Growing up in the ’80s there was never a shortage of martial arts movies. The karate craze took over and at 6 years old, I fell in love with a movie called The Karate Kid. A Mediterranean kid (unlike myself) moves to an area unfamiliar to his surroundings. He doesn’t know the customs, doesn’t know the culture and doesn’t understand the pecking order but has an innate desire to help a girl that he likes and gets knocked down repeatedly for being a good Samaritan.
Fast forward 30 plus years later and things change. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is living the high life in the San Fernando Valley. He’s got a fleet of car dealerships from Reseda to Encino all because of one crane kick that changed his life for the better — at least on the surface.
Flip that coin and we catch up with his old rival, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny has a failed marriage and become an absentee father to a troubled son. He’s a drunk working as a handyman that can’t catch a break because he couldn’t get past that one defeat.
Enter Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) a shy, quite, Hispanic kid from Riverside who lives with his mother and grandmother in same apartment complex as Johnny. When Miguel gets beaten up by a bunch of high school jerks, Johnny reluctantly helps him, forging a new found desire to regain the life he once had after wasting his potential for the past three decades in self pity.
Watch the Pilot Episode Below:
I never thought that I would ever come to see a day where I would route for Johnny Lawrence in anything. The pussification of the American youth is front and center of Cobra Kai and I’m loving every minute of the meek inheriting the earth. This show goes beyond fighting. It is seeking redemption, standing up for oneself and not being okay with a participation trophy.
In the third episode where Johnny endangers Miguel by tying his hands up and throwing him in a pool to learn how to kick, there is no greater joy in the teen’s life than succeeding, something we have taken away from the younger generations because the promotion of mediocrity has become the status quo.
The real message of Cobra Kai that although using your fists can sometimes end bullying rather quickly, communication is key to avoid these situations to begin with and with that lack of communication only more problems occur because people make judgements based on assumptions and not all the facts. One aspect of karate lost on the series is the hard and the soft, when several styles, including goju ryu (who Pat Morita’s character, Mr. Miyagi is named after Chojun Miyagi, its founder) place a closed fist against an open palm to show the balance between the hard and soft as they bow in respect for the style, their sensei and their opponent. Johnny has the hard down and Daniel, its inverse.
Cobra Kai is one nostalgia train ride that I am willing to take repeatedly. The flash backs to the original Karate Kid movie, along with songs from its soundtrack make me want to put on my old gi and start training again. Although the jokes are sometimes a little heavy, both Johnny and Daniel are doing what they have sought out to do their entire lives and that is seeking balance.
A season two is inevitable and I will be mostly binge watching that one as well.
Cobra Kai Season One drops on YouTube Red today, subscribe and enjoy making some new memories with old friends.