One of the most iconic martial arts movies of all time is Karate Kid. It’s relatable for children and adults on various levels, which has contributed to its popularity and prompted very popular sequels. Now Netflix has decided to support the story and throw its full weight behind it to create Cobra Kai, continuing the plot decades later.
There is no argument about the force and power behind each blow, kick and stance used from the kids fighting to Johnny Lawrence and the karate kid, Danny LaRusso himself, going head to head. Have you ever wondered what style of Karate is used in Cobra Kai? You’re about to find out.
Do the actors in the Cobra Kai show even know karate, or is it just a fancy display of choreography that really doesn’t belong to any specific style?
1- Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu
The karate moves in Cobra Kai are a blend of Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu but they do not fit completely into any category. Many of the moves you see are part of fictional fighting to bring the action to the screen, and while it may not be completely traditional, we see it pay some homage to it. There is also no arguing (if you love the show) that it’s also quite fun to watch!
So, are the actors professionally trained? It’s pretty safe to say that most, if not all, of the actors started practicing or having some sort of karate training for the series’ sake. Even the original Ralph Macchio and William Zabka only trained for the first few films.
However, many of the actors in the show may still train outside of the filming environment to hone their skills. This is definitely true for Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, after filming the first movie. He stuck with karate and even obtained a green belt.
It also rings true for Hawk, whose real name is Eli Moskowitz in the movie. We see a faux-hawk rocking Hawk (we’re pretty sure that’s where he got his nickname from, and the hawk on his back, of course) who has actually trained karate since he was 8 years old and advanced to a purple belt.
2- Tang Soo Do Style
There are also experts who analyzed the moves in more detail and have concluded that Tang Soo Do is also an element present throughout the show. Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art style that has aspects of karate, Shaolin kung fu, and tai chi. You see a lot of high kicks in this form of karate, which we also do onscreen.
In fact, taekwondo was a branch of Tang Soo Do that broke off and became its own form. Tang Soo Do also incorporates more self-defense and real-life fighting strategies that pertain to realistic situations that we see in the show as well.
The competition and training scenes in Cobra Kai focus more on the blend of goju-ryu and shito-ryu, but the scenes that evoke excitement. Such as the school fights and one-on-one challenges between the kids, take on more of the traditional Tang Soo Do.
What Style of Karate is Used in the Karate Kid?
Now we know a little bit about the style of karate used in Cobra Kai. Die-hard fans of the original movies may be eager to learn the style used in those films back in the 80s and 90s.
It’s pretty safe to say that Karate Kid had a pivotal role to play in shaping Western minds around Eastern martial arts. Other notable contributors include Bruce Lee back in the day, and Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Iko Uwais in more recent times.
Again, the style of karate we see in Karate Kid doesn’t completely fit into one box. However, it does take many elements of Goju-Ryu, just like the series. This style is said to be one of the most traditional forms originating in Okinawa.
Goju-Ryu adopts a hard-soft style of fighting and is highly effective. We assume Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi’s approach to conflict, which is a more soft-handed one as opposed to Cobra Kai (the dojo), stems from this concept. No mercy!
Experts have made comments about many of the moves being made up for movies, which isn’t surprising. After all, studios have to capture the audiences’ attention and you can’t do that without a certain level of fanfare.
This also leads us to wonder if any of the famous training techniques (paint the fence and wax on wax off) seen in Karate Kid apparently sharpened a young LaRusso’s skills enough to become one of the fiercest fighters in the valley are rooted in reality. Again, these techniques are unconventional and most likely just used in the movie.
Wouldn’t it be exciting if it was? Unfortunately, Cobra Kai is not a real dojo. We’re pretty sure there would be eager future karatekas lining up around the block if it was. Even though it is not a real dojo, you can visit the filming site of Cobra Kai and get a feel of what it would be like if it was a real one.
The location is in Atlanta, Georgia, and rumor has it that they leave the site untouched. So it looks exactly the way it does in the show.
It may be quite disappointing to some to learn that most of the moves and even the dojo are fictitious. Don’t take it too hard because some of it is still grounded in reality, as the karate styles do take inspiration from traditional forms.
Not many of the actors had much of a connection with karate before the show, except for Jacob Bertrand, who plays the character of Hawk. There are others who may have taken up karate outside of filming, and William Zabka who plays Johnny Lawrence is a good example.
Whether you just like the show for its exaggerated depiction of karate or even if you are a karate purist. Cobra Kai’s elements make it a great show beyond the fighting.