Retro Showdown: Daniel vs. Barry

Who's karate master taught them the best?
November 19, 2012

Who would win, Daniel Larusso or Barry Gabrewski? Each one had an older Asian mentor and their own style. But looking objectively at their training methods and fighting styles, who would win a fight?

However this is NOT a comparison of the two movies. This is a comparison of the two characters from their respective movies in relation to their martial arts skills. I have more than 7 years experience in martial arts training and a degree in exercise science. I've been in the ring before and know the physical demands of training.

We'll be analyzing the following categories:
-fighting style
-physical conditioning and characteristics
-special weapons and tactics
-quality of instruction
-x factor (other factors that might make a difference on fight outcome)

After we've gone through the categories and see who has the advantage, I'll give you my objective interpretation on who would win. And thus declaring the 1st Retro Fight Champion.

Fighting Style
Daniel uses the Karate taught to him by Mr. Miyagi called "Miyagi-do" Karate. Of course Pat Morita who played Mr. Miyagi did not know Karate before getting the role. After he got the part he was coached by Karate Champion Pat Johnson and the stunt double work was done by Fumio Demura. Pat Johnson practiced Tang Soo Do, which is a Korean in origin and Demura is the chief instructor at Japan Karate Federation Itosu-Kai.

Tang Soo Do- Defensive or aggressive action for every movement. Highly structured and a mix of Tae Kwon Do and Karate.

Itosu-Kai - A mix of Karate styles. Has hard and soft characteristics in defense and offense and uses circular motions. Lots of forms to learn. But strong emphasis on sparring.

In my opinion (and I'm no expert on Karate), Miyagi-do karate is more Itosu Kai than Tang Soo Do. This would make sense due to the fact that Demura did most of the actual fighting scenes.

Mr. Lee, played by Mako, seemingly has a mixed background when it comes to martial arts. It's very unclear what style he is teaching Barry. It's been stated that Mako (the actor who played Mr. Lee) was a martial arts expert, but I can't find anything more than that. However Chuck Norris' cousin made the movie and Chuck Norris personally does a modified form of Tang Soo Do. So it can be assumed this had an influence on the martial arts instruction for the movie. So basically, Barry is being taught an amalgum of martial arts, with heavy influences from Karate, similar to what is being taught to Daniel-san.

Winner: Daniel and Miyagi-do Karate
Explanation: Even though Barry had a more diverse training program, Miyagi-do Karate is the more solid of the styles.

Physical Conditioning and Characteristics

Daniel is approximately 15-16 in the movie and above average in height. He seems to have mediocre talent in most sports and overall an athletic person. His long arms and legs allow him good reach while attacking. However as shown in the movie, they can prove to be more vulnerable to attack. The injury sustained in the Karate Kid probably damaged his ACL permanently.
The physical conditioning in the movie was done mainly for Karate specific movements and training. Aside from the balance training he did and few other things, Daniel's pre-Karate conditioning seems to carry him through the training.

Daniel's personality varies depending on the situation. He can sometimes be cool headed and want to talk things out, but more often than not he can let his emotions take over. His ability for preparation and complex planning is sometimes compromised by his hot headedness.

Barry is approximately 14-16 in the movie and average height. Compared to the other students in the school and in the same grade, he seems to be slightly more frail. The one of the biggest concerns in relation to conditioning would be his asthma, which on one occasion even sent him to the hospital. However this was later remedied by Mr. Lee and aerobic training. It's unclear whether Barry controls this through physical or mental means.

His training in the movie was more physical than Daniel's training in the Karate Kid. This is seen by his on screen aerobic and strength training.
Barry's personality is more calm and less emotional. He is definitely more of an introvert than the extrovert Daniel is. His dreams demonstrate a high level of creativeness but can also be a distraction.

Winner: tie*

*Explanation: Where as Daniel is more of a natural athlete, he is seen doing very little exercise to improve his physical condition. Barry on the other hand started out as weak and trained to become stronger. Due to their similar builds, characteristics and training regimens, it would probably be about equal if not slightly on Barry's side. Not to mention Daniel has a bad knee that could come into play later. And their personalities are varied enough to where each has their downsides and cancels each other out.

Special Weapons and Tactics

Mr. Miyagi imparted a lot of wisdom on Daniel. Most of it being related to training and techniques. As demonstrated by the three movies, his ability to strategize can be varied. In my opinion he wins mostly out of great instruction by Mr. Miyagi, his natural athletic ability and heart. I would compare him to Rocky in his training methods and methodology. (makes sense because it was produced by the same people)

Daniel's weapons training is non-existent and is not shown on film. It would appear he was never taught weapons forms, as he had no need for it in the films.

Barry may not have had Mr. Miyagi but he had the sage advice of Mr. Lee, who shows a high level of knowledge of tactics and strategy. Mr. Lee teaches Barry the art of deception and appearance, which basically comes from The Art of War.

Barry also shows an affinity for complex thought and planning. Where as his day dreams might seem like distractions, he is actually showing planning, resourcefulness, and adaptation.

One of the biggest differences in their training is that Daniel was introduced to the nunchucks (or nunchukas). Even though he didn't have a lot of time before the competition, he showed a high level of competency towards the end of the movie. He even won the weapons competition against much more experienced practicioners.

Winner: Barry

Explanation: While Daniel's training may have been great, Barry's was just more diverse and well rounded. Plus we can't ignore his use of weapons, which would greatly give Barry the edge.

Quality of Instruction
Mr. Miyagi is probably the most well known fictional Karate teacher on the planet. Miyagi-do karate has been around for centuries and beaten the best. He seems to favor lessons learned from indirect teaching, such as painting the fence...etc. However the ways he weaves these lessons into coherrent teachings is impressive and shows the level of his ability.

The only negative thing I can come up with about Mr. Miyagi is his ability to emote and share his feelings. While this is how he was brought up, he does show his feelings in many different ways. Mainly being gestures of faith and gratitude. But this can limit communication between Daniel and himself.

Mako, who provided the voice of General Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, plays Mr. Lee. There is no denying the sheer talent of Mako and his magnetic personality. While his martial arts ability and teaching methods are questionable, it's very hard to not like Mr. Lee.
Due to the lack of information on what martial art Mr. Lee was teaching, I cannot comment too much on his instruction. However he does show a good understanding of human physiology and medicinal remedies.
One of the few negative aspects of Mr. Lee is that he appears to not take things too seriously sometimes. However this could always be an act, as he is shown to take things seriously when he needs to.

Winner: Out of respect for both Pat Morita and Mako, I am making this one a tie. Each one was amazing in their own right.


This is where it starts to split in almost an unfair way. Daniel has three movies worth of experience. He has faught multiple opponents under varying circumstances. Experience is the biggest part of fighting. This is where you learn to control your body, emotions and skill. Without it, no amount of training can simulate being in a real fight.

As shown in Sidekicks, Barry has only been in one real fight. Him and the bully never fought at the end of the movie unlike in every Karate Kid movie. However, Barry did defend himself quite well against a more experienced opponent before the competition. And in other events, such as the brick breaking, he broke 2 more bricks than his nemesis.

So we can assume, that maybe Barry continued his training and had more fights. But I'm also going to assume that Barry from the end of the movie would participate in the fight.

Winner: Daniel

X Factor

This is the most subjective portion of the match up. I'm going to define the X factor for Daniel as bull headed determination and luck. There were lots of situations when Daniel could have given up and many more when if things would have went slightly different, he'd be screwed. This is an admirable quality, and coupled with his skill; what allows him to win in tough situations.

Barry's X factor is his ability to harness visual memorization and translate it into an actual skill. He was able to learn how to climb a rope from an imaginary Chuck Norris and demonstrate a high level of proficiency with nunchucks. This ability allows Barry to visualize training and learn techniques at a much faster rate. For instance, if Mr. Miyagi would have taught Barry, he would have been able to pick up on it much faster than Daniel.

Winner: Barry

-fighting style - Daniel
-physical conditioning and characteristics - Tie
-special weapons and tactics - Barry
-quality of instruction - Tie
-experience - Daniel
-x factor (other factors that might make a difference on fight outcome) - Barry

Daniel- 4*
Barry- 4

As you can see from above, I have them tied at 4. However since Daniel has more experience, I am giving him the slight edge.


Due to the sequel discrepancy between Sidekicks and The Karate Kid, I'm going to say the fight will take place after each of their respective 1st movies. So the fight will take place after the events of both Sidekicks and the 1st Karate Kid.

The showdown will take place 8 months after the events of their movies, thus giving enough time for Daniel to heal from his injuries sustained at the end of The Karate Kid. This will also allow Barry time to train more and maybe get more experience in fighting.

I'm just going to break this down into 6 rounds.

Round 1: --Draw--
Round 2: Daniel
Round 3: Barry
Round 4: --Draw--
Round 5: Daniel
Round 6: Winner---Barry

This is how I envision the fight going...
Barry and Daniel are mostly evenly matched. The first round, not much happens. Daniel comes out slightly stronger than Barry and kind of controls the match. Into the 3rd round however, Barry lands a few lucky shots and ties it up again. Much the same happens for the 4th and 5th rounds.
In the 6th round, Daniel is feeling pretty good and thinks the match is in the bag. However Barry, who has been holding back, comes back in this round with a whole new plan of attack. This throws Daniel off and is unable to switch his strategy in time and takes a few decisive blows and Barry wins the match.

Why this is accurate
Again, this is a comparison of the two, not the two movies. Daniel may be a good fighter, but he SUCKS at strategy. Go ahead and watch all the Karate Kid movies for proof of this. It's his determination, skill, ability and Mr. Miyagi that makes him successful. He never really seems to plan out things and usually just operates by the seat of his pants
This is where I think the difference between the two is evident. Daniel's ability to take a hurtin' and come back is impressive. But it's very flawed. Daniel's plan to execute the crane kick at the end of the match in the Karate Kid came a little late. As did his other come backs in the subsequent movies. Hell, he didn't even realize he was being taken advantage of in the 3rd movie.
But Barry, who is not as physically impressive, had a more diverse training program. The most important lesson being the art of deception. By Barry appearing weaker and letting Daniel dominate the earlier matches, he is lulling Daniel into a false sense of security. He uses this to his advantage and uses Daniel's personality to defeat him.

If they faced off again, Daniel would win. He's not stupid, he'd have Mr. Miyagi help him learn strategy and where he went wrong. But I'd imagine if they did face off again, they'd fight a band of ninjas or something. That seems awesome enough.

IF you disagree
Please remember that Daniel knows how to use nunchucks.

But for real, if you disagree, please tell me why other than The Karate Kid was better. I tried to be as fair as possible while doing this. But if you have valid reasons why you think I'm wrong, let me know.

And remember
I wrote this for entertainment purposes.
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