Being tall: advantages and disadvantages

Being taller, offers more advantages or disadvantages in terms of combat?

Note – This article has been written to reply to a question of a 6 Dragons Kung Fu Core Course’s practitioner (ChumaGora, to participate read From white belt to black belt: your path).

Apparently being taller offers only advantages: long arms, long legs, (often) large hands (etc.) but not everything is necessarily as positive as it may seem.

In any case, to make a thoughtful speech, it is rather important to make some premises because, in reality, the aspects that make the real difference are:

  • The context (the type of combat, the eventual rules, etc.)
  • The premises (the technical level, the training, etc.)

The general context and premises:

  • In terms of personal safety – Being tall is a good thing, because it is a natural deterrent against all the low motivated / prepared potential aggressors; this of course does not mean that there is no risk of being attacked but simply that, in percentage terms, it will happen less often (as, for example, for bodybuilders); in most cases, predators choose in fact (through their more or less correct system of judgment) the prey that appears weaker and a person who casts his shadow on us is not exactly the most natural choice
  • In MMA sports competitions (full body) – Sports clashes are almost always very well balanced (in terms of weight and even physical proportions in some cases, like it happens in Kudo); in this kind of context the incisiveness (positive or negative) of the height becomes gradually lower and lower; we do not want to say that it is completely irrelevant but simply that within such context this is not the characteristic that guarantees a decisive alteration of the equilibriums
  • In striking-only sports competitions – In these cases, the distance that for example a boxer (or a kickboxer) can cover and maintain with his limbs can instead make a slightly more relevant difference, enough significative to be called an “advantage”
  • In self-defense – The most interesting case (the one we are going to analyze) is that of the physical clash between a person of medium height (eg. 160-170cm) and one who instead has a build that develops more vertically (eg. 190-200cm, imagininng that both of them have a similar weight and training)

Being tall: advantages and disadvantages

A selection of some of the most commonly seen advantages and disadvantages of taller fighters.

The advantages:

  • Our limbs arrive to hit the opponent maintaining a safe distance
  • Lower risk receive powerful intercepting hooks to the face
  • In case of long fingers, better grip (wraparound)
  • Our attacks are helped by the gravity direction (more power, less effort)
  • Easy high kicks

The disadvantages:

  • Agility reduced in ground fighting (a longer body moves harder and need more space for maneuver)
  • Frequent stiffness (on average very tall people are less flexible and often, if not trained correctly, they can also have physical problems)
  • A high body offers bigger targets to be attacked
  • The Limbs tend (proportionally) to be more delicate (and therefore more sensible to joint levers, breakings, etc.)
  • The limbs take a longer time to recover the guard stance (read Which guard stance choose) and this, means that they are easier to grasp
  • Difficulty in close combat, the limbs need more space to bend, pass, etc. (read Ideal distance from the opponent during a fight)
  • In absence of a perfect training the weight is badly distributed and in any case, the barycenter is too high (read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept, this makes us more maneuverable in terms of throws, read The 3 phases of a throw)
  • High risk of suffering full power uppercut
  • Muscles tend to be less compact (greater risk of injury)
  • Poor adherence and greater ground clearance (the impacts with the ground are stronger and once the balance is lost, it is harder to recover)
  • In case of big hands, greater dispersion of power of impact (as it is divided on the impact surface)
  • In case of big hands, more delicate fingers

A note by Master Kongling – When I was practicing Jeet Kune Do, I remember that we were doing a theater internship at school and one of these lessons happened an absurd thing. Me and a very tall classmate of mine, we had to recite the scene of 2 friends who meet after a long time. I had to start from a corner of the room and he from the opposite one to then embrace us in the center: what happened was really hilarious. The trouble was that my Jeet Kune Do master had trained me (or rather, conditioned) to react in zero time, before any possible rationalization (which I currently don’t agree with): in essence, when I found myself in front of this giant who spread his arms (however much I didn’t want to do it) my body moved by itself, throwing him to the ground. Fortunately, I was also used to cushioning the impact of less experienced training partners and I completely avoided him getting hurt (my friend had no martial training). Afterwards I naturally apologized but beyond the comic aspect of the matter, what triggered in my head was, in addition to the instinct to defend myself from a non-existent threat, also the too greedy opportunity to exploit a lever so simple to apply.

Final notes

A few thoughts and clarifications:

  • Why this article? Mainly to underline the scarce relevance of natural talents that we can possess or not (read Natural talent and martial arts) compared to a martial study based on disciplines, concentration and preparation
  • 6 Dragons Kung Fu has many tall practitioners in the world and this article does not in any way want to diminish their possibilities (the advantages they have are few but decisive); the point is that we are all different and the best way to train is to do it by focusing on our weaknesses and strengths
  • Anyone with minimal knowledge in the fight science knows that the characteristics that really matter in combat are completely different from the natural talents and in the vast majority of cases, they can be manipulated through exercise (mental and physical)
  • If we really had to talk about advantages unrelated to training and technique / tactics we could rather dwell on the bone structure but it is only one of the myriad of variables that operate in the economy of a combat
  • Finally, it should be stressed that nobody wants to deceive that it is possible to overcome even the must unequal disproportion with 2-3 secret techniques or tricks but that simply, by itself, any single physical predisposition or lack can be overcome

In the next article of this series, we will see other types of physical differences / disproportions.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Can you make other examples of advantages and disadvantages?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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