Because of sexual dimorphism, women in general are about 15% smaller than men on average. This in turn results in shorter reach and less mass to throw around as per the square-cube law. As a result, when women are taught to fight in martial arts or self-defense they are taught to fight in ways that either use the opponent's size against them or minimize the weight difference. Aikido or judo tend to be popular for this reason, as well as techniques such as aiming for soft targets or groin attacks.

I have a character who is female and is relatively tall for a woman (5'10"-6'0"). She is a shapeshifter and can shift into a large humanoid monster that is larger than most of her opponents, but she is also capable of performing minor feats of super strength in human form due to super-charging her body with short bursts of energy due to the same ability that can let her throw around adult humans. This character is self-taught through experience and is used to being the one of the physically strongest people in the room, she never learned what most people would consider typical self-defense. What I'm wondering is how this kind of life experience with powers would affect her fighting style? Given that she's not used to fighting at a weight disadvantage would this cause her to react or approach fights differently? Would she be less likely to use throws or holds because of this? Would there still be problems in combat with weight and reach because she is still a ~6 foot woman that is merely disproportionately strong for her size?

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    $\begingroup$ I struggle to see how any answer to this could be other than opinion-based or story-based. How would this be any different from any lower weight category fighting a higher? What is "typical self defense"? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2021 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ It isn't necessarily a size issue. Women have a lower centre of mass, so they can bring less weight to bear when throwing a punch or wielding a sword or spear, basically anything that involves applying the body's weight in the upper body. Kicking would be about equal, but that's where the size aspect comes in. $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 27, 2021 at 3:46
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    $\begingroup$ "Throws" and "holds" require training. The question seems to specify that she lacks such training. She seems, therefore, very likely to lose her first fight against a trained and practiced foe who is prepared for her morphing, regardless of their weight difference. There's also an element of luck involved. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 27, 2021 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ Previous considerations apart, is she is a shapeshifter she can shift into a male body, zeroing all the differences related to sexual dimorphism. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 27, 2021 at 4:07
  • $\begingroup$ Just to be clear, I think you mean "affect", as the word "effect" means something different. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2021 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


Bruce Lee was 5’ 8” and 128 pounds. He wasn’t super strong but was obviously very fit. The idea that in order to be a strong fighter you need to be tall and heavy isn’t actually true. So you could fight like Bruce Lee, who by most standards fights normally.

  • $\begingroup$ Bruce Lee was a man, and as highlighted in some comments it's not a matter of size/mass $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 27, 2021 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, you can be small and be a fighter. But it is a risk to go up against someone who is stronger than you and has a longer reach. I wouldn't necessarily rate Lee's chances very highly against a heavyweight MMA champion. The correct thing to do when facing some monster who is a foot taller than you and hits like a freight train is to run away. Or, y'know, shoot them. But kung fu probably isn't going to save you. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2021 at 13:51

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