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The Karate Kid (1984)

In 1984, 17-year-old Daniel LaRusso and his mother Lucille move from Newark, New Jersey, to Reseda, Los Angeles, California. Their apartment’s handyman is an eccentric, but kind and humble Okinawan immigrant named Mr. Miyagi.

Daniel befriends Ali Mills, a high school cheerleader, which draws the attention of her arrogant ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence, a black belt and the top student from the Cobra Kai dojo, where he studies a vicious form of karate. Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang continually bully Daniel. On Halloween, after Daniel sprays water on Johnny with a hose, he and his gang pursue Daniel down the street and brutally beat him, until Mr. Miyagi intervenes and single-handedly defeats them with ease. Amazed, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate. Miyagi declines but agrees to bring Daniel to Cobra Kai to resolve the conflict. They meet with the sensei, John Kreese, an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran who callously dismisses the peace offering. Miyagi then proposes that Daniel enter the All-Valley Karate Championships, where he can compete with Johnny and the other Cobra Kai students on equal terms, and requests that the bullying cease while Daniel trains. Kreese agrees to the terms but warns that if Daniel does not show up for the tournament, the harassment will continue for both Daniel and Miyagi.

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Daniel’s training starts with days of menial chores that he believes only serve to make him Miyagi’s unpaid employee. When he becomes frustrated, Miyagi demonstrates that repetition of these chores have helped him to learn defensive blocks through muscle memory. Their bond develops, and Miyagi opens up to Daniel about his life that includes the dual loss of his wife and son in childbirth at the Manzanar internment camp while he was serving with the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II in Europe, where he received the Medal of Honor. Through Mr. Miyagi’s teaching, Daniel learns not only karate, but also important life lessons such as the importance of personal balance, reflected in the principle that martial arts training is as much about training the spirit as the body. Daniel applies the life lessons that Miyagi has taught him to strengthen his relationship with Ali. On Daniel’s 18th birthday, Miyagi presents him with a Karate gi for the tournament and one of his own cars as birthday gifts.

At the tournament, Daniel surprises everyone by reaching the semi-finals. Johnny advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against Darryl Vidal. Kreese instructs his second-best student, Bobby Brown, who is one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel’s tormentors, to disable Daniel with an illegal attack to the knee. Bobby reluctantly does so, severely injuring Daniel and getting himself disqualified in the process. Daniel is taken to the locker room, where the physician determines that he cannot continue. However, Daniel believes that if he quits, his tormentors will have gotten the best of him. He convinces Miyagi to use a pain suppression technique to allow him to continue. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel returns to fight. The match is a seesaw battle, with neither able to break through the other’s defense.

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The match is halted when Daniel uses a scissor-leg technique to trip Johnny, delivering a blow to the back of his head and giving Johnny a nosebleed. Kreese directs Johnny to sweep Daniel’s injured leg – an unethical move. Johnny looks horrified at the order but reluctantly agrees. As the match resumes and the score is tied 2-2, Johnny seizes Daniel’s leg and deals a vicious elbow, doing further damage. Daniel, standing with difficulty, assumes the “Crane” stance, a technique he observed Mr. Miyagi performing on a beach. Johnny lunges toward Daniel, who jumps and executes a front kick to Johnny’s face, scoring the tournament-winning point. Johnny, having gained newfound respect for his nemesis, presents the trophy to Daniel himself, as Daniel is carried off by an enthusiastic crowd while Miyagi looks on proudly.

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When Mr. Miyagi is drunk and celebrating an “anniversary,” he reveals that he served in the Army, in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The unit, composed mostly of Japanese Americans (many of whom had been in internment camps), fought in Europe during the World War II. It became the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States military.

The yellow classic automobile that Daniel polishes in the famous “wax-on/wax-off” training scene, then later offered by Mr. Miyagi as Daniel’s birthday gift, was actually given to Ralph Macchio by the producer, and he still owns it. The car is a 1948 Ford Super De Luxe.

While many seem to recall the headband that both Miyagi and Daniel wear as having a red rising sun on the front, it is actually a blue flower.

The yellow classic automobile that Daniel polishes in the famous “wax-on/wax-off” training scene, then later offered by Mr. Miyagi as Daniel’s birthday gift, was actually given to Ralph Macchio by the producer, and he still owns it. The car is a 1948 Ford Super De Luxe.

Daniel walks past a “love tester” while looking for his love interest, Ali Mills. As he is searching for her, a bulb on the “love tester” illuminates next to the word “uncontrollable”, referring to his love for Ali.

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Daniel is given a physical black belt seemingly out of nowhere at the tournament scene. However, if you closely watch a few scenes earlier when Daniel registers for the tournament, you can see Mr. Miyagi reach into the referee’s gym bag to steal the belt while explaining the pronunciation of his name.

The song Mr. Miyagi sings is one he heard when he was a prisoner at the Gila River War Internment Camp during WWII.

There were two confrontations between Daniel and Johnny which were eventually cut from the film: The first takes place in the school cafeteria just after Daniel has bought lunch for Ali. Seeing them about to take a seat, Johnny hurries over just in time to sneak a piece of blueberry pie onto Daniel’s chair. Standing up with his pants covered in blueberries, Daniel is equally embarrassed and livid. In a brave act of revenge, Daniel smears what is left of the pie across Johnny’s shirt and mayhem ensues. A photo from this scene can be found on the back of the novelisation. The other scene occurs later in the film and also takes place at school. Coming up from a drink at the fountain, Daniel finds himself face to face with Johnny (who came to give him the entry form for the tournament) and stands up for himself once again by questioning the practices of the Cobra Kai.

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The Karate Kid (2010 film)

12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his widowed mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), are leaving Detroit travelling to Beijing after Sherry gets a job transfer at a car factory. Dre goes to a nearby park where he eyes a young violinist, Meiying, who reciprocates his attention, but a 14-year-old Chinese boy named Cheng, a rebellious Kung Fu prodigy whose family is close to Meiying’s, holds a grudge against Dre and keeps them apart by brutally attacking, teasing and bullying Dre every time he gets the chance to. After a school field trip to the Forbidden City, Dre throws a bucket of dirty water over Cheng and his gang, enraging them. They chase him across the city streets, corner him at a backstreet alley, and brutally beat Dre up until he is saved by the maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who fends off the boys and reveals himself to be a Kung Fu master.

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Mr. Han heals Dre’s injuries using Ancient Chinese medicine methods of fire cupping as he tells him that Cheng and his friends are not inherently bad, but made so by their teacher Master Li, who teaches his students to show no mercy towards their enemies. Intrigued, Dre asks if Mr. Han could teach him Kung Fu. Mr. Han refuses and brings him to meet Li at the Fighting Dragon studio to make peace. Li harshly rebuffs the peace offer and challenges Dre to a fight with Cheng. Mr. Han instead proposes that Dre compete against Li’s students one-on-one at the upcoming open Kung Fu tournament, requesting that his students leave Dre alone to train for the tournament. Li begrudgingly agrees to the terms as long as Dre shows up at the tournament.

Mr. Han promises to teach Dre Kung Fu and begins to train him by emphasizing movements that apply to life in general. He conveys that serenity and maturity, not punches and power, are the true keys to mastering the martial art. He teaches this by having Dre perform repetitive motions using his jacket, which teaches Dre real muscle memory moves. Han takes Dre to a Taoist temple in the Wudang Mountains. There, Dre witnesses a woman making a cobra reflect her movements and later drinks the water from an ancient Taoist well. After many weeks of grueling and laborious training, Mr. Han soon gives Dre a day off. Dre goes to see Meiying, persuading her to cut school for a day of fun. She is nearly late for a violin audition that was pushed up a day without her knowledge. Her parents thus deem Dre a bad influence and forbid her from ever seeing him again.

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Dre heads to see Mr. Han, but finds him apparently drunk, smashing the car he was working on. Mr. Han explains to Dre that he crashed the same car years ago, and that his wife and 10-year-old son were killed in the crash. He fixes the car every year but smashes it to remind himself of what happened; this inspires Dre to train harder to help his teacher overcome his trauma and get past the incident. Mr. Han assists Dre in writing and reciting a note of apology in Mandarin to Meiying’s father, who accepts Dre’s gift and apology, promising that Meiying will attend the tournament to support Dre.

At the tournament, the under-confident Dre is slow to achieve parity with his competition but soon begins beating them and advances to the semifinals. Cheng does the same by violently finishing off his opponents. Dre then beats Master Li’s students, causing Li to order one of his students named Liang, Dre’s semi-final opponent, to injure Dre. Liang reluctantly does so by delivering a series of crippling blows to Dre’s leg, resulting in an automatic disqualification. Dre can advance to the final to face Cheng but has limited time to return to the ring or Cheng will claim the trophy. Dre pleads with Mr. Han to heal his leg via the fire cupping method. Mr. Han reluctantly does so when Dre tells him that he just wants to overcome his fear. Thus, Dre is set to face Cheng in the final.

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The match goes back and forth with Dre gaining a 2-to-1 lead. On Li’s orders, Cheng further hits Dre on his injured leg with a powerful kick, thus causing Dre to lose balance. Tied at two points apiece, with the next point to determine the champion, Dre struggles but manages to get up and uses the snake stance used by the woman at the temple. The move is successful, and Cheng changes his technique and charges at Dre, who does a flip and catches Cheng in mid-air with a kick to his head, winning the tournament along with the respect of Cheng and his classmates. Cheng presents Dre with the trophy and all of the Fighting Dragon students bow down to Mr. Han in respect, accepting him as their new master, leaving Li defeated. Ending the movie, Dre and Mr. Han walk off happy as the music plays.

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Sony considered changing the title to “The Kung Fu Kid”, but this idea was nixed by producer Jerry Weintraub.

As noted on a featurette, Jackie Chan was the one who came up with the “jacket” routine as a means of teaching Dre Kung Fu moves.

Ralph Macchio, the star of the original Karate Kid film declined the offer of a cameo in this film.

Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) and Mr. Li (Rongguang Yu) stare off with each other more than once, but never get into a physical entanglement. The two actors fought each other in Shanghai Noon (2000).

The U.S. title for this movie was kept as “The Karate Kid”, to maintain the connection to the earlier movies on which it is loosely based, even though this movie takes place in China, and the martial arts used are forms of kung fu. The difference is referenced in the movie when Dre’s mother describes a team as practicing karate, and Dre quickly corrects her.

In the scene where Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his friends are bullying Dre (Jaden Smith) and kicking around his books and backpack, Cheng is wearing a shirt that is very similar to the shirt Daniel (Ralph Macchio) wore during the tea ceremony and storm scenes in The Karate Kid Part II (1986).

The style of Kung Fu that the woman standing on the dragon’s head is practicing (at the temple, before the dragon well) is Crane Style Kung Fu. Practitioners of this style are very adept at balancing on one foot, as a crane does. It is interesting to note that she is controlling a cobra (likely in the same style as a snake charmer). This could possibly be a nod to The Karate Kid (1984), in which Daniel defeated a member of the Cobra Kai dojo by using the “Crane technique”.

Before the tournament, Han (Jackie Chan) gives Dre (Jaden Smith) a shirt in which to compete. Dre comments that the shirt is just like one that Bruce Lee wore. One of Jackie Chan’s early breaks in movies was as a stunt coordinator in Lee’s movies. Chan also had small parts in The Chinese Connection (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973).

In a possible nod to the 1984 Karate Kid, the students from The Fighting Dragons fail to land a successful strike against Mr. Han in their fight as he saved Dre from further attack. The students from Cobra Kai also failed to land a strike against Miyagi as he rescued Daniel from his attackers as well.

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