“Cobra Kai” Introduces “Karate Kid” Storyline to Younger Generation


Photo courtesy of indiewire.com

Johnny Lawrence and the new students of Cobra Kai.

Everyone remembers the underdog tale of Daniel Larusso who takes down the bully Johnny Lawrence in 1984’s smash hit film The Karate Kid. Well, this rivalry is back. Many may wonder what happened to teenager Daniel LaRusso, the famous two-time all-valley karate champion, as an adult. Well, the Netflix series Cobra Kai takes place 35 years after the All Valley Championship of 1984 where LaRusso took down affluent bully Johnny Lawrence, Cobra Kai’s best student. The original Karate Kid spawned three sequels, and the latest chapter – now a Netflix series embarking on its fourth season – focuses on the renewed rivalry between Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny (William Zabka) as their paths cross again decades later. 

Cobra Kai started off airing on Youtube Red before arriving on Netflix last summer. The first season set up the plot as we are re-introduced to Johnny, a divorced father of an estranged teenage son who works odd jobs as a handyman. After his car is damaged (by friends of Daniel’s daughter, unbeknownst to Daniel or Johnny), Johnny’s car is towed to Daniel’s high-end car dealership for repairs. Married with two children and a fancy house in the San Fernando Valley, Daniel is now the hot-shot success while Johnny is the apartment-dwelling loser just scraping by. The tables have turned quite dramatically since the first movie. 

One day Johnny meets his teenage neighbor, Miguel Diaz, and fights off the bullies who are beating him up. Inspired by Johnny’s karate skills, Miguel wants to learn how to fight, so Johnny gets a loan from the bank and re-opens Cobra Kai. Daniel finds out about this and takes offense, as the dojo was a ruthless place for bullies to congregate in the original film, and its motto, under original sensei John Creese, was “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.”

The rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence is renewed in the new TV series. (Photo Courtesy of thebanner.org.)

As a result, Daniel begins passing along his knowledge of karate to a teenager who works at his dealership – it just happens to be Johnny’s son, Robby.  At the All-Valley Championship in the series, just like in the movie, Miguel uses the signature crane kick that Daniel uses in the original film to break the tie and become the champ.

Whereas the first movie has become a classic partly because of the friendship that developed between Daniel and his elderly Japanese mentor, Mr. Miyagi, this series has become popular because of the parallels between this series and the original film, along with the cliffhangers after every episode that makes viewers eager to keep watching. 

“I think there are many similarities and Easter eggs even in Cobra Kai [that reference] The Karate Kid, like the party they have that starts off Daniel and Johnny’s rivalry, also starts off Robby and Miguel’s rivalry,” said eighth-grader Jonathan Vidal. 

“I think it is a fun show because every character kind of has something special about them,” said seventh-grader Owen Olbers.

After Miguel defeats Robby in the finals, Daniel decides to re-open Miyagi Do Karate, named after his sensei, where his first two students are Robby and Sam, Daniel’s daughter. Just like in 1984, Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do are still rivals and clash with each other. For example, after Hawk (Cobra Kai’s number two student) trashes the Miyagi Do dojo and takes Mr. Miyagi’s medal of honor, Daniel gets revenge by converting half of their students over to his dojo.

Right now there are three completed seasons of Cobra Kai, and the series is projected to continue with another season in early 2021. However, this series, rated TV-14, is not as family-friendly as the original films (which were all rated PG). 

“The tone has changed because there are more swearing and crude humor in Cobra Kai, which is unfortunate because I can’t watch it with my younger children,” said Director of Digital Media Mr. Nicholas Crisafi. “I think Cobra Kai is more geared towards the adults who watched the original Karate Kid when they were children, so there are more adult themes in the series.” 

Even so, the continuation of the story via the Netflix series allows a new generation of fans to experience the rivalry between Daniel and Johnny. And while some things have changed, some others have stayed the same. To find out more, check out season three of Cobra Kai which is currently on Netflix.