Muay Thai has people learning it from all over the world who are all shapes and sizes, but can you be too short for Muay Thai?
In Muay Thai, your height does not matter, you can still do it if you’re short. If you want to fight in Muay Thai you will likely be matched with others of a similar height. If your opponent is taller than you, there are strategies you can use including, agility, counter striking, and technique.
Don’t feel like your height should hold you back in Muay Thai, discover why including:
- Weight classes and height
- Your fighting strategy
- And famous ‘short’ Muay Thai fighters
Are You Too Short for Muay Thai?
If you are just wanting to learn Muay Thai for its various benefits, for example, for fitness, confidence, improved self-esteem, or self-defense.
Then your height does not matter – regardless of whether you are tall or short.
Discover the benefits of Muay Thai for self-defense in our article: Muay Thai for Self-Defense: 7 Key Benefits
Or how Muay Thai can boost your confidence and self-esteem in our article: Martial Arts Vs Anxiety, Confidence & Mental Health
But what if you want to fight in Muay Thai – does your height still matter?
If your plan is to prepare for competition and to have a Muay Thai fight, but you feel you may be too short – there are a couple of things to think about:
- Weight classes
- Your fighting strategy
1. Weight Classes
If you are going to fight in Muay Thai then you will be fighting within your weight class.
This means that (on average) the people you’re matched up against will be of a similar height to you too.
Height plays a big part in how much we weigh, meaning if your opponent is within the same weight class as you – they’ll most likely be a similar height too.
In this case, you are evenly matched and therefore your height does not matter.
However, just because someone is within your weight class does not mean they will always be the same height as you.
Your opponent’s muscle build and body mass will also determine their weight.
Meaning, if you’re matched up against someone who is fairly slim build and not very muscly – but they are within your weight class – they may be taller than you with their height making up the extra weight.
If this happens, what strategies can you use as the smaller fighter?
2. Your Fighting Strategy
Generally speaking, a taller fighter has the advantage in a fight over a shorter fighter.
This is because the taller you are, the better you’re able to stay on the outside and use your reach advantage to land strikes from a distance which is out of range for your opponent.
However, this is not always the case.
As the shorter fighter you have to adopt a few strategies which will help you in your fight – which can actually end up giving you the advantage over your opponent.
The strategies you can use as a shorter Muay Thai fighter are:
- Agility Staying light on your feet and using your footwork
- Counter Striking Avoiding or catching your opponent’s strikes, before returning fire with your own
- Clinch Technique If you end up in the clinch, you need to use correct technique – not strength
As the smaller fighter you will do well if you focus your game plan on being agile and light on your feet, using your footwork to move in and out of range of your opponent’s strikes.
How you determine your range will also depend on your opponent’s game plan.
You can adapt your strategy to combat theirs.
If they want to stay on the outside and engage with long-range strikes – you can close the distance.
Then by being in close, you’re able to strike to the legs and body, and move back out of range.
By closing the distance between yourself and your opponent, you’re able to 1) disarm their long-range attacks and 2) strike them with body shots in close range.
If they want to come in close and fight in the clinch, you can stay on the outside and engage with your own long-range strikes and use counter strikes.
Instead of trying to be first to the punch and initiating the striking, implementing a counter striking strategy in your game plan will help you overcome your opponent’s reach advantage.
Counter striking is when you first wait for your opponent to throw a strike, avoid the strike, and then come back with one (or a combination) of your own – catching them off guard.
Avoiding the strike in Muay Thai can be done in a number of ways including:
- Lean back, out of range of the head kick (being short is advantageous here)
- Catch the kicks aimed at your body
- Slip or Parry the punches
As you move in on your taller opponent, they will most likely be looking to grab a hold of you and initiate a clinch.
This is because they will have the advantage of height over you.
But in the clinch, they will also have the advantage of weight and leverage on you because they can lean forward and down on top of you.
Ideally you want to avoid getting into a clinch with a taller fighter, but that is not always possible.
Therefore, your clinch technique is the most important thing to get you out of there – not strength.
- Working to get your hands on the inside of theirs and secure solid grips on the back of their head
- Working to block their knees with your shin, or keeping your hips glued to theirs to reduce the risk of knee strikes up the middle
- Working to off balance your opponent and use trips and sweeps from within the clinch
Thailand is home to some of the best Muay Thai fighters in the world, in comparison to a lot of people though, they are short.
When I was in Thailand doing Muay Thai my instructor was no more than 5’ 5” – but he had no problem whatsoever in effortlessly beating me up in our training sessions – even with my height and weight advantage.
Of course, my few years of training experience is no comparison to his life time of fighting experience.
But the point is that, technique, strategy and experience – are more important in Muay Thai than just your height.
And finally, here are the heights of some of the world’s most well-known Muay Thai fighters – none of which are what most would consider to be ‘tall’.
|Saenchai||5’ 4” (1.63m)|
|Buakaw Banchamek||5’ 8” (1.74m)|
|Ramon Dekkers||5’ 7” (1.72m)|
For 7 tips on how you can improve your Muay Thai game check out our article: Muay Thai: 7 Ways To Get Better, Faster