Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Cobra Kai Daniel La Russo

Go To
"Balance is my thing!"
Played by: Ralph Macchio

"When I was a kid, you... seemed to always have all the answers. And I guess I thought when I got older, I had it all figured out too. But now, I guess... like I'm clueless."

34 years after his victory against Johnny Lawrence, Daniel's (professional!) life couldn't be better, but the return of his hated rival and the dojo that made him threaten to upset Daniel's balanced life.

    open/close all folders 

  • The Ace: There's a reason Daniel is considered THE Karate Kid, which shows up in Season 3. After witnessing the disarming technique only once, which Chozen inflicted on him, and presumably a bit of practice in between. Daniel is able to perfectly execute the move on Kreese which leaves him without the use of his arms and at Daniel's complete mercy.
  • Amicable Exes: Season 3 sees Daniel reconnect with two of his past flings: Kumiko and Ali. Both actually help Daniel get his life back on track; Kumiko helps him reconnect with Mr. Miyagi on a spiritual level, reconcile with Chozen, and save his business, and Ali helps him truly move on from their past relationship and to see that he and Johnny were Not So Different.
  • Anti-Mentor: Downplayed. While he succeeds in passing down Mr. Miyagi's fighting skills to his students and the lesson to prioritize inner peace and self-control over martial abilities, his inability to view Cobra Kai as anything but a Villain by Default Thug Dojo is also passed on to them which ultimately cumulates into an all-out battle royale between the two schools with disastrous results, especially for Miguel.
  • Arch-Enemy: He sees the Cobra Kai dojo as this, both past and present.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Played up in his TV commercials.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: While it was largely unintentional, by the end of season 2 his efforts to keep Cobra Kai in check have made him exactly like Kreese: a man who has weaponized the teenagers he teaches because of his own personal grudge against the other dojo.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • In season 1, Daniel is a delight to work for, and Robby — who only began working for Daniel to spite Johnny, and had planned to quit afterwards — ends up becoming Daniel's willing protege.
    • In season 2, this trope falters, as Daniel becomes consumed in his feud with Cobra Kai, to the point that Amanda and Anoush are forced to pick up his slack at the dealership. The burden of this ultimately causes Anoush to defect to Daniel's rival Tom Cole.
    • Reinforced in season 3 when Anoush jumps ship back to LaRusso Autos despite Daniel’s financial troubles, just because of his attitude as an employee.
  • Berserk Button: If you damage or steal anything that was handed down to him by Miyagi (such as his prized car and Medal of Honor, respectively), all bets are off. As of season 3, also add in attacking any of his family.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Barring his grudge with Cobra Kai, Daniel is a genuinely nice, level headed man who tries to avoid violence. But threaten his family and he just might kill you. Kreese only surivived thanks to Samantha and Miguel showing up.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Daniel leaps in to save Robby from his former friends, literally, with a stance and moves which invoke Mr Miyagi. In season 3 he jumps in to save Johnny from Kreese as he’s actually aiming to kill his former student.
  • Black and White Insanity: Daniel refuses to view Cobra Kai as anything but a Villainous by Default Thug Dojo and frequently assumes the worst about Johnny and the students' motives even when it's clear Johnny genuinely wants to make his version of the dojo better than Kreese's and the students, one of whom is a family friend he's known for over a decade, are all bullied outcasts who just want to learn to defend themselves. He winds up passing this view down to his students and it leads to tragedy in season 2.
  • Broken Ace: He remains one of the best karate masters, his business is doing fine and he has a loving if spoiled family. He almost loses it all by being unable to let go of his grudge toward Johnny and Cobra Kai.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • After Daniel disturbs Sam and Kyler's alone time in an empty classroom during the Halloween party, he tries to warn his daughter that Kyler is bad news. Sam shoots her father down for not keeping to his promise of not humiliating her, and furiously storms off. Yet Sam later learns for herself what a jerkass Kyler is.
    • Daniel's vendetta against Cobra Kai largely falls on deaf's ears because most people assume Daniel simply can't let the past of his getting bullied by Cobra Kai students go.
    • Daniel is horrified when he learns that Johnny brought Kreese back as his assistant sensei at Cobra Kai and ask Johnny directly how he can even considered it after Kreese brutalized him back when they were teenagers. Because of his past issues with Daniel though Johnny blows him off.
    • Amanda ignores Daniel's claims about Kreese because she's seen that Johnny is a fairly level-headed adult and knows Daniel has exaggerated his stories about most things related to Cobra Kai. It's only in Season 3 that she realizes that in this case, her husband wasn't exaggerating how horrible the man is.
  • The Comically Serious: A passionate car salesman and a dedicated sensei of Miyagi-Do, Daniel also has a hilariously dorky side like being so down with Game of Thrones that he manages to make quick arguments with Demetri's Game of Thrones anologies.
  • Condescending Compassion: His advertisement to attract students away from Cobra Kai, which outright labels the students who study there "snake[s] in the grass", winds ups insulting most of the kids rather than inspiring them. Thus they begin to resent him just like Johnny does.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: While it's strongly downplayed (as Daniel is the overall hero of the franchise), he's shown as not being above making (or pretending to make) deals that have negative effects not just on Johnny but on the other tenants of his strip mall. This is more of a moment of weakness than a defining character trait and his wife calls him out on it. note 
    • Although he is able to successfully save his business in Season 3, he did so by way of an obvious Conflict of Interest.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In season 2, he takes down Trey and Cruz, along with their big buddy, in less than a minute.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cobra Kai clarifies that Daniel's unnamed dad died from an illness when Daniel was young. Unlike the other examples of the trope in this series, he seems to have been a good parent. Lucille speaks very lovingly of him and never remarried.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Although Daniel initially finds balance at the beginning of Season 2, he loses it after his dojo is trashed. At that point, his obsession with beating Johnny and destroying Cobra Kai for good leads to him making several moves that pour gasoline on the fire and turn an old bitter high school rivalry into an outright war between the current generation that ends with his own daughter being maimed, her ex-boyfriend comatose and his own star pupil disgracing himself and running away from the law.
    • Additionally, Daniel never grasped the Miyagi-do karate tenet of "always try to solve your problems non-violently and only resort to karate if your well-being is threatened and there is absolutely no other choice". Thus, he completely fails to teach this to his students and it results in his students contributing to the rising tensions (they won't throw the first punch, but they'll gladly goad the Cobras into doing so) and several students being injured in the season two finale.
    • Because of his own baggage from his youth with Cobra Kai, Daniel continually reinforces the idea into his students' heads that Cobra Kai is Villainous by Default. This mixed with several of his students' individual antagonistic interactions with Cobra Kai members helps to fuel the brawl.
    • His psyhological need to be Mr. Miyagi. His desperate desire to honor his mentor has him constantly trying to emulate him in his approach to teaching his students, but because he views Cobra Kai as Villainous by Default, he thinks by default everything he teaches in opposition to Cobra Kai is right.
    • His impulsiveness, his fallout with Johnny and Robby in the first two seasons were after he let his anger get to him in the heat the moment. While he later realizes he overreacted, it usually takes someone else for him to realize it. Throughout season 2, he ditches his auto dealer when he makes any semblance of progress with his dojo which nearly ruins his business. In season 3, it's revealed his relationship with Ali was ruined when he immediately assumed the worse of a harmless situation.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Daniel is notably enamored with Japanese culture, giving away a free bonsai tree with every new vehicle purchase at his business and meticulously crafting sashimi for special occasions. This is justified in that his mentor and father figure, Mr. Miyagi, was a transplant from Okinawa and taught Daniel everything he knew. This gets lampshaded when Daniel finds out that he's being criticized online for supposedly appropriating Japanese Culture.

  • Glory Days: Downplayed in that Daniel is pretty satisfied with his life now due to his successful business and loving family. However, he still clings on to his status as a two-time All Valley Karate Champion and incorporates it into his business image even though he achieved the feat 34 years ago. It's particularly notable when one remembers Mr. Miyagi saw the tournament as a means to an end and in The Karate Kid Part II scoffed at the idea of Daniel-san being any kind of competitive fighter.
  • Graceful Loser: He congratulates Johnny on winning Cobra Kai the All Valley Tournament, and parts ways with no feelings of animosity (though it can be interpreted as sarcasm).
  • Happily Married: Daniel and Amanda may occasionally have a few domestic disputes, especially in regards to Daniel's beef with Cobra Kai, but their relationship is stable and they are both clearly happy with one another.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Played with in season 1 and 2. As soon as he hears that Johnny reopened Cobra Kai, he becomes so obsessed with willing to take down Cobra Kai by doing such things as banning Cobra Kai from the All-Valley Championship Tournament, raising up Johnny's rent so that cannot continue Cobra Kai, and invading Johnny's house in search for his daughter. He does eventually stop himself from doing worse actions which is the reason why he went to Okinawa in season 3.
  • Heartbroken Badass: After the brawl injures students from both dojos and Daniel is forced to give up teaching karate, he can only apologize to his mentor's portrait in despair of what he inadvertently caused.
  • Heroic BSoD: At the end of Season 2, after his rivalry with Johnny leads to a school-wide brawl that hospitalizes Miguel and Sam, with the former potentially crippled or dying and the latter maimed, all he can do in the elevator is share a quiet BSOD with Johnny.
  • Heroic Neutral: In season 2, Daniel tries to be this initially when he says that the Cobra Kai kids are not the problem, just the teacher, and he attempts to avoid confrontation. Sadly, this attitude is undermined when the Cobra Kai kids trash his dojo and 'steal Miyagi's medal of honour!' He goes on the warpath before trying to return to this stance again.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Subtle and not necessarily a conscious goal, but Daniel does legitimately believe Miyagi-do is the "good side" opposing Cobra Kai's corrupting influence (Johnny good intentions notwithstanding). He’s not entirely wrong though, seeing how Cobra Kai turns out.
  • Hidden Depths: Season 2 reveals he's a Game of Thrones fan, which helps him encourage Demetri, who is also an avid viewer, through references to the show to believe in himself and not give up on the training.
  • Hotblooded: Daniel's been known to be a very hotheaded individual but his hardheadedness and passionate nature can be used as a strength when it comes to achieving his goals.
  • Hypocrite:
    • His constant blanket dismissals of the teens who join Cobra Kai as bullies and punks comes across as this given that he himself was once seduced by their philosophy (as he admits to his students in season 2). After this admission, he tries to overcome this attitude by teaching his students otherwise. It doesn't work.
    • Despite his repeated insistence that Karate should just be a discipline and not something you seek for glory & validation, Daniel gets increasingly agitated over the fact that the Cobra Kai school is more popular and easily recruits more members (though at least part of this is due to his not-unjustified fear that the dojo is turning good kids into ruthless bullies).
    • He calls out Johnny for beating up Kyler and his friends when they attacked Miguel saying that an adult shouldn't be fighting teenagers. Nevermind that Mr. Miyagi saved Daniel under similar circumstances years ago from Johnny and Cobra Kai and Daniel didn't have an issue with it then, though he wasn’t aware of the circumstances.
  • Hypocritical Humor: He takes Robby out to the woods to get him away from the internet and all the noise and distractions of the city. Once he's given Robby his training regimen, he takes out a tablet so he can watch Hockey.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Played with and ultimately played straight. Despite showing genuine flashes of inspired teaching as a Sensei when he starts to embrace his own style, his failure to avoid antagonizing Cobra Kai and teach his students how to resolve their problems nonviolently only escalates the conflict. The aftermath of the school brawl in the finale of the second season drives Daniel to give up teaching karate at Miyagi-Do, while also at the same time apologizing to a portrait of Miyagi for failing to uphold his philosophy.
    Daniel: I tried my best. I thought I was doing the right thing. I'm sorry.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • While his methods of trying to take down Cobra Kai border on being a Corrupt Corporate Executive (and end up screwing over innocent strip mall tenants), his concerns about the danger of teaching the Cobra Kai philosophy to teenagers are ultimately proven correct, especially as these particular teenagers are bullied outcasts who've taken on a method of self-defense that didn't factor in the restraint necessary to keep them from using it for revenge. By the end of season 2, the Cobra Kai defectors, Miguel, and even Johnny himself seem to agree with Daniel's point of view and by the end of season 3 Johnny teams up with him so they can get rid of the dojo for good.
    • And his argument against resurrecting Cobra Kai? He wasn't wrong about asking why Johnny would want to revive a dojo that had too many bad memories to countnote . Rather than denying him a right to his business, Daniel was specifically concerned about the Pandora's box the move would trigger.
    • While Daniel will begrudgingly concede that Johnny is trying to be a better person, he completely changes his stance the moment he learns that Johnny welcomed Kreese back to assist him in teaching his students. While from Johnny's point of view, he's trying to give his teacher a second shot, literally everyone, from Daniel to Miguel to even Johnny's old Cobra Kai buddies, tries to tell him it's a terrible idea. Eventually, Johnny finally realizes that Kreese hasn't changed at all and cuts ties with him, but not before Kreese swipes Johnny's Dojo.
  • Jerkass Realization: In season three he finally realizes that he misjudged Miguel and most of Johnny's students and that Johnny's actions throughout the series were never as big a problem as he thought they were.
  • Kid Hero All Grown Up: The Karate Kid himself is now an adult, dealing with problems like being a father, running a business and mentoring a new generation of karate students just as Mr. Miyagi once did for him.
  • Made Out to Be a Jerkass:
    • When Johnny explains his side of the story concerning his very first encounter with Daniel to Miguel, Johnny insinuates that Daniel was the asshole for sticking his nose where it doesn't belong (i.e. interfering with Johnny and Ali's conversation).
    • Daniel appeals to the school in a PTA meeting that he was bullied during his time as a student in West Valley High and that karate saved him, but an infuriated parent calls bullshit and accuses him of being the real bully.
      Daniel: Wait. You don't need to turn this into some kind of karate Footloose! Karate is not the problem! When I went to school here, I was bullied, and karate saved me.
      Infuriated parent: Bullshit! I heard you were the real bully!
  • Manly Man and Sensitive Guy: While both are skilled karate masters, Johnny is the manly man to Daniel's sensitive guy.
  • Martial Pacifist: If his training of Robby is anything to go by, he's inherited, retained, and upheld many of Miyagi's philosophies and tactics (though, as vividly indicated in the second-season finale, definitely not all of them). It is perhaps noteworthy that Daniel is the only martial artist in the first season who never hits another person (boba tea notwithstanding)... and even in the second season when the dojo war is in full swing, he only throws a punch when Robby is about to be stabbed by Cruz and when he thinks that Johnny is holding Sam captive at his apartment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Shares one with Johnny at the end of Season 2 as a result of the school brawl.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Daniel is wonderful to his staff, apologizes for his mistaken overreaction to a mistake made by Robby who was tricked by Daniel's cousin and even initially welcomes Johnny, who made his life hell and repairs his car for free. He finds it difficult to be as kind to Cobra Kai, but this is the exception, not the rule.
    • Daniel's status as a Nice Guy is Deconstructed throughout the series, as while he is a genuinely friendly person who always tries to do the right thing, he does so based on what he considers the right thing, and often makes things worse for everyone by not thinking clearly about the consequences of his actions.
  • Not So Above It All: He's pretty much the Straight Man of the show, he also has a dorky side and can be just as petty, immature and stubborn as Johnny is.
  • Not So Different: A running theme of the show is that Daniel and Johnny are more alike than either are willing to admit. This comes full circle by the third season when it gets revealed that Daniel's relationship with Ali crashed and burned for the exact same reason Johnny's did.
    • Daniel finds that Miguel is basically Daniel in his youth: living in Reseda with his single mother and no father, bullied by jerkasses, turning to Karate as a means of self-defense, and using those skills against those who tormented him. Winning the All-Valley Karate Tournament is the cherry on top. These revelations allow Daniel to see Miguel in a better light than initially.

  • Oh, Crap!: His reaction when he learns that Johnny has resurrected Cobra Kai. Bonus points for "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" playing.
  • One True Love: To Kumiko, as she never married despite mentioning to have had many pursuers since she and Daniel had separated decades before.
  • Only Sane Man: While Daniel's far from perfect as he's just as stubborn and hotheaded as Johnny is, he's still the most lawful and rational of all the masters and is the only one to believe that karate should only be used so people can defend themselves and others and to show mercy to their enemies.
  • Papa Wolf: Danny is fiercely protective of his daughter Sam, especially in the season 2 finale, when he realized that she was drunk and spent the night at Johnny's apartment and is ready to fight Kreese when he found out that he sent his students to break into his house and came after Sam.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Like his wife, Danny selectively ignores the fact that Sam's taste in friends and boys is not that great. Once he starts paying more attention to his family life after Cobra Kai comes back, they start reconnecting and Sam starts paying more attention to the people she's surrounded herself with as well.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: A well-trained karate master and like Demetri, he's fond of making pop-culture references like Friends, Seinfeld, Game of Thrones and Scarface (1983).
  • Rage Breaking Point: In the season 3 finale, Daniel has finally had enough of Kreese’s bullshit and beats the crap out of him for all he’s done.
    Daniel: [after kicking Kreese off of Johnny] YOU SENT THEM TO MY HOUSE!!!! You came after my daughter! You wanted a fight, you son of a bitch!? Well NOW YOU GOT ONE!!!
  • Rags to Riches: In 34 years, Daniel has gone from growing up in a working class household to a wealthy entrepreneur.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Johnny's headstrong and reckless Red Oni and Daniel's level-headed and rational Blue Oni.
  • Relative Button: Though uninvolved with Miyagi's passing, Kreese loves to taunt Daniel about the late Miyagi every opportunity he gets. During their climactic fight at the end of Season 3, Kreese tells Daniel he'll be joining Miyagi soon as he attempts to stab him with a shard of broken glass, triggering Daniel's Heroic Second Wind and seeing him subduing his opponent with the secret Miyagi pressure points taught to him by Chozen.
    Kreese: Time for you and Miyagi to reunite!
  • Reluctant Warrior: Daniel avoids fighting whenever possible, and appears most content when he is simply practicing Kata to find balance. This is further emphasized when he says that he won't attract students by using Robby's video showing off his Curb-Stomp Battle against the thugs.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Daniel's vendetta against Cobra Kai is fueled by his belief that their philosophies inherently makes them a Gang of Bullies. While Daniel's Black and White views on this doesn't help to quell the growing hostility between the kids over the course of the seasons, he is right that the influence that Johnny (unintentionally) and Kreese (very intentionally) instills their students turn them into violent thugs.
  • Self-Made Man: He went from being a poor kid from Reseda to being the owner of 5 luxury car dealerships all over the valley.
  • Skewed Priorities: Deconstructed. Daniel's fixation on training Miyagi-Do all in the name of stopping Cobra Kai backfires hard, as it concludes in not only Anoush ditching the LaRusso Auto Group for a rival dealership, but also an all-out school brawl between the two dojos in the Season 2 finale, which ends in disaster for both sides, including his daughter being hospitalized and his marriage strained.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Johnny's a scruffy, boorish and lazy Slob and Daniel's an affluent, cultured, diligent Snob.
  • So Proud of You: While Robby ended up in second place in the All Valley Tournament, Daniel is no less proud of him, and goes on to add that Robby is the real winner as his opponent fought unfairly.
  • Straight Man: Of the show, he's more reasonable when interacting with impulsive and immature Johnny and very patient when relating to whiny and neurotic Demetri.
  • Tautological Templar: Because of his view of Cobra Kai, Daniel believes everything he teaches in Miyagi-do is the "better way".
  • Took a Level in Badass: Daniel goes from a kid who can barely defeat his villain of the week, let alone multiple opponents. Now fully trained, Daniel is capable of taking on multiple opponents at once and emerging without a scratch. In addition, he is now capable of taking down Kreese at the end of Season 3.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Ordinarily, Daniel is as much of Nice Guy as he was in the original movies, but whenever the Cobra Kai Dojo is involved, he goes into full Jerkass mode and does things his wife has to call him out on. He gets better about this towards the end of the first season as he re-dedicates himself to the Miyagi-Do Karate method and takes in a wayward teenager to train. Although he still remains petty, bitter and condescending towards Johnny and the Cobra Kai, his time with Johnny's son seems to help him understand them more. It's just that what they're doing is less wrong than how they're going about it.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sushi. He serves it to Kyler to try and make a good impression, and he serves it in Season 2 to try and get back on Amanda's good side.
  • Trauma Button:
    • When Daniel first sees the reconstructed Cobra Kai dojo, Daniel has a Heroic BSoD, remembering every beatdown and assault he ever endured from the students of that ruthless discipline.
    • Seeing Miguel in a skeleton costume disturbs Daniel, as he recalls the moment when he was beaten into unconsciousness by Johnny's lot during the '84 Halloween party.
  • Trickster Mentor: Just like his own mentor, Mr. Miyagi, Daniel likes taking the roundabout way to get to a point. He's not quite as good at it as Mr. Miyagi was, but he helps provide a support system to a floundering Robby and finds peace himself doing so.
    Robby: This is bullshit! [storms off]
    Amanda: I think you're enjoying this a little too much.
    Daniel: God, I love this part!
  • Underestimating Badassery: One gets the impression throughout the series that people believe Daniel is an old champ relying on past victories, or even doubt he has any karate skills at all. This is somewhat understandable, but let’s recount for fun:
    • Tom Cole mocks him ("I'm not really a Revolutionary soldier, you're not really a karate guy") right up to the moment he kicks his drink from his hand.
    • Trey and Cruz mock him as an old man before he kicks their asses.
    • Kreese seems completely dismissive of him, despite the fact that Daniel inadvertently, with Miyagi, destroyed his dojo 30 years ago (this is less straight though). Plus, despite Kreese's confidence that their fight, and presumably Daniel's defeat, is inevitable Daniel renders him helpless at the end of their duel.
    • Finally, even Johnny is dismissive of him. He is eager for a fight and is confident he would kick Daniel’s ass in the first season when he confronts him at his house. In the second series he has no problem taking on Daniel but during the course of their brief duel, Daniel lands a kick and punch in quick succession. In contrast, Johnny gets an initial kick as Daniel tries to move past him, and a final kick once Daniel turns around to find his daughter.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Season 3 reveals that his account of his breakup with Ali to Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid Part II wasn't accurate. Ali explains to Amanda and Johnny that the "football player at UCLA" she supposedly dumped Daniel for was actually an old family friend she was chatting with. Daniel had assumed the worst and overreacted. Although Ali does end up conceded that she may have overexaggerated her relationship with her friend out of spite. Meanwhile, Ali wasn't the one who damaged Daniel's car. Daniel actually crashed it after ignoring her warnings that the brakes were faulty and he lied to Mr. Miyagi to save face.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: His repeated jabs at Cobra Kai in his Miyagi-do commercial infuriate not only Johnny, but also all the students and causes them to brand him and the dojo an enemy. It eventually culminates in an all-out school brawl between the two dojos that leaves several of the teens with serious injuries.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Played With, as it is repeatedly shown that he and Johnny would be great friends if they could just let bygones be bygones and put their rivalry to bed, but both are too stubborn to do so. Then played straight in season 3, where they finally bury the hatchet (with a little help from Ali) and team up to take down Kreese once and for all.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Since this is how he was trained by Miyagi, it can't have been a surprise that he'd train Robby this way. Season 2 actually deconstructs this when he tries this on a dojo-level; his students assume he's using them for free labor and jump ship for the Rule of Cool-compliant Cobra Kai. The Trope Namer lives on.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He gets quite a few of these after some of his bigger Jerkass moments. Especially from his wife, Amanda.
  • X Must Not Win: This is his attitude with the revived Cobra Kai. It's made increasingly clear that this stems from his own experiences with them just as much as, if not more, than the outcomes of the dojo's philosophy.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: