A scene from the series Cobra Kai

‘Cobra Kai’ Brings ‘The Karate Kid’ to a New Generation

The villain from the iconic '80s movie is all grown up and looking for redemption in this new YouTube Premium series.

“The Karate Kid” was one of the biggest film series in the 1980s. It had a good message to it, and a decent soundtrack as well. Every movie that you watched, you wanted to root for Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi; however in YouTube Premium’s web television series “Cobra Kai,” you will find yourself rooting for one of the main antagonists from the first “Karate Kid” movie.

Cobra Kai is the sequel and follow-up series to “The Karate Kid” franchise. It follows Johnny Lawrence, the main rival of Daniel LaRusso in the first movie, and how he has had a lot of problems since the events of the first film.

In the first episode, we see Lawrence barely getting by with a repair job, and then getting fired. LaRusso is more successful, as he owns his own car dealership chain. Lawrence then meets Miguel Diaz — his neighbor who has a lot of confidence issues and becomes one of the first students of the new Cobra Kai.

Cobra Kai brings in a new generation of students, both from the Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do gangs. One student nicknamed “Hawk,” a friend of Miguel’s who was a victim of bullying before joining Cobra Kai, unfortunately ends up becoming a bully after he turns against his long-time best friend, Demetri. This is a good example of what happened in the original movies when John Kreese’s former students ended up bullying LaRusso because of his influence. However, unlike Kreese, Lawrence does not encourage bullying, just defending oneself against bullies.

“Cobra Kai” also showcases a lot of girl power as well. In the original movies, the only time audiences really saw the female characters was as a love interest for LaRusso. Now, we see women fighting for the dojos and showing the audience that they are more than just a side story.

Some of the leading ladies include Sam, who is LaRusso’s daughter. She used to love doing karate with her dad when she was younger. Yet, in the first season, she is not as into it, as she is busy trying to fit in with the popular crowd. This even drives her to leave behind her former best friend, Aisha Robinson, and let the popular girls bully her.

However, in the second season she becomes interested in karate and joins Miyagi-do. Aisha then joins Cobra Kai as one of their first female students, showing that she is not to be messed with. She starts to become more confident and even finds the courage to stand up to those bullies. In the second season, a new character Tory joins Cobra Kai. She has had a rocky past, believing that if the world won’t show mercy to her family then she won’t show mercy to others.

In the show, La Russo finds himself thinking about his old mentor, Mr. Miyagi (sadly, actor Pat Morita, who played Miyagi in the original series, passed away in 2005 from kidney failure). In the second season, LaRusso opens his own karate dojo called Miyagi-do, shaping it in the way that Mr. Miyagi had done before.

In the movies, you probably hated Lawrence; now, you find yourself rooting for him and his redemption story. You find out why he became the way he was while he realizes the mistakes Kreese made with Cobra Kai, and is looking to not make those same errors. However, Lawrence gets a huge surprise near the end of the first season when his former mentor comes back after he was believed to be dead. Kreese seems like he wants to make amends with his former student; however, in the second season you will learn that Kreese  — like in the movie — cannot be trusted.

You also see Lawrence’s son Robby Keene in the mix. He never really had a relationship with his father, so LaRusso ends up taking him under his wing and hosting him as his student. Prior to meeting LaRusso, Keene was skipping school and engaging in petty theft; it didn’t help that his mother was neglecting him, not noticing her son falling through the cracks. He gets a job at LaRusso’s dealership, although he initially applied so he and his friends could rob the place. However, over time, he starts to grow into a different person, eventually leaving his delinquent friends.

In the second season, a battle between two dojos ensues. Its Cobra Kai versus Miyagi-Do — two studios with very different teaching techniques. Eventually, it gets so intense that it ends with very dire consequences that you will have to watch. “Cobra Kai” also does not shy away from making references to the previous franchise with a mix of both modern and ‘80s music playing in the background, and Diaz wearing the Halloween costume Lawrence wore in the first movie.

Characters from the original movie also make appearances. There is also one moment in the tournament scene where Keene and Hawk are fighting and Hawk makes an illegal kick to Keene, thereby disqualifying him. It is very similar to when Bobby, another Cobra Kai student under Kreese, was forced to break LaRusso’s leg in the first movie. However, unlike Hawk, Bobby showed regret for his actions.

Bullying has also played a theme in “Cobra Kai,” much like its predecessor. Some of the main characters are the targets of bullies, but instead of using the typical “meet me outside at the schoolyard” threats — although there is plenty of that as well — they use cyberbullying: one instance being the popular girls making fun of Robinson. Lawrence handled the situation, though, by demonstrating the message that if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face then you shouldn’t say it online.

Something that I hope happens in the next season is that both LaRusso and Lawrence bury the hatchet for good and merge their studios in order to finally take down Kreese once and for all. They both need to learn to let go of the past and move forward into the future if they are going to help the new generation

If you are looking for something new to watch and you are a fan of “The Karate Kid” then “Cobra Kai” is worth checking out. There are many throwbacks, rivalries and all the stuff that made “The Karate Kid” the awesome movie it is. It shows that no matter how many demons you may have and how many times you have been beaten down, you can always get right back up again, because “Cobra Kai never dies.”

For a limited time, “Cobra Kai” is available for free on YouTube Premium.

Lisa Lilianstrom, Northern Illinois University

Writer Profile

Lisa Lilianstrom

Northern Illinois University
Journalism, minor in Communications

Everyone deserves to have their stories heard. Writer, student, artist — plans to one day travel the world with the love of my life.

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