View Full Version : The SIZE debate

Bri Thai
07-28-2004, 04:44 AM
Does the relative size of the combatants matter in a one to one unarmed fight?

Funnily enough my experience of these debates shows that people fall into one of two camps. Either an unequivocable YES, or an unequivocable No. Seem like common sense? Maybe, but I think not.

Think of all the attributes in a fighter. Strength, anaerobic conditioning, useful skills, speed, tactile sensitivity, power, ability to take punishment, determination, tactics, sneakiness! etc etc etc. Even luck! There are many more of course. Size is merely one.

The funny thing about size it this - it is the most easily recognised attribute. You have to wait around for a while to see if someone has the others..... but size? All you have to do is look at the guy, no matter what he is doing.

Now, in many fights between unskilled and untrained participants (like most of the scrap we saw/fought in at school) the nature given size was one of the few attributes that either combatant may have had. So the one with more size often came out on top. Not always of course - but often. Thats how the human psyche has developed this view that size is everything.

But what happens when the other attributes are developed? Then it bcomes much more of a complicated computation. OK, one guy may be bigger...... but the other is a powerlifter....or a Judo-ka......or a boxer....... Or he may have developed the determination of a lunatic - purely because that is his psychological makeup.

Now size doesn't matter half as much.

But, of course, big people can develop these other attributes too. Big people can be strong, determined, skilfull and fast. Now it gets even more complcated to predict the outcome in a match. And, with the "luck" element, is there any point trying?

So in answer to the question "does size matter" my answer is this. Yes and no. It DOES matter. But no more than any other of the attributes.

It is just part of the mix.

07-28-2004, 06:53 AM
Small size differences don't matter so much. Large size differences that are due to bone structure and muscle mass vs obesity matter a great deal and are IMO one of the key factors in an outcome. Assuming both parties are highly motivated/aggressive. I don't have a lifetime of HTH study at all. Just a few years. Some artsy, some harsh and street. But I'm a fairly keen observer. I generally don't believe that technique is the equalizer than many long time asian martial artists believe it is compared to ferocity, power, solid size and luck (good or bad).

07-28-2004, 08:09 AM
I think you've summed it up pretty well. Size is one of many factors, and though many will say that "a good big man will beat a good little man" every time, they may or they may not. It really does depend on many things. The disparity is greatest in "match fights" in NHB, wrestling or boxing competitions, but I believe it is less so on the streets due to the uncontrolled environment. One of the hardest strikers I have ever met was about 6'0 tall and 170 lbs. He hit much harder than the former professional boxer that was in my Krav Maga class that was 6'2 and 220-230 lbs. of solid muscle. He also knew how to hit and hit very hard, just not as hard as the other guy. The chance of two guys fighting with EXACTLY equal skill, speed, aggression, flexibility and mindset is almost impossible, so the odds will always be slanted one way or the other.

Al Lipscomb
07-28-2004, 09:14 AM
The only thing I can add is that there are often myths about larger fighters, for example that they are slower than smaller fighters.

Ask any light-weight fighter how they would feel about getting into the ring with a skilled heavy-weight and I think you will get your answer. And noticed I said skilled, there are some fighters who only have size in their favor.

Bri Thai
07-28-2004, 10:03 AM
I think size matters more in a sporting arena. Weight is always a factor in pure wrestling, boxing or similar.

In the streets? Well, we all have eyes, wind pipes, carotid arteries etc. no matter how big we are. It is less important then.

Lou Costello
07-28-2004, 10:31 AM
As my father, an old sailor, used to say "Watch out for that skinny little guy down at the end of the bar."

Gabriel Suarez
07-28-2004, 11:53 AM

Let's not confuse size with overall mass. A powerlifter has size, and obese couch potato has overall mass. Its different.
Size is a factor, much like capacity for violence, speed, and other attributes. Strong, larger muscles will never be a detriment to you. Getting bigger (not fatter) will never be a liability. These two attributes will help you if the do not compromise the rest of the package. Is size the only issue of importance? No, but it is important.

I agree with David whole heartedly. I racked up my back pretty bad a few years ago and slowly building it back up via weights, and later powerlifting, have all but made the injury go away. As a result of the training, I have gone from 170 to 205 bodyweight, and increased my strength in everything. I know I can hit harder than I used to, and I know I can take impacts better than before.


Al Lipscomb
07-28-2004, 12:12 PM
In the class I just finished, Gabe called me out for one or two examples. At 42 years of age, I am about 6'2" and over 250 pounds. I lift weights and work out on a regualar basis, but am not even close to being in the kind of shape Gabe is.

The advantage was clearly Gabe's. His overall strength was higher and his power to weight ratio was much better. He is also a skilled fighter. My extra size would make little difference in such combat.

08-16-2004, 06:37 AM
I sometimes look at the unarmed combat Forum, but don't post, - not really being able to contribute much.
I like this thread, and will dare to give my 0.02 cents.

All things being equal ( skill etc,) a larger fighter should have an advantage. But...................things in a real fight never are equal. And nature has an uncanny way of compensating.
If we look at nature, we see many examples of this. The wolverine for example, or the Tasmanian devil.
The famous race horse Seabiscuit, smaller in size, & of lesser breeding than War Admiral, didn't let that worry it, as it won the 1938 challenge, by 10 lengths.
Those of us who have done a harder military selection course, have all seen bigger & stronger men fail or give up, just as other men of all sizes do too.
I don't know who first quoted this, but it still rings true:



08-16-2004, 06:55 PM
Any Physical advantage, including overwhelming size, helps.
Physical advantages can be overcome though.

08-17-2004, 01:58 PM
Being big does help, but being skilled helps more. Don't worry so much about what that mystery man you might meet one day is going to be like, work on developing your attributes so that whoever that man is, and whatever his skills/attributes are, you can counter them with something you have.

You don't know your opponent in most cases, you don't know what they are good at, what they are weak at, but you do know what YOU are good at. Use your physical attributes to the best of your ability and try to take away your opponents apparant abilites, without underestimating other abilities/attributes that may not be immediately apparant. Examples, A big man does NOT mean a slow man. 250 lbs of muscle can be a helluva lot faster than 140lbs of flab. A small man does NOT mean a weak man. Some small guys hit much harder than guys 100 + lbs heavier.

Develop different strategies and abilities to deal with these differing people/attributes. Fast guys ususally don't like to fight in close, they like to be outside and moving, get in and smother them. Big guys like to overpower littler ones, keep moving so they can never get you dead center in front of them and pekc away at them until they open up for the big shot that can put them down.

08-17-2004, 09:57 PM
Speaking as a small guy...

Attitude is everything.

08-23-2004, 10:44 AM
By in large size is very important.

Don't buy too much into the rare exception arguments.

Certainly don't bet your life on them.

09-03-2004, 12:26 PM
I train a lot in the MA and the general misconception people cling to is that technique will *always* get you through in a real life situation. This is not the case.
Size, strength, speed, gameness *matter* in real life.
That being said, so does technique, experience, and mindset.

People who train for reality know this, and train accordingly.

09-03-2004, 09:11 PM
Sure size matters. Every variable matters. Size, natural ability, training, age, ferocity, physical fitness and the ability to ignore pain. You can only see some of them and guess at the rest. If you ignore any obvious variables then what less obvious details have you missed? I always ask myself the question “What situation can you be in (self defense not in the ring or some other game of sport) where you can be sure that your opponent is not armed?” I would say that there are no guarantees but sound tactics, good training, and the determination do what needs to be done will generally carry the day (and it seldom hurts to have a large caliber sidearm handy for those days when Murphy’s law is more prevalent)

You can never have too many books or too much ammunition.