The Karate Kid made martial arts cool again. By essentially redoing Rocky with teenagers. Hence why Rocky director John G. Avildsen directs it. Both are underdog stories about unlikely heroes training to overcome their own personal battles. The Karate Kid is something my mom suggested we watch since my brother and I were roughly the same age as the lead character. Of course being released in 1984 helps as well. It might surprise you to know that the story is actually sort of based on a true story. Apparently the screenwriter was also beaten up at a young age and learned karate from a wise Japanese sensei.
His story was combined with another true story about a kid who earned a black belt by fighting his school bullies in a competition and thus The Karate Kid was born. That’s another thing I can relate to, because my brother and I once took our Uncle’s karate class. My only regret is not continuing to take more classes. The Karate Kid was such a hit that it spawned two sequels, a stand alone sequel, a remake, an animated series, and a web series. Learning karate has never been this inspiring…
The Karate Kid is Daniel LaRusso. Technically a teenager from Jersey who moves all the way to Reseda with his mom. Up and coming 80’s star Ralph Macchio’s scrawny physique is perfect for the character. It makes it more believable when he gets his butt kicked. A neighbor kid invites Daniel to a beach party where he meets popular girl Ali. Played by up and coming 80’s starlet Elisabeth Shue. They hit it off, but that angers local bully Johnny Lawrence. He beats up Daniel so badly that he loses his potential friend (except Ali) and attempts to join a karate class in defiance. Until he discovers that Johnny and his gang are all part of Cobra Kai. Which is run by a sadistic sensi that teaches his students to show no mercy. There are no bad students, only bad teachers.
After getting revenge at a Halloween party, (for which some people claim makes Daniel the bully) Daniel is beaten up to the point that a mysterious karate master comes to save him. The master turns out to be Mr. Miyagi. His apartment’s Japanese handyman and the only real friend that he’s made there. Pat Morita is Mr. Miyagi. So its shocking to learn that he almost didn’t get the part. Morita was mostly known for stand up comedy and only very recently I heard his natural speaking voice. I always assumed Miyagi’s thick Okinawan accent was his own, but it just makes his Oscar nominated performance all the more deserving. Mr. Miyagi agrees to train Daniel-san by having him “Wax on, wax off” his car, sand the floor, paint the fence, and paint the house.
Nothing beats the moment when Daniel realizes he’s been learning karate the entire time. Making Mr. Miyagi one of the best mentors in film history. He also teaches him balance, crane technique, and the most important lesson to only use karate for self defense. Something he’s gonna need for his tournament fight with Johnny and Cobra Kai. With Mr. Miyagi, his mom, and Ali supporting him, Daniel can prove himself. The fight is intense, but not even a sweeping of the leg is enough to prevent Daniel’s triumph. The Karate Kid truly is the best around. Nothing’s gonna ever keep it down!
Followed by: The Karate Kid Part II