10 Surprising Facts About Cobra Kai
Picking up nearly 30 years after Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) was last seen on screen in 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III, the Netflix streaming series Cobra Kai has managed to bridge the gap between fans of the original film series that began with 1984's The Karate Kid and newcomers to the franchise who can follow a new crop of martial arts-obsessed teenagers.
In the continuation, LaRusso, winner of the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, is now a successful car dealer. His high school rival, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), is a down-on-his-luck handyman who decides to look to his old dojo’s principles for salvation. Naturally, their paths cross once again.
Now that you've binged the recently-released fourth season, check out some things you might not know about the surprise hit.
1. Ralph Macchio had gotten offers to reprise his The Karate Kid role before Cobra Kai.
When Cobra Kai was conceived by producers Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, Ralph Macchio thought it was the right time to say yes to a Karate Kid revival after nearly three decades of turning one down. “Listen, I’ve heard many, many pitches over 30-plus years of why we wanna revisit this world, and it never seemed fresh,” Macchio told Uproxx in 2020. “It was always easier to say no and protect the legacy because I’m very protective of it, and it was never smart enough.” In a separate interview with Collider, Macchio said that many of the pitches involved LaRusso having a child who would prompt him to mirror the influence Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita) had on LaRusso in the original films but had no substance beyond that. Seeing the universe through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence convinced Macchio the idea had merit. Cobra Kai aired two seasons on YouTube Red, the site’s premium service, before moving to Netflix in 2020.
2. William Zabka broke a toe on Cobra Kai.
In 2019, Zabka was being interviewed at the Paley Center when he revealed one fight scene on Cobra Kai had netted him a broken toe that he simply pulled back into place to continue filming. “That first fight took a lot of time,” he said. “I broke my toe! I jammed my toe [and] nobody even knew. It went completely in my foot. I had to hobble over to the side. My stuntman was over there ready to jump in and do the scene if I couldn’t, and I just yanked it out.”
3. The first episode of Cobra Kai has unseen footage from the original film.
Cobra Kai begins by flashing back to the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament that concluded 1984's The Karate Kid and seemingly set both LaRusso and Lawrence on their respective paths to adulthood. If the footage looks a little different, it’s because the producers were able to locate some unseen and unused camera angles from that climactic fight from the Sony vaults. One particular shot of LaRusso’s foot landing on Lawrence’s face, which ended their fight, was not seen in the original film.
4. Ralph Macchio owns the car Mr. Miyagi gave to LaRusso that reappears in Cobra Kai.
In the original The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi gifts LaRusso with one of his classic cars—a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe. The car makes a reappearance on the show, but it’s not a double. The car was a gift from Columbia Pictures that was given to Macchio following 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III. He kept it and eventually suggested the car be included in the series. “I said if we’re doing the show, I want the car to be in it,” he told IndieWire in 2019. “We got to dust it off—it’s been still for about two decades—and then put a new engine in it and get it all cleaned up and looking like new. I love having it in there.”
5. Cobra Kai star Tanner Buchanan’s mother is a real black belt in karate.
Tanner Buchanan plays Robby Keene on the series, the wayward son of Johnny Lawrence who eventually falls under the tutelage of LaRusso. Talking to Macchio for Interview magazine in 2020, Buchanan said that his mother was a black belt in karate and introduced him to the 1984 film. “She was super big on the movie,” he said. “I can remember it vividly.” Buchanan added that he didn’t re-watch it prior to his audition but wound up getting a phone call from Macchio telling him he got the part while he was viewing 1986’s The Karate Kid Part II.
6. There’s a very hard-to-spot Easter egg in the second season of Cobra Kai.
Fans of the 1984 original will recall that when LaRusso arrives in California, he makes fast friends with Freddy Fernandez (Israel Juarbe) at the apartment complex. Fernandez wears a “Makin’ Bacon” T-shirt. On the seventh episode of the second season of Cobra Kai, LaRusso takes his students to train in a walk-in meat locker. The boxes behind him are stamped with labels that read Fernandez Meat Company. Apparently, Freddy made meat a career.
7. Cobra Kai might lead to spin-offs.
With a third season imminent and a fourth season already ordered by Netflix, there will be plenty more Cobra Kai to consume. But The Karate Kid world may not stop there. In an interview with /Film in 2020, creators Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg revealed that they’re considering possible spin-offs. “We have put thought into spin-off ideas,” Hurwitz said. “We just love The Karate Kid universe, love all the characters from back in the day, and we love the characters we’ve created. It’s hard for me to give you an exact answer to this, but what I can say is that we have a list of at least five different scenarios that we would pursue, that we could consider.” Hurwitz added that some could be considered “untraditional” and also made mention of possibly exploring different times in a character’s life.
8. There’s a Cobra Kai video game.
If you’re looking for more Cobra Kai action, you can find it with Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues, a side-scrolling action game that was released in October 2020 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Macchio and Zabka lent their voices to the game, which features their characters as well as Robby, Miguel, and Hawk in a dojo battle. Unfortunately, Martin Kove is missing as Cobra Kai mastermind John Kreese
9. Chozen actor Yuji Okumoto got hurt during a Cobra Kai fight scene.
While in Okinawa to try and save his ailing car dealership in season three of Cobra Kai, Daniel runs into Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), his old nemesis from 1986’s The Karate Kid Part II. While their relationship is steered in a way you might not expect, the two characters inevitably come to blows. During one fight sequence, Okumoto threw a kick and knew something was wrong. “And sure enough, on my last fight on the set of Cobra Kai, I threw a kick and I pulled my hammy so bad,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2021. “My first thought was, ‘Seriously???” Okumoto wound up being fine.
10. Cobra Kai’s producers once cut ‘Glory of Love’ from an episode.
The highlight of the soundtrack to The Karate Kid Part II was “Glory of Love,” the ballad by Peter Cetera that gives a little extra poignancy to the love affair between Daniel and Okinawa resident Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita). Some fans have been perplexed by the fact it hasn’t yet shown up on the show—but it nearly did. According to producer Jon Hurwitz, a scene in a season three episode utilized the song but it was cut for time.