best martial arts for short guys

Best Martial Arts For Short Guys [Short People Experience]

Do you feel like a small guy when it comes to martial arts?

You’re not alone.

Many short people feel like they don’t have the same options as their taller counterparts.

But that’s just not true!

In this guide, we will discuss the best martial art for short guys and how they can take advantage of their own characteristics.

We’ll also talk about the strong points of short people and the main characteristics of different martial arts.

So whether you’re looking to get into martial arts or are simply curious, this guide is for you!

At first glance, it may seem like short people don’t have many options when it comes to martial arts.

But nothing could be further from the truth!

There are many great martial arts that take advantage of the best qualities of short people – quickness, agility, and flexibility, to name a few.

Table of Contents

Some of the best martial arts for short guys include boxing, muay thai, karate, judo, and jiu-jitsu.

Each of these martial arts emphasizes speed and agility in different ways, making them ideal for smaller fighters.

Additionally, each style has unique techniques that can help you exploit your strengths as a shorter person.

But which one should you choose?

Well… it depends on your needs.

Continue reading the article to understand the differents needs and see if you see yourself in one of these.

woman beginner punching on the strike


One of the best things about martial arts is that it can be customized to meet your individual needs.

As a shorter person, you may have some specific goals or challenges in mind when choosing a style.


The first question you have to ask yourself is what is your purpose if you’re a shorter person and you’re looking to join a martial art: are you looking for self-defense or life fulfillment, philosophy, tradition, culture… what is your purpose?

There are a lot of martial arts to choose from, a variety of disciplines that will give you more than just fighting, so you have to ask yourself what do you want, what are you looking for.

For example: Are you being bullied? Then the answer is for self-defense.

mma fighter kicking the opponent in the head

Is Your Need Time Sensitive?

If you’re looking for self-defense purposes  is this an urgent need where you need to fight quickly or you want to learn how to defend yourself one day and you have more time to explore?

It is very different because if it is time-sensitive, if you have to start learning right now, you’re going to practice a martial art that can teach you how to fight pretty quickly or get there faster, more focused on fighting.

If you got more time then that opens the door to a lot more opportunities to explore, you can test out school you can research and there are several art that they might not make you professional fighters to the beginning but throught time it will make you a better martial artists overall.

It comes down to what time sensitivity you have.


If urgency is not a factor, then you have a lot of different options, for example you’ve got karate.


karate bunkai


Karate is pretty good for a long term, especially in kata.

Talking about competition results…

Did you know that the best karatekas of all time are short people?

Ryo Kiyuna (Male Olympic Gold Medal) is 5′ 58” (1.7m) and Sandra Sanchez (Female Olympic Gold Medal) is 5′ (1,53m).

And this is just one of the two parts of karate, let’s see the other one!

In kumite there are different weight categories, 50kg, 55kg, 60kg etc

For example Ivet Goranova (Female Olympic Gold Medal in -55kg) is 5′ 2” (1,57m).

So… is karate a good choiche for short people or not?

P.S. If you’ve not understand what are kata and kumite, we’ve written a full guide on Karate, read it if you want to find out more about this martial art!


Each martial art highlights particular characteristics of each practitioner based on the type of fight style, which can be of various types, let’s see them.

two people on guard ready to fight

Striking Range

When it comes to stand-up fighting, striking range is a big consideration because the obvious disadvantage is smaller fighters are going to have less range than bigger fighters.

So if you are short you might have some power ability there, but generally speaking when it comes to striking range, a shorter stature is a little bit of a disadvantage to a larger person again especially if that larger person has training as well then you.

a judo athlete grappling another one

Stand-up Grappling

This changes things, generally speaking smaller guys are a little bit better at grappling because of lower center of gravity it’s easier to get under an opponent and get that leverage point.

a judo athlete grappling another one on the ground

Ground fighting

It is a little bit different than stand-up grappling.

Here, generally speaking a bigger person is going to have the advantage on the ground over a smaller person just because he has more mass, therefore you’re going to put extra effort into countering him.


We mentioned Karate earlier, but let’s see something else too!

Grappling it’s always a good option especially if you want to supplement another system.

You’ve got lots to choose from: wrestling, judo, japanese jujitsu, brazilian jujitsu.

A lot of great options to explore and excellent for smaller people because again, even though a larger person might have the advantage for grappling, a smaller person learning the skills can utilize it to their advantage.


If your focus is just to learn to fight and you want to learn the fight relatively quickly then you’re goint to want to go to schools that focus on sparring and not just schools focused on competitions.


The karate system can be good, but you have to find a school rigorous in sparring because that’s where your skills are going to develop if your goal is self-defense and being able to defend yourself against a larger person.

If your focus is on fighting skills, a good place to start is boxing.

best martial arts for short guys


Boxing is going to teach you a lot of great skills that you can apply to really any art and it can supplement any art just like grappling.

You’re going to learn solid punching skills, speed, footwork and balance.

muay thai girl practicer doing a kick on the strike leg of her coach

Muay Thai (Kickboxing)

Muay Thai is also excellent especially it’s going to teach you a lot of the same skills as boxing but you’re going to throw kick in there too, since this art emphasizes strong kicks and punches.

If you look at Muay Thai practitioners, a lot of them kick trees in half and they’re like 5′ 5”, 5′ 6”.

If you’re in real life, most probably you’re not going to be kicking people in the head or doing flying strikes to the head, but with an art like Muay Thai you can do to a person’s legs and stop a fight quickly.

two people doing grappling in judo


When it comes to stand-up grappling the best martial arts for short people are judo or some variation of a japanese jujitsu system, since they focus on grappling and takedowns.

Again, you need to find a good school that’s going to practice on people and give you that resistance training and also make sure it’s not just a competition focus school.

Judo is very popular for tournaments and they have rules and some schools will practice according to competition, but when you really look at it and break it down judo can be applied, it can be pretty effective if you train for it to be effective in self -defense.

Martial Art Bonus

There are a lot of Filipino martial arts out there that are built for people smaller statures and they tend to be a little more focused on fighting.

P.S. Did you know that the average height of the Filipino population is 5′ 3″? (1.62m)

short person vs tall person in martial arts


Honestly, size absolutely does matter when it comes to fighting, when it comes to self-defense a bigger person generally does have an advantage over a smaller person because he has a longer reach, more body mass and sometimes more strength.

This doesn’t mean the bigger is automatically going to win but it does have to be acknowledged because it does play a major factor when you have to defend fight someone bigger than you.

Bottom Line

No matter what your goals or challenges may be, there is a martial art out there that can help you meet them.

So don’t let your height hold you back from achieving your full potential in the world of martial arts!

Karate Martial Art Team

Karate Martial Art Team

The Karate Martial Art Team is made up of 3 contributors who have full-time job and in their free time are dedicated to martial arts and writing. Do you want to become one of the Team? Get in touch on the contact page.

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