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I'd like to preface this by saying I have virtually zero martial arts experience or knowledge so sorry if I'm not the clearest or if my question doesn't make much sense .

You know that scene in The Karate Kid where Mr Miyagi fights 1 on 5 against a bunch of high school Karate Black belts and completely whoops their asses? I was wondering if that scene is actually a realistic depiction of the difference in skill between different degrees of black belt.

For example could a 65 year old 10th degree black belt who's been training and teaching taekwondo for the past 50 years actually defeat a 20 somthething who's been training for 5 years? Or are high degree black belts mainly an honor bestowed upon someone for how long they've been doing martial arts?

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The question asks if an older (65+ year old) who is a 10th dan black belt can "defeat" a younger (say, 20 year old) 1st dan black belt.

I agree with the other answers here. But I just wanted to clarify one very important detail of the question that was asked.

What was asked is whether or not the older, higher ranked black belt can defeat the younger lower ranked black belt. The word, "defeat" implies fighting.

There is a big distinction between what is a "fighter" and what is a "martial artist". People often confuse the two. They are not the same.

A fighter is someone who has a good amount of experience actually fighting. Whereas a martial artist is someone who might have mastery of various martial arts skills, but who may or may not have experience actually fighting.

A fight happens when someone is trying to hurt you, and you have to stop that person.

Obviously, fighting on the street is fighting. But so is boxing and MMA. So is grappling when it's done to hurt you.

Sparring nicely, where you know you're not going to get that hurt, doesn't really count as fighting.

I love this video discussing the difference between a fighter and a martial artist:

https://youtu.be/d0KfSuB_7bM

Now, having clarified the difference between a martial artist and a fighter, let's ask the question now. Can a 65 year old 10th dan fight and win against a 20 year old 1st dan?

The 65 year old is at a big disadvantage. By that age, bodies generally (not always) are much weaker and more fragile than a body in peak condition. And age 20 is about the time when you're in peak physical condition. For many people, anyway. There are obviously exceptions to the rule.

Now, what the 65 year old 10th dan has is great skill. That's obvious by his 10th degree black belt. You generally don't get that rank without mastering technique. Yes, there are exceptions.

But is he a fighter? Most martial arts do not train people to be fighters. By age 65, most people have long stopped practicing for the purpose of getting better at actually fighting. They're in it to be martial artists, not fighters.

Whereas the 20 year old probably still has fighting as his central focus. But even the 20 year old may not be a fighter.

If the 65 year old used to be a fighter, and the 20 year has no fighting experience, then I might be tempted to put my money on the 65 year old. Experience at actually fighting is the key. That's probably going to make up for a lack of physical strength.

But if both the 65 year old and the 20 year old are legit fighters, then I'll bet on the 20 year old, especially if the 65 year old has not kept up his physical conditioning.

The extra degrees you have on your black belt generally are meaningless when it comes to fighting ability. Those stripes are there to represent that you've gained skill in the martial art. It doesn't say anything about your experience at fighting.

Hope that helps.

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IMO there's no general answer to this question.

There are two primary competing factors:

  • Experience brings levels of timing, strategy, tactics, and proprioception that are difficult to compress.
  • Youth brings stamina (if a fight lasts that long), flexibility, and speed.

My personal preference would tend towards fighting someone with less experience.

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Further to Dave Newton's comment:

Some schools hand out belts for relatively minor achievement.

This is often done in order to encourage ongoing participation and boost the self-esteem of students who might otherwise struggle to progress through the ranks.

In plenty of other cases, belts are awarded in order to convince gullible students that they are acquiring valuable skills when in fact the opposite is the case.

In these schools, a black belt enables very little if any reliable prediction of a student's competence.

To illustrate the difference between schools more starkly, some institutions promise black belts with a certain time frame (such as a year). A Kyokushin school's black belt grading can extend to approximately ten hours, and the opportunity to participate in it typically only arrives after roughly 7 years of dedicated effort.

Youtube is awash with footage of fraudulent teachers, schools and styles, many of which get humiliated by skeptical, well-trained fighters. Choose your school(s) with care.

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At my school, there are 80 year olds still training in tae-kwon-do. Myself, I am 44 years old. The short answer is someone training for 20 years will absolutely defeat someone who has been training for 5 years. This is for two reasons: 1) At 5 years, you have just begun to actually master your art. A black belt indicates you have completed basic training. You might've learned the techniques, but most aren't fluent at using them until they've been training much longer. 2) The older you get, the more you learn to conserve your energy for the right moment, without excess. Younger students tend to jump around and waste energy.

I like the answer from @steve weigand, because much of what he says is true. Training in martial arts and training in fighting are not the same. And at the end of the day, if a situation were to occur, street fighting — not martial arts — would be the style both sides would employ. The win would depend on who fights the smartest and can keep their energy up until the end.

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