I'm not so tall 1.70 meter but i have very short arms. When training Wing Chun i notice that from training distance all my training parters can easily hit me. But if i stretch my arm to hit i really need to come in to land a hit.

This means i'm almost in elbow range of my opponent. My Sifu tells me this isn't a problem of size and that being bigger and having larger arms isn't really that big advantage.

Is this right. Is there a way for me to train in such a way to overcome this?

4 Answers 4


Reach is important

I don't know about wing chun, but in boxing, arm length (reach) is considered a significant advantage independent of other factors. It's important enough to report the "wingspan" of each fighter before a fight, as part of comparing other physical attributes like height and weight.

Generally speaking, many physical attributes are advantages, but significant skill can overcome these disadvantages. However, with equal skill, the fight will often be determined by those physical attributes. One should endeavor to improve those physical attributes that can be improved (e.g., strength, explosivity, speed) and to develop skills which overcome those physical attributes that cannot be changed (e.g., height, reach).

Having long arms, ceteris paribus, means there is a zone where I can hit you but you can't hit me. That means that you could be standing in my "pocket" getting hit while you are unable to return fire meaningfully. (If the fight or match involves kicks then that is a mitigating factor, but that simply means the reach of your legs is something to consider too.) That's an enormous advantage. You should work on developing techniques to overcome it.

Overcoming an opponents' longer reach

The solution is to avoid standing within the opponent's range, except when you commit to closing the distance such that you can hit them. Therefore extreme long range and extreme short range become your friend, and the middle distance your enemy. Refuse to accept standing where the opponent can hit you but you cannot hit them; either move back or move forward. Use proper footwork, angles, and evasive tactics as you do so, but do not stay there.

I don't know how much of a subject this is in wing chun, or if you'll get a chance to practice it in sparring by starting not touching, but it's an important skill for fighting. If most people have longer reach than you, then you'll want to get very good at explosively closing the distance and either A) landing your hits at close range quickly before explosively stepping off on an angle or B) winning at close range, perhaps with dirty boxing, throwing the opponent down, or taking the fight to the ground.

  • 2
    Spot on. Footwork is everything in this case scenario (and in many others), while keeping hands up protecting the face. +1.
    – Lex
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 15:07
  • Good answer! I'd add that, if you are equally strong despite the size difference, you are actually at an advantage for many grappling manoeuvers because your center of gravity is lower. I do not know how much Wing Chun uses chin na, but if you are trained in the basics, it can become your best tool: by rapidly closing the distance between you and your opponent then using chin na to restrict his movements/prevent him from moving out, you can put yourself in a position where he can't use his full power because you are too far inside his reach, while still being able to fight at 100% yourself.
    – Dungarth
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 20:43
  • Another vote for footwork drills. I'm biased but if you can find a Wu tai chi stylist near you their small frame pushing hands drills might be a useful add-on. No disrespect to wing chun - I like to borrow useful drills from lost of places.
    – Wudang
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 19:21

In addition to Dave's post, one should add, that being smaller has its advantages outside of punching techniques.

When grappling and showin, a smaller person has a deeper stance, allowing him/her to better withstand shoving and pushing, or being better at shoving/pushing.


Dave has given a very good answer in general for fighting arts/ways.

With Wing Chun we also do rolling hands and "static" fight drills where you can not really keep your distance.

For these I believe that shorter arms are advantages. Remember when you are crossing hands or doing poon sau first make sure that range is correct so you can touch your opponent without stretching/overbalancing. If you do this you will see your taller opponent is already at a disadvantage. For these you develop your sensitivity and redirect his clumsy attacks easily because his arms are most likely folded in and he needs a lot of energy to move them forward for effective strike.

For longer range sparring you need to work on stepping and getting angles. Practice on stepping at 45 degree angles so as opponent attack you make contact with attacking limb move at a 45 degree angle on his outside and strike into his unprotected sides.

If you are short do not hit for the head. Focus on strikes/kicks to the short ribs, groin, solar plexus, knees. Also practice being soft till the last minute as this will increase your speed and faster is always better.

Please train at the correct distances. If you always train to miss you will be conditioned to miss. Train to make contact, this will teach you about judging distance and will teach you control. If you hit your SiHing hard I will most likely return the favour. :-)


Your Sifu is correct. Learn what he is telling you. I'm not sure how far along you are, but foot work is going to be most important to use, by changing the angle of the fight and controlling their elbows since your so close gives you a huge advantage.

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