View Full Version : Is Aikido Size-ist?

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Charles Humbach
01-05-2004, 06:38 PM
Hi everyone,

This is my first post here though I have been reading the forums for a couple of days. I have been interested in Aikido for several months after reading an article in the newspaper and some subsequent reading and study on the web. I find that the philosophy and practice are far more appealing than other martial arts to which I have been exposed.

My question is, is Aikido appropriate for me? Having expressed my interest to some aquaintances, I have been told more than once that I am to big for Aikido. I am 6'1" (183cm) and I weigh 220 lbs. (~100 k.) My ideal weight would be 190 - 200 as I am broad and muscular. Many people tell me I'm built like a linebacker (top-heavy) and that doesn't lend itself to Aikido. When I ask these (non-aikido) martial artists what MA might be appropriate, they shrug and say MA were designed for small people to defend themselves against larger aggressors.

I already think they are full of s***, but would like to hear the opinions of this board, which seems to have reasonable, articulate members, on the problems of a larger person studying Aikido.

Also as a side-question. I read somewhere on this board that Aikido is best for someone who has already achieved some degree of proficiency in another MA first. I really find the other MAs bordering on distasteful (sport oriented, full-contact is not what I'm into) and would hate to think that I should consider a few years of Karate or TKD before following up with Aikido.

Thank You,
A future Aikido student
Charles Humbach

01-05-2004, 06:51 PM

There is none. Go for it. I'm as tall but not quite so heavy. However, compared to my regular training partners I'm huge.

Be prepared for low level practitioners insisting you are using too much muscle. You probably aren't, any more than they, but you're a big boy and the effect is probably greater.

Learning ukemi is going to be much tougher than your average beginner but once learnt you will do fine.

As you advance you will develope your own style of Aikido based on your body. There is no perfect Aikido body.

01-05-2004, 06:52 PM
When I ask these (non-aikido) martial artists what MA might be appropriate, they shrug and say MA were designed for small people to defend themselves against larger aggressors.

I already think they are full of s***
You are correct.

01-05-2004, 09:19 PM
You may want to check out a few names like Moses Powell (Sanuces ryu), Harvey Konigsberg (Aikikai), Terry Dobson. For that matter, Yamada Shihan is not what I would call small.

01-05-2004, 10:59 PM
Seagal is pretty big too.

01-05-2004, 11:41 PM
A student of mine with some of the softest techniques is about 6'1" and I think he said around 260 lbs. The student with the roughest is about 4'10" and maybe 95 lbs if I filled her pockets with pennies ;)

The only requirement for studying aikido is the desire to study aikido.

As I've seen on a t-shirt (http://www.wickedjester.com/): "People too weak to follow their own dreams, will always find a way to discourage yours".

Ignore them and go for it.


01-05-2004, 11:55 PM
Size isnt really an obstacle, I'm aroun the samesize (a little heavier), and easily the biggest person in my class, though not the biggest person in the whole Dojo. However, Peter was right on the money when he said Ukemi would be more difficult, but dont let

that discourage you. Aikido is for everyone.

A final word: watch out for short people who want you to do Shihonage. Thats a killer with a big height difference.

01-06-2004, 02:09 AM
I don't know what those guys are full of, but it sure isn't insight and knowledge. Aikido is for people of any size. Of course extreme obesity can be a problem, but you are far from it.

For what it's worth I'm 183 cm and 96 kilos, and I've mannaged to go as far as 1. kyu. So far I have not been told to hand in my gi and leave the dojo, so I guess there is hope :D

BTW two of the four teachers in my dojo are taller than me and at least close to as heavy as I am, and they are pushing san-dan, so don't dispare. Go find a dojo that teaches aikido in a style that you like.

With regards to proficiency in other MA's - don't worry. Of course a black belt in judo, Karate or some other MA will give you a good base, but it might also be difficult to 'un-learn' some things. We are all individuals and we enter aikido on different backgrounds and along the line we develop our own interpretation of this wonderful MA.

Most importantly: remember to have fun :)

01-06-2004, 02:55 AM
As a 6'0" 119 kilo 6th Dan Aikidoka I would say that size isn't really a barrier (and by the way I have two students who are bigger than me; one nidan and one yondan)

01-06-2004, 04:07 AM
Yes, it's totally sizeist - do you know how not fun it is to take a tenchi nage from some sod your size when you're a shortarse like myself...

Seriously, the only trouble I've seen with ahem larger ukes is in the early stages of learning ukemis, on the bigger they are style of splatting. Also some teachers get transfixed by the idea of never using strength in technique, which can be harder for you as your idea of no strength in no way compares to their ideal.

Anyway, where's Dave O on this, he sounds like a fellow man-mountain so should be able to share.

01-06-2004, 04:42 AM
Hi Charles,

jump in and enjoy!! At around 6ft and 110kg's, I find ukemi was (still is) the hardest to get my head around, that and being uke for the "little people" who love to do Shihonage, or walk under for a Sankyo!! :eek:

Hmmm...rock on tenchi-nage!! (sorry Ian) ;)

good luck Charles



01-06-2004, 07:20 AM
Charles, like the others have said; don't worry about the size issue, get in there and train. I am 5'2" and about 20 lbs overweight (aikido isn't a good weight-loss tool once you are used to it). I've got several students who are a foot taller and 100 lbs heavier than I am. They are managing just fine, as am I.

BTW, my former teacher has a dojo in Albuquerque, and I recommend you check him out, as he is very good (TS Okuyama).

best regards,


01-06-2004, 08:23 AM

Everyone has challenges learning aikido -- they're just different challenges. I'm about 5'10" and 320 lbs. If you're a linebacker, I'm a lineman. Actually, I was a lineman in high school. :D

I've been studying aikido for a little over four years, and it's been wonderful. I've had to struggle with learning to fall safely and to attack fluidly -- but so does everyone else. When our dojo does demonstrations, my instructor likes to throw me into big breakfalls (high falls) just to show that (a) big guys can be thrown too, and (b) they can land without injury.

Ellis Amdur, a fellow with a lot of martial arts experience, told me at a seminar that big guys have an advantage in aikido and other arts. When we attack strongly, our partners have a harder time dealing with it. Conversely, we have an easier time with some aspects of throwing -- especially hip throws.

For a while, I used to think that the skinny, smaller folks in the dojo had an easier time of things than I did, but then I noticed that they struggled too, just with different aspects of the art. If you want to study aikido, do it. And don't let anyone tell you you can't.


J. David Geurkink
01-06-2004, 09:38 AM

I won't spend time reiterating what everyone else has said about size and aikido other than it is only any issue if you let it become one. The only thing that I might add is that as a beginner (like myself) performing proper ukemi for your partner is vital. We larger folk (I'm 6'2" 235lbs.) can sometimes "stuff" our nage's techniques without meaning to. I practiced for several months not knowing I was doing this until a good friend in the dojo simply told me that I was resisting him on a technique he wasn't proficient with. After that, I have tried to be more fluid and elastic in my ukemi and have discovered that practice is more fulfilling for me, and, I think, for my partners.

Just my 2 cents.


Ted Marr
01-06-2004, 10:44 AM
Actually, you may become your everyone's best-est buddy. I don't know about anyone else out there, but I know that I figure that if I can get a technique to work on a someone who could squash me without hardly thinking about it, then I'm doing something right. I seek out the big guys in our dojo to practice with when I can, just because if I don't have it right, it'll certainly show up there.

Also, I am of the opinion that your speed of advancement in Aikido is tied to how much attention you pay to what you are doing. This might sound trivial, but often enough practice just becomes a rote activity, and not something that you devote all your thought to. My current teacher attributes his best learning to the fact that as a big guy, he was constantly striving to make sure he was not doing anything incorrectly and hurting his ukes.

As for the "should I study something else first", I would say yes, and no. Yes, study something else. It cross-pollinates in some great ways, possibly filling in gaps you might have in your Aikido training. Does it have to be before Aikido? No. Does it have to be sport TKD? Well, that would probably not help at all.

Lyle Bogin
01-06-2004, 11:11 AM
If you think you are top heavy you may want to do some prep conditioning for your legs to help support your knees, especially your quadriceps.

Otherwise, get in there and go be the local dojo's b.s. detector.

Ah, I see you're in Albuquerque.

Have you considered http://www.asbk.org/?

I am sure you'll be welcome.

Charles Humbach
01-06-2004, 11:41 AM
Thank you all for your encouragement. I wasn't about to let those jokers dissuade me from studying Aikido but I wanted to hear the perspective of some people who knew what they were talking about. Your positive comments WAY overbalance the negative input I was getting. I hate it when you become very interested and excited about something, think about it a lot and then the first two people you tell about it discourage you.

Thanks again,


01-06-2004, 11:42 AM
and check out


while you are at it. Looks like you've got at least two good choices!

01-06-2004, 01:47 PM
For the taller amoung you I say Tenchi Nage/Irimi Nage is the throw for you.....

For the shorter, SHIHO NAGE!

Either way, really cool.

Chad Sloman
01-06-2004, 02:24 PM
I'm 6'0" 215 lbs and the biggest problem I've had is not muscling my way through techniques. Sometimes it can be too easy to use upper body strength to finish throws when in fact I should be using my hips and center. But after some time I have found that techniques are actually easier when I don't "try" or "struggle" so hard. I was told once that the amount of upper body strength that I should use would be like swatting a fly, so that's what I constantly think about and it actually really works quite well. I often am the favorite uke for some people in my dojo because they really want me to grab them hard or give really good attacks. They call me the "cow catcher" because they say that I'm like the plow on the front of old trains, if I'm taking ukemi and I'm falling/rolling towards you then you better get out of the way cause I'm taking you out.

01-06-2004, 05:10 PM
Anyway, where's Dave O on this, he sounds like a fellow man-mountain so should be able to share.
ROFL - Nice to know I'm missed! ;)

I'm not near what you'd call a mountainoid; at 6'4", 210lbs. Actually; when you get right down to it, I've got a fairly good design for Aikido; since my development has been largely the opposite of many folks - most like working on upper-body strength, mine is average; but I have a great deal of mass in the lower body - the legs and lower back. Essential for a soldier; to be able to walk for long periods and arrive fresh. ;)

Anyhoo; to the question: Is Aikido size-ist?

I'm not going to echo others; but will put in a caveat. Aikdio certainly isn't size-ist; but life is. This, of course, depends wholly on why you take aikido, but if your goal is self-defence; keep in mind that size/strength/reach are always distinct advantages; generally used on 'the street'. While a smaller person can use aikido to defend with a separate series of advantages - speed and reaction time; for instance - such requires training and a cool head. IOW; size is a given advantage; skill (speed/reaction) is a learned advantage. If your intention is to learn good self-defence skills; you're well placed to learn excellent defence; combining the learned advantages with your natural ones.

The best part of aikido is that it also helps you learn to use those advantages wisely.



Jeanne Shepard
01-06-2004, 07:50 PM
Ellis Amdur Sensei is very tall, and he doesn't seem to have any trouble.


Lan Powers
01-06-2004, 10:33 PM
You could certainly become a favorite uke......two of my friends here are 6'4" or so (around 275-300 lbs.)

Take THEIR centers and it is Right!


No one is as much fun to throw around than big ole good'uns, or, good ole big'uns!


01-07-2004, 12:05 AM
I am 6'4" and 225-230 lbs. Started Aikido when I was 44, now 53.

IMHO, It does take us big ones longer to learn to trust the technique and not use our muscles since we have experience in that.

Some technqiues favor the shorter ones by emptying the sapce from below. Other techqniues favor us big ones by giving us leverage from the top. Aikido works for all sizes.

Welcome to the mat.

John Boswell
01-07-2004, 09:18 AM

I'm 6'2", 260 and wear size 15 SHOES! If anything, I'm welcomed on the mat for variation purposes (in addition to my charming personality and humility ;)) and only have trouble moving my feet! But that's a personal issue.

Aikido is for everyone, all sizes, all shapes, all genders, all races... you name it.

Rich Stephens
01-07-2004, 07:35 PM
I'm 6'0" and about 150lbs. So the weight isn't a problem but the height sure made for some interesting and difficult pairings in Japan, regardless of which role I was in. When starting I was first paired with the other lower kyus which usually meant younger, smaller, high school kids and it was often a bit comedic and difficult for me to do things properly! It was hard to get down to their level.

One reason I chose Aikido over Judo is the relative high center of gravity I have compared to most people. I thought it would be a disadvantage in judo. Since I found Aikido to be such a good match for me philosophically/spiritually, I'm glad I had that perception. But I wonder if it was correct though? What do you guys think? Is aikido better for tall thin folks than judo?


01-07-2004, 08:16 PM
What do you guys think? Is aikido better for tall thin folks than judo?

Better for what?



01-08-2004, 03:48 AM
Paul, I'd presume he's wondering whether there's a relationship between body type and the ma you're best suited to.

Rich, my opinion no, it'll depend on how well you train in your chosen art. Your body will almost always define the limits of what you can do with any particular technique within that art, but I'm not aware of any special benefits of body type other than big+strong > small+weak.

01-08-2004, 05:28 AM
aikido is good for any size, everyone starts with a handicap ( weight, height, gender, etc )

but handicaps gradually disappears if you keep training.

'size matters not'

01-08-2004, 01:21 PM
I'm 6'4" and I've been doing this art for about seven and a half years. I know and have known quite a few other tall people in Aikido. Often I find that if someone who is instructing is significantly shorter than myself, I have to adapt certain techniques to fit my body. But the core principles are always the same. Incidently, I have some friends in Albuquerque that have a dojo you may consider. One of the two instructors is about as tall as myself. http://www.albuquerqueaikido.com/

Daniel Mills
01-09-2004, 12:22 AM
6'1" 350lbs (was 400lbs when I started Aikido in April of last year :))

Quiet ukemi? Not really, but.. someone 6ft or over 300lbs isn't really going to be sneaky up on someone or trying to keep quiet. Or so I like to tell myself :D

01-09-2004, 10:30 AM
I'm 6'6" and have trained in Aikido for a couple of years now. People always ask me why I take Aikido since my longer limbs would be better suited for another MA such as karate or any other striking MA. The fact of the matter was that I wanted to do Aikido. It is the MA that I'm most interested in and I'm glad that I have been able to stick with it. In the long run you may notice that certain techniques will require slight modification due to size differences, but for the most part it is all the same. If Aikido is what you want to do then do it. It is effective no matter what your body size may be.

Rich Stephens
01-09-2004, 06:09 PM

Better for what?


Well, like I've said, I find Aikido great for me on many levels and I'm not going to suddenly take up something else instead. But I was asking purely about the ease or effectiveness of technique in regard to its use as actual defense (and not as simply a means to personal development).

In that regard, I see no reason why there shouldn't be some arts that are more suited to different body heights and weights. Some martial arts may have techniques that are more difficult to do if one's likely opponent is 6" shorter than they are, or 6" taller for that matter. So I was wondering whether the techniques of Aikido or Judo would be a better fit for taller people or people with high centers of gravity.

I realize any size can do any martial art (just as anyone can play basketball) but that one might be easier than another depending on one's body size.


01-10-2004, 05:45 AM

My views on this matter are heretical...you have been warned.
But I was asking purely about the ease or effectiveness of technique in regard to its use as actual defense (and not as simply a means to personal development).

IMO, self-defense is the result of the training method, not the martial art/martial style.
So I was wondering whether the techniques of Aikido or Judo would be a better fit for taller people or people with high centers of gravity.
IMO, Ian was dead on with his previous answer where he wrote: Your body will almost always define the limits of what you can do with any particular technique within that art, but I'm not aware of any special benefits of body type other than big+strong > small+weak.



01-10-2004, 07:05 AM
Makes for another intersting topic; I'm a-thinking. :)

We all know there's a whole lot of mythology - urban or otherwise - regarding the Martial Arts; while reading this thread, I've started to wonder a little bit about how much size really does matter in regards to the Arts. (Not real-life; my previous post stands on that score. ;) )

By that I mean; 'Small guys are better at Judo; big guys are better for Boxing'; that sort of thing.

I know of some superb practicioners of their separate arts who don't fit the established mold; the Judo teacher in our building is a boulder with arms that makes me look tiny; and I know a few five-foot-nuthin' boxers that totally shred their opponents in the ring. But are they exceptions who overcome the natural obstacles, or is there in fact no real body type that favours a given art?

IOW; is size/build really when you get right down to it a factor for the arts, or simply an accepted mythology?

(Cue hippie music while we all reflect.... hee hee)

01-10-2004, 02:06 PM

First see my previous disclaimer.... ;)
IOW; is size/build really when you get right down to it a factor for the arts, or simply an accepted mythology?
All martial arts/martial sports were developed for use by people, and there are only so many ways anyone can move. Off hand, I couldn't think of one martial art/martial sport where a specific build is completely advantageous. (The only exception I can think of might be sumo...but I'm not too familiar with sumo and defer to others)

That is not to say that some martial arts/martial sports are not strongly attribute driven. In general empty hand arts seem to require more physical ability than weapon based arts, since weapons increase the potential for damage and reduce the need for strength.

Looking at further at martial sports....

The "sportive" people will tell you that within a given weight class, it is advantageous to not only have the best technique and the most experience, but to be more athletic than your opponent. This means faster, better endurance, better sense of balance, more durable (able to withstand impact), stronger, and yes, "bigger". In particular, "bigger" matters so much that athletes in competitive sports will often diet down to make a weight class (a process referred to as "cutting" weight) and then rehydrate so they may actually exceed the weight limit at the time of the actual competition.

But outside of weight classes, given the same (roughly) technique and experience, bigger athletes are considerably more likely to "win" over smaller athletes. In essence, Ian's supposition is nearly universal among combative sports: big + strong > small + weak.

But I digressed.....