Best Martial Art for Fighting Bigger Opponents

Unfortunately, we live in an unpredictable world, and learning how to defend ourselves is a crucial skill. But if there’s a chance your would-be attacker is bigger and stronger, what is the best martial art for fighting bigger opponents?

As a general rule, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best martial art for fighting bigger opponents. BJJ uses techniques to leverage and overcome an opponent’s strength and/or size by using an opponent’s weight against them until a submission can be executed. 

But that isn’t the only option.

In Wrestling and Judo, you also learn how to use your opponent’s momentum and strength against them. Real-life street fights are often down and dirty.

And while the fighters can include both shorter guys and big guys, they aren’t usually trained in different martial arts. While they may be a good fighters, they are likely used to just using their power and strength more than proper technique.

This gives you the advantage.

Let’s have a closer look at what makes martial art good for fighting bigger opponents. I will also compare the effectiveness of striking versus grappling when fighting larger people.

Is striking good against bigger opponents?

Striking is usually not the most effective technique when fighting bigger opponents.

When you are standing up and striking, an opponent’s strength, height, and body weight are all to their advantage. If someone weighs 40 lbs. more than you, even their jab could knock you out.

Think about it. There’s a reason that UFC fights or boxing matches have weight classes where you only see similarly sized opponents facing off against each other.

Ideally, you don’t want to stand and strike with someone larger than you. But in a street fight, you don’t get to pick who attacks you or how they do it. And sometimes, they will be bigger guys.

But if you are not comfortable with grappling, it can be a good option; especially against someone untrained in martial arts. There are many effective strikes used in certain martial arts that would work against stronger opponents.

For example, in Muay Thai, you have the roundhouse kick.

This is where you swing your shin like a baseball bat. The roundhouse kick is usually landed just above the knee, inside the thigh, in the ribs, liver, and head.

Even if you are small, a single roundhouse kick to one of these areas could cause damage to a bigger opponent.

Also, in traditional martial arts like Taekwondo and Karate, they have spinning back kicks. This is where you spin and strike your opponent with your heel.

Spinning back kicks are incredibly effective, and most adults will be able to drop someone 100 lbs. larger than them with one! The problem is it is a high-risk kick, and you could fall over.

So smaller individuals, and many girls, need to train safely in something like Taekwondo to ensure they can defend themselves.

Is grappling good against bigger opponents?

Grappling is excellent against bigger opponents as you can use technique and leverage to overcome their strength. When a fight is on the ground, your opponent can no longer use their size and mass advantage to hit you with knock-out power.

Grappling is a catch-all term for ground fighting arts.

While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the most popular of those, you could also include Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, or sport Wrestling as well.

Fighting on the ground (in a one-on-one fight) is much safer than standing and striking.

Using grappling techniques with a larger opponent will give you the chance to dictate the pace of the fight and make your bigger opponent tired.

If you are going to grapple with a larger opponent, there are some techniques that will be really effective. Likewise, there will be some techniques that you should completely avoid.

For example, if you want to take down a bigger opponent, a body lock takedown is not a good idea. This is because you have to tightly hug your opponent. If they are larger than you, they are just going to grab hold of you and muscle you to the ground.

On the other hand, if you were to try and do an ankle pick takedown on a larger opponent, you would have more success. This is because the ankle is the weakest part of the leg and the easiest to manipulate.

Even if your opponent is much larger than you.

If you want to choke a larger opponent, a head and arm choke is not a good idea. This is because their large shoulders will make it hard to apply pressure to their neck. And their sheer physical strength could defend against a rear-naked choke.

On the other hand, you could use chokes that don’t include the arm. Things like cross chokes, baseball chokes, and Gogoplata.

Grappling is effective against larger opponents, but you have to be selective of what techniques you use. And remember that size and strength do matter in a fight. You are going to have to be more technical than your opponent if they are bigger than you.

Is BJJ effective against larger opponents?

As a general rule, BJJ is an effective martial art against larger opponents if you select the right techniques to use. If your opponent is more than 100 lbs. heavier than you, you are going to have to be much more technical to make BJJ work.

If you lack size, you have to make up for it in skill.

Hélio Gracie, considered the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was only 143 pounds. He was a small guy. And he intentionally took the best techniques from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, to develop BJJ into something that smaller, weaker, or lighter people could use specifically against larger or stronger opponents.

The good thing about BJJ is that you learn how to use the weakest parts of your opponent’s body to defeat them. For example, you learn techniques like the armbar, kimura, and leg locks.

These techniques take a strong part of your opponent’s body and put it in a weak position, where it is useless.

This allows you to control opponents that are significantly larger than you. Another good thing about using BJJ is that it is like the “MMA of grappling”. BJJ teaches you the most effective techniques from Judo, Wrestling, Sambo, and other martial arts.

So, if you are a BJJ practitioner fighting a larger opponent, you have hundreds of techniques you can pick from.

Not all of them will work, but others will be very effective. If you want to learn what the top 49 most effective BJJ techniques are, check out this recent article on my site.

Of course, BJJ is done in close range and requires a mastery of submission holds and joint locks.

But it also provides the best chance for short guys or small guys to get a dominant position against a would-be attacker. It’s not only a popular martial art, but it’s also the only martial art created by a small person for smaller people with the primary goal of defending and defeating larger attackers.

What is the best martial art for short people?

The best martial art for short people is Judo (or wrestling which is more a sport than a martial art). In these martial arts, having a low center of mass is advantageous, as it means you are more stable. If you are short, you will find it very easy to take down people that are much taller than you.

I personally believe that Wrestling is better for short people than Judo.

This is because, in Judo, you wear jackets (called a gi). If a larger person gets hold of your gi, it can be difficult to break that grip. Since you don’t wear jackets in wrestling, this is not an issue.

Short Wrestlers have excellent single-leg takedowns and ankle picks.

They are also good at throwing people. The hip throw is a very effective and powerful technique if you are short. This is because it is really easy for you to get under your opponent’s center of mass and throw them.

If you are short and want to learn a striking martial art, then Muay Thai would be your best option. This is because when you fight a larger person, they are going to try and clinch with you.

Many combat sports like Boxing and MMA, as well as martial arts like Karate, don’t put much emphasis on clinch fighting.

As a smaller person, you have to be good at staying on your feet and causing damage. Also, in Muay Thai, you will learn how to kick. If you are short and learn Boxing, your short arms won’t reach your opponent.

However, if you can use your long legs to hit your opponent, you could be a very effective striker.

Which martial arts use your opponent’s strength against them?

Aikido is a martial art where you use your opponent’s strength against them.

However, Aikido is not a martial art designed for attack. In fact, it has a do-no-harm ethos and is much more about peace and harmony than a system designed for fighting.

But it does utilize skills and techniques to use an opponent’s strength against themselves ideally doing as little damage as possible to both people.

Krav Maga is designed for self-defense. It was made by the Israeli military for war.

Technically, it’s more of a self-defense system than a martial art. But it too is great for defending yourself. If you want to learn more about Krav Maga and why it is more effective than Aikido, check out this recent article on my site.

There are, however, martial arts where you learn to “take the path of least resistance”.

For example, in Judo and Wrestling, you will learn how to get a reaction out of your opponent. So, you might push them, and then they drive into you.

Then you can use their momentum to hip throw them.

You might pull your opponent, and they pull away from you. Then you can use their momentum to ankle pick them.

In most martial arts, you will learn to mitigate the effects of your opponent’s strength. You will also learn how to maximize the effects of your strength.

12 Tips to Fighting BIGGER Opponents


We have learned that BJJ is one of the best martial arts for fighting larger opponents. This is especially true in a self-defense street fighting situation.

This is because in BJJ, you learn how to use technique and leverage to overcome strength. BJJ also encompasses Wrestling and Judo, in which you learn to take the path of least resistance.

Of course, BJJ is one of the top forms of martial arts used in the UFC, the #1 combat sport where practitioners use MMA (mixed martial arts) to blend the best techniques and best fighting styles from their martial arts training in 2 or more arts.

It literally gives them the best chance to defeat their opponent and gives them far more options than just training a single martial art would.

Muay Thai and some techniques from Taekwondo and Karate are also effective. This is because you learn how to use your body to generate power to knock your opponent out.

As a martial artist, if you are fighting someone larger than you, standing up is risky. This is because they can probably knock you out with a single punch. If you grapple with them, you have to make sure you are really technically proficient.

This is because a larger person can use their strength to shut down your technique.

Overall, training BJJ and Muay Thai is the best combination for fighting larger opponents. But you have to have a really good technique and select techniques that are effective, hard to counter, and safe.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay


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