Cobra Kai is my new favorite series. Although I first stumbled across it a couple of years ago, and found it quite entertaining, I was only able to watch the few episodes that YouTube provided for free. Their endgame was to use the free episodes to lure folks into subscribing to YouTube Plus, which was not happening on this end. Netflix recently picked up season 1 & 2 of the episodical reboot of the 1980’s “Karate Kid” movie franchise, and is set to drop season 3 in 2021.
The casting in the Cobra Kai series is inspired, featuring many talented young actors; but who really steals the show are William Zabka and Ralph Macchio who over three decades after playing Johnny Lawrence and Danny LaRusso respectively, reprise their roles like it was truly meant to be.
At the beginning of season 1, Johnny, who was the big shot hometown top asshole in the original Karate Kid movie finds himself in a drunken, go-nowhere rut, living in a cracker box apartment and just having been fired from his job as a home renovator. He is haunted by the success of Danny, whose face is all over the television and billboards, as he owns a successful chain of car dealerships. Johnny constantly thinks about the karate tournament back in 1984 where his former victim of bullying Danny defeated him with *an illegal* kick to the forehead.
The series takes a fun twist when Johnny Lawrence becomes a dark version of Danny’s sensi, Mr. Miyagi, after he sees a kid being assaulted in a parking lot by his classmates, and he ends up intervening by using karate to kick the shit out of the teenage punks, similarly to what Miyagi did to him and his fellow Cobras back in the 80’s when they were beating on Danny. Then, when Danny LaRusso catches wind that Johnny is opening Cobra Kai back up for business, he can not accept the fact, and finds himself back at war with his old classmate, only this time, not as the indisputable hero of the story.
The brilliance really is in the details of all that, and I encourage you to watch the Karate Kid 1, 2, and 3, and Cobra Kai seasons 1 & 2 for yourselves. Never mind that Jaden Smith reboot from 2010, that was a mistake, and is in no way a part of the canonical universe.
What I want to discuss in this article is Cobra Kai’s three dojo rules.
I want to break down this motto as it should be, in two entirely different mindsets. The first being in terms of self-defense, and the other in terms of social situations. Throughout the saga, Cobra Kai often tries to apply this method to both mindsets, and in that way, I believe that is what always ends up being the Cobra’s downfall.
In terms of self-defense, I truly believe that the three rules are pretty flawless.
Strike first– If somebody is trying to mug you, or they’re getting in your face acting like they are going to hit you, yes, you should hit them first. If you’re not striking first the chances that you will be cold-cocked and have your pockets run just increased drastically. So as Johnny Lawrence tells his young students “don’t be a pussy”.
Strike hard- This is pretty obvious. If you find yourself in a fight, fight as hard as you can. Chances are that your assailant is going to hit you as hard as they can. Nobody is going to slap box you for your wallet and car keys. Even Mr. Miyagi, the anti-cobra if you will, believed in this rule. If he was going to hit somebody, he hit them hard.
No Mercy- Somebody just tried to physically harm you, and they found themselves on the receiving end of an ass kicking. Maybe you think they’ve had enough, and now you’re going to be the bigger person and walk away. This is the perfect opportunity for your enemy to pull that knife out of their pocket and stab you in the back. They should have thought about mercy before they invaded you personal space and tried to hurt you. Their mistakes are not yours to feel bad about. Fuck em up.
Now, socially, and politically Cobra Kai’s three rules do not work out as well. Really, you get 1/3 that is going to yield you positive results, at best.
Strike First- America uses this mindset to justify bombing countries who never harmed them on a regular basis. They call it ‘preemptive strikes’, and it is total bullshit. More often than not, it is a flat out lie that a military struck first because they had intel that they were about to be attacked, and they just wanted to invade for selfish reasons.
In season one of Cobra Kai, Johnny asks one of his students “If you see a girl you like at a party, are you going to wait for another guy to walk over and talk to her first?”. In this, he was trying to apply, ‘strike first’ to a real life situation for his student. The problem in that is people you find attractive at a party probably shouldn’t be thought of in these terms. If you want to talk to them, go talk to them. If you’re thinking about sexual rivals and concerned that they might swoop in before you and ‘take what is yours’ you are setting yourself up for disappointment, probably not very fun at parties to begin with, and worst of all, you’re objectifying the person in question. Thinking of them as more of a trophy than a human being.
Strike Hard- This is the one out of three that might actually apply beyond self-defense. Another way to say this could be ‘go big or go home’. Anything worth doing is worth doing all the way; and dealing in half measures often has bad results. You win this round Cobra Kai.
No Mercy- This is one of the biggest problems on earth today. It’s responding to mexican drug cartels by throwing kids in cages. It’s installing metal spikes in front of your business to stop the homeless from sleeping in front of it. It’s a cop kneeling on a man’s neck for over seven minutes because you suspect that he might have spent some counterfeit money. It’s the end of humanity when all the nuclear bombs launch.
Be merciful whenever you can.