You are here:

Self Defense/Is fighting people of various different mass or weight requires different mechanics? Does a heavier person always have the advantage?


QUESTION: I was reading your answer about BJJ.

And you pretty went controversy by stating that a larger person doesn't always have the greater advantage over the smaller person. I mean we been spoonfed all our lives that all things equal, the bigger person will always have the advantage-especially if both parties are untrained.

However since you dispelled the myth when you posted about your years on the wrestling team, it made me curious. People always picture "bigger" as being both taller, larger or wider in body frame (not sure what the proper term is), and heavier than the smaller person they are fighting.

But of course we know that is not true. So I am curious Would the mechanics be different automatically when weigh differences are involved but every other thing equal (You're both say 6 feet tall but the other guy is 100 pounds while you are 200 pounds or the inverse, etc).

To add a specific question, is the lighter guy always at a disadvantage? I mean whats being spit out in grappling sports is that so long as the height and body frame differences is not too great, the lighter guy will always lose if the skill gap is not far. Even in  a pair off of two grapplers from the same weight class. I seen so much emphasize of how you'd better reach the edge of your weight limit if you know in advance you are fighting someone of the same level and you can't advance quickly enough to surpass him.

Since you stated you faced a huge disadvantage Manuel Alanzo because he knew giant slaying moves, in reality outside of the ring is their "heavy fat" killers tricks for people skinny at malnourishment that the heavyweight would be at a huge disadvantage? That its not always the heavier guy simply overpowers the lighter guy quickly?

Now in a more general question, would the mechanics change drastically once height and bodyframe is taken into account? I mean for someone who is 5'3 but 260 pounds vs someone 6 feet but 170 pounds does the mechanic changes all of a sudden? Or if both people weigh equally and are the same exact height but one is of a much bigger bodywidth/frame (can you help me find the correct wording)? As well as arm and leg lengths?

I'm just curious because the giant and midget killers sounded a bit too general and I'm wondering if for a martial arts to be effective it has to take into account how different the weights are and if a lighter person is always a disadvantage or if this is another myth?

ANSWER: Yes the strategies and tactics are different. Different mechanics are required.  Going into the details are way too complex.

However, a simple starting point is to know that a 'fight' is a head-to-head social conflict not designed to cause too-significant injury. As it is primarily a social dominance game for members of the same group, injury would be bad for the group.  So instead you get something akin to big horn sheep butting heads. Lots of sturm und drang, but basically a form of conflict that our bodies are designed to take and keep us safe.

A fight has a VERY simple and predictable strategy. "Hey diddle, diddle, straight up the middle." When you have two guys 'fighting,' they're like a two trains colliding on the same track.

In those circumstances, IF -- and that's a big if -- everything else is equal (commitment, training and condition) the advantage is to the larger person because of mass.

I tell you this because fighting is already stupid, but going head-to-head, using the same tactics and and meeting -- first trying to rebuff, but then overthrow-- his superior mass is really stupid. It's like a car trying to beat a train in a head on collision. The train is bigger.

On the other hand, it's hard to get hit by a train if you're not on the tracks. The potential damage of the train's greater weight isn't going to do it much good if you're not in front of it.  Now the question becomes, how do you derail the train?

Having said all that, remember I said 'if everything else was equal?' It's very seldom that simple. Things aren't black and white when it comes to any kind of violence, even fighting. There will be different levels of commitment, different skill levels, different pain tolerances and different levels of experience fighting people of different sizes -- including knowing counters to the techniques someone uses on someone your size. (For example, Manual Alanzo knew how to fight bigger people. I did too. What I lacked was knowing how to fight someone smaller than I was because it so seldom happened.) Everything you mentioned are indeed factors that change the equation. A friend of mine says "Violence is high speed problem solving." I say it's knowing how to do the math on the spot. What you're talking about is like a bunch of different equations, that change from addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They're all math, but the different components within each equation dictate different answers. That's what I was talking about when I said it was too complex to answer.

As to the last question of "do the martial arts..." it depends entirely on the instructor and if he knows about these differences. If all he's ever done is do weight class and same level belt sparring then the odds are no he doesn't.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Ok quick question. What is exactly meant by mass in fighting? As I already said when people say X fighter will win because he has much greater mass, they always picture X fighter as being much taller, much wider and larger in body frame, having longer arms and legs, and being considerably heavier.

Because in science mass usually implies heavier weight. Which is why I asked my question because if a person is bigger and taller, he is usually assumed to win because he has a larger mass even if he weighs one hundred pounds at six feet in height while his enemy is five'nine and over two hundred fifty pounds.

Basically taller automatically means people assume they will be heavier and larger than you thus you're at a big disadvantage because a very tall person will automatically have the mass.

By scientific definition a smaller person who's heavier should have more mass but I notice most "fight theories" fail to take that into account if the other person is much taller but lighter by twenty-thirty pounds, despite being in the same weigh class.

So is fight theory bringing out BS science again? On top of that all other things equal would a slightly shorter person-say two to three inches- beat someone who weighs over fifty pounds less in a straight on collision. Sorry but there's so much claims out there in this smaller vs larger thing I'm VERY CONFUSED. And that was sort of my initial question before bringing more general tone in my first post.

Also can mass distribution play a big role? WHat I mean by this is that most swords weigh the same but difference sin mass distribution and design by them feel different. Rapiers feel light enough to hold in one hand even they weigh the same as a longsword because mass is on a longer thing range, etc.

Does the same apply to fighting? Like someone may weigh lighter than you overall but his arm mass is so large that it totally alters your defenses or his body mass is heavier than yours but since his legs have low mass thats where you should attack them, etc? Sorry if I'm making BS theories up but I'm also curious since different mass in different body limbs is RARELY accounted for and people just look at the total mass when judging who will win in a bout. Where as swords do take this into account.

Mass means weight. Heavier or lighter doesn't matter. It's all weight.

When you're talking about short and thick vs. tall and skinny now you're talking weight distribution, which is a totally different question. And it's a different type of movement to deliver it most effectively. So don't get those two confused -- like so many of the idiots who come up with fight theories that don't take that into consideration.

Part of the reason you're confused is you're looking for a single answer for a question that the answer is 'it depends.'   There are many different 'right' answers because the the shape of the question changes.  You can't understand how it works until you learn to do the math

7 + 3 = 10
7 - 3 = 4
3 x 3 = 9
6 / 2 = 3

Notice that three was in all of those. Even though the value of three didn't change,what was next to it gave you all kinds of answers, including when three was the answer.

Mass is the 3, but it isn't the only factor.

Using your example, yes the shorter heavier guy has the potential or delivering more force than the tall skinny guy. Except he doesn't know how to strike and the tall skinny guy does. In that case, the tall skinny guy is going to hit harder. Why? Because he's losing less energy by striking incorrectly.

Now here's another wobbler. Given the ways they move and the size difference, the 'right' way to strike for each of them is going to be different. EVEN if they were both striking 'correctly' for the other body type, (instead of their own) they'd be punching 'wrong' for them.

This flushed all the bullshit about the 'right way to hit' down the toilet.  There is no one right way to hit or magic component that means you'll always have power.  What you need to focus on is finding a way of moving that works best for you and allows you to deliver force effectively. What that is... I don't know. You gotta find what works for you and get good at it.

All this other stuff is mental masturbation and internet idiots claiming to have found the ultimate truth about 'fighting'  Which their ain't no such critter.

Self Defense

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

See CV

Too numerous to list here. My CV (for my expert witness work in court) is at

Read "In the Name of Self-Defense" the streets don't give a Ph.D in scuffle.

Awards and Honors
See CV

Past/Present Clients
See CV

©2016 All rights reserved.