What is the Ideal Height for a Martial Artist

The Perfect Martial Height

According to one study I came across, the ideal height for a martial artist is around 5 foot 6. This was supposedly because when you measure mass of muscle versus weight to be moved and add in a bunch of things like length of bone, arc of movement, and so on, being 5 foot 6 was just more efficient.

The story, of course, doesn’t stop there, and we shouldn’t immediately go out and elect only five and a half feet tall men to president for eternity. There are a few more things to consider.

The average height of a  man in the US is 5 foot 10. Women are 5 foot 4. That’s up about four inches, for both species, over the last century. And, as you track back through time, man is supposed to have been under 5 feet tall, and women down around four feet tall.

The conclusion here is that we were under our ideal, and now we are over our ideal, and why aren’t our genes selecting the exact right height for us?

Well, there are many factors, and I will go into them after I tell you a short story.

One day I was teaching a karate class, and afterwards I overheard a student remark that I had the perfect body for Karate. I had to chuckle, because I knew I didn’t.

My karate instructor was 5’ 6”, and he was capable of the most amazing feats. You could go to punch him, from an odd angle with a real advantage, and somehow he would contort his body through a half twist/half somersault and somehow end up with his knuckles on your nose. And this without any gymnastic training. His body was just filled with martial arts energy, and he could pop that energy out of the tan tien and make his body do what he wanted.

I knew I couldn’t do the things he could do. I’m a feather short of 6’ 2”, and my body weighs more. My muscles aren’t sufficiently bigger to move my increased mass; I can’t spread my chi through the structure fast enough to make it do certain things.

But, I could do other things better than my martial arts instructor, things not having to do with gymnastics. We were individuals, you see, and we operate our bodies according to whatever conditions we find ourselves in. Cadillac or sports cars, there are pros and cons either way, depends on the road conditions, and so on and so on.

Now, that said, let me explain a few facts.

The average height of natives from third world countries is quite a bit below that of the United States. Why? Malnutrition. Differences in medicine. Lack of growth hormones in beef. And so on.

Some of these reasons are good, some are bad. For instance, a taller person has more social power. Standing taller, people look up, and it gives a subtle but desired advantage. Thus people want to be taller.

And, on the other hand, a taller person won’t live as long, is more prone to certain body problems, and so on. There are even studies which indicate that a taller person will endure more heart disease and cancer than a shorter person.

So we have a mixed bag here. There is an ideal, but we are leaving it in favor of social standing, diseased food sources, and so on.

Will we ever return to everybody being the correct height? And for the correct height specifically for a martial artist?

Only if parents decide that they should choose genes, order a custom baby, with the idea of perfect height as the ideal instead of social standing. And, BTW, make that baby have a complete knowledge of Kung Fu, able to speak Latin, and…hold the onions.

zen martial arts

2 thoughts on “What is the Ideal Height for a Martial Artist

  1. Meitar Nadir

    Your discussion neglects a very important aspect (IMHO): Man is a tool using animal, so in any real-life encounter with the potential to affect survival, opponents are likely to be wielding a weapon. With a weapon in hand, the effect of reach massively outweighs the effect of subtle muscle balance or chi propagation. So, outside the lab taller is better.
    Also, as a side note: health problems in later life do not affect gene propagation. No matter what horrible fate you suffer after you’ve had your children – your genes will successfully go on.


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