Film: The Karate Kid

This makes so much more sense compared to waxing cars.

"Wax on, wax off!"
Mr. Miyagi

A series of five films beginning in 1984. Following a similar pattern to the first Rocky movie (and featuring the same director) it focused on a student-master relationship between Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi, whose name came to be slang for a type of Retired Badass. The first three films starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Pat Morita as Miyagi. Hilary Swank played a new "Karate Kid" in the fourth movie.

Many people have noticed that DC Comics is credited in the films, but contrary to popular belief, the films are not directly based on a comic book. Columbia Pictures obtained permission from DC (as a professional courtesy) to use the title "the Karate Kid" because the name was already in use for a character in DC's Legion of Super-Heroes comic, but the films draw no inspiration from the character.

The movies also inspired a somewhat forgettable Animated Series involving Daniel and Mr. Miyagi traveling the world in pursuit of a magical healing shrine.


The original film series has examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: Daniel's mom drives one.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Kreese in the first; Chozen in the second; Silver in the third. Gets more literal in the fifth film where he uses kung fu.
  • Artistic License Martial Arts:
    • The actual crane kick is a twirling kick in which you jump, kick, and land all on the same leg. No one working on the film could do it, so they invented a new, purely fictional kick involving a flamingo pose into a front kick.
    • In Real Life, there is no move for which there is no defense when it is performed well. This is apparently acknowledged in Karate Kid 2, where the crane kick is defended.
  • Artistic License Sports:
    • Snake's fouls on Danny in the final showdown were so blatant and close together, even the most lenient ref would've disqualified him halfway through the match.
    • The "crane kick" might be illegal in the type of martial arts sparring competition seen in the first film, due to being an uncontrolled strike to the face.
  • Ass Kicking Pose: The Crane Technique.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: After time, Daniel was able to point out the flaws in others techniques and able to improve upon them.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mr. Miyagi is calm and peaceful, but that doesn't mean he's lacking in fighting skill.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mr. Miyagi gets to do this at least Once per Movie. Daniel gets his own moment in Karate Kid 2, when he rescues the stranded village bellringer during the height of a typhoon.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Ali, Kumiko, and Jessica, respectively. Daniel obviously isn't picky when it comes to hair color.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Lampshaded in the director's commentary:
    "How come they're all blond?"note 
  • Breakout Villain: John Kreese appeared in only three scenes in the original film but was so memorably over-the-top that he was present in the next two sequels. Granted, his scene in Part II was initially filmed for the first movie.
  • Bully Brutality: Every one of the nasty karate students Daniel runs into (the Cobra Kai, Chozen) gives him sound beatings.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Used as a finishing move for each of the films, standing on one leg, using a child's drum, doing katas and the praying mantis jump kick.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Kreese's philosophy reads like this on paper; in actual effect, it's... rather different. He's effectively teaching the kids to be thugs.
    • Miyagi has never fought for points, only for his life. A bit strangely for a heroic character, he seems to have no compunction against using a Groin Attack in combat, or against teaching Daniel to do the same.
  • Cool Car: Miyagi has several.
  • Cool Old Guy: Take a guess...
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much every time Mr. Miyagi gets his hands dirty.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Most kids who bully Daniel quickly move to attempted murder once he tries to defend himself. Inverted in Part 3, where Barnes starts entirely too much shit throughout the movie, but gets off with nothing more than a loss by a single point.
  • Evil Wears Black: Well mean bullies wear black, but the Cobra Kai uniforms otherwise count.
  • Fight Magnet:
    • For a guy who doesn't want to fight, Mr. Miyagi beats up a lot of people.
    • Same goes for Daniel; the first two movie pretty much shows No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
  • Five-Bad Band: The five Cobra Kai who play major roles in the first movie and the beginning of the second. Kreese is the Big Bad, Johnny is The Dragon, Tommy is a smartass version of the Evil Genius, Dutch is The Brute, and Bobby, the non-conformist and least vicious in the group, is the Dark Chick.
  • For the Evulz:
    • It may not be why Terry first harasses Daniel, but it's certainly why he enjoys it.
    • The whole series features some of the most nonsensical villains you'll ever see. Good luck coming up with any motivation by the time you get to Dugan from Next.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: A ballroom filled with refined, upper-crust partygoers all stop dancing and put down their canapes just to laugh at Daniel-San after he bumps into a waiter and gets bolognese sauce all over his outfit. They're probably mocking the poor waiter too, but it doesn't come across as strongly.
  • Gang of Bullies: The Cobras.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Johnny rolling a joint in the bathroom.
    • The Tea Ceremony. When Yukie and Miyagi did that, Miyagi showed up next scene sweating and wearing a wife beater shirt. Since Kumiko and Daniel were doing the same ceremony, it's pretty obvious what she wanted with him....until hurricane cockblock showed up.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Mr. Miyagi, believe it or not. It was a five on one battle...that soon became a four on one.
    • Daniel delivers one to Chozen at the sock hop dance, using a technique Miyagi taught him.
  • Healing Hands: Mr. Miyagi knows a few Pressure Point techniques. Mr. Han in the reboot uses similar techniques.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.
  • Japanese Honorifics: Miyagi always appends -san to Daniel's name. A minor mistake, as -kun would be more appropriate to their relationship. It would also be more correctly applied to his family name, not his given name.
  • Kung-Fu Kid
  • Magical Asian: Mr. Miyagi.
  • Martial Pacifist: Mr. Miyagi hates fighting, but is VERY competent when the situation calls for it.
  • Martial Medic: Mr. Miyagi.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Johnny and his friends are too busy beating up Daniel to notice Miyagi jumping the fence, ready to jump them.
  • MST: The commentary for the DVD collection invokes this, with the writer, the director, and even Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita themselves snarking over the film.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mr. Miyagi only appears ignorant and senile.
  • Old Master: Miyagi teaches Karate.
  • The Only Way They Will Learn: Daniel's being made to perform menial tasks for Mr. Miyagi to build the strength and muscle memory necessary for effective blocks. For Julie, he sets up his teaching of the waltz as a typical karate instruction.
  • Parental Substitute: Miyagi and Daniel form a very close father/son dynamic throughout the films. So do Distaff Counterparts Yukie and Kumiko.
  • Quality Over Quantity: The novelization had Daniel complain to Mr. Miyagi before the tournament that he didn't know very many moves. Miyagi replied that he was better than the Cobra-Kais at the ones he did know.
  • Retired Badass: Mr. Miyagi, who'd earned medals in World War II, including the Medal of Honor.
    • Some Truth in Television and Fridge Brilliance there, given Miyagi is apparently a Japanese national. Those Japanese who signed up to fight with the US armed forces during World War II were put together in one unit. That unit earned more medals and Medals of Honor per head than any other in any branch of service.
    • Even more of both in a sad way, as Miyagi's pregnant wife was taken to a Japanese interment camp and died there in childbirth, as did the son she gave birth to. Miyagi's drunken re-reading of the telegram informing him of this leads to a small Heroic BSOD in the first movie.
  • Running Gag: Reminding people that it's pronounced Mi-ya-gi, not Mi-ya-ji.
  • Serial Escalation: The first film had Daniel dealing with a gang of bullies who at worst would rough him up repeatedly. His big showdown with them takes place at a tournament with rules, regulations, and time outs if things get too rough. The sequel has Daniel in a real fight at the end, with the very real possibility that he could lose his life.
  • Taught by Experience: Miyagi was formally trained by his father, but had little knowledge on how tournaments work. He didn't even know much about the belt system.
    Daniel: I thought you said you've been in plenty of fights?
    Miyagi: Hai, for life, not for points.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Daniel.
  • Training Montage: "You're the Best (Around)" (not by Survivor, of "Eye of the Tiger" fame, but by Joe "Bean" Esposito) played during the tournament montage. Not exactly a training montage, but Daniel learned how good he had gotten from Miyagi's training. It makes sense, given that the first three movies were directed by John G. Avildsen, who also directed Rocky. Not to mention that, while performed by Esposito, the song is written by Bill Conti, who composed "Gonna Fly Now" for Rocky.
  • Thug Dojo: The Cobra Kai is probably the most famous example to Western audiences.
  • Trickster Mentor: Mr. Miyagi.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Trope Namer (also inverted in the fourth movie when Mr. Miyagi teaches Julie a new "kata": the waltz).
  • When You Snatch the Pebble: Subverted. Daniel can catch a fly with chopsticks on his first go, even Miyagi can't. Beginner's Luck.
  • The Worf Effect: Daniel suffers this in both the sequels.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Daniel's plea to Miyagi to perform the pressure point healing technique on his leg, letting his master know that he fully understands the meaning of balance.
  • You No Take Candle:
    • Mr. Miyagi's stereotyped broken English.
    • Possibly inverted by the fight announcer from the first film, who somehow got a job MCing a karate tournament without knowing how Japanese syllables are pronounced ("Me-yah-jee-doh Karate").


Alternative Title(s):

Karate Kid