Does Size Matter? The Best Martial Arts for a Small Person.

Does Size Matter Banner

What are the best martial arts for a small person… does size really matter? The short answer is – it depends.

There are many, many, many different martial arts. Most have all sizes and weights of students participating in them.

I believe the best option for a small person doesn’t depend on the style of Martial Art or the Combat sports… 

…it does in fact, depend on your goals. In other words, why do you want to learn that particular martial art or combat system?

If your goal is self defense then you’ll need martial arts classes that teach real life self defense. Which means you might start by looking at the self-defense techniques in Krav Maga.

If however you’re looking for ground fighting skills then Judo or BJJ classes might be more your calling.

If you’re looking for more of a sport and to dramatically increase your fitness level while becoming a skilled fighter like the mma fighters you see in the UFC. Then you’ll be looking at a fighting style like MMA, or Thai Boxing. 

All martial arts training are beneficial. But the question at hand is, are there martial arts styles that are better for shorter people?

When you picture the typical martial artist, what do you see? Usually it’s a towering, muscle-bound individual who looks like they can break the wall just by leaning on it, isn’t it?

Imagine a smaller person having to fight someone like that!!! Yikes!!

This is one of the main reasons we have different weight classes in combat sports. To make it a fair fight.

However, the world of martial arts is so much more robust. Agility, technique, and smarts often triumph over brute force. 

Size doesn’t always equal strength.  Sometimes the smallest person in the room is also the toughest.

While some forms of martial arts do favor taller people, there are many styles that are perfect for smaller people, allowing them to turn disadvantages into strengths.

So, which martial arts do I recommend for smaller body types?

We’re going to talk about three different styles that I believe will be a good choice for short people.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Karate, and Krav Maga are great places to start. 

Oftentimes the determining factor in these martial arts is not the size of the fighter in the fight, but the size of the fight in the fighter.

We’re going to break these three martial arts down and show how they can level the playing field for smaller individuals and where each one is best applied.

We’ll look at the history, techniques, and philosophy behind each style, and meet some successful martial artists who might just remind you of… well, you.

BJJ, Krav Maga and Karate are three martial arts that are perfect for the smaller person.
Does Size Matter? The Best Martial Arts for a Small Person. 5

What Is Martial Arts?

Before continuing let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when talking about martial arts.

In its simplest terms, martial arts are systems or traditions of combat training.

They’re designed to teach us how to defend ourselves at close range. 

But most martial arts also offer a whole lot more – from physical fitness and mental discipline to a deep sense of accomplishment and community.

There are many types of martial arts and each has its own techniques, strategies, and philosophies.

Some are considered striking martial arts, like boxing or Taekwondo(Korean Martial Art). 

Others emphasize throws and grappling, like Judo or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

Then there are those that combine multiple aspects of combat into one comprehensive system, such as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or Krav Maga.

How Does Size Come Into Play?

Now, let’s talk size. In the context of martial arts, “size” usually refers to a practitioner’s height and body weight.

It’s a common misconception that bigger means better in the martial arts world. It’s true that generally size matters when it comes to strength. 

But let’s be clear: being smaller does NOT mean you’re at a disadvantage.

In fact, being smaller can offer benefits that larger individuals might not have – such as faster speed, better agility, and sometimes even an element of surprise!

Martial arts isn’t just physical strength. It’s technique, strategy, speed, flexibility, and – perhaps most importantly – mental toughness.

When a smaller person masters these elements, they can hold their own against larger opponents.

bjj ground fighting
Does Size Matter? The Best Martial Arts for a Small Person. 6

Overview of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

The first martial art for the short person on our list is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). But before we get into why it’s such a great fit for smaller people, let’s get a quick rundown of what BJJ actually is.

BJJ has its roots in early 20th-century Japan, where it began as a form of Judo before being exported to Brazil.

There, it was honed and modified by the legendary Gracie family, ultimately transforming into the BJJ we know and love today.

In essence, BJJ(Brazilian jiu jitsu) is a ground-based martial art that prioritizes technique over brute force.

To me it resembles a game of physical chess, where you’re constantly planning moves and countermoves.

It’s all about gaining and controlling position, and then applying submissions (position before submission as they say) to make your opponent tap out.

Now, you might be thinking, “But I’m at a size disadvantage, how am I going to control some of those big guys on the ground?”

Well, this is where BJJ really shines.

Instead of relying on strength or size to overpower an opponent, BJJ techniques use leverage and cunning to gain the upper hand.

This means that even if you’re smaller or weaker than your opponent, if you’ve got superior technique, you’ve got more than a fighting chance!

In BJJ, being smaller can often work to your advantage. Smaller people often have an easier time slipping out of bad positions.

They can often apply submissions from positions where larger practitioners might struggle.

It’s not uncommon to see a smaller BJJ practitioner weaving their way around a larger opponent like a snake, using their size and flexibility to control the match.

I personally experienced this when I had my ass handed to me in BJJ class by a female student half my size.

It took her less than a minute to get me into a rear naked choke and submit me.

That being said if you’re looking for a martial art where your brain is just as important as your brawn, and where size can actually be an advantage, BJJ might just be your perfect match!

Case Study: Successful Smaller BJJ Practitioners

Now that we’ve talked about why BJJ can be a fantastic choice for smaller individuals, let’s take a look at some real-life examples of smaller powerhouses who’ve found success on the mat.

First on our list is Caio Terra, a world-renowned BJJ practitioner who might be small in stature but is a giant on the mat.

Standing at 5’7” and weighing in at a modest 145 pounds, Terra has become a dominating force in the BJJ world.

He’s a multiple-time World Champion who has managed to hold his own against much larger opponents.

Terra is known for his technical precision and his relentless pursuit of perfection in his techniques – proof that size doesn’t determine success in BJJ.

Next up is Michelle Nicolini, a decorated BJJ competitor, and one of the top female practitioners in the world.

Her innovative techniques and resilient spirit have earned her numerous championships against competitors of all sizes.

Nicolini’s success underlines how BJJ allows smaller people to compete and excel at the highest levels.

Finally, there’s Bruno Malfacine, often considered one of the greatest competitors in his division in the history of BJJ.

Despite being smaller than many of his peers, Malfacine’s agility, speed, and impeccable technique have propelled him to an astonishing ten World Championships.

His career serves as a shining example of how size is no barrier to greatness in BJJ.

These remarkable athletes all started where you are right now – wondering if their size might be a hurdle. But they didn’t let that stop them.

Instead, they turned what some might see as a disadvantage into their greatest strength.

karate fighting
Does Size Matter? The Best Martial Arts for a Small Person. 7

Overview of Karate

Karate, originates from the island of Okinawa, Japan.

Probably one of the most widely recognized martial arts, with millions of practitioners worldwide. Even being featured in movies like “The Karate Kid”. 

Karate master Gichin Funikoshi once said ‘The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants’.

In fact, I got my start in Karate. My training focused a lot on mindset, and overcoming obstacles, which has come in handy in life.

Karate, literally translates to “empty hand,” and even though there is the use of weapons, it’s primarily a striking art, featuring punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes, and open-hand techniques.

It also incorporates some grappling, joint locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes. 

Karate isn’t just about offense, it also places a heavy emphasis on self-defense, teaching students how to block and evade attacks.

One thing you’ll notice in Karate is the importance placed on form and technique. It’s not about who can punch the hardest or kick the highest.

Instead, it’s about precision, timing, and efficiency.

In Karate, a well-aimed, well-timed strike can be more effective than a hundred poorly executed ones. This is can be a real advantage to shorter fighters.

Smaller people often have a speed advantage. They often have the ability to execute techniques quickly and efficiently, which is a huge asset in Karate.

Karate also teaches techniques that use an opponent’s force against them. So, if a larger opponent charges at you, you can redirect their momentum to throw them off balance and take control of the situation.

Smaller people also tend to have a lower center of gravity, which can provide increased stability and balance – vital components in executing Karate techniques effectively.

So, if you’re interested in a martial art that values speed, agility, and precision over sheer size, Karate might be the perfect fit for you!

Case Study: Successful Smaller Karate Practitioners

Just to show you how well smaller individuals can excel in Karate, let’s highlight a few success stories. 

These individuals have used their size to their advantage, leveraging speed, agility, and technique to achieve great success.

Tadashi Nakamura, a legendary figure in the world of Karate. Standing at just 5’5”, is a testament to the power of skill and technique over size. 

As the founder of Seido Karate, Nakamura has dedicated his life to spreading the principles of Karate across the globe. 

His achievements in the Karate world and his tireless dedication to his students prove that size is no barrier to greatness in martial arts.

Next we have Rika Usami. Nicknamed the ‘Karate Kata Queen’, is an important figure in the world of Karate. Though she is petite, Usami is known for her incredible technical prowess and indomitable spirit. 

She serves as an inspiration to countless female martial artists, showing that size and strength are no match for skill and determination.

Lastly, we have Yoshimi Inoue, a smaller statured Karate practitioner known for his exceptional speed and technique. 

Despite his size, Inoue dominated in many international Karate tournaments, proving that a smaller practitioner with superior technique can overcome larger opponents.

These individuals serve as inspiring examples of how smaller practitioners can achieve great success in Karate. 

They remind us that martial arts isn’t just a game of size and strength, but of skill, strategy, and spirit. 

krav maga fighting
Does Size Matter? The Best Martial Arts for a Small Person. 8

Overview of Krav Maga

The final martial art I want to talk about is a bit different. 

Krav Maga isn’t your traditional martial art. There are no uniforms, no tournaments, and no 10-step katas. 

Originating from the Israeli military, Krav Maga focuses on practical self-defense in real-world situations. 

The primary goal of Krav Maga is to neutralize threats as quickly and efficiently as possible, by any means necessary.

This practical focus makes Krav Maga an excellent choice for smaller people who are more concerned with self protection and personal safety. 

Krav Maga has a different approach to other martial arts. 

In most martial arts and combat sports the aim is to defeat your opponent. In Krav Maga however, your aim is just to ‘go home safe’.

Because of this you use everything you got to your advantage, including your size. 

Your entire body is a weapon – your elbows, your knees, your fists, even your head. 

So, it doesn’t matter how big or small you are, you’re always armed and ready.

Being smaller can actually be beneficial in Krav Maga. It means that you are a smaller target. You may also be able to move faster, and you can often attack targets that are harder for your opponent to defend.

In short(no pun intended), Krav Maga is a martial art that doesn’t just accommodate smaller practitioners, it empowers them. 

It is a practical, efficient, and empowering martial art, that comes in handy in a street fighting situation. 

Want to learn more about Krav Maga, then check out our blog post ‘What is Krav Maga Anyways?’

Case Study: Successful Smaller Krav Maga Practitioners

Now let’s get down to some real-life examples of individuals on the small side who’ve achieved success in the world of Krav Maga. 

These fighters have used the principles of Krav Maga to prove that size truly doesn’t matter when it comes to self-defense.

First up is Avivit Cohen, one of the highest-ranking female Krav Maga instructors in the world. 

Despite her smaller size, Cohen is a force to be reckoned with. 

She has dedicated her life to teaching others the art of Krav Maga and has become a symbol of empowerment for many women around the globe.

Next, we have Moshe Katz, who might not be the largest figure in the room, but his expertise in Krav Maga speaks volumes. 

As an instructor, Katz emphasizes the importance of technique and intelligence over brute force. 

He’s a living testament to the principle that a smaller, well-trained individual can neutralize a larger threat.

I had the honor of interviewing this amazing individual. You can check out my interview with Moshe Katz here.

Lastly, we have Alain Cohen, a world-renowned Krav Maga instructor and practitioner. 

Despite his average height and build, Cohen’s mastery of Krav Maga techniques, speed, and adaptability have made him a respected figure in the world of self-defense. 

His success underscores the fact that in Krav Maga, it’s not about size; it’s about skill, strategy, and determination.

These inspiring individuals stand as proof that smaller people can not only participate in Krav Maga but can truly excel. 

They show us that with the right training and mindset, anyone, regardless of size, can become a formidable practitioner of this powerful martial art.

Tips and Tricks for Smaller Martial Artists

As we’ve seen, being a smaller person in martial arts is far from a disadvantage. 

However, here’s a few tips and tricks that can make your journey a bit smoother and help you maximize your potential.

  1. Leverage your advantages: As a smaller person, you might be faster, more agile, and have a lower center of gravity. Use these natural assets to your advantage! Out-maneuver your opponents, use your speed to evade strikes, and leverage your stability to maintain your balance in tricky situations.
  2. Technique over brute force: This can’t be stressed enough – technique is everything in martial arts. Good technique can outweigh strength and size in almost every scenario. So focus on mastering your form, precision, and timing.
  3. Keep your guard up: As a smaller martial artist, it’s essential to prioritize defense. Make sure you’re always protecting yourself and avoid unnecessary risks that expose you to powerful strikes.
  4. Train smart, not hard: It’s not about who can hit the hardest or train the longest. It’s about training effectively and efficiently. Listen to your body, maintain a consistent training schedule, and focus on incremental progress.
  5. Embrace your size: Don’t see your size as a disadvantage; instead, view it as a unique aspect of your martial arts journey. Remember, martial arts is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It’s about personal growth, confidence, and self-defense skills. Embrace your size, work with it, and use it to carve your own path in your chosen martial art.

Being a smaller martial artist isn’t about trying to match the larger person in size or strength – it’s about recognizing your unique attributes and leveraging them to your advantage. 

You need to find a martial art that resonates with you, where you can hone your skills, and, above all, believe in yourself. 

Remember, in martial arts, the most successful person is the one who never gives up, regardless of their size.

So, Does Size Matter in Martial Arts?

We’ve explored a lot in this article as we journeyed through the world of martial arts. 

We’ve looked at three in particular, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, and Krav Maga. We’ve seen how each of these martial arts can accommodate, and even benefit, smaller people. 

I introduced you to great people from each of these martial arts, who’ve shown us that size doesn’t define success in martial arts. 

So, let’s get back to the original question: Does size matter in martial arts?

The short answer? Not really.

Yes, size can be a factor in some situations, but it’s far from the most important one. 

Skill, technique, speed, agility, and, most importantly, heart, play a far greater role in determining success in martial arts.

So, if you’re smaller in size and thinking about starting your martial arts journey, don’t let your size hold you back. Embrace it. 

Use it to your advantage. Shop around and choose a martial art that resonates with you, and then throw yourself into it wholeheartedly.

Martial arts is an incredible journey of self-discovery and personal growth, and your size can be part of your unique story in this journey.

So, step onto the mat, step into the ring, step into whatever space your chosen martial art occupies. 

Stand tall (no matter your height), believe in yourself, and remember: in martial arts, it’s not the size of the fighter, but the fight in them that truly matters.

Happy training!

Fight or Flight Newsletter

🔥 Join +1400 Subscribers who receive our weekly Newsletter with the best curated Krav Maga and Self Defense instruction from around the world

x  Powerful Protection for WordPress, from Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security