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A dark-haired, Italian-American with a New Jersey accent doesn’t play well in California’s perma-tanned surfer dude community. He becomes easy pickings for the standard Hollywood karate-trained high-school bullies, not least because Daniel starts dating the ex-girlfriend of Johnny ‘the hardest kid in school’ Lawrence. Daniel is rescued by janitor Mr Miyagi and the teachings of the East are passed to Daniel-san, who pit their wits against sadistic bully John Kreese and the ‘we ain’t playin’ fair’ Cobra Kai dojo.
Therein starts a beautiful friendship which really is the heartbeat of the film. Director John G Avildsen gave the film a similarly intense fight scene at the end (as he did with Rocky eight years earlier) but the beauty is in the effortlessly delivered dialogue and the relationships between Daniel and Mr Miyagi and Daniel and Ali Mills, the stereotypical pretty blond with rich, snobby parents.
The second film is set in Japan where both Mr Miyagi and Daniel-san find love, but naturally it’s not as straightforward as that! Miyagi has to defeat his old nemesis and Daniel has to defeat the nephew.
The Karate Kid Part III is similar in format to Part II – it’s going well, then it isn’t, there’s a challenge which can’t be turned down and then the build-up to another climactic fight scene. Pretty standard stuff and there was an accusation that the quality of the subsequent films lacked both the impact and the quality of the first.
The strength of the Karate Kid franchise lies in the relationship between the wise old martial arts master and the young, cocky wannabe and it is reminiscent of Rocky in a way in that we very quickly buy into a hero who, against all odds, will triumph over adversity.
Some of our favourite The Karate Kid quotes…
Mr Miyagi: We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.
Daniel: Wouldn’t a fly swatter be easier?
Mr Miyagi: Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.
Daniel: Ever catch one?
Mr Miyagi: Not yet.
Mr Miyagi: Wax on…wax off. Wax on…wax off.
Daniel: When do I learn how to punch?
Mr Miyagi: Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?
Kreese: Finish him.
Daniel: You think you could break a log like that?
Mr Miyagi: Don’t know. Never been attacked by a tree.
Mr Miyagi: This not tournament. This for real.
The Karate Kid Trivia!
To appear in The Karate Kid, Elizabeth Shue took a sabbatical from Harvard!
The yellow classic car that Daniel polishes in the famous ‘wax-on/wax-off’ training scene, then later offered to Daniel as a birthday present by Mr. Miyagi was actually given to Ralph Macchio by the producer, and he still owns it.
Charlie Sheen turned down the role of Daniel.
The Swedish political party Folkpartiet refereed to The Karate Kid in their campaign during the 2010 elections. They proposed a mentoring program for young and new employees. One of their posters read No Daniel-san without Mr. Miyagi.
**GEEK ALERT** The Karate Kid was the 500th film mixed in Dolby Stereo!
During the fight scene in Part II between Chozen and Miyagi when Chozen is armed with a spear, Chozen strikes Miyagi on the back. This is the only time in the entire series that someone lands a successful strike on Miyagi.
The song ‘You’re the Best’ sung by Joe Esposito and written by Bill Conti and Allee Willis was the famous music played during the first All-Valley Karate Championship bout between Daniel-san and Johnny Lawrence was originally intended for the Rocky III soundtrack before being overlooked in favour of ‘Eye of the Tiger’!
The Stars of The Karate Kid – Where Are They Now?
Probably most famous as Daniel-san, he starred as Johnny Cade in coming-of-age film The Outsiders and as wrongly accused Billy Gambini in the hilarious My Cousin Vinny. He had a recurring role in Ugly Betty and competed on the twelfth series of Dancing with the Stars, the US version of Strictly.
Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita made his name playing Matsuo ‘Arnold’ Takahashi on Happy Days and was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor for his role as Mr Miyagi in 1984. Some small recurring roles followed but never quite lived up to past billing. He sadly died in November 2005 at home in Las Vegas.
After starring as Marty McFly’s girlfriend Jennifer in Back to the Future II and III, she went on to star in Cocktail with Tom Cruise and as a prostitute alongside Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, a role she earned an Oscar nomination for. Latterly she played Julie ‘Finn’ Finlay in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS.
He has appeared in Rambo: First Blood Part II as well as TV series’ Gunsmoke, Kojak, Quincy ME, The Streets of San Francisco and for seven years as Detective Victor Isbecki in Cagney & Lacey.
After The Karate Kid films, he took minor acting roles and during the 1990s and 2000s he mostly took role in independent films. He is an acclaimed producer and director of music videos and received an Academy Award nomination in 2004 for Most in the Best Live Action Short category.