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Strengths and Weaknesses

One of our new students is very tall (the tallest ever in our dojo). He is strong too, not just tall.

I often tell students that they should not compare themselves to me. I am only 5 feet 7.5 inches and weigh about 170 pounds. Some students will be taller or shorter, thinner or stouter, stronger or weaker than me. This is natural.

Instead of comparing themselves to me, they should compare themselves to an optimized version of themselves. Are they as strong as they could be? Are they in as good shape as they could be? Are they are quick and fluid as they could be? Are they as skilled as they could be? If they were to defend themselves against an optimized version of themselves, how would they fare?

Of course, we cannot pick the person who will attack us. He may well be a bigger and stronger person. It could also be a smaller person with a weapon. Size is only one consideration.

A taller and stronger student will have certain advantages. He will have a longer reach. He will be stronger. He can probably take more punishment (maybe).

But a smaller student might be quicker. He might also be just as strong -- more importantly, he might be able to hit harder (to concentrate his power).

There are also disadvantages to being taller. Tall students generally have a harder time taking falls and getting up quickly. They also present a bigger target -- there is more to hit. In addition, the joints of a taller person are probably proportionately weaker than a smaller person's because they have to carry a heavier, longer load.

I always say that one of the advantages of the some of the early Karate teachers in Okinawa was that they were compact, but just as strong as a big man. If you ever practiced Judo, you know that the worst opponent is someone who is smaller than you but stronger and more skilled.

A small person can neutralize some of the advantages of a taller opponent by getting in very close -- bumping bodies. It is hard for a taller person to punch and kick in close. A smaller person, in contrast, can use a wider array of techniques in close.

Whatever the size and shape of a student may be, he or should should try his best to learn and get into good shape. Little by little, we can all improve ourselves.

An old saying among Karate experts is that size does not matter in Karate. That is true if the student is very skilled and in excellent shape. Otherwise, size matters a great deal.


Charles C. Goodin