The first time I saw a preview for the new Karate Kid spin off Cobra Kai I was in a movie theatre in Arlington, Virginia. I will be honest and tell you right now that based on the preview alone I did not know how well it was going to work out. There had been several other attempts to bring back what had been a great franchise in the 1980s, and none of them had truly succeeded in capturing fans the way that the original had. Most recently the 2010 remake starring Jaden Smith had received mixed reviews at best. With that said the preview that I saw in the theatre and the interview between Ralph Machio and William Zabka was enough to get me to take my free thirty days with YouTube Red. If I got nothing else out of it I could cancel my YouTube red account before they charge me for another month.
Would the Karate Kid spin off Cobra Kai really make us care about Daniel Laruso and Johnny Lawrence as much as the first film had? Surprisingly that answer was yes. The new series was nothing short of awesome in my personal opinion and I am not a huge fan of remakes or spin offs. Unlike the original Karate Kid that focused on things from Daniel’s perspective Cobra Kai gives the viewer a chance to get inside Johnny’s head. It lets us understand what he’s dealing with and how his thought process is working. Ever since that life altering kick Johnny has been haunted by the events that occurred while he was still a senior in high school.
Where most of the remakes I have seen relies on memory lane to stir up emotion in their fans Cobra Kai keeps things completely fresh and relevant to today. Both Daniel and Johnny return to their roots in karate as they reach out to a younger generation teaching others how to deal with situations in the world that they encounter At the start of the series Johnny Lawrence ironically fills in the role of Mr. Miyagi for another kid as he single handedly deals with three bullies who were giving a kid a hard time.
Unlike most Americans who allow themselves to easily be drawn into arguments between the right and the left Johnny has no time for topics such as “gender stereotype.” Instead he keeps his eyes on the prize ahead of him. For him that is the reopening of the Cobra Kai dojo. It does not take long for him to realize that the kids he is dealing with today are nothing like they were when he was younger. Todays generation had turned soft and allows themselves to be “cyberbullied.” Like many university students who support the left themselves and found themselves raised by left and social justice warriors for parents his first students aren’t so much looking for karate lessons as much as they are looking for a safe space.
They are in for a wake up call when he refuses to provide them with that safe space. Instead he teaches them an important fact about life that a large number of todays generation of Americans can not accept. The lesson he teaches them is that there are no safe spaces with life. Life is unrelenting. He doesn’t treat his students with kid gloves. Just the opposite. His lessons require them to work hard and toughen up. I will give you an example. In one scene when he realizes that none of his students have ever been hit in the face before he decides for their own benefit that this needs changing. He makes it known that each of his students will take a hit to the face. What this teaches them is sometimes we get hurt. We can’t be afraid to get hurt. Only by getting hurt and having to pick ourselves up again do we become stronger people.
This new series succeeds where other spin offs have failed in that it connects my own generation who were probably there to see the original Karate Kid franchise on the big screen when it first came out with todays generation who has never seen an original Karate Kid film in the movie theatre. The rivalry between Johnny and Daniel serves as an excellent metaphor for the relationship between those on the left and those on the right. Just like real life feelings between the politically correct and those who stand on the right Daniel and Johnny genuinely dislike each other.
Daniel and Johnny could very easily work out their differences if they would only sit down and talk to each other. Instead of talking to each other like mature adults Johnny and Daniel are guilty of the same thing that a lot of us are. They surround themselves by people who share their opinion and tell them what they want to hear instead of opening themselves up to what the other side may have to say. The biggest lesson that this new spin off can teach us is that we need to stop putting emotions before truth and actually start sitting down and talking to each other.