"Cobra Kai never dies!"
Certainly not now that Season 5 of the nostalgic, crowd-pleasing series is back on Netflix. With 50 episodes now under its karate belt, it's easy to blame old age (or generational blindspots) for not remembering all of the players who originated in The Karate Kid film franchise and have since migrated into the Cobra Kai series ensemble. As you get ready to press play on the new season, here's our SYFY WIRE refresher of the key characters who started waxing on and waxing off 30+ years ago and are still hanging out in the Valley trying to figure themselves out.
The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) ignited the whole franchise as the New Jersey teen who relocates to Reseda, CA, with his single mom. Bullied by the high school jocks from the Cobra Kai dojo in the Valley, Daniel gets his own education in karate via his neighbor, Hideo Miyagi (Pat Morita). A former WWII war hero and Japanese Karate Master, Miyagi takes the scrawny kid under his wing and teaches him the practice through menial labor. Once proficient, Daniel enters the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament as the sole student of Miyagi-do and then wins the championship by defeating his nemesis, Johnny Lawrence.
Appearing in three more Karate Kid films, Daniel continues to grow his practice until the series featured a new student. In Cobra Kai, Daniel is now 50 years old and starts up his practice once again to help his daughter deal with her high school bullies. And then the rivalry between Johnny Lawrence heats up again until they become tentative friends and merge their dojos to square off against Cobra Kai's former founder, John Kreese, and his business partner, Terry Silver.
The poster boy himbo of the Valley, Johnny Lawrence never really got past his high school glory days. A character in three of the Karate Kid films, Lawrence fades from the primary lore of the movies as Daniel ascends. When he's physically abused by his Cobra Kai dojo master, John Kreese, Lawrence leaves the practice and basically becomes a SoCal drifter. He has a kid, Robbie, and is an absentee parent working odd jobs and drinking away his earnings. It's not until he helps his teen neighbor, Miguel Diaz, by using his karate skills that he gets some of his mojo back. He reopens the Cobra Kai dojo and has a major impact on the bullied kids in the Valley. He continues his ancient rivalry with Daniel LaRusso until their lives become more intertwined and a tentative friendship forms. When John Kreese and his business partner, Terry Silver, take over the Cobra Kai dojo, Lawrence starts the Eagle Fang dojo and the two sorta friends merge dojos to protect their students from the over-the-top tutelage of Cobra Kai.
A Vietnam vet who returns from the war a very changed man. Hardened by his experience with PTSD, John Kreese puts all of his dark philosophies into his karate teachings for the Cobra Kai dojo. He grooms a bunch of bullies through his lessons in his dojo, including Johnny Lawrence. When his dojo experiences defeat in the 1984 All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament, Kreese takes out his humiliation on his students and then gets humiliated by Mr. Miyagi. In The Karate Kid III, after losing his student base, Kreese reaches out to his former Vietnam vet buddy Terry Silver to reopen the dojo and personally get revenge on Daniel LaRusso by grooming a new student, Mike Barnes, to defeat him. Cobra Kai succeeds in getting banned from the tournament and Cobra Kai disappears until Johnny Lawrence resurrects the brand to start his underdog version of the dojo. Kreese then returns and ends up getting the rights to the dojo back and once again brings Terry Silver into the fold to defeat Daniel and Lawrence in a Valley dojo war.
The entirely wack-a-doodle slimy businessman and Vietnam vet buddy of John Kreese introduced in The Karate Kid III, Terry Silver is somehow worse than Kreese with his pettiness and outsized sense of vengeance and winning. His tactics ultimately get Cobra Kai banned in the Valley and he disappears to get a life, literally. He becomes more spiritual and becomes a tech entrepreneur who launches a mindfulness app. But when John Kreese comes calling again about Cobra Kai, Silver gets lured back into his old ways of extreme retribution against Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. By the end of Season 4, Silver even stages a coupe with Kreese and takes over Cobra Kai outright.
Photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2022
Introduced as Daniel LaRusso's nemesis Chozen Toguchi in The Karate Kid Part II, he's a Karate student under Karate Master Sato in Japan. He takes it upon himself to battle Daniel during his trip with Mr. Miyagi to Okinawa, Japan. In an intense public fight that almost is to the death, Daniel takes the upper hand and just honks Chozen's nose in an echo of what Miyagi did to Kreese in a fight. After, Chozen becomes the hero of Sato's Miyagi-do in Okinawa and reunites with LaRusso in a very friendly encounter.
At the end of Season 4, Daniel departs with Miyagi's defense-only ethics-only approach to Karate to bring down Kreese and Silver's Cobra Kai. He turns to Chozen to help adapt his Karate skills to be more offensive so they can teach their students how to prevail over the dirty tactics of the Kai students and leaders.
Cobra Kai Seasons 1 through 5 are available on Netflix.