Too skinny or too short for martial arts? No way! No matter your stature, there’s a martial arts practice for you. From karate to boxing to judo, there are many different combat sports that you can try out.
This guide will help you find the best fit, no matter how small, short, or skinny you are. Some sports, like boxing, have rules for body weight and size (especially for professional matches), but that won’t stop you from training and benefiting from the fitness side of combat sports.
Furthermore, other martial arts like karate focus on training your mental skills too – spotting weaknesses, defending yourself, and overcoming an opponent who might be a lot bigger than you.
Best Martial Arts for Small Person: Quick Summary
Being short doesn’t mean you can’t excel at martial arts. For example, the underdog Andy Ruiz Jr beat the champion Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight professional boxing match, despite being around 6 inches shorter and mocked as “the fat kid from Up!”
Choosing a fighting style and stance, as well as building your strength and skill, is all you need to win.
In general, the best martial arts for small people are ones that take a close stance, where being close to your opponent is advantageous. Combat sports where you need more distance to strike an opponent (e.g., kickboxing, which uses kicks) put you at a disadvantage, as you’ll need to be closer to your opponent to strike and thus making you more vulnerable.
Great martial arts for small people include:
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
We’ve outlined some martial arts for specific small people (kids, short adults, small women, skinny guys, etc.) below too!
What Makes Martial Arts Great for Small People?
There are some key things that make certain martial arts easier for people with a small, lightweight or thin stature. These are:
- A close stance, so you don’t need long limbs to strike,
- Self-defense oriented rather than just attack-focused,
- Martial arts that teach you to use your opponent’s strength against them,
- Any combat sport that will put you into a category, so you fight people of a similar skill level and physical ability for fairness.
Best Martial Arts for Small People
This list is by no means exclusive. Also, remember that just because a martial art is suited to small people, doesn’t mean that you’ll naturally be good at it! You can either switch around to find a style that works best for you or persevere and try to improve on a combat sport that doesn’t initially feel natural.
Best for Short People
If you are short and thin or short and large, these martial arts may be a good fit for you:
- Boxing – being large puts you in a heavyweight category, but that doesn’t mean you’ll instantly lose. Use your speed and agility to win against opponents. Boxing only uses punches, no kicks, so you’ll need to stand close to your opponent to land punches… which also doesn’t give them enough space to wind up a powerful punch. Win win.
- Muay Thai – designed by the Thai military to help them combat taller opponents, it’s a martial arts style that’s literally made for short people. It utilizes low kicks and close combat that is hard for a tall (or long-limbed) person to defend off.
- MMA – mixed martial arts allow you to take the best strategies from different martial arts (including both of the above) that suit your body, so it gives you much more flexibility to make the fight more even and turn in your favor.
Being short, with a lower center of gravity, can be incredibly advantageous if you learn the right skills to utilize it.
Best for Kids
For kids, who are naturally small people, some martial arts will be more suitable than others. For example:
- Karate – many karate dojos have classes especially for kids, as it’s one of the most well-known martial arts. Both kids and parents love it. Karate relies mostly on striking, which is easier for kids to learn than more difficult self-defense techniques.
- Kung Fu – not to be confused with karate! This is a popular choice for kids that have ADHD or just have a lot of energy to burn off. The training for kung fu can be a lot like aerobic exercise and may involve meditation too.
- Judo – this Japanese martial art teaches kids to acknowledge their strengths and skills, which can be great for building self-confidence. It also requires focus and intellect, so it’s a great way to get the quiet kid more involved in physical sports.
Some combat sports start training for kids from 5-years-old, however it varies from dojo to dojo. Competitions cannot be entered until they are several years older.
Best for People of Restricted Growth
Restricted growth, whether it’s a form of dwarfism or a physical disability such as a missing limb or muscular dystrophy, will not stop you from partaking in the martial arts. You can find inspirational stories online, of wrestlers and MMA fighters practicing competitively after an amputation.
Some of the most popular martial arts for people of restricted growth include:
- Wrestling – this sport is about grappling, speed, and power rather than being tall or long-limbed. Rather than striking or using hand combat, you are grappling and gripping your opponent. There are weight requirements for practicing competitively, but there shouldn’t be any reason you cannot train for wrestling regardless.
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – this martial art relies on controlling your opponent with grips, holds and grappling to force them into submission. This is one of the more challenging martial arts, however, so it may not be suitable as a casual hobby.
- MMA – again, mixed martial arts is a great and very popular option for people who have a specific physical condition that would ordinarily put them at a disadvantage during combat. This practice will teach you to use techniques that work for you.
The sky is the limit!
Best for Small Women and Girls
As a woman, there’s no martial art that you cannot try. Fact. Don’t let anyone tell you different!
So, what do we mean by the best martial arts for small women and girls? Well, although you can learn the skills for any martial art, it’s true that some martial arts will play to your strengths. Martial arts that rely on you being bigger, heavier, and stronger than your opponent are out. Instead, these martial arts teach you to use your opponent’s strength and size against them.
- Aikido – this Japanese martial art requires striking, pining and throwing your opponent. It teaches you to use your opponent’s strength against them. It requires a high level of coordination and focus.
- Krav Maga – this Israeli self-defense combat sport is popular with women. It gives you confidence in your mental and physical strength to defend yourself. It relies on skill rather than strength and stamina.
- Tai Chi – this ancient Chinese martial art is slow and focused, so if you love doing yoga then this practice can be used to sharpen those skills for self-defense. It improves flexibility and balance while reducing stress and anxiety too.
Best for Skinny Guys
If you’re a guy who’s at an average height (or taller) but incredibly skinny, then you probably consider yourself to be quite weak compared to the buff guy next door. Martial arts may not make you bulk up, but the right sport will certainly give you confidence and the strength to defend yourself. Try practicing:
- Taekwondo – this martial art relies on very quick strikes and kicks, which will be your advantage. Choosing a martial art that relies on grappling and holding will be harder for you, if you are very skinny rather than muscular.
- Kickboxing – rather than just relying on upper body strength like traditional boxing, kickboxing also allows you to use your legs to strike. As a tall skinny guy, this is a huge advantage for you, as you don’t need to stand very close to your opponent to strike them with your feet.
- Arnis – this martial art from the Philippines uses striking and parrying with open hands or a range of weapons. Swinging and circular movements are also used a lot. None of these skills require you to be overly heavy or short.
Combat Sports You Should Definitely Avoid
Okay, technically there’s no sport that you should definitely avoid, but there are some sports that are unsuitable for some body types. That’s not to say that you cannot learn them or even master them… but you may have your work cut out for you!
- Muay Thai – although it’s designed for short people in general, it still requires a high level of physical strength. If you are very thin, skinny or think you may be more suited to a thoughtful martial art like kung fu, then avoid Muay Thai!
- Kickboxing – it’s a great sport for the tall and thin person, who can kick from a distance… but if you’re small in height rather than width then you’ll really struggle with this one. Best to stick with combat sports that need a closer stance.
It’s important to learn what your body is capable of. It’s totally okay to try out a range of different martial arts and choose to stick with what works best for you. If you’re looking to take up a martial art for self-defense, then you might consider a self-defense class instead that will incorporate techniques from different sports to give you the best chance of defending yourself.
Conclusion – Ka-Pow!
Being short, small, weak, or skinny is not a reason to avoid martial arts. Some of the most popular combat sports around the world are designed to help you defeat an opponent who may even be taller and stronger than you.
To become good at a martial art, you’ll need to build body strength as well as mental strength and skills. It’s not just about learning techniques. So, if you put in the hard work, there’s no reason that you can’t become a master at a martial art regardless of your size or any physical ailments you have!
Can short people learn martial arts?
Absolutely! Some martial arts teach you to fight to your strengths (and your opponent’s weaknesses) no matter your size. Other martial arts, like wrestling and boxing, can make being short an advantage as a very close stance is preferred.
Is Muay Thai appropriate for smaller people?
Yes, Muay Thai was created in Thailand to help the army defeat larger and taller opponents. Many – if not all – of the techniques are designed to put short people at an advantage in close combat.
How do short guys fight?
Short, sharp punches and kicks in close combat are usually the techniques used by shorter fighters. A short and close stance enables them to strike hard, while a more distant stance puts them at a disadvantage. The exact techniques used depends on their personal skill and the martial art they practice.
Is Jiu Jitsu good for small people?
The techniques taught for jiu-jitsu and the skills required to be good at it aren’t reliant on being tall or overly large in stature. This also applies to Brazilian jiu-jitsu; however, these combat sports are considered among the most difficult to learn.
Is Judo good for short people?
Yes, jiu-jitsu requires both intellectual and physical strength to acknowledge your strengths and use them to your advantage. Combat techniques used include lifting, throwing, and pinning an alternative.