Thursday, January 13, 2011

'Shorter People Have Certain Advantages In Fighting And Warfare'

I came across this book this morning while researching certain aspects of injury science (I'll update readers on the progress of my now two books in a later blog). The book is titled Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling: Physiological, Performance, Growth, Longevity and Ecological Ramifications edited by Thomas T. Samaras. The chapter titled 'Advantages of shorter human height' reviews a number of physical advantages related to shorter height.
This chapter will show that smaller people have certain inherent advantages which can result in outstanding athletic abilities. These advantages include faster reaction time, higher acceleration, greater strength to weight ratio, and increased maximal oxygen uptake and endurance. Other physical benefits include faster rotation, lower risk of death from accidents, lower hip fracture risk, and lower chance of heat stroke. Failure to recognise these assets is probably due to a preference for taller, bigger athletes by sports coaches. As a consequence, smaller men and women with considerable athletic potential from entering many sports. Yet Alexander (1999) reported that smaller bodies are inherently more athletic than larger ones. (47-48)
Thank ... you! It seems these days that taller is better, but this chapter provides support and encouragement for all those (like me) who do not fit this idealised model of an athlete.

Shorter people have faster reaction time: 'Shorter people have a shorter transit time for stimuli initiated in the brain and can thus respond to threatening or dangerous situations more quickly' (48). It appears that tall people would become extinct in the normal course of events as they don't have the features which would be selected for in evolution.

Shorter people have greater strength to weight ratios:
Since the muscles and bones of the smaller athletes are stronger in proportion to body weight, they are more agile and less likely to get injured from high velocity activities and hard landings from sports. Although many big men are outstanding in martial arts, the performance of shorter, lighter athletes are faster and more agile with more exceptional movements compared to tall and big athletes. Examples include Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan.(48-49)
Shorter people can accelerate their limbs at a faster rate. Injury is defined in injury science in terms of exposure to energy (the subject of book #2 I'm currently working on), including kinetic energy (KE) which is mathematically defined as one half the product of mass multiplied by velocity squared. Mass is arithmetically proportional to the injury potential inherent in injury, but velocity (speed by any other name) is logarithmically proportional. Double mass double KE, double velocity/speed quadruple KE and the potential for injury.

Shorter people have greater endurance. Shorter people have relatively higher power output for their weight. Shorter people have faster rotational capacity. Shorter people have greater agility.
As a result of their greater acceleration, higher strength to weight ratio, and faster rotational ability, shorter people tend to be more agile than taller, heavier people. Thus, they can stop, start and change direction of body movements faster. In addition, they can duck, maneuver and avoid body contact with opponents more easily. ... Short gymnasts and martial arts experts also display great agility. (53)
Shorter people have a lower centre of gravity and greater stability. The concepts of stability and balance (which it appears shorter people possess to a greater degree than taller people) form part of my Throwing Techniques and Takedown Techniques of ALL Martial Arts book.
Shorter People Have Certain Advantages In Fighting And Warfare.
Although brute strength can be a valuable asset in hand-to-hand combat, many highly effective warriors have been small, such as the Gurkhas of Nepal who have been noted as being the fiercest and most effective warriors in recent times. The Japanese have also demonstrated great warrior skills as have the Viet Cong of Vietnam. Many native American tribes of relatively short men were noted for their fighting skills, such as the Commanches, Apaches, and Navajo (Samaras, 1994). The relatively short Gordon highlanders of Scotland were also exceptional warriors (Allinson, 1981). The Greeks and Romans were relatively short but very effective warriors. Audie Murphy, who was shorter and lighter (165cm and 50kg) than the average US soldier, was the most decorated war hero in WWII. Being small may be an advantage in field combat based on statistician Frances Galton who calculated that a tall that a 33% higher risk of being killed in combat compared to a shorter one. Sarna et al (1993) also reported that basketball players in the Finnish military had the highest combat death rate during WWII. In contrast, the shorter athletes had the lowest combat mortality.
In karate and martial arts, many shorter men have excelled due to their greater speed and agility. Some famous smaller size martial arts experts include Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Chuck Norris. However, there are certainly larger fighters in the martial arts who could defeat outstanding smaller fighters if they were well trained and fast for their size.(55)
Smaller people have reduced risk of injury during falls and death from motor vehicle accidents: 'For taller people, tripping while walking can result in more serious injury to the body than for shorter people' (55). The explanation is based on kinetic energy and the definition of injury based on exposure to energy which is the subject of book #2 which I'm currently working on.

There is more, but the more relevant passages have been included within this blog. It offers support for the shorter martial artist, or may change the perception of the martial arts instructor or trainer (there is a difference) concerning their students. I can now explain my exceptional martial arts abilities as I had an advantage in being shorter than many of my contemporaries :).


  1. Hooray! Here's to the small and mighty everywhere, me and my spouse included!

  2. I will definitely say that throwing seems to favor the shorter martial artist. I lean towards the tall end of the stick and the shorter guys toss me around easily.

    Sure, when I throw someone, they travel high and it's a long way to fall, but I sure have to get down there to break the balance point. I think throwing is less forgiving for taller artists. I imagine you've considered this in writing your book.

    Having tussled with a variety of folks or all shapes and sizes, I can say that shorter people tend to be stronger pound for pound than taller ones. No always, but usually.

    I enjoyed the post.

  3. Thanks Journeyman. I have to say that I've always considered one of my strengths as being throwing techniques which may be explained by my shorter stature. To tell the truth, I posted this blog as a matter of interest based on the research I'm doing for my book(s), and with a bit of tounge in cheek.

  4. This is cool! I am short and I am very athletic, so love this!

  5. Hey! When is your book going to be out? And what kind of throws are better for short people? I am 5'2"

  6. If you only knew how much my son needed to read this. Thank you!
    Mom of a small but mighty Karate warrior!

  7. Very true article. Another thing I would add is when a shorter man lifts weights/weight trains it's easier to lift with slightly shorter limbs and strength gains come more easily than a tall scrawny man;) it also goes hand in hand with your speed/agility making you more effective at whatever you do whether it's fighting, football, baseball, ect. I'be been lifting for years now and it's never stopped paying off its a must for any shorter man who just wants to be at the top of his game or deter any would-be bully or antagonist

  8. although i agree a shorter guy suffer less when being tripped to the floor, from what i saw, it seems the taller guy has the advantage. the limbs are longer and can strike while the shorter guy cannot touch or reach the taller one. your photo above is just from a movie which is not a real fighting scenario. i saw the world championship of kyokushin karate on youtube and it looks like when the european black belt guy mastered the art, he just aggressively destroyed the shorter japanese opponent. the jap guy was very brave to play along, but in the end he ends up having the injuries and broken nose. when you watch the taishan 7 foot chinese boxer, he just keeps on winning because he has the longer arm, the opponent cant even touch him. im a short guy and i dont feel well when the bigger people bully myself. i dont think we live in a truely peaceful utopian world, the bigger people bullies the smaller ones. the richer people exploit the poor. they take more resources, and they disrespect the smaller people. if you goto a stand up concert show, the taller people at the front wont necessarily cooperate and let the shorter people go to the front. i think the only advantage of being short is for the job of being a jockey, doing weight lifting, and flying on the plane in economy class.

    1. mike tyson was short for a heavyweight.
      every scenario has advantages and disadvantages.
      its about knowing how to play to your strengths and mastering technique


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.