How ‘Karate Kid’ Spawned the Hit Netflix Show, ‘Cobra Kai’

The journey from the classic 1984 film, The Karate Kid, to the Netflix series, Cobra Kai, is one of serious nostalgia. As an evolution of the original movie’s story, Cobra Kai has garnered a massive fan base and become a huge hit. This is the story of how the legacy of The Karate Kid , spawned the hit Netflix show, Cobra Kai.

The Karate Kid: A Cultural Phenomenon

The Karate Kid, directed by John Avildsen, was a hugely popular film that took the world by storm when it premiered in 1984. The movie followed the story of Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio), a young man from New Jersey who moves to California and finds himself targeted by a group of bullies led by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). With the help of his wise mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), Daniel learns the art of karate and eventually triumphs over his foes.

The film’s underdog story resonated with audiences and became an instant classic, inspiring three sequels: The Karate Kid Part II, The Karate Kid Part III, and The Next Karate Kid. The franchise even saw a 2010 reboot featuring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. The original movie’s popularity spawned a dedicated fan base that continues to celebrate the franchise today.

Cobra Kai: A Sequel for the Ages

Cobra Kai emerged as a direct sequel to the original Karate Kid trilogy, picking up the story more than 30 years after the events of the first film. The series, created by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald, first premiered on YouTube Red in May 2018 before transitioning to Netflix in July 2020. With a focus on the lives of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, Cobra Kai focuses on their continued rivalry and Johnny’s redemption story.

The shows’ creators worked diligently to bring the Karate Kid universe to life on the small screen. The series has not only rekindled the interest of long-time fans but also attracted a new generation of viewers, making it a rare, but highly successful sequel.

An Impressive Ensemble Cast

The first Cobra Kai season features the return of Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, reprising their original roles from the very first film. These characters have grown and evolved over the years, with the now successful Daniel LaRusso owning a car dealership in Southern California. While Daniel is a family man, Johnny struggles with drinking and finding his way in life.

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In addition to Macchio and Zabka, Cobra Kai boasts a new generation of underdogs that includes Xolo Maridueña as Miguel Diaz, Johnny’s star pupil at the resurrected Cobra Kai dojo; Tanner Buchanan as Robby Keene, Johnny’s estranged son who eventually becomes Daniel’s student at the Miyagi-Do dojo; and Mary Mouser as Samantha LaRusso, Daniel’s daughter who also embarks on her own martial arts journey. Peyton List also joins the cast as Tory Nichols, Samantha’s rival, and Jacob Bertrand as Hawk. Gianni Decenzo plays Demetri, the loyal and nerdy friend of the Miyagi-Do crew.

The series also features Courtney Henggeler as Amanda LaRusso, Daniel’s loving wife and business partner; Martin Kove as John Kreese, the ruthless and manipulative sensei of the new Cobra Kai dojo; and Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver, Kreese’s scheming and manipulative friend.

Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2021

Several actors from the original Karate Kid films have made appearances throughout the series, adding to the nostalgia. These include Randee Heller as Lucille LaRusso, Daniel’s mother; Tamlyn Tomita as Kumiko, Daniel’s love interest in The Karate Kid Part II; Yuji Okumoto as Chozen, Daniel’s nemesis from the same film; and Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills, the former girlfriend of both Daniel and Johnny.

We also continue to watch the romance between Johnny Lawrence and Carmen Diaz, played by Vanessa Rubio, unfold. And while, Cobra Kai never dies, Eagle Fang is Johnny’s way out of the evil that has taken over the Cobra-Kai dojo.

A Dedication to Authenticity

The creators of Cobra Kai have gone to great lengths to ensure the series remains true to the spirit of the original Karate Kid movies. One example is the inclusion of archival footage and references to key moments from the films. The series also features familiar locations, such as the Cobra Kai dojo and Mr. Miyagi’s home. Cobra Kai is mostly filmed on location in Atlanta, GA. with some exterior shots, filmed in Los Angeles, CA.

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Cast members went through extensive training to master the martial arts, resulting in realistic and exciting fight scenes. The show’s dedication to honoring the source material has played a significant role in its success, appealing to both die-hard fans and newcomers to the Karate Kid miyagiverse.

Awards and Accolades

Cobra Kai has received widespread critical acclaim, earning numerous awards and nominations for its storytelling, performances, and technical aspects. Among the accolades, the series has been recognized for its outstanding fight choreography, thanks in large part to the efforts of the show’s stunt coordinator, Hiro Koda. In 2021, Cobra Kai was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie.

Other notable awards and nominations for Cobra Kai

  • A nomination for Best Fight at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards for the climactic school brawl scene in the Season 2 finale.
  • A nomination for Best Stunt Work at the 2020 Hollywood Critics Association (HCA) TV Awards.
  • A nomination for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series at the 27th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards in 2021.

Cobra Kai has not only revitalized the Karate Kid franchise but has also cemented its place as a fixture in popular culture. It currently holds a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. In the meantime, as the conclusion of Cobra Kai unfolds and the sixth season approaches, fans eagerly await the trailer and release date. The Sag-Aftra strike has delayed it’s release, but we can all take solace in the fact that the world of the Karate Kid continues on. Here’s to hoping the final season is the biggest season of Cobra Kai yet.