Thirty-four years after being defeated by Daniel LaRusso in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence, now in his 50s, works as a part-time handyman and lives in an apartment in Reseda, Los Angeles, having fallen far from the wealthy lifestyle in Encino that had been enabled by his verbally abusive step-father, Sid Weinberg. He has a son named Robby with his former girlfriend Shannon Keene, but he abandoned them both when Robby was born as his mother Laura died shortly before Robby’s birth. Johnny, admittedly, has never recovered from his breakup with his high school girlfriend, Ali Mills.
After losing his job, a down-and-out Johnny uses karate to defend his teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz from a gang of bullies. Miguel, an asthmatic kid who lives with his Ecuadorian single mother Carmen and grandmother Rosa, asks Johnny to teach him. Initially reluctant, Johnny finally agrees and decides to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo as a chance to recapture his past; however, this act reawakens his rivalry with Daniel LaRusso. Daniel, now the owner of a highly successful car dealership chain, is married to co-owner Amanda and has two children: Samantha and Anthony. Daniel is finally living the wealthy lifestyle he envied as a kid when he lived in Reseda. However, after his friend and mentor Mr. Miyagi died, Daniel’s struggle to meaningfully connect with his children has disrupted the balance in his life. Meanwhile, his mother Lucille, his other source of support, has a complicated relationship with Amanda.
Johnny’s dojo attracts a group of bullied social outcasts, including Miguel’s newfound friends Aisha, Hawk, and initially Demetri, who find camaraderie and self-confidence under his tutelage, a marked contrast to the kind of students Tommy, Bobby, Dutch, Jimmy and Johnny were when training in the original Cobra Kai run by John Kreese. Johnny develops a bond with Miguel in a manner that resembles the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. Cobra Kai’s philosophy, however, remains mostly unchanged, though Johnny tries to infuse it with more honor than Kreese did. Thus, Miguel develops into a very different kind of student than Daniel, or even Johnny, was; he also begins dating Samantha. Johnny’s efforts to reform Cobra Kai are threatened by the unexpected reappearance of Kreese, who aspires to bring the dojo back to its originally ruthless form.
As a means of revenge against his estranged father, Robby convinces Amanda to hire him for a position at the LaRusso Auto dealership and develops a close friendship with Daniel, who is unaware of the former’s parentage. He even studies Mr. Miyagi’s form of Karate with Daniel and befriends and eventually starts dating Samantha after her breakup with Miguel. She eventually joins her father’s dojo, along with Demetri and a few other Cobra Kai defects. Miguel later begins dating a new Cobra Kai student, Tory, who becomes Sam’s rival.
After the violent aftermath of a school brawl that is fueled by the dojos and their rivalry, Miguel is accidentally crippled by Robby while Samantha is also hospitalized due to injuries from her fight with Tory. Johnny finds that Kreese has taken Cobra Kai from him, prompting him to form his own dojo Eagle Fang. Robby is expelled from school for crippling Miguel and eventually sent to juvenile detention, and while Kreese continues to lead his students down darker paths, Daniel returns to Okinawa to help find balance, where he reunites with former love interest Kumiko and reformed former enemy Chozen. Johnny helps Miguel regain the use of his legs with his unconventional training techniques, and there’s eventually a reunion between Ali, Johnny, and Daniel, where Ali finally puts their rivalry to rest. However, the rivalry between the three dojos eventually explodes as Cobra Kai fights Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang in a brutal brawl. Afterward, Johnny and Daniel face Kreese, who has successfully turned Robby against both Johnny and Daniel and over to Cobra Kai through manipulation. They all agree to settle the fate of the dojos and valley at the next All-Valley tournament. Throughout the third season, flashbacks are also shown to Kreese’s time in the Vietnam War, and how it led him to become the merciless and ruthless man he is in the present day.
The story’s development revolves around these primary relationships, which lead to conflicts that are ultimately the product of Daniel and Johnny’s inability to move away from the past.
During the original Karate Kid shoot, late director John G. Avildsen shot hours of tournament footage from multiple angles. The crew behind Cobra Kai searched the studio vault and found a ton of never-before-seen clips, which they were able to introduce into the series via flashbacks. One of them includes Zabka’s real life mom, who was in the stands in different angles that went unseen until 2018. Ralph Macchio told Uproxx there are three brand new angles of the famous crane kick.
Daniel’s car in season 2 is the actual same car from The Karate Kid (1984). It was given to Ralph Macchio after the completion of the first film.
The ribbon that Daniel wears when he decides to train karate again, is the actual ribbon from The Karate Kid (1984). It was given to Ralph Macchio after the completion of the first film.
Ralph Macchio was 56 years old at the release of this series – four years older than Pat Morita was at the time of release of The Karate Kid.
In a behind the scenes featurette, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka state that even though most of the scenes they were in together in the original Karate Kid, they were either arguing or Macchio was “getting his ass kicked,” they were friendly and had a lot of fun on set.
In real life, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka became friends after the original Karate Kid film was completed and became a hit. Macchio said that they became even closer friends after Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (Mr. Miyagi) passed away in 2005. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka were also 80s teen heartthrobs, with Zabka usually being depicted as ‘the bad boy”.
Miyagi-Do students wear blue clothes while Cobra Kais wear red. Whenever either student is caught in a conflict between the 2 dojos, they’d wear both colors or a combination of the two.
Most of the Cobra Kai students have experience in martial arts as actual black belts or advanced trained dancers.
Originally the series was part of YouTube Originals, content exclusively for their Premium users. However in June 2020 Netflix bought the rights of the series including the unaired season 3.
Johnny lives in the Reseda Heights apartments. This apartment complex and its location are made to resemble Daniel Larusso’s apartment complex in the original Karate Kid, complete with identical paint and coloring on the lettering. This also references the discrimination Daniel experienced in the first movie for being from Reseda instead of a richer part of LA like Johnny and Ali (Elizabeth Shue), and is meant to illustrate how low Johnny has descended since the original film.
When the yoga class enters the Cobra Kai dojo, the first pose they do is the Cobra.
Bill Conti’s music score from the first movie, as well as some songs from the soundtrack, have been used in this show.
Ralph Macchio was 22 years old portraying a 17 year old high school student while filming the first “Karate Kid” film. Mary Mouser, who plays his daughter, Samantha, in the series “Cobra Kai,” was also 22 years old portraying a 17 year old while filming Season One of the show.
When Johnny Lawrence has Aisha making a recording of him for a commercial for the Cobra Kai dojo, he tells her to add the Cobra Kai logo at the end and to make it chrome so it really stands out, a reference to the Cobra Kai logo for the series that appears at the end of every episode.
Xolo (Miguel) Maridueña revealed in an interview that before they filmed his character’s first kiss with Samantha (Mary Mouser) on screen, Mouser told him she prefers not to kiss someone for the first time on camera, and would rather get the “heebie-jeebies” out of the way by kissing each other off-screen before they start filming. He said he got really nervous and started popping breath mints. Then, as he leaned in to kiss her, Mouser whispered very timidly, “Xolo, I’m nervous, you are like a brother to me,” which really made it awkward for him.
Diora Baird played William Zabka’s wife in Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). In Cobra Kai she plays his ex and mother to his son Robby.
The first two seasons were shown on YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red). Filming of season three was completed in early 2020. Due to production costs, the decision was made to take YouTube Premium away from original programming. Cobra Kai was picked up by Netflix which will show the first two seasons in fall of 2020 and has postponed the release of season three until 2021.
The movie Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is watching on TV in the first episode, is Iron Eagle (1986). Actor Rob Garrison, who played Tommy, a fellow Cobra Kai and Johnny’s friend in The Karate Kid, also appeared as Packer in the early scenes of Iron Eagle.
The creators of the show revealed that Cobra Kai was originally conceived as a feature film. They changed to an ongoing series to benefit of the longer times to tell a bigger story and differents points of view for the characters. This was revealed during the Netflix’s oficial YouTube Channel show “Reunited Apart”.
At the start of the series, the scar above Hawk’s lip is extremely prominent. As the series continues however, it becomes less apparent, symbolising Hawk’s growing confidence.
Sean Kanan has expressed his interest in reprising his role as Mike Barnes from The Karate Kid Part III (1989).
Daniel serves Bananarama Pancakes to his kids for breakfast . Bananarama’s song “Cruel Summer” appears in The Karate Kid (1984), in the scene where Daniel first rides his bike to school. The song was a hit in 1984 but never made the movie soundtrack. The song was later remixed and used as a cover in the season 2 finale.
Chad McQueen, who played Dutch in the Karate Kid (1984) declined the opportunity to reprise the character for the show.
In season 2 episode 10, the book Sam is holding in class is “The Outsiders.” Ralph Macchio (Daniel) starred in The Outsiders (1983). His character was coincidentally called Johnny.
According to Jon Hurwitz: the flip on the wall that Robby does in his second juvie was all Tanner Buchanan, no stunt doubles.
One of the executive producers is Will Smith. Smith also served as a producer of the 2010 film reboot, which starred his son, Jaden.
According to Jacob Bertrand (Hawk/Eli) in a Netflix interview, the Mohawk takes approximately an hour to apply and construct while the back tattoo takes approximately 25 minutes to get done (45 minutes when he used to dance while it was being applied).
Throughout the series Johnny is constantly seen drinking Coors Banquet while Daniel is drinking more “upscale” drinks or “craft” and imported beers. Daniel makes light jokes about Johnny drinking “old man beer” while Johnny refers to Daniel’s drinks as “pussy” beer. This was done to show Johnny as a “Blue Collar” guy set in his ways while Daniel is able to adapt into the age of Social Media and political correctness. Daniel throughout the series is seen drinking Corona, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Summer Ale, and Blue Moon. Blue Moon is made by Coors ironically enough.
Tanner Buchanan has the most martial arts training of the principal actors of all of 4 Karate Kid movies plus this series, with a purple belt in Tae Kwon Do, about halfway to a black belt. However, if one were to include the 2010 reboot of the franchise, Jackie Chan would take this title as he has actually earned a black belt.
Fathom Events screened a double feature of the first two episodes followed by The Karate Kid (1984) in select theaters on April 25 2018, a week before the series premiered on YouTube Red.
Up until the final episode of season three, only Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) and John Kreese (Martin Kove) have appeared in all three of the primary Karate Kid movies and every season of Cobra Kai.
Originally set to be born December 18, 1968, the continuity timeline set up in The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III, actually placed Daniel’s birthday December 19, 1966, making him turn 18 years old the night before the All-Valley 18 & Under Karate Tournament, and be almost 52 years old by the start of Cobra Kai Season Three.
Daniel tells Robby hockey doesn’t count. In real life, Ralph Macchio is a fan of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders and was featured as the team’s celebrity captain in the 1991 Pro Set Platinum trading card series.
Despite his death in 2005, Pat Morita who played Mr. Miyagi in the previous four Karate Kid movies, is still part of the series. He is mentioned occasionally and seen in flashback sequences. The fifth episode is dedicated to his memory. A body double is also used in a season 2 episode showing Mr. Miyagi building his backyard.
Diora Baird is only 16 years older than her onscreen son, Tanner Buchanan.
Jacob Bertrand who plays “Hawk” and Peyton List who plays Tory in season 2 both starred together in the Disney Channel movie The Swap.
Released 24 years after The Next Karate Kid (1994) starring Hilary Swank and 29 years after The Karate Kid Part III (1989) with Ralph Macchio, who reprises his role of Daniel LaRusso in this series.
As of season three, the shortest running episode is the third episode of season one, “Esqueleto,” at 23 minutes. The longest running episode is the tenth episode of season three, “December 19,” at 41 minutes
When Miguel is trying to convince Johnny to let Aisha join Cobra Kai, he tells Johnny that her father is Isiah Robinson, a Hall of Fame lineman for the Chargers. However, no such Hall of Fame football player exists. The closest match is Isiah Robertson, who was a 6 time Pro Bowl linebacker in the 70s for the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills. Robertson was killed in a limo accident in December 2018, roughly 6 months after the release of the first season.
Martin Kove who plays John Kreese and Jacob Bertrand who plays Hawk share the same birthday of March 6th. There is 54 years difference between them.
In Season 2, Johnny briefly reunites with his fellow Cobra Kai members (minus Dutch) to party with their friend Tommy, who is dying from cancer. The actor who played Tommy, Rob Garrison, died from kidney failure in September 2019, a few months after his Season 2 appearance.
In a season 2 behind the scenes featurette, Ralph Macchio says that he has not seen Elisabeth Shue in a long time. He then follows that by saying “Who knows? I might see her again soon,” teasing a Shue’s return as Ali in season 3.
In Season 2 Tommy dies and ends up in a body bag. It’s a clear nod to the infamous quote “Get him a body bag” during the final match between Daniel and Johnny in the original Karate Kid. Sadly, Rob Garrison, the actor who played Tommy, passed away from kidney failure in real life shortly after filming the episode.
There’s a long standing belief that Daniel (Ralph Macchio) was the true antagonist of the original Karate Kid movie. This is due to the fact that he seems to instigate all the confrontations that ultimately result in him getting beaten up. This argument seems to be further strengthened in Cobra Kai, as he seems almost insulted that Johnny has reopened the Cobra Kai dojo. Despite this being an obvious attempt by Johnny to improve his life, Daniel goes to great lengths to have the dojo fail and get closed down.
The only member of Johnny’s group of friends from Cobra Kai from the original Karate Kid movie to not appear in the series is Dutch (whom Daniel fought in the All Valley Tournament), due to Dutch serving time in Lompoc Prison. Chad McQueen was asked to reprise his role but refused due to commitments to his company, McQueen Racing.
It has been confirmed that Daniel will return to Okinawa in season 3. This could pave the way for Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto from The Karate Kid 2, reprising their roles as Kumiko and Chozen, respectively.
Thomas Ian Griffith originally declined an offer to reprise his character, Terry Silver, since he has retired from acting. Nevertheless, Silver’s return to the franchise (once again played by Griffith) in Season 4 was confirmed by Netflix on their social media on May 27th, 2021 after being teased throughout season 3 with Kreese’s Vietnam flashback subplot.
When Hawk and other Cobra Kai members vandalize the Miyagi-Do dojo and steal Mr. Miyagi’s Medal of Honor, it marks the third time in the Karate Kid saga that such events have taken place against Miyagi-Do karate. In Karate Kid Part II, Chozen and his gang destroy the Miyagi dojo in Okinawa. And in Karate Kid Part III, Mike Barnes steals Mr. Miyagi’s bonsai trees from his home in an effort to make Daniel re-enter the All Valley Tournament.
In season 3 episode 9. Elisabeth Shue makes her much anticipated return as Ali Mills.
When Johnny reunites with his old friends from high school, he mentions how Tommy beat Vidal in the semi finals in the 1983 tournament. Vidal is the same fighter that Johnny beat in the semi finals one year later before facing Daniel in the original Karate Kid film.
In a season 3 episode, Amanda Larusso calls Kreese “Rambo”. Martin Kove, who plays Kreese, starred in Rambo: First Blood Part II as Ericson.
During the scene when Johnny and his original Cobra Kai friends are in the bar, Johnny says that Tommy gave him a run for his money in the ’83 tournament’s final match. However, in the original Karate Kid film, the tournament announcer says that Johnny and Tommy’s other friend and former Cobra Kai member, Bobby Brown, was the runner-up to Johnny in the previous year (1983), meaning that Tommy never made it to the finals.
It’s become apparent that Miguel Diaz evolved into what Daniel wanted to become in the original movie, as all Daniel wanted to learn karate for was to get even with Johnny and the Cobra Kai guys the same way they did to him. Miguel, once he finally gets his skills in order, successfully beats Kyler and his buddies and is never messed with again by them. Meanwhile Daniel obviously learned an alternate form that focuses less on aggression, and his revenge involved upsetting Johnny at the All-Valley Karate Tournament despite his injury, earning the respect of Johnny, and exposing Kreese for what he really was. Furthermore, both Daniel and Miguel’s path to learn karate start the same; with their eventual senseis stepping in to stop the kids that were bullying them, them asking if that person can teach them karate and being initially shut down, but then they change their minds and teach them. (Mr. Miyagi somewhat reluctantly because his attempt at diplomacy with the original Cobra Kai failed and Johnny after he and Daniel talked about their encounter in the finals back in the day.)
Thomas Ian Griffith came out of a 14 year retirement from acting to reprise his role as Terry Silver.
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