts, who entered the UFC tournaments in the early days and was able to submit much stronger and larger opponents such as Ken Shamrock, and Kimo leopoldomo using technique and strategy rather then pure physical strength.
Being smaller, you naturally have a lower center of gravity which works for you against larger opponents and once your both on the ground, your taller opponent’s reach advantage is no longer present.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu however is that it can’t be applied to multiple attackers.
Say for example, your busy on the ground trying to choke out one guy, another guy could easily come right up to you and stomp on your face or attack you while your busy with the other guy.
Whereas a striking martial arts would allow you strike and knock out one opponent, giving you enough time to prepare for the next attacker, you won’t be able to do this with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Wing Chung is a Chinese Kung Fu self defense system developed especially for close range combat that targets your enemies center line while still protecting your own and is very suitable for people that are shorter and smaller in stature.
Wing Chung was created by a budhist nun to give an edge to smaller fighters like herself.
You might have heard of the famous martial artist and actor Bruce Lee.
Well Bruce Lee started off his martial arts journey with the study of Wing Chun under Yip Man, one of the most famous Wing Chun masters of all time.
Chi Sau otherwise known as sticky hands is a concept taught in Wing Chun to stick to your opponent and not let them escape.
Rapid strikes along with insane reflex development is taught in Wing Chun either through a sparring partner or a wooden dummy.
You can see a demonstration of wing chun’s speed and accuracy in this scene from the movie Rumble in the Bronx.
The martial art is based on the philosophy of being as efficient as possible and minimizing unnecessary movements.
For a shorter individual, wing chun would make perfect sense due to the close range combat that the system teaches to not give an advantage to a bigger and taller opponent.
A shorter and smaller person is able to go toe to toe with a larger opponent at this close range, whereby their opponents hands are trapped while the Wing Chun practitioner unleashes an endless barrage of rapid strikes combined with insane reflexes.
While a shorter guy might be at a disadvantage for some striking martial arts, all hope is not lost.
There are some martial arts that are well suited for someone with a smaller build.
Here’s a summary of the martial arts that would suit a smaller guy:
- Boxing: The use of punches and evasive maneuvers to land strikes on an opponent. Its simplicity and ease of learning makes it a great martial art for all levels. People who are smaller benefit from it due to their advantage in speed and agility.
- Muay Thai: Another striking martial art that utilizes punches, kicks, knees, and elbows to deliver punishment to your opponents. A shorter person can take advantage of leg kicks to chop down a larger opponent.
- Aikido: A soft style of martial arts that focuses on using your opponents force against them rather then trying to match their strength with your strength. Throwing your opponent off balance and using joint locks are key elements of this martial art.
- Judo: A martial art specializing in throws, joint locks, and chocks. A smaller person has a lower center of gravity, thus making it easier for them to take down larger opponents while also having an easier time to defend against throws and take downs.
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: This Brazilian martial art focuses on grappling, take downs, joint locks, chokes, and ground defense. It is a very popular martial arts that is studied by thousands nowadays due to its exposure in mixed martial arts promotions such as the UFC. Applying the techniques of this martial art, smaller guys are able to take down and submit much larger opponents.
- Wing Chun: This Chinese Kung Fu focuses on self defense and short range attacks. Sticking to your opponent and delivering rapid attacks in succession until they are rendered unable to attack along with lightning fast reflexes to defend against attacks is a trademark of this martial arts. It was especially designed for a smaller person to even the odds with a larger one.
While having a bigger build may give someone an edge some of the times, it does not make them immune from being beaten.
Just like Goliath was defeated by David, a smaller individual can also win against a larger opponent if they apply the right strategy.
At the end of the day though, regardless of whether your big or small, putting dedication and hard work towards any martial arts and mastering it will always give you a leg up in any self defense situation.