Mention The Karate Kid to anyone of a certain age and chances are they’ll start to fondly reminisce about doing Crane Kicks in the school playground and start reciting the “Wax on, wax off, left a-circle, right a-circle” sequence of the film, that’s how much impact this film made on the impressionable young minds of the 1980’s.
Released in 1984, the film tells the story of Daniel (Ralph Macchio), a teenager who moves to California with his mother after his father has passed away. Â Young Daniel is a bit headstrong but is otherwise a good kid, but gets in trouble at a beach party when he stands up for a girl named Ali (Elisabeth Shue) who he has taken a fancy to. Â She is being harassed by her ex-boyfriend Johnny, and Daniel’s attempts to save her aren’t entirely successful as Johnny is well trained in the arts of Karate, being one of the star pupils of the Cobra Kai Dojo.
Daniel has unwittingly made his life a misery, as the members of the Cobra Kai bully him at every opportunity, until one fateful evening where the boys are attacking Daniel only to be fought off by an elderly man named Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), who sees the entire mob off with relative ease. Â Mr. Miyagi is the otherwise mild mannered janitor of the appartments in which Daniel lives.
Seeing how skilled Mr. Miyagi is in the ways of Karate Daniel pleads with him to teach him to fight, but Mr. Miyagi refuses, instead taking him to visit the leader of the Cobra Kai in an attempt to stop his pupils from ganging up on Daniel. Â This doesn’t go exactly to plan, as the Cobra Kai aren’t particularly honourable, and so Daniel finds himself entered into the state Karate championships instead, with Miyagi wagering that if Daniel can beat the Cobra Kai in a fair fight they will stop harrassing him.
Mr. Miyagi begins training Daniel for the tournament, but instead of being taught stances, kicks and punches as you might expect, Daniel is instead put to work waxing Miyagi’s car, painting his fence and doing other odd jobs for him. Â Daniel understandably gets annoyed by this, but Mr. Miyagi surprises him by showing that these chores have actually taught him various defensive moves by way of muscle memory.
When the tournament comes round the Cobra Kai unsurprisingly fight dirty, injuring Daniel’s leg in an early round. Â Daniel makes it through to the final against Johnny despite this, and eventually wins the tournament thanks to Mr. Miyagi’s “special move”, the Crane Kick, which he taught Daniel on a beach whilst standing on a wooden post, an iconic image from the film.
The film spawned three sequels, the first two during the 1980’s still featuring Ralph Macchio as Daniel, whilst the third, entitled The Next Karate Kid was released in 1994 and saw Mr. Miyagi teaching a young girl named Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank) the art of Karate.
It has also just been announced that there is to be a new Karate Kid film made starring Will Smith’s son Jaden as the new Daniel, although given that Pat Morita sadly passed away in 2005 it is not yet known who will be playing the role of his mentor. Â The new film is also set to take place in Beijing, so quite how much it will resemble the original film is anyone’s guess.