Last month Sylvester Stallone posted this picture in Twitter with the caption: Just in case you forgot how tall Ivan Drago is. The man was a walking eclipse.

Stallone and Lundgren

So I was thinking to what extent does height give an advantage to an individual in Boxing, Kung Fu, Takewondo or any other martial arts? For example if a 6ft 5 inch Ivan Drago would fight against a 5ft 8 inch Rocky Balboa how much advantage does the extra 7 or 8 inch gives to Ivan Drago?


4 Answers 4


Height gives a considerable advantage to striking martial arts. The first and most obvious advantage is that height means you can reach out further than your opponent, meaning you can hit him before he hits you.

But there are other advantages that you don't immediately consider:

  • If you have to punch upwards towards a taller opponent's head, you don't punch quite as hard as if you were punching straight. That's because you can't put the full force of your body behind the punch. You can still generate force with your legs though.
  • A taller opponent can more easily kick you in the face without needing great flexibility.
  • Longer arms and legs mean that your hooks and hooking kicks have a LOT more impact. It's science.
  • being taller means that your opponent will have a hard time getting his leg above yours. You'll see especially in Taekwondo that kicks are blocked simply by lifting up your knee. It's very frustrating trying to kick someone in the face when they can lift their knee up to your chin.

Some disadvantages to being taller than your opponent:

  • given the same weight class, the shorter fighter will be stronger and therefore his punches will be harder given the same technique.
  • the shorter the arm or leg, the quicker the strike.
  • if you're much taller, it will be difficult to "work the body" of your opponent.

At least in boxing, height in and of itself doesn't give you an advantage. What gives the advantage to the taller boxer, assuming roughly equal levels of skill and experience, is greater reach. So the trick for the taller boxer becomes one of staying in the narrow zone where he can hit the other guy without being hit in return.

In the specific example of Rocky vs Drago, you also have to consider the additional weight associated with height. Both men have roughly the same physique, so Drago probably weighed substantially more... and given that both force and kinetic energy are directly related to mass, any blow that he could land would have more potential to damage than anything Rocky could land.


Me being a taller guy gives me a greater advantage with kicks, as seen in other answers it allows more reach and the ability to keep you opponent at bay. Now to gain advantage if you're shorter is to simply move in close and cut off their techniques. It is especially hard for a tall person to get a successful kick in if their opponent is up in their face. Hope this helps


Not a MA but size doesn't help (or at least isn't conclusive) in some kinds of football scrum. When we played in school, the smaller (and/or the more skilled) front-line could win by getting underneath the opposing players and lifting them off their feet and pushing them backwards: because it doesn't matter how big and strong you are, you can't push nothing while you're being lifted off the ground.

  • This has nothing to do with martial arts... Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 14:41
  • You're probably right. It was non-cooperative physical contest, I thought it was interesting at the time, that a smaller/lighter team/pack could win such a contest.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 14:48
  • Maybe this too isn't MA but it can obviously show up in Tai Chi sparring too: a smaller person can unroot the taller.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:06
  • It's a principle one can apply to any grappling art. Though I would wager that the shorter player(s) might have been stronger. Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:31
  • 1
    @JuannStrauss We (that team of smaller players) were not "stronger". We were teenagers, and the opposing teams were big teenagers. But you don't have to be that strong to lift someone: when the scrums lock (vaguely like this), the front row is basically squatting and can push and/or lift with their shoulders. Like I said, the opponent might be stronger and heavier but if you get between them and their ground and lift them off their feet they've got no way to push back except perhaps by trying to be dead weight.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:45

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