@Rat There's another aspect to the "black belt is when you really learn to fight" that wasn't really covered earlier in the thread, although a lot of that is probably due to your focus on striking. In my Hapkido class yesterday, the Master explained that we're learning all of the techniques right now, and after black belt we'll learn the counters to those techniques. In this class, I'm about half-way to black belt, and I've noticed a distinct difference in how people at each level fight when we do sparring (both in my own growth and in watching or sparring with others). Beginners (white and yellow belts) tend to revert to specific techniques. So if you grab them on the shoulder, they will do Technique #4 or Technique #27, which both deal with shoulder grabs. If you grab them in a straight arm grab, they will pick between techniques #9, 13, 17, 22, or 23. Because those techniques deal with a straight arm. If anything goes different than the way it was drilled, they get thoroughly confused and don't know what to do. For example, if they expect the person to land on their back, and the person lands on their stomach, they freeze. Or, if you grab them in a way they haven't practiced (i.e. a choke, which we don't have a scenario for in the white belt), then they don't know what to do. Beginners also don't really deal well with failure. If a technique isn't working, they either put more muscle into it (which doesn't work, or even if it does work they get yelled at for doing the technique wrong), or they revert to Taekwondo and just punch or kick. Also, beginners tend not to fight back in sparring. They tend to treat it as a random situation drill. Intermediates (purple, orange, green) tend to try to apply the technique based on principle. For example, if someone grabs my left wrist with their right hand, I'll grab their hand with my left, and circle my left hand to grab their wrist and push down to shear the joint. If they grab my sleeve up by my arm, same thing - grab the hand, and apply pressure. Neck? Same idea. I've also got a better idea of what to do should the technique succeed, but the result be different than I expect (person falls the wrong way), because I've seen that fall enough times to know how to react to it. When dealing with failure, I also have more tools to respond to what's going on, and I can at least try something else. For example, if I can't bend the arm and make a gooseneck, I will straighten the arm and make an armbar. Or at least try to. I usually see how it SHOULD work, but I have trouble making it actually work. In sparring, if someone leaves a glaring opening I will take advantage of it, but I don't have all the tools yet to be able to realistically counter what they're trying to do. Advanced (blue, red) continue to apply techniques based on principle, and have a lot better idea of what to do when modifications are necessary. As to failure - they fail less often in the first place because they've learned how to apply the principles much better, and they are much quicker to adapt to the failure of one technique and smoothly transition into another. In sparring, if you do not apply the technique correctly, they are very quick to react to the failure and make you suffer for it. Black belts...well, we have one black belt, and he's been a black belt for about 3 classes. So we haven't seen much of that yet. But from a small demonstration my Master gave yesterday, it seems like the black belt is a bit more proactive in countering techniques. Where against a blue belt, if you have proper technique they shouldn't be able to offer much resistance, a black belt will actively counter your techniques. I realize this is Hapkido, which is definitely NOT what I recommend for you (it is NOT a way to get fast results and you seem more interested in striking anyway). But I hope it does help you to see how training progresses in martial arts, where you evolve from the basic building blocks to putting it all together.