View Full Version : Disadvantage of Height?

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Giant McHuge
04-25-2004, 12:46 PM
I should begin by saying that I am almost 7 feet tall. I should, and will, follow that by saying that I have become interested in Aikido from what I have seen and read.

However, I am beginning to have doubts as to how practical it would be for someone of my height to learn. Now, what I mean to do is not create one of the many "IS AKIDO PRACTICAL?!?!" threads that I have read and you all posted in many times, so I hope nobody stopped reading my post already.

What I mean to ask is how much of a disadvantage will I be at when trying to perform the techniques of aikido? The principles of Aikido don't care what size I am, but the laws of physics do. Will I just get frustrated by making it a lot harder on myself? Will it ever be applicable if I have to contort myself into unnatural positions to do anything?

05-03-2004, 12:48 PM
This thread has been moved from the Anonymous forum to the Training forum.

Please note that the Anonymous forum is intended for "delicate" subject matters for which people have a need or want to keep their identities from being revealed. I encourage people to keep this in mind before starting a thread in the Anonymous forum.

-- Jun

05-03-2004, 01:01 PM
Height gives you reach, and leverage. I'm a newbie myself, and short (which gives its own advantages and disadvantages :D) but I'd guess that, with time and training, you'd be able to send people flying gracefully through the air without a whole lot of effort.

Your biggest challenges will come from a higher center of gravity, thus making you easier to unbalance, and slower motion just from having longer limbs and more mass to move around. But any challenge can be countered with patience and training.

(edited to add: In any case, aikido is about flowing motion, and you ought to be able to handle that, no problem. I'd imagine watching you move in those great big circular steps and turns would be extremely graceful and powerful to behold!)

Heck, if effective aikido can be taught to blind folks and to people in wheelchairs, surely it can be taught to you, right? :cool:

Best of luck!

Nick Simpson
05-05-2004, 06:57 AM
I've met several aikidoka who are very tall and often well built, it hasnt been a negative influence on their aikido at all, In fact they tend to be the hardest to unbalance and throw from my experiance, of course they have to adapt their techniques when working with someone signifigantly shorter but likewise for short people. And its generally easier for a tall person to go through someone than it is for a short person.

05-05-2004, 09:02 AM
And its generally easier for a tall person to go through someone than it is for a short person.

La la la la not listening.... :D
Heather, short

John Boswell
05-05-2004, 09:11 AM
Hello Anon!

I'm the tallest person in my class at 6'2" with a few people close to 5' or shorter. Talk with your instructor on the finer points, but just off the bat I can tell you you'll need to drop your center big time. I sometimes go down to one or both knees just to manuver, but not always. It'll take lots of practice just getting used to moving like this, but all good things come to those who persists, so don't give up! It's fun and your height CAN be a tremendous advantage once you know how to use it.

I'm two + years into training in aikido and I'm still working on it... but it never gets boring and it builds confidence with dealing with the "little people" of the world. :D

Have fun! :p

05-05-2004, 10:16 AM
One interesting way for us "little folks" to get a feel for what the "tall folks" are experiencing is to try out a sort of "reverse" hanmi handachi -- but with uke sitting and with you standing...

-- Jun

05-05-2004, 11:06 AM
We have a wide range of sizes in our dojo, and everyone has to adapt to height issues. Some throws are easier if you are much taller than uke (tenchinage) and some are harder (shihonage) but everything can be made to work eventually. We have an adult shodan who's about 5'1" and gives the rest of us a taste of what being tall must be like....

We had one student around your height, and his difficulty was knee pain. The taller you are, the more you need to bend your knees and sometimes drop onto them, and the further you're dropping. My dojo recommends knee pads for all students but I think they are especially important for tall people. Look for ones that fit you well as they vary a lot in style and construction, and ones that don't fit are next to useless.

Aikido is remarkably adaptable. I had a lot of fun training with a young Japanese woman who was a full head shorter than me (and so limber that half the joint locks didn't initially work--quite a test of technique). So I'd say, give it a try, but be gentle with your knees so that you can keep enjoying it.

Mary Kaye

05-05-2004, 11:47 AM
It is my experience that height standing does not matter as much as your height in hanmi. Lowering your hara / center of gravity is the important part.

On a side note, without trying to elicit a "Is Seagal a good aikidodoka or a bad aikidoka?" forum divergence, Seagal Sensei is 6'6". In hanmi/gamae, he stands below 6'. If you watch non-movie footage, he is shorter than Matsuoka Sensei when performing technique (not always, but a lot of the time). Regardless of how people feel about his technique (i.e., below average, mediocre, decent, good, outstanding), he has obviously achieved a level of being able to practice Aikido competently.

In summary, sure, you will have to adapt due to your height. But your technique will be the same in essence. You should not let your height hinder your mindset and confidence in being able to gain proficiency in the art.

Robert Jackson
05-05-2004, 12:08 PM
I'm about the same height as John Bos.. (and happen to be in the same class...) anyway As others said the main problem is dropping your center to pass under the arm or load the shorter people up for the throw. On the same note it's easier to throw in say Irimi or as stated above tenchi.

05-05-2004, 03:26 PM
I am 6'4". Tall enough. I have the advantage with some techniques and the disadvantage with others. we do hafta learn to get low. I've been known to drop on a knee to get under and arm. Its challenging, but well worth the effort. Hang in there big guy.

05-05-2004, 04:18 PM
On a side note, without trying to elicit a "Is Seagal a good aikidodoka or a bad aikidoka?" forum divergence, Seagal Sensei is 6'6". In hanmi/gamae, he stands below 6'.

I've noticed the same thing, however, I still have questions about the practicality of the practice, say for the rest of us. Does it really make sense to lower yourself to such a degree that it might become harder for you to move? I'm only 6', which still leaves me taller than most, and when I'm trying to do certain variations of shiho nage it becomes harder to move quickly because I'm dropping down to get under an arm. This is probably why I like to raise uke and make them do the work. :)

Also, Seagal tends to stand straighter, or so it seems, when he moves more into a randori situation. Frankly, when I look at some of the clips of shihan I don't see a lot of people dropping center in the way he seems to. I'm sure it goes on, and I'm just not remembering it, but mostly they seem to stand straighter than what Steven Seagal does in the opening to Above The Law, for example. I suspect this is probably because they are working with people relatively equal or taller in height.

I guess all I'm saying is that while you can pull this bit off, maybe there are more optimal ways.

By the way, I think Ellis Amdur just wrote an article on this topic. There's a thread over on Aikido Journal about it.

Jeanne Shepard
05-05-2004, 06:46 PM
It's the "shihonage" thing.

Jeanne :)

Larry Feldman
05-05-2004, 06:56 PM
I'm 6' 4" as well.

In general you will end up using your 'length' against their height (or lack thereof!). You will be constantly stretching uke out lenghtwise (or up), while they will always be 'cutting you down to size'.

That said you will find some techniques not as practical as others.

As a taller practicioner I look for parts of the technique that are to my advantage. If you have a choice a tall Sensei - or one that can explain how to use your height advantage that will help.

When I had a 6' '7" guy show up for class it was a little weird to practice with someone taller than me!

05-05-2004, 07:47 PM
I'm 6'2" and I suffer from "tall man aikido" syndrome - that is I forget to bend my knees in technique and drop from my one point/center. There are a couple of guys an inch or two taller than me, and they too suffer the tyranny of the stiff knees.

I do have to go all the way to my knees when I'm executing a shihonage on someone who is say 5'5" or shorter, and it becomes zagi handachi technique. Very good practice for me, especially with a smaller experienced uke.

05-07-2004, 03:46 AM
6'2" here too. As most have said, there are plus and minus points. You will find a lot of advantage in some techniques, and a less in others. Shihonage is OK, I can drop to my knees where necessary, but koshi nage is my bogey technique, having a bad knee doesn't help at all. I've managed to adapt to most techniques, although it was very challenging when I lived in Japan.

Stick with it, over time you will find what works best for you and use it to your advantage.



Mark Jakabcsin
05-07-2004, 07:08 AM
Posture, posture, posture. The number one problem I have seen of tall guys working with short or normal sized folks is poor posture. Many tall guys tend to bend their backs like the letter 'c' to accommadate the shorter person. Rubbish. Short folks SHOULD be uncomfortable when working out with tall folks, don't try to make them comfortable, keep your posture upright. Keep the back straight, use the knees as others have mentioned and stretch the short people out. You will need to make adjustments for some of the techniques. Due to your hieght some techniques won't be practical for real use but will still have learning value. Heck this is the case for short people as well.

Like someone else mentioned Seagal has excellent posture. I'm not a fan of his but I did get his aikido video several years ago to show the tall folks at our school. Each of them commented how helpful it was to see such a tall man work with such short people and still keep his posture. After saying that, each one of them started making immediate improvements in their posture. Seeing that it's possible seemed to help.

mark j.

Jordan Steele
05-11-2004, 01:20 PM
I don't know how much you weigh or for what reasons you practice Aikido but anybody that decides to attack you probably hasn't thought things thorugh very well. Good for you if you practice for reasons other than self defense, but contrary to popular belief, size, height in particular, makes a difference regardless of skill level.

Gareth Hinds
06-07-2004, 04:11 PM
If you train up to black belt level, you will have to deal with being an easy target for sword (hopefully shinai)-wielding opponents. I've seen the big guys get hit many times, and I think that's the only persistent disadvantage I've noticed among tall black belts.

Sue Trinidad
06-09-2004, 09:26 PM
Bwahahahahahah--another country heard from. I am 4'11" and glad to hear that I'm not the only one wondering what difference size makes! Hey, could be worse, right? We could be trying to figure out how in the world to do shihonage together!