How does having super strength/speed but similar mass to a regular person change close combat fighting? This world is a cultivation world. That's a world where people can cultivate abilities by using techniques and a fictional energy unique to that universe. What they cultivate are essentially like super powers. Super strength, Super speed , elemental powers and such. It's science-fantasy so it's got some tech in their to but leaving it out at the moment for this.

The main issue here is I do plan on increasing their mass/density as they get a stronger body but the mass will be much less then you'd expect for their level of strength. So I suppose I'm trying to picture what happens when two people grapple and strike each other with super strength but don't have a correspondingly high mass. I don't have any concrete numbers but I think a general ratio of mass to str/speed increase would be 1.5:5. So someone with 1.5 times the average mass of a person would be like 5 times stronger and faster. A very generalized example.

A side note: The environment is also tougher then normal (another effect of the cultivation energy) so it's unlikely they'd break everything as they're moving around. I also wanted to add a method for them to disperse the force they emit as they push off things to a wider area as another reason they don't destroy things all the time moving around.

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    $\begingroup$ Are the bodies automatically enhanced to handle the extra strength or do they stay at normal human levels? That's to say, if one were strong enough, could they lift an arbitrary heavy weight (say, 100 tons) or do the limits of the normal human body still apply (e.g. at which stress level a bone breaks)? $\endgroup$
    – user91641
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ Also consider that your characters could wear heavy armor to increase their mass. With enough strength, they might be able to throw around their own body weight in armor (or more!) and still be just as agile as an unencumbered baseline human. This would not only help protect them from punches and weapon strikes (it is armor, after all), but it would also help them keep from being knocked around and flung into the air, and also add weight to their own punches. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ More power and speed means you need more resistant bodies. It hurts to fall at full run now. What if it was 10x? $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 3:10

6 Answers 6


Low mass means more throwing and less struggling

From the perspective of classical physics, what you have here is really nothing more than the difference between elastic and inelastic collisions.

In physics, an elastic collision is an encounter between two bodies in which the total kinetic energy of the two bodies remains the same. In an ideal, perfectly elastic collision, there is no net conversion of kinetic energy into other forms such as heat, noise, or potential energy. (Source)

An inelastic collision, in contrast to an elastic collision, is a collision in which kinetic energy is not conserved due to the action of internal friction. In collisions of macroscopic bodies, some kinetic energy is turned into vibrational energy of the atoms, causing a heating effect, and the bodies are deformed. (Source)

Light weight superheros are, IMO, more along the lines of elastic collisions. There's really nowhere for the energy to go, so they go flying! Contrast this with more massive superheros where there's someplace for the energy to go, resulting in your opponent sweating from the increase in heat!

I mean, let's face it... high energy + low mass simply means less force is involved, but it also means less friction is involved... which means leverage IS involved — which means more brick and asphalt is involved. What's the difference between two buck-and-a-quarter superheros and a couple of six-fifty superheros?

People being thrown through the air!

Whoever has the best leverage will more easily throw the other person. Scrapes across the asphalt... getting up close and personal with brick walls... lots of dry cleaning! And you want those throws because, without the mass behind your fist, you just don't have the punch needed to take your opponent down! (You know, F=mA and all that....) Which means using his/her mass against them! Viola! Superhero physics 101!

As mass increases there will be less throwing and more struggling because the effort to get someone off the ground is higher (and the amount of time they'll be in the air will be lower...). Your fist will have more impact (as will kicks and, of course, taunts. Taunts always get better with more mass...) — but so will strategy! After all, the mass of your opponent will certainly work against them with greater effectiveness! It just means you need to plan the fight next to the Grand Canyon so you can propel your opponent over the edge.

I'll be signing autographs in ten minutes... check out my merchandise in the tourist kiosk!

  • $\begingroup$ Throwing people through the air sounds like it would naturally stem from super strength. The thing that prevents that is that, if I can grab you, you can grab me, so the combatants always wind up on the floor, grappling. I've seen this in both ring fights and bar fights. I would never write fiction like that, of course. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean Your point's well taken, but I'm assuming that in the circumstance where strength is substantially greater than the mass that supports it, the ability to lift your opponent (whether with a grab or a punch) is much greater. Why do I assert this? Because I'm not really a fan of realism. I'm a fan of rationalizing a world based on the world's rules. Light supers are easy to throw. Heavy supers are not. That's what I'm sayin'. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ if I'm trying to lift you while you are trying to lift me, what happens? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean As I said in my answer, "...which means leverage IS involved...." I've watched high school wrestling and watched smaller, lower mass athletes throw larger competitors simply because they had the better leverage. Obviously, if all things are equal all we have is two people wiggling around on the ground grinding chairs and tables into powder. But that's boring. Besides, Real Life cannot be an overriding limitation on any question unless specifically requested. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ Yup, boring. Point made. I'm not suggesting that they wouldn't try to throw each other, or that it would be impossible. I cede these points to you. My point is in the area of "balls of glue are harder to throw than you might think." Throwing people isn't a matter of strength, it's a matter of finesse, even if you have a 2x strength advantage. In response to "Real Life limitations," OP didn't ask how super-strong people could throw each other. They didn't even ask IF they could throw each other. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 15:49


Consider that for fisticuffs, your supers must be durable. If I could punch 5x as strongly as I do now I will break my hand. I am actually pretty likely to break my hand as it is. So you will need to make your supers stronger in the anime sense: both stronger and more durable.

If people are more stronger and more durable but have low mass because they are built like supermodels then when hit or kicked they will go flying but not be much hurt. The super doing the hitting and kicking would also go flying unless efforts are made such that impact of the blow is mostly up so the equal and opposite vector mostly down into the ground: these would be groin kicks.

Really though these high strength low mass durable supers are going to wrestle. Kicking people high into the air is good for laughs and impressive for the anime but when they descend unhurt the fight just takes longer and it is already past dinner. Murderous supers will wrestle and use steady applied force to tear fancy clothes, pull off hair and other loose bits, bend the bendy parts the wrong way, squeeze, choke, gouge and just generally be mean to one another in a writhing heap on the ground.

It seems so unspectacular, these lithe supermodel eyecandies ruining their clothes, groaning and hurting each other. Might I suggest ritualized combat - turn based duels with the winner the one who can kick the loser highest into the air, or cause the struck loser to tumble in the air the most times (because the winner put spin on the blow; tricky!), or make the loudest noise with an open hand slap to the losers bared skin? These things would make for fine anime!

  • $\begingroup$ Matched combat is usually much like wrestling, regardless of mass. Because it works. Punching or kicking to death is typically done after your are in a dominant position. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ Gosh, no wonder they default to children's card games so often. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 11:10

Short Answer: It changes it completely.

Longer answer - I think what you are asking is based on the fact that in most combat sports, we have Weight classes.

These primarily deal with two issues:

1: People with more Muscle can generate more force and therefore hit harder (Muscle weighs more than fat)

2: Taller people and those with denser bones have certain advantages.

However, that is when we are comparing a like-for-like scenario e.g. 2 humans of comparable strength.

Once you add a significant advantage - Mass isn't going to mean anything.

Super Speed for example - you can block faster, you can dodge faster, you can strike faster - your strikes will be a lot more devastating etc. You can flank faster and exploit your opponents openings/weaknesses faster. The list goes on and on.

Super Strength - apart from the obvious advantage in striking, grappling would likewise be a cakewalk. Think of a Dad play-fighting with his 5 yo son. That's what it would look like functionally.

The only time Mass might be a factor is if their opponent physically lifts them up... However - we have super strength, we reach down grab their arms and crush their wrists - problem solved.

Or we have super speed, the moment they try to grab us, we just run away.

TL;DR - Mass is irrelevant in close combat when Super powers are involved.

  • $\begingroup$ I suspect weight classes in combat sports are more relevant in styles where the "sporting rules" ban a lot of more dangerous permanently-damaging or potentially lethal techniques. As my large policeman friend demonstrated to Sifu's waif-like youngest daughter - given a base level of skill, sheer muscle and weight requires an incredible skill difference to overcome (she didn't have it, Sifu certainly did). $\endgroup$
    – Andy Dent
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 5:38

Imagine a fight on the moon, but faster. If two combatants are 5x as fast and 5x as strong, they can treat gravity as being 1/5th as much of an issue.

You'd wind up using your environment in order to get enough leverage to take advantage of your full strength and speed. They would have to lower their center of balance just to avoid falling over from their own punches. When hit, a person would actually be knocked back a significant distance.

You'd see a lot more parkour, of course, and property damage, but that's a given when your durability exceeds that of your environment. Imagine a brawl in a room full of cardboard furniture. On the moon. Yea, that would be fun.

Addendum: Even if you can build furniture stronger, you probably wouldn't, for economic reasons. When we can build it out of stronger materials, we use that advantage to make the furniture lighter-weight.


Not entirely clear from your description what distribution in abilities there is and if people can have increases in more than one.

If people have massive advantage in strength, they will use grappling techniques and seek to grab hold whenever possible. If you're strong enough, you just break whatever bits of someone you get your hands on.

Speed is somewhat orthogonal to strength. It depends on how gory you want to get and if most combat is to the death. If you're that much faster than someone you start by blinding them with eyestrikes they cannot block. If you're able to use a blade, you use a massive number of fast cutting passes to cause them to bleed out. (Latter emphasised in John Ringo's We Few).

Writing as martial artist & SF/F reader for decades, no actual combat experience but one of our senior black belts is a police officer and army reservist. He provides useful real-world qualifiers on our techniques. Also, our kung fu style is one of the more combat-oriented in history.


With super strength and higher speed but unchanged mass I will break your wrists, your arms, your legs, your neck in that order. Game over. As long as my body can endure the effects of my strength. If my hands get destroyed when I break your arm then things are a lot harder. But I think my body can handle much more than my actual strength, so twice the strength is likely usable without negative side effects on myself as long as I don't use it too much.

  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't ankles be included, you know, for symmetry with the wrists? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 18:42

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