I am considering beginning to learn a martial art - so I am starting the research to determine which one fits me and my goals.

Overall, should my body type influence my choice of martial art to learn? If the answer is "yes" - how much? and..

  • Which martial arts have advantages towards a thin/small body (and why)?

  • Which martial arts have advantages towards a heavy/large body (and why)?

  • 2
    Could you narrow it down some? Yes, body type influences martial art, but most (if not every) martial arts can be adapted to persons of any body type. Discussing martial arts and body type generally is going to be non-productive because it is not specific enough. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 20:38
  • 2
    There is a difference between selecting a sport where you have natural advantages due to body type and learning to fight because sports have rules, but fighting does not. You should indicate whether your goal is to be good at a particular sport, or whether you want to learn to fight.
    – mattm
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 13:15

8 Answers 8


Quite surprised by all these big NOs.

I would say: it depends.

If competing and consequently having better chances at winning competitions are your goals, then your body type can definitely give you an edge.

As common sense goes, grappling-based disciplines is more suited to stocky, strong people. There are notable exceptions: Paulo Miyao is a 64Kg bjj practioner who regularly wins open weight tournaments at the highest level, but look for example at the height/weight ratio of, say, the first 10 competitors at any Judo Summer Olympics and you'll start to see a pattern.

In striking, on the other hand, agility, and, more importantly, reach are strong indicators of an athlete's potential. Again, Mike Tyson was shorter than most if not all his opponents, but he was an exception. Looking at MMA, in which striking has become more and more important in the latest years, reach advantage is statistically a big factor, as described here: http://fightnomics.com/category/blog/ufc-arms-race-incredible-shrinking-middleweight/

From my personal experience, I insisted in practicing judo for years, despite my long and slim body type, and even if not competing, during practice I was hitting the mat a lot. Even with much less experienced, yet 30kgs heavier, guys. In BJJ I also spent most of the time on my back, overwhelmed by huge, jacked-up, guys. Learning was significantly slowed down by this. When I tried boxing for a while, tables were turned, I was enjoying it, and learn.

So, if potential competitive results or training enjoyment are a factor in your choice, then yes, your body type matters.

If you are going for Tai Chi, or other not competitive arts, everything goes.


Long answer short, no it shouldn't influence your choice. Your body can be shaped in any form you want, and even if you are heavy, light or middle weighted you have to learn how to use your body anyway to be succesfull in any martial art.

Long answer: If you are looking among all the wide array of martial arts this can be a great question, take for example Sumo, where you necessarily need a great body weight, but if you are beginning, and looking between the most popular martial arts, your body type should be the least of the problems, as you can shape your own body to the needs of the martial art. Even if you really want to be a rikishi (sumo-wrestler) by being a slender individual, it can be accomplished with appropriate training and food intake.

The best approach is to ask yourself what type of martial art do you want to learn and adopt the necessary regimes to achieve your best body, not backwards. Is like choosing Mathematics as career jut because you are good at it, if you really don't love maths you'll end up getting bored, frustrated and drop out.

Your martial art choice should be more influenced by your desires and likes. And like choosing between flavors you won't know if you like strawberry over chocolate if you have never tasted those flavors before.

Hope this helps you into experiment as soon as posible your likes and hear your desires.

PS: I was an over-weight teenager when starting to train kickboxing, now I've practiced over 6 different martial arts and I'm in great shape. This also comes true to new comers, even at greater ages, the big difference is start training!


Should my body type influence my choice of martial art to learn?


Your choice of martial art should be tailored to your preferences, subject to your physical abilities. Body type is only relevant if you're missing limbs, senses, or other capabilities that require special modification of a style.

As for what people tall, short, wide, thin, muscular, or fat should train, the answer doesn't change much: become an athletic version of your current self through strength and conditioning training and learn the way to fight that interests you most.

  • 1
    +1. That is a very vehement statement. In addition, your statement about modifying a style if a person is disabled is spot on and should be highlighted. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:55
  • Yup, i would just add, be honest with the results you wany. If you want to do fancy kicks? Do you want tradition? Competition? A work out? Spiritual? Etc. If I were more honest I would have probably trained in TKD or wushu. I stuck with karate for mamy years and ended up resenting it because I wasn't honest With myself.
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 5:29

IMHO, body-type should not be a 'primary factor' determining your choice of martial art. Since martial art is an 'art', most of them (not sure about all) can be adapted to reach a balance point between your body-type and the orthodoxies of the martial form.

However, I would not say it outright that body-type has no effect. If you look at the traditional Chinese martial art, there are different kinds of forms/styles, such as 'monkey', 'crane', 'louhan', etc. I believe that they were created for different purposes and were suitable for different personalities of the (same or different) person and body-types of persons. For example, I would expect a person with small-frame and quick reflexes to be inherently more suitable for monkey forms compared to someone with larger body frame and muscle mass (for whom 'louhan' might be more suitable). However, this is not black and white as a person with good practice might be much better in any form than a person not practising as much. Also, personality is another factor as much important as body-type. So, i think the best chance of finding out the martial art suitable for you is to try some lessons of the ones you can find and then you can feel what feels right to you.

So, body-type is not a 'primary factor' but a factor which might pop in later as an afterthought. Perhaps, it is kind of similar to painting with 'water color' or 'poster color' or 'acrylic' or 'oil pastels' (ha ha, not sure).


The answer is No.

Body type should not be a factor in choose a martial art. In fact, you should do some research on the different types of arts before you get serious. You can speak with the instructors and have a feel or a trial class, if it is offered by the instructor.

There are many types of martial arts. Some are upright stand-up arts such as Karate or Taekwon-do while some others teach grappling techniques such as BJJ and Hapkido.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a bigger/smaller body in martial arts. I'm a big guy, so my movements are slower and my jumps are not too great. Smaller built guys are mostly more agile but they may lack in strength.

Just be careful not to hurt yourself. Protect your joints at all times.



Your body has no influence in which martial art you like. Martial art is different of other sports. A people who training a Martial art has passion for that. I choose my martial art not for facility but for the challenge. What is your objective in Martial arts?

Your body type just will make different for make big featured. It is really hard for a small guy try win a Sumo guy in a Sumo fight. It is like a fly smash a elephant. The same happens for a short guy win a fight against a taller guy in the Taekwondo. It is not impossible, is just harder.

If you are talking about competition. At least the athletes are divided in categories of:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Height
  • Belt ( not for all martial arts )

It means, in a competition you will fight against a person of the same size, age and sex. In some cases, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu they have categories for belts as well. But this not happen in Judo for example.

Many martial arts had origin with the Monks. The Monks were in limited diet of food,and have fought against thieves armed. This small guys, thin and smaller fought to protect families and cities many times just with hands and legs.

  • Judo competitions are divided by rank: generally they use one for below brown, one for brown, one for black. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 13:13

Body type does have big impact on-IMHO-ALL martial arts. Thinking about a 50kg guy learning judo where power and strength are needed or a 100kg guy doing Kendo where agility and flexibility are needed. It's not impossible, but a choice could be made smarter.

To answer your questions in my opinion:

Which martial arts have advantages towards a thin/small body (and why)? Kendo, Aikedo, jeet-kun-do. Need agility/flexibility over power/strength.

Which martial arts have advantages towards a heavy/large body (and why)? Other major striking(standing)/grab and throw(on the ground) styles: Karate, taekwondo, boxing,muay-thai, MMA which thin body can do but more powerful with a heavy body.

I can also name a few other martial art requires different attributes other than body types: Kyudo--concentration


Light guys with long limbs will do better at Taekwondo. Short and stocky guys will do better at Karate. Big and strong guys will benefit from grappling arts. Everyone can do anything, but if you want to win competitions at the highest levels, you should probably go for something where the champion's body looks like yours. I had a hell of a time in TKD because I was the shortest in my division. While I was successful, I reckon I'd be even MORE successful if I took up something like Shotokan where long legs aren't that big of an advantage.

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