Why size and strength matters

If you are in to martial arts then you are probably very familiar with the cliché of the little old master making mince-meat of a much larger and stronger opponent, throwing them around all over the place like a rag-doll. You may have seen videos, witnessed it in person or even experienced in some way.

It’s very impressive and what many martial artists aspire to, and even in some cases market themselves on.

You’ve probably heard that size and strength doesn’t matter, that you use an opponent’s size and force against them. It’s a very ‘Yin’ principle to re-direct and un-earth using the opponent’s force.

It’s a core principle in many arts. It’s one that makes up a big part of what I practice myself, so I understand its importance.

But to believe that size and strength doesn’t matter in the context of a ‘real’ fight, I think, would be a bit naïve. And to teach it as a gospel truth would be a very dangerous dis-service to students.

Its easy to enough to do in a controlled, safe environment with a compliant and willing partner.

When the context changes and someone is actually intent on fighting you, then it can be a very different matter; particularly if they have skill.

For example, a skilled fighter might be able to efficiently and quickly deliver devastating strikes without compromising structure or giving you much to ‘catch’. And if they are bigger and stronger, they may hit harder and also be able to take and absorb a lot more damage.

I was taught that if you have two opponents of equal size, but one has greater skill, then they will win. If you have two opponents of equal size and skill, then you have a fight and the one with the greater strength and conditioning will win.

Where one is smaller than the other, if the smaller one has the greater skill then s/he should be OK.

If they have equal skill or the larger opponent has greater skill, then the smaller opponent is in trouble!

Its really important to understand this, especially if self-defence is your goal.

Size and strength is an advantage. Why do you think competitive combat sports have weight categories?

If you are smaller in stature, then you will need to work twice as hard to be the best you can be, maximise what strength you have and master your structure. In a ‘real fight’, if it were to happen, you’ll need to utilise every single tactic at your disposal (particularly the ‘dirty’ ones) against a larger opponent.

Learning to use an opponent’s force and mass against them is a huge tool in the box and should be practiced, but not exclusively.

Remember balance is about both Yin and Yang. It’s important to develop the more direct and aggressive skills as well. Sometimes you need to hit your opponent to get them off balance and shut them down.

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