Do size and strength matter in self defence?

Of course they do.

Anyone who says different needs to work with bigger people.

While some martial arts will say size and strength do not matter what they really are, or should, be saying is you can learn to deal with size and strength – but they always matter.

If we were asked to move a rock from here to there then we would look at the rock and determine if we can just pick it up and carry it over or if we need to apply some principles or tools, such as leverage, to move it.

The size of the rock mattered and if we had no idea how to use leverage or some other principle or tool then we couldn’t move the rock. In self defence not being able to move the rock can have nasty consequences.

I use a number of principles to adapt to size and strength and I use them all the time regardless of the size of the person. They simply make all things easier.

I use the principle of “Move You Not Them.” A simple example is if a big strong person’s arm is straight out. Now at the end of that arm I can manipulate it as a big long lever but if I am not skilled at manipulating that big long lever then I may try to muscle it over and fail.

BUT if we pause a moment and look if we want to go from being in front of this strong arm to beside it, then instead of trying to press it to the side why not simple step there yourself? Don’t move the arm, move you. The goal is the important thing and moving me I get there – goal achieved.

Another principle I use all the time (or try to) is “Empty Space.” A simple example I given before of how to use empty space to move an Aggressor is, if you think of a person standing and you place you hand on top of their shoulder and press directly down you can picture your action will have little effect. It has little effect because you are pressing into the person’s body (their structure). Directly behind the person’s shoulder is – nothing. No other body parts. No structure. The space behind their shoulder is empty. If we press their shoulder into that Empty Space we will have an effect on their body.

A way to think of using empty space in movement to is if you were trying to catch an elevator and the doors were almost closed you would angle your body and slide through the open space between the doors. You would never think of trying to bash through the doors to get in; therefore, we apply the same approach when we move dealing with an Aggressor.

The fact that the elevator doors are “bigger and stronger” than I am is immaterial to me stepping through the open space between them.

There’s a catch though – there always is.

The different guy. I’ve worked with a lot of big strong people and when I first meet most of them they have one common factor – they rely on their size and strength. They rely on it often because it has never failed them. So far, it has when they’ve worked with me. The different guy takes note and changes.

There is a great guy, Heath, down at KPC Self Defense in Edmonton. He is a well trained grappler and a big man. Like many really big men I’ve met he is quiet, humble and just a good person. But he is big and really strong. The first time I worked with him at a Rory Miller seminar he was relying on his size and strength (and yes training) and he was a little baffled as to why it just wasn’t working against me.

I’ve worked with him at seminars on and off (he’s one of my favourite partners to work with) and at the last Rory seminar I stopped working and paid him a compliment. I told him he was fighting like a small person. He was not relying on his size or strength he was fighting with principles and skill. I said his size and strength were always going to be there for him but now they would be applied to some high-level skills and that had made him a much deadlier guy. No matter what if a 120-pound person hits you with perfect principles and speed and a 250-pound person hits you with the same perfect principles and speed the 250-pound person hits you harder. Size and strength matter.

I talk about moving up the bad guy pyramid and he had leapt up towards the top.

As far as I know in past anyway in Kyokushin Karate tournaments when there is a tie they weigh the contestants and the smaller man wins. He has more skill because size and strength matter.

So, the problem we run into with the “different guy” (like Heath) is when they are just as skilled as you are, or more skilled, AND they are bigger or stronger.

The only good thing is most big strong people don’t take the path of the different guy, doesn’t mean their size and strength doesn’t make they deadly it just means we might have the principles and tools to adapt and deal with them.

The bottom-line is that size and strength do matter, and while we can find ways to adapt, so can they.

Just means we have to work at getting more skilled – more training and practice – that’s a good thing.