In Episode III, Palpatine and Yoda have a duel, in which they use both their lightsabers and the Force.

When this takes place, Palpatine is about 80 years old, when Yoda is almost 900. It is also known that Yoda has taught at least several generations of Jedi.

Despite such a massive difference in experience, Palpatine is more than a match for Yoda, and in the end manages to defeat him. Shouldn't he be overwhelmed by Yoda's greater expertise in both lightsaber combat and Force use?

  • 26
    Judge him by his age, do you?
    – Rogue Jedi
    Mar 3, 2016 at 0:25
  • 11
    Because 'dark side' for starters - also, even Yoda acknowledges that he is past his prime. To Luke he says "Look I so old to young eyes? Sick have I become - old and weak" - at that was just at the most 50 years later
    – NKCampbell
    Mar 3, 2016 at 0:25
  • 4
    Low motility midichlorians
    – user31178
    Mar 3, 2016 at 0:31
  • 3
    You don't know the power of the Dark Side.
    – Adamant
    Mar 3, 2016 at 3:03
  • 8
    “in the end manages to defeat him” — I’d call it a draw. Mar 3, 2016 at 11:47

7 Answers 7


Firstly, Yoda is a Jedi. A Jedi seeks mastery of the Force through the longer, more difficult pursuit of knowledge. They are peacekeepers, not soldiers. Their knowledge of the Force is not primarily intended for combat. When push does come to shove, the Jedi is focused on speed and agility. With the Sith perceived to be extinct for a thousand years, nobody - not even 900 year old Yoda - has experience with fighting Sith. Jedi field combat is primarily geared towards the role of special forces operatives acting against non-Force-sensitives wielding conventional weapons. Combat techniques against Force sensitive lightsaber wielders is reduced to duelling Jedi against Jedi, for the sole purpose of passing on traditional techniques. Few Jedi take it as seriously as Yoda and Dooku. Additionally, the hidden Sith shrine beneath the Jedi Temple has gradually and increasingly clouded the Jedi with the dark side, and corrupted them from within.

Secondly, Sidious is a Sith. A Sith seeks control of the Force through the faster, easier path of letting strong, powerful emotions dominate you. For a thousand years, every single aspect of the Sith Order has adapted itself to the specific goal of exterminating the Jedi Order. They sought knowledge and mastery of the dark side to deceive and to kill Jedi. They improved on and trained in lightsaber techniques to kill Jedi. Every new generation of apprentices, when they believed they have learnt all they could and surpassed the master, proved it by winning a duel to the death against the master while still during his prime. Although Sidious didn't exactly do that, he made sure to kill his master when he believed he has finally surpassed him. In Sidious opinion, he is the result of a thousand years of each successive apprentice-turned-master defeating the previous generation in his/her prime, and he is therefore the most powerful Sith in combat in a thousand years.

The strengths and flaws of both sides are shown clear as day when Sidious decided the day has finally come. Sidious' overwhelming power and skill brought down three of the Jedi's best warriors with effectively no resistance. Mace Windu could only survive so long because he tapped into Sidious' dark side energy flows via Vaapad to more effectively react to Sidious' attacks, but also because Sidious let him live to draw Anakin and turn him.

Yoda could only engage in an extended battle without Sidious holding back precisely because Yoda has spent centuries mastering the Force the Jedi way. This is illustrated in their Senate pod fight: Sidious sought to overwhelm with quick numerous attacks, while Yoda struck with a single, controlled, precise and unstoppable strike. It's like a Jedi and Sith's philosophy in Force combat is exactly opposite from their lightsaber combat philosophy.

However, during the final Force Lightning duel, Yoda felt the full brunt of Sidious' power - this is not something Yoda can survive in a drawn out battle. Currently a stalemate, Sidious will win by attrition. Yoda was faltering as he had a moment of hopelessness. He was only reinvigorated - and Sidious felt it - when he remembered the vision he had of Luke's destiny, and a sudden revelation that he needs to survive. This hope triggered Yoda to call upon a desperate last reserve of power to overwhelm Sidious. It momentarily pushed Sidious off-balance, allowing Yoda the opportunity to retreat.

In other words, it takes a long time for Jedi to develop the same level of combat power as a Sith, but it is possible for Jedi to eventually surpass a Sith, though not necessarily in the combat aspect. The Jedi has also stagnated and become blinded by the dark side, while the Sith has been continually improving to eventually defeat the Jedi. Yoda could only survive so long thanks to his skills with the blade and the Force, but he couldn't survive forever.


Actually, according to Matthew Stover's novelization, Palpatine is superior to Yoda in power. Citation: Yoda himself.

In chapter 20 of ROTS novelization, Yoda has a lightbulb moment: . The evil will always triumph because good is dumb The New Sith >> The Old Jedi.

In that lightning-speared tornado of feet and fists and blades and bashing machines, his vision finally pierced the darkness that had clouded the Force.
Finally, he saw the truth.
This truth: that he, the avatar of light, Supreme Master of the Jedi Order, the fiercest, most implacable, most devastatingly powerful foe the darkness had ever known …
just -
didn’t - have it.
He’d never had it. He had lost before he started.
He had lost before he was born.

The Sith had changed. The Sith had grown, had adapted, had invested a thousand years’ intensive study into every aspect of not only the Force but Jedi lore itself, in preparation for exactly this day. The Sith had remade themselves.
They had become new
While the Jedi—
The Jedi had spent that same millennium training to re-fight the last war.
The new Sith could not be destroyed with a lightsaber; they could not be burned away by any torch of the Force. The brighter his light, the darker their shadow. How could one win a war against the dark, when war itself had become the dark’s own weapon?
He knew, at that instant, that this insight held the hope of the galaxy. But if he fell here, that hope would die with him.
(Chapter 20)


When viewing the scene between Sidious and Yoda, I always felt that the intention was to represent them as not equals- but masters of their respective force powers. As stated in the book, the darker Sidious became the lighter Yoda was, and the lighter Yoda became the darker Sidious was.

Sidious displayed one of the best examples of force telekinesis thus far when he expertly controlled the senate pods, lifted them high above himself and propelled them at Yoda; you will notice the pods miss Yoda by the narrowest of margins. Sidious' lightning blasts today's lightsaber and it is clear that both are masters of the force. U like the fight with Dooku, where Dooku realised he cannot defeat his old master by using he force and had to resort to a lightsabe, the fight between Sidious and Yoda is decided by a contest of their force powers.

They are clearly masters of their respective beliefs in the force. Thus neither can defeat the other.

Which then begs the question: why did Mace Windu fair so well? Aside from the fact that the scene was poorly shot, Sidious loses his lightsaber thus allowing Mace Windu to have the upper hand. Just as Anakin walks in.

Go figure: you spend he last 20 years waiting for this moment and you plan something half baked? I think Sidious foresaw that Anakin would decide his fate. So, he makes sure that Anakin will seek to protect him by planting a seed of doubt. The only time Sidious looks truly worried is when Anakin seems to be indecisive. His eyes and facial expression show true fear.

Sidious allowed Mace to win, but did experience a moment of panic when Anakin appeared to be indecisive.


Yoda I'd say was more powerful than the emperor in his duel against count dooku the jedi master turned sith lord couldn't keep up with his former master's saber skills. Neither could Sidious during the fight there are moments where the so called most powerful sith very clearly looked very frightened and weak. Yoda took the emperor at his full power and was still strong enough each time to reverse sidious's onslaught. When yoda was electrocuted he threw palpatine aside like a doll, when locked in the lightsaber duel Sidious had to keep his distance and use strategy to overcome a superior foe. Palpatine is not in the same class as yoda he clearly respected and feared the great jedi master's powers. Palpatine managed to survive that fight simply because there was too much space for Yoda to get in close and finish him.

  • A good argument. But weren't there instances when they matched their power against each other (Yoda's tutamanis vs. Palpatine's Force Lightning) and seemed almost evenly matched?
    – Adamant
    Aug 19, 2016 at 8:11
  • Plus, I'd like to add the following - when they move their battle to the main senate chamber, Palps starts to throw down the platforms at Yoda and even though he manages to throw the LAST platform back, even more powerful, than palps did - look what happens at the PRE-LAST: Yoda is avoiding it just very close by jumping away and crashes down at one of the adjacent platforms - luckily for him, it took Palps a while to throw the next one so that Yoda can stop it through the force - else, if he was just a bit faster after Yoda landed - Yoda would have ben crushed. He really wasn't that superior.
    – Devaron
    Aug 19, 2016 at 8:51

Good points but those instances mentioned above take place where Palpatine has the advantage. He was above Yoda, it's easy to throw something down gravity works with you ! And it's hard to throw something up gravity works against you. Yoda lost the fight the moment it stopped being about lightsaber combat and force mastery. To where it became about pure strategy falling upon an opponent from above is almost certainly a sign of victory. Had Yoda gotten above palpatine the sith's victory would have belonged to the jedi. There is no way in hell that 700 years of experience could lose to raw power I'm sorry, the only reasonable explanation is that Yoda was to old to fight he walked around with great effort you guys. Fighting Palpatine was beyond him only because of age and not because of power.

  • 2
    This information looks as if it might be better as an edit to your previous answer. It’s also possible that you are trying to comment on one or more of the previous answers. Once you have 50 reputation, you will be able to comment on any post.
    – Adamant
    Sep 10, 2016 at 5:40

We need to first look at both the Jedi, and Sith philosophies, as well as their training.

Firstly, per both Disney Canon/Legends, the Jedi(expect maybe in the Old Republic) primarily peacekeepers. They did not desire to be the best of the best, aside from perhaps friendly peer competition between padawans, knights, etc. They are also not in favor of focusing power, and aggression in combat. This is why forms like Juyo are considered taboo among the Jedi Order, since they focus on pure hatred, and aggression. Per Star Wars: Tarkin, it states that there was a hidden shrine that clouded the Jedi's vision.

If you look at the Sith, there are reasons why people like Darth Malgus, Maul, Sidious, Count Dooku, Vader, and Vitiate each have earned their own right as powerful force wielders/dark-side warriors, or both. The Sith Order focus on pure and aggression. Even if we look at the Sith Code(EU Legends), it clearly evidences the fact that the Sith care about power, and are the direct polar opposite of the Jedi Order. Now, we need to look at the Order of Sith's history.

The Order of Sith Lords' purpose was to infiltrate the Republic, and lead to their destruction. They had centuries of being able to build a power base. Sidious' master, Darth Plagueis (in the EU) was pretty powerful, and influential in the galaxy. He was able to teach Sidious many things, and since Sith training focuses on hate, and power, a Sith would naturally become more powerful as their expand their knowledge/ grasp of the dark-side of the force.

Even in Disney canon, Sidious was quite influential. Per Star Wars: Attack of The Clones, Dooku stated that Sidious controlled many senators. He was also a chancellor of the Republic, as well as arguably the leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Being the leader of the two largest factions in the galaxy makes you more or less have a large amount of resources to be able to gain more knowledge. Being the leader of this two factions didn't affect him at all, clearly exemplified by the fact that Sidiouis was able to sneak in and out to play his alter-egos perfectly.

To put it simply, I'm pretty much stating that due to the points I stated above, Sidious pretty much had a strong foundation for him to be pretty strong. Why other Order of Sith Lords members couldn't match his power in this manner, Idk the answer to.


Palpatine's master was most likely Darth Plagius the Wise, who was one of the most powerful Sith ever. Yoda is also very old, as about 30 years later he dies.

  • 4
    Ok, that's great. So... how does this answer the question?
    – Ellesedil
    Mar 3, 2016 at 18:10
  • 1
    Logical fallacy. Just because the master is powerful doesn't mean the apprentice learns everything, nor does it mean the apprentice will necessarily become more powerful. Also, a forty year old can die of illness and be survived by his sixty year old father, but that doesn't mean the son is older or frailer or weaker than his father twenty years ago. Go back and ask Leia to teach you how to form a sound exposition. Mar 6, 2016 at 14:53

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