Interesting Fan Theories From 'The Karate Kid' Franchise That Make Us Want To Rewatch

List Rules
Vote up the theories that have you ready for the All Valley Tournament.

The Karate Kid, and it's sequels, are incredible '80s classics that can be watched over and over again. With a meaningful storyline, action packed fight scenes, and a cast of interesting characters, it's no wonder why it's become such a favorite among fans. From unanswered questions to character quirks, some passionate fans managed to come up with some interesting theories surrounding The Karate Kid franchise.

Check out these Karate Kid fan theories below, and don't forget to vote!

  • 1
    53 VOTES

    Johnny Isn't The Real Bully Of 'The Karate Kid' And Neither Is Daniel

    From Quora user Gary R. Gilliam:

    Johnny is conceptually interesting as a complex, multilayered character. I have seen kids pushed by bullying instructors and take on their characteristics. I think Johnny was very flawed, abusive home life as well, and took out his grievances on Daniel in a very brutal way, excessive force was the order of the day. However, I feel Johnny was a victim of the real bully Kreese. Johnny has far too many redeeming qualities to be simply a 'bad guy'. Kreese is the villain here and Miyagi knew it - as we will discuss in a minute, he dealt with it beautifully.

    The only real bad guys in the movies were Barnes, Kreese and Silver. Even Daniel was briefly corrupted by Cobra Kai’s Mentality and he had the great Miyagi as an anchor, who did Johnny have? I think Chozen was simply driven by a twisted sense of honor and Sato found redemption. Miyagi punkslapped the other three.

    I feel Daniel is also misunderstood, while he was also flawed he was not the the secret bad guy either. It is fair to say he provoked Johnny as well- a scene was deleted where he put a blueberry pie onto Johnny in the lunchroom, the hose scene, and harassment of the Cobra Kai kids after Kreese said to leave him alone to train for the tournament (school hallway) are examples. Daniel was a frustrated New Kid with a chip on his shoulder. Make no mistake- Johnny was far more guilty. But I have seen teenagers antagonize each other and it is more complicated then bully/victim.

    Hawk and Demitri in Cobra Kai illustrate the two sides of this.

    53 votes
  • 2
    31 VOTES

    Johnny Kept Training After The Events Of 'The Karate Kid'

    From Redditor u/lewp_m:

    During the season two opening of Cobra Kai when Johnny fights Kreese there's an exchange that goes something like this:

    Kreese: "I taught you everything you know."

    Johnny: "Not everything."

    Johnny during Cobra Kai shows a far greater level of skill than he did in The Karate Kid, which suggests that he did continue training to some degree between The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai. Karate is like hot water: it gets cold if you don't warm it. It is implied that he had a lot of street fights, but technically it would be impossible to know karate so well without doing it (or by doing something different). I'm just speculating, but as a black belt it would be weird for Johnny to totally quit after The Karate Kid. So, maybe he continued training off-screen during the years between the 80s and the first season. About the Cobra Kai name and philosophy, maybe he just liked them but not Kreese.

    31 votes
  • 3
    26 VOTES

    Daniel Missed One Of Mr. Miyagi's Lessons In 'The Karate Kid III'

    From Redditor u/Krapulander:

    There's a bit in The Karate Kid III where Daniel-san is asking Mr. Miyagi to teach him to sweep, to which Miyagi agrees, and proceeds to fetch a broom, annoying Daniel, who promptly leaves. Now in my headcannon, had Daniel humoured Mr. Miyagi and started to sweep with him, he would have received another wax on, wax off style lesson involving the broom that would've had him sweeping like a champ and winning the tournament with ease after a cool montage.

    26 votes
  • 4
    40 VOTES

    Cobra Kai Lost To Daniel In 'The Karate Kid' Because Kreese's Teaching Don't Apply Well In The Tournament Setting

    From Quora user Michael Oka:

    Cobra Kai karate has no kata, and is derived from Shotokan Karate, American Kickboxing, and Philipino Martial arts (at least according to Jack Harrah Sensei). There is then the discussion of Budo… but not what kind of Budo. There are two that I'm aware, and they are:

    Gendai-Budo, which is Karate practiced in a post Meiji Restoration era. The tenets of Gendai-Budo are:

    • Morals
    • Discipline
    • Aesthetic Forms

    Gendai-Budo is pretty, and has it's practical applications… but because it's focus is on self improvement, and because its stances, and techniques largely focus on the aesthetic (what looks good), a lot of the education in the practice is best used for tourney. It is not to say that Gendai-Budo is useless - it's not - only that the practitioner who is aware of the two kinds of Budo, and focuses on this one, is not particularly interested in the combat facets of Karate-do.

    Then, there is the foundation of the old schools, Koryu-Budo, and Koryu-Budo is a different philosophy, a different way to practice, and a different way to learn. Koryu-Budo translates to “Old School”, and is a pre-Meiji Restoration practice.

    It's core tenets are:

    • Combat
    • Discipline
    • Morals

    Both Gendai-Budo and Koryu Budo focus on Discipline, and Morals, but where Gendai-Budo places Morals first, Koryu-Budo places it last. Both ascribe discipline as the secondary tenet.

    The Cobra Kai we're training in a corrupted version of Koryu-Budo-Budo; their instructor John Kreese is a prior war veteran, and his skewed views on combat are solely born from his experiences in war. He trains his students to fight the way he fights, in both hand-to-hand, and small unit tactics combat. Judging by the coordination in the Halloween attack on Daniel Russo, he taught this effectively.

    Miyagi teaches Daniel in the foundation of Koryu-Budo, as well… but without the skewed ideology of Cobra-Kai. The lessons of Wax On, Wax Off, Sand the Floor, Paint the Fence, and paint the house are all legitimate representations, and training methods for the various blocks Daniel has to learn. They're also, as you can see from his soreness in the movie, an incredible fitness regimen. They build both his muscle, and his muscle memory through painstaking repetition without his knowledge that he's actually learning. In fact, what may have caused him a great deal of distraction in a more classroom type environment is absent when he's performing Miyagi's various tasks.

    Miyagi teaches Daniel Russo Karate for offensive, and defensive, but insists defense only, never for attack.

    Kreese teaches the Cobra-Kai their karate focusing more on attack, than defense, relying on overwhelming force (a military tactic) to attain their victories.

    In the end, by the time the tournament comes, Daniel has the upper hand. His is a more disciplined, controlled, and polished karate. He doesn't let emotion, anger, or any other distractions get in his way, because he is grounded in his instructor's philosophies. His karate may not be as good as those veteran fighters of Cobra-Kai (Zabka), but Daniel Russo has the upper hand in the tourney. His defensive attacks put him in a position where he isn't violating the rules of the tourney.

    Kreese's students are doing fine until they face off with Daniel. There's a personal vendetta from John Kreese to Miyagi, and Daniel Russo… and when his vendetta has to become their vendetta, too - when he begins making calls that affect their morals, and their sense of conscience, they become distracted. When Daniel is first injured by Tommy, Tommy actually breaks down, and apologizes in a hysteria.

    By the end of the tourney, all of the Cobra-Kai are seeing this brutality as something else than what they first believed. After Daniel defeats Johnny, and Johnny gives him the, “You're alright…” biz, Kreese and Miyagi showdown in the parking lot. Had Miyagi beaten Kreese down, which he could have, Kreese would become a martyr to his cause. In Miyagi's comical honking of Kreese's nose, John Kreese's legacy was destroyed.

    The stark contrast in the practice of their martial philosophies demonstrates the differences in martial education between Miyagi and Kreese, and why LaRusso won the tourney. He's the classic good guy with heart, who played by the rules. He's capable of violence, but not a slave to it. He's able to discern the weaknesses of his foes because he can keep a clear head, and attack their strengths as much as their weaknesses.

    Conversely, the individual, and small unit tactics utilized by Cobra-Kai do not fit in well in a place where rules apply. Their willingness to cheat, and break the rules may work well in the real world, but has no place in a tournament limited by where and how you can attack your opponent.

    40 votes
  • 5
    36 VOTES

    Daniel Was Able To Compete So Efficiently In 'The Karate Kid' Because He Had Prior Karate Experience

    From Quora user Robert Sharp:

    Realistically, how far would Daniel LaRusso actually have gotten in the tournament with Mr. Miyagi's training? First of all, everyone seem to be based on the assumption that Daniel was a novice in Karate.

    But he wasn't...

    One of the first scenes in the movie is Daniel giving the gate to his new condo complex a good old karate kick. He had some training back East. This is made clear in his stance, before his first fight with Johnny on the beach. Later in the film he refers to his old karate school.

    My Myagi does not teach Daniel karate from scratch. Instead, he teaches better and more advanced techniques to someone who has already been taught to a decent standard.

    This is enough to make Daniel competitive.

    Second, note that Daniel does not defeat every member of the Cobra Kai on his way to the showdown with Johnny. Some are dispatched by the other semi-finalist, played by Daryl Vidal. Meanwhile, some guys Daniel defeats in the early rounds aren't very good. The first Cobra Kai fighter he dispatches is only ("only") a brown belt, for example.

    Finally, the tactical decisions made by John Kreese (the Cobra Kai sensei) and indeed the aggressive style of fighting he teaches, contribute in a big way to their defeat and Daniel's success. Tommy and Dutch both have an extremely aggressive style of combat and appear tightly wound in their matches with Daniel. Both fighters make mistakes that, by keeping his cool, Daniel is able to exploit. A classic example of using your opponents traits against them, inherent in Eastern forms of combat, and definitely something Daniel could learn to do in a 2 month training window.

    Then, in the semi-final, Bobby is ordered to put Daniel "out of commission". Bobby is a skilled enough fighter to be able to do this and Daniel has no defensive moves available to stop him. Bobby gets himself disqualified - Daniel is never required to defeat Bobby in fair combat!

    In the final, Johnny is such a dirty fighter (inspired by John Kreese's bad attitude and the idea of making Daniel suffer) that he repeatedly commits fouls instead of simply scoring the final point that would win him the trophy.

    In summary: Daniel has prior karate experience; Myagi teaches him a few new moves that he practices intensively during the training period; Daniel doesn't have to beat everyone in the tournament; and Myagi also teaches him to have a far better temperament than his opponents. These four aspects are enough to realistically haul Daniel into first place... just.

    36 votes
  • 6
    31 VOTES

    The Crane Kick Was Legal Within The Rules Of The All-Valley Tournament In 'The Karate Kid'

    From Quora user Kevin Winslow:

    The Crane Kick was 100% legal within the rules of the All-Valley Tournament. It’s much more likely that Johnny is an unreliable narrator in Cobra Kai when he talks about it. 

    The rules as described by Ali:

    • Everything above your waist is a point
    • You can hit the head, sternum, kidneys and ribs

    From the Refs:

    • Three points wins the match
    • Running out of the ring three times costs a point
    • Illegal contact below the waist, (like the knee) costs a point… or disqualification
    • Disqualification can happen for, “Excessive and deliberate contact” - we see this with Bobby getting disqualified for attacking Daniel’s knee with a jumping side kick.
    • 15 minute grace period is allowed for injured participants to return to their match
    • Two people scoring points at the same time/contact was made but off the scoring zones = “Clash”… no point awarded and the match continues.

    From observation:

    • Contact below the waist is allowed *if* it is a sweep or takedown and is followed by a point to the body or head
    • Traps, (grabbing an opponents arm or leg as they strike) are allowed if followed up with a sweep or counter to score a point
    • It’s also important to note: the Judges don’t see everything
    • Daniel scored at least one point to the ribs that went unnoticed
    • Johnny punched Daniel’s knee which went unnoticed
    • Johnny’s elbow attack against Daniel’s knee, though unsportsmanlike, went with the hinge of the knee from a legal trap; since the goal was to agitate the injury instead of follow through into a full takedown - to - point, he got a warning for deliberate contact instead of a DQ.


    • We see this as Dutch scored a point on Daniel during their match.
    • We see this again as Johnny scores his first point against Daniel
    • We see it as Daniel scores his final point against Johnny to win the match.

    Johnny states in Cobra Kai, the series, that it was an illegal kick, but that’s patently false and probably a case of Johnny being an unreliable narrator after all these years of hard drinking, regret, and bitterness. It also entirely illogical that the final point of the final match of the entire tournament could be won with a telegraphed “illegal” kick preformed squarely in front of the referee and still be granted a point. It is much more likely that it was entirely legal than to claim the judges awarded the point wrongly.

    The Crane Kick is basically nothing more than a double jump front kick with hands out to the sides and done without the extra step and jump.

    [Read the full theory here]

    31 votes