What are the advantages to being strong and short? Similarly, I wondered about the benefits of shorter arms, if advantages exist. I wonder about this for unarmed and armed fighting.

In weapon fighting, particularly with staff and polearm, a long reach is handy not only for thrusting, but also so you can widen your grip and use leverage, so in general it feels like a tall and long armed person is at an advantage. But, I've often wondered if a person with shorter arms might have more strength when reaching away from their body. The further you reach, the weaker your arm strength, but perhaps more "compact" arms are different?

Similarly, I wonder how it is with wrestling. The bigger and heavier person has a lot of advantage is wrestling, but a stocky fellow with thick arms looks plenty scary. With wrestling, you at such close range that reach seems negligible, at least. But for striking, a short strong body seems not as good as a tall strong body?

Being lower to the ground may also be useful in some way.

2 Answers 2


Striking: Shorter arms come with a better feeling for infighting. The opponent will appear to be more open to the short guy's punches. Vice versa the short one will appear to be less open. Still depends on the guard though. If you guard your hip with your hands, your opponent won't have that much of a problem to hit your face. At least in boxing you might want to hold your guard a bit higher, btw.
To bypass/bridge the distance can be tough. I'm not used to be the guy with the shorter arms, so when I happen to spar a taller guy I usually experience a lot of problems with bypassing that additional distance. On the other hand taller guys seem to leave more open space to punch.

Search for "Garip Ilbay", you might find some videos on how a short & strong guy performs in thaiboxing.

Grappling: It's a lot harder to make a short & strong guy's limbs go the way you want them to: Short levers, strong muscles. I used to roll with a guy who sometimes went into some sort of a turtle stance. He was of that short, muscular build. I found it really hard to get him out of that.
Another thing about "significantly odd physiques" is applying triangles: You will encounter guys you're just not able to catch with your legs. Either because there is nothing to catch (really skinny guys) or because your legs are too short to get a proper grip/lock on those shoulders & neck.

Apart from that, smaller guys seem to be more able to sort their limbs than taller guys in general, learning techniques faster than others.

That good old disclaimer: All in all it's a matter of individual skill and talent. If a tall guy has done a lot of takedown drills (with a good teacher) he will be good at that. If a guy just doesn't get the clue about a certain movement, he might fail to apply the related technique. (Yes, that's an indirect hint on my examples & personal experiences.)


Many advantages come in submission grappling. Having shorter arms means your Anaconda, Darce, and arm-triangle chokes lock up tighter. You will have to do less squeezing (than a longer arm person) for an arm-in guillotine once it's locked in, but you will have a harder time getting it locked up!

As for standing, your reach disadvantage doesn't do much good. Being shorter means you can be more deceptive in when you want to work the body with your boxing. Liver shots and crosses to the body come quick. Shooting takedowns works the same way. You're upper body is closer to their legs already, so your shot or snatch is a less dramatic body movement.

The last guy I fought was about 4 inches shorter than me, and stronger. He took me down a couple times because I was boxing his face off. It was difficult to tell when he wanted to shoot, because he always seemed to be lower, even just from the 4 inch difference. Even a fraction of a second delay in a sprawl can mean everything. But on the other side of that coin, wrestling is far more exhausting. By the final round he was gassing out hard.

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    You have to be an excellent striker for keeping a good grappler with this kind of build in a distance where he does not have advantages. Also, takedowns are potentially easier and take less energy when being short and strong. I hate being in a fight with a fit, shorter guy of equal weight who knows wrestling or judo (i.e. has good groundwork as well). Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 16:22
  • @PhilipKlöcking Agreed. Takedowns seem to be more effortless for the shorter more built guys.
    – coinbird
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 19:50
  • Great answer, thanks! Here's hoping I get another great answer on armed fighting.
    – Johnny
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 4:44
  • Oh, I forgot to ask. Why is it that shorter guys seem to tire faster? Just lung capacity or something? Also, thanks to Philip for adding his point!
    – Johnny
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 5:41
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    Overly muscular guys can tire faster. The shorter guy is usually stronger than his opponent. Probably why you notice that. At high levels guys are so well conditioned that it doesn't matter too much though.
    – coinbird
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 16:28

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