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Fridge / The Karate Kid

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The Original Films

Fridge Brilliance


  • In traditional Okinawan karate, only family members were taught - it was literally passed from father to son. So Mr. Miyagi sees Daniel-san and Julie as the son and daughter he might have had, and his father saw Sato as a second son to him. In turn, Daniel taught this karate down to his daughter.
  • The crane kick from the first movie is presented as a nigh-unblockable move, when done correctly, that Daniel uses to win the tournament. (It is actually not particularly difficult to avoid or block. In fact, as any martial artists can testify, it is a rather silly move, given that the kicker's stance is inherently unstable. It is also pretty obvious what kick – a jumping front kick – is going to follow.) In the fight with Chozen in part 2, he tries the move again, only to have Chozen block it easily. Miyagi mentions to Daniel that his own father taught him the crane, and the man was also Sato's teacher. It is very reasonable to assume that Miyagi's father taught Sato the move as well, and Sato passed the move - and how to block it - to his nephew.
  • The various karate stances say a lot about the characters:
    • Miyagi's preferred stance is a variation of the basic Sanchin Dachi, with the hands held low and open. It's a very defensive and non-aggressive stance... But in karate the open hand can be used to spear the opponent in the throat and other vital target. Basically, he's telling his opponents to not force him to destroy them.
    • Kreese uses a sideways stance with his fists held high - it's a very aggressive stance, good to charge at his opponent and punch them, fitting his aggressive style.
    • Terry Silver's stance is basically Bruce Lee's classic stance with closed fists, fitting his "cool" image. But being not an awesome and wise martial arts master but a Corrupt Corporate Executive who also practices karate, he utterly fails to use it appropriately as the counterattack stance it actually is.
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    • In the first movie, Daniel uses a midway stance with his left hand held forward and the right fist at the ready. It's a more aggressive stance than Miyagi but still mostly for lateral movement - he's more angry and aggressive than Miyagi, but is learning that karate is for defense only.
      • By Part III, he's turned more frontal, with the forward fist held low. It's a more advanced and defensive stance, reflecting his progress in technique and, once he got away from Silver's influence, mind.
    • Johnny's stance is closer to Kreese, but with his fists held lower like Daniel. He's close to his master, but not as aggressive.
    • Chozen's stance is sideways, with fists low but close to the body. Very aggressive but basic, as expected by someone trained by Miyagi's training companion but far more psychotic than Daniel.
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    • Mike Barnes' stance is completely sideways, with the left fist held forward and the right one behind. His stance is even more aggressive than Kreese', just as he is quite more psychotic than he is.
    • This can be extended even to the remake: After fending off Cheng and his goons the first time while defending Dre, Mr. Han assumes a frontal horse stance while keeping his hands in an x-block, sending the very clear message of "I could have destroyed you but will only defend this kid and myself". They don't listen until they've hit each other multiple times in the vain attempt to hit him, but they can't claim they hadn't been warned.
  • Miyagi-do is a rather unorthodox style, with no use of belt rankings, being only taught to family or very close people with use of the classic Wax On, Wax Off method, and almost no use of competition and an emphasis on "Karate is for defense only" while maintaining moves capable of crippling or killing an opponent. This is actually explained when Miyagi says his ancestor learned martial arts in China: technically speaking Miyagi-do isn't Karate but a style of Tode, the Kung Fu-derived Okinawan martial arts developed and practiced in secret when the Ryukyuan government first and the Japanese occupiers later banned martial arts (the use of chores for training being a way to teach the moves without being spotted by a passing guard or informant) that eventually transitioned into modern Karate after the ban was lifted. Miyagi-do never made the transition, so they didn't adopt belt rankings, maintained the traditional use of chores for training, and never switched the focus from defense against a potentially armed and murderous aggressor to sport.
    • Miyagi-do has one aspect of modern Karate, namely the use of kata in training after the student has learned the basics. The reason is actually hinted at in the second movie by Sato and Chozen's connection to Gōjū-ryū (the students of Sato's dojo wearing their patch): Gōjū-ryū is derived from Miyagi-do. While out-of universe Miyagi-do is based on Gōjū-ryū and he's even named after their founder, in the film universe Chōjun Miyagi was apparently a member of that Miyagi family, and while he made the transition to modern Karate he also taught kata to his family, that included that part in their teachings while Chōjun allowed Miyagi-do practitioners to enter his school at will.

Part I

  • Why does Daniel choose the Crane Stance and kick in the final round? As has already been noted, the move is obvious and nigh-impossible to execute. Simple: Due to the "Sweep the leg" move, Daniel's left foot can no longer support his weight, but rather than throw in the towel, he gambles everything on a desperation move, the one move he actually has a chance of performing. And it works.
  • It seems highly unlikely Daniel, even with a couple of months of training with Mr. Miyagi, would have been able to beat the Cobra Kai dojo. However, there's multiple factors at work. 1. Daniel is working (however unknowingly) on perfecting his technique through disciplined repeated repetition. 2. Kreese is teaching his students raw brutality over discipline. 3. Kreese disqualified his second best guy in order to cheat. 4. Lawrence is clearly freaked out and upset about how the fight is going in the final round. Daniel's victory is as much about Miyagi being a better teacher and Kreese being a self-destructive fraud as it is about being better than his opponents.
    • Plus, the Cobra Kai dojo isn't a neighborhood institution. It's very possible they've only got several months ahead of Daniel themselves. It's not like they've been training since childhood under Kreese. Furthermore, Cobra Kai establishes that Johnny joined the dojo in 1979, while some of Tommy's lines in "Take a Right" indicate that he joined some time after Johnny, so it's still possible that some of Johnny's gang may not have too much of an advantage, time-wise, over Daniel-san.
    • There's also everyone's levels of exhaustion to consider. Everyone was fighting through all the prior qualifying rounds, meaning everyone was tired by the time the semifinals and final rolled around — but Daniel had been doing almost nothing but training all day, every day with Mr. Miyagi. Wax On, Wax Off wasn't just about building muscle memory, but building Daniel's conditioning and physical strength and endurance. The Cobras are probably only having two or three classes a week, and spending the rest of their time doing typical teen things. Daniel had spent as much endurance as Johnny come the final fight... but thanks to Mr. Miyagi's approach to training, Daniel had a much bigger endurance pool.
      • This actually connects to why the Cobra Kais and Daniel dominated the tournament: in most "traditional" karate schools the training tends to neglect physical conditioning, but the third movie and Cobra Kai establish that Kreese, and Johnny after him, do in fact use physical conditioning, and, as pointed out here, traditional Okinawan Karate such as Miyagi-Do did the same, leading to Daniel and the Cobra Kai pupils simply being stronger, faster, and having more stamina than their opponents. And at least at first, it's quite possible that the Cobra Kai pupils were caught by surprise when Daniel proved himself their equal if not their better in terms of physical conditioning.
    • The tournament rounds also helped Daniel out since he had to fight Cobra Kai students in multiple matches, which consequently gave him experience in countering the Cobra Kai style. On the other hand, Johnny had only fought Mr. Miyagi in a one-sided fight that ended in Miyagi's victory, so he had to play catch-up in figuring out Daniel's techniques.
  • Why is Kreese so insistent that Bobby injure Daniel, in spite of Bobby's insistence that he could beat Daniel in a fair fight? Because he's trying specifically to get Johnny to come out on top. With Bobby out of the way, an injured Daniel has to go up against Johnny, seemingly sealing the latter's victory. While the twisted Like a Son to Me attitude that Kreese has towards Johnny in Cobra Kai wasn't on the writers' minds in 1984 note , Kreese's actions in the 1984 retroactively make a lot more sense in this light. Really, it'd be almost Heartwarming in Hindsight if it wasn't, well, Kreese.
    • Not only that, but Kreese is also punishing Bobby for not conforming to Kreese's Cobra Kai philosophy.
      • Bobby has shown himself repeatedly to be the least aggressive of Daniel's tormentors, often trying to get Johnny to back down when it's clear Daniel's in no condition to fight back. And right after getting disqualifying himself, Bobby is heard saying "I'm sorry Daniel, I didn't mean it!" repeatedly before he can leave the mat. And he's also shown this away from Daniel: notice how in the class that Daniel and Miyagi happened to see, Kreese had Bobby spar Robertson, a green belt. Bobby scores a point, hesitates, and Kreese looks at him and says, "what are you looking at? Finish him!" to get Bobby to finish Robertson off. This isn't a Cobra, "A true cobra feels no sympathy for its meals," as Kreese says to Hawk in Cobra Kai season 3 after expelling Bert for refusing to feed a mouse to a snake.
      • Early in the tournament, we see Bobby score a point against an opponent, and looks like he's going to punch him in the face before holding back. He then looks to Kreese, who stares him down and gives a stoic clenched fist of disapproval, as Bobby looks back smiling, trying to win Kreese's approval.
      • Throughout the tournament, Bobby has a smile of excitement on his face, while Johnny looks serious and intense. Kreese sees Johnny as his protege who has bought 100% into his Cobra Kai vision and what he wants from his students, much like he'll show with Tory Nichols, Kyler, and Johnny's son Robby Keene. In Bobby, he sees a threat similar to what he'll see Miguel Diaz as in the future: someone who has the talent to win (and Miguel wins his first All-Valley), but who won't carry on the Cobra Kai values, which could threaten the whole dynamic of what Kreese wants moving forward. By telling Bobby to disqualify himself by injuring Daniel, he kills two birds with one stone by not giving Bobby or Daniel the opportunity to affect Cobra Kai.
      • Bobby is confident that he could beat Daniel in a fair fight, protesting, "But sensei, I can beat this guy!" when Kreese tells him to put Daniel out of commission. Kreese believes that too, but he sees Bobby as the bigger threat to Johnny. Yes, Bobby came in second to Johnny in the previous year's tournament, but it's not too much of a stretch to think that Bobby improved greatly and that Kreese knew he was a legitimate threat to beat Johnny this time around. Johnny was emotionally distracted because of his breakup with Ali (and Ali was now going out with the boy Johnny was going to fight in the finals), while Bobby was confident, calm, cool, and collected.
  • In season 2 of Cobra Kai, when Johnny reunites with his old Cobra Kai gang, Tommy reveals to Johnny that he actually had feelings of his own for Ali back in high school as well. He was going to ask her out, but Johnny "struck first". In retrospect, it explains certain behaviors Tommy exhibits here.
    • When Johnny and the others first show up at the beach, it's Tommy who notices Ali flirting with Daniel and points her out to Johnny. Bobby and the others are like "she’s ancient history" and "I thought they were done", but Tommy’s the one who brings Johnny’s attention to it and then supports him as he goes down to start a fight with Daniel. At one point, Tommy holds Ali back to keep her from interfering as Johnny beats up Daniel.
    • Tommy’s also the one who later sees Daniel having lunch with his mother and calls Johnny’s attention to it.
    • When Daniel walks up to Johnny's gang to mock them for being unable to harm him until the tournament, Tommy is bristling with as much rage as Johnny is, yelling, "Must be 'Take a Worm for a Walk' Week!"
    • At the tournament, he's the one to shout to Johnny "Get him a body bag! YEAH!" Dutch and Jimmy seem ambivalent and Bobby hates the idea of intentionally sabotaging Daniel.
  • Daniel and Ali having an encounter with Johnny towards the end of their first date at Golf 'n Stuff takes on a different light after Johnny mentions in the first season of Cobra Kai that he took all his first dates here in high school, and thus encourages Miguel to take Sam there.

Part II

  • The reason Sato did a Heel–Face Turn. Sure, the practical reason was that Miyagi saved his life despite being all antagonistic towards him. However, Fridge Brilliance suggests that it goes deeper than that; he also reclaimed his lost honor by helping Miyagi and Daniel save Yuna. In other words, he honored a life debt that freed him from his decades-long disgrace.
  • In the second film, Miyagi doesn't want Daniel to come along, giving such reasons as the high cost. Then they reach Okinawa and the fight with Sato flares up again. Perhaps Miyagi's biggest reason was not wanting Daniel to get caught in the middle of it. Yet at the same time, Miyagi is deeply touched by Daniel's desire to come with and zest to learn about his mentor's home and culture. Miyagi knew seeing his dying father, lost love, and old friend-turned-nemesis again would be extremely painful, and was grateful to have his student, his surrogate son, by his side to help him through it. And Daniel wants to be there support his beloved mentor, friend, and father figure.
  • Sato doesn't directly attack Daniel because he has no quarrel with him. Chozen's actions against Daniel directly are his own doing and not on Sato's orders, and the reason Sato doesn't encourage or interfere is because he's honorable enough to leave the quarrel between Daniel and Chozen. The exception being when he was betting during the ice break challenge, only because Miyagi was betting too.
  • For years, it seemed that Sato has been trying to break the log that he and Miyagi found when they were young and has been unsuccessful in doing so. During the storm, he is pinned down by a board that is the same weight and size as the log and unable to move, yet Miyagi breaks it and frees him. You then remember the breathing technique Miyagi taught Daniel to help him focus and concentrate. Sato has not been able to break the log all this time because he has been so consumed by anger and rage over what happened that he cannot concentrate on anything else whilst Miyagi has let go of the past and that is what enabled him to free Sato.
    • There's also the fact Sato assumed Miyagi was a Dirty Coward for leaving instead of fighting him to the death. Seeing Miyagi break the log, it becomes clear Mister Miyagi just didn't want to kill his best friend. Seeing the proof Mister Miyagi is far superior at karate, he's left humbled as well as aware of just how close he came to death (or at least humiliation) all those years ago.
  • There's an assumption of a Translation Convention or just being convenient for the audience that everyone in Okinawa seems to be speak English so Daniel can talk to them. Except, the movie bothers to justify it. Tomi Village next to a US Air Force base (well, the reverse is true) and Chozen says, "It's good business to speak English." They've had about thirty years to learn English if it was constructed right after WW2.
  • The "drum" technique in Karate Kid 2 is just a roundhouse punch. The thing is, it actually is explained to be the "basis" of karate and this is a blindingly obvious truth if one realizes it. It is an incredibly simple but effective way of hurting someone badly. Also, the drum is a visual metaphor for what one has to do to throw them effectively. Which fits into Miyagi having many ways to teach fighting techniques.
    • Also, why does everyone in the village have one of the little drum tools? It seems a local tradition that would make sense at fights given it is apparently the village karate originated.
  • During the ice breaking challenge, when Daniel does his "breathing technique", almost everyone in the bar laughs at him. Except for Sato, who watches Daniel closely. Given that the breathing technique was taught to Miyagi by his father, Sato surely recognized it, since Miyagi's father was his sensei as well. Similarly, he is the next after Miyagi to take out the hand drum, implying he's also familiar with the drum technique.
    • This connects with Chozen's later appearance in Cobra Kai, where he reveals that there were things Miyagi didn't see necessary to teach Daniel... As this is something Sato didn't teach Chozen. Both Miyagi and Sato had different ideas of what was better to teach to their students and preserve for the future, and acted on it.
    • More Fridge Brilliance: The breathing exercise teaches patience and self-control. Perhaps if Sato had recognized its value and taught it to Chozen, both would be different characters.

Part III

  • In the tournament, Daniel uses a throw to defeat Mike Barnes, something Barnes didn't see coming. Traditional Okinawan Karate also includes throws, holds, and grappling, that are usually missing from Japanese styles and derivatives.
  • As noted on the YMMV for Part III, some found it difficult to believe that Daniel would be bullied with mere beatings again after fighting for his very life against Chozen in Part II. But it actually makes sense when one looks at what happens to Daniel's daughter Samantha during season 3 of Cobra Kai. In the school brawl at the end of season 2, Sam has a fight to the death with Tory Nichols (who assaulted her with the intention of killing or at least brutally disfiguring her), then spent the whole of the next season suffering panic attacks, and it really affected her negatively the next time she had a fight with Tory (when Tory led her gang to attack Sam in the LaRussos' house). Given that, it stands to reason that Daniel's reactions to Mike Barnes were because he was still processing the fact that Chozen had actually tried to kill him in the previous movie. While Daniel survived and defeated Chozen, he took a hell of a beating in the process that was worse than anything Johnny's crew from Cobra Kai had dealt him. That had to have been a long, restless plane ride back to the United States afterwards.
  • The ref in this movie gets a lot of flak for constantly being unwilling to disqualify Barnes. But given how, in Cobra Kai it's shown that one of Silver's favorite tactics is to bribe the referee, it would make a 'lot of sense if the ref here is also being bribed. Daniel's too hyped up on adrenaline and fear to notice, and Miyagi isn't familiar enough with tournament protocol to realize.

Fridge Logic

See The Karate Kid (Headscratchers).

Fridge Horror

  • The second film makes it quite clear that the fight between Chozen and Daniel is to the death. That would be one hell of an awkward conversation Miyagi would have to have with Daniel's mother had he lost and Miyagi had been unable to do anything...
  • Given how violently unstable Kreese is, he very possibly could have killed Johnny with that headlock, enraged at the latter's loss, before Miyagi intervenes. And that's before the fact that this one incident was what led to Johnny's life going downhill as strongly implied by Cobra Kai.

2010 film:

Fridge Brilliance

  • In the 2010 The Karate Kid remake, Cheng was particularly jealous of Dre and Mei Ying's relationship. Keep in mind of China's one-child policy and how there is a shortage of girls. Mei Ying might be the only girl that Cheng had a chance to marry.
  • In their first confrontation, Cheng gave Dre a black left eye. Dre's last blow the won the match landed over Cheng's left eye.
  • The scene where Dre falls asleep on Mr Han's lap and his following hesitation to put his hand on Dre's shoulder made a lot more sense when we find out about Mr Han's deceased son who would have been around the same age as Dre.
  • Dre asks Mei Ying to make a pinky swear. Notice that she looked offset when he holds out his pinky finger. It's because that's how you flip someone off in China.
    • This also gives Mei Ying's parents further reason to be pissed at Dre when he shows his pinky finger at the audition.
  • When Dre moves to China, he's maxing and relaxing all cool while shooting some B-ball outside of his school when a couple of guys who were up to no good, started causing trouble by giving him a black eye. Like father like son?

Fridge Horror

  • What would have happened if, instead of Mr. Han, Dre's mom had tried to intervene when the other kids were beating him up? They probably would have murdered them both.