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Kharacter Studies: Sensei John Kreese

By Brihana Davidson

Welcome to Cobra Kai Kompanion’s new YouTube series: “Kharacter Studies”. These videos will analyze the characters of The Karate Kid/Cobra Kai universe, explore what makes us love (or hate) them, and give insight into who they are and why they are that way.

Join brihana25 for a look at the world of Cobra Kai through John Kreese’s eyes, an examination of the things he has done, discussion of the part he plays in the overall story, and an explanation of why “human” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”. [9/29/19]

The History of Daniel & Johnny’s Rivalry

By Dorian Tisato / Twitter: @doriantisato

This is a topic that many fans of the Karate Kid universe love to talk about: the infamous rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Regardless of whose side you’re on, the truth is neither men are right or wrong. As the creators of Cobra Kai have reminded the fans time and time again, they’re all shades of grey.

From the events of the first film to the end of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny’s history – not relationship – history can be summed up in one word: toxic. Not just how they treat each other but how it affects the people around them. Every action, every word, every confrontation has had dire consequences. Just look at the end of Season 2 with Miguel being in a critical condition from the School Brawl. While it has been confirmed that Xolo Maridueña will be returning in Season 3, we won’t know in what capacity.

As we look deep into the rivalry, let us begin with Daniel: his marriage to Amanda is now strained to the point where she forces him to quit Karate, Sam has been put in the hospital after her fight with Tory and Robby has run away after being abandoned by Daniel.

Now to Johnny. While some may disagree, this man has been affected the most: Kreese betrays him for a second time by taking back Cobra Kai including the students, Miguel has broken his neck after his fight with Robby resulting in Carmen blaming him for what happened that results in her dumping him and to add insult to injury, Robby is now missing.

While it can be argued that Kreese orchestrated most of the events of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny are responsible for their own actions. This is not to excuse the manipulation and deceit that Kreese has caused both men, but Daniel and Johnny had a choice to put their rivalry to bed and move forward. Lets face it, we all want that to happen, but it wouldn’t be as compelling if they all of a sudden were best friends.

Going back to the beginning of all this, it’s understandable that back in the day their rivalry was so strong: Daniel and Johnny were kids and when you’re that age, it’s common to have conflict with someone you don’t like, but that was over 30 years ago. Now both being middle-aged men, Daniel and Johnny are still trying to outdo one another. Why? Because of one thing: Cobra Kai.

Both men feel differently about the infamous style of Karate: Johnny wants to step out of Kreese’s shadow and be better than him, while Daniel is trying to shut it down altogether to stop people from getting hurt. Despite what many “commentators” have said, both men are trying to do the right thing, but as seen at the end of Season 2, Daniel and Johnny still have a lot to learn. Now that Kreese is back in power, their rivalry needs to change and both need to put aside their grudge to prevent a repeat of what happened in ‘84.

So how can both men move forward? Season 2, Episode 9 gave a glimmer of hope. During the restaurant scene when Amanda and Carmen leave Daniel and Johnny alone, both men talk about their differences. Daniel revealed to Johnny that Kreese indirectly threatened him and his students, which shook Johnny in an unexpected way. In turn, Johnny assures Daniel that Kreese is gone for good. This was a turning point in the series: Johnny has a revelation that bringing Kreese back was a mistake and Daniel quietly acknowledges that Johnny isn’t Kreese. Following that was presumed to be a truce with a mutual handshake.

However, this was short-lived as the very next day, Daniel confronts Johnny and their 35 year “rematch” in the making was underway! Rather than it be playful or fun like Rocky 3, it was done from a protective nature: Daniel was trying to get his daughter to come home, while Johnny was trying to spare Sam the embarrassment. Neither is the aggressor (or villain) in this fight, however, they both handled it very poorly with Sam and Robby breaking it up. Now neither is to blame for how the fight broke out. Yes, Daniel did kick the door open causing Johnny to fall backwards; however, Johnny refused to let Daniel see his daughter. The reason both Daniel and Johnny struggle to move forward is neither men trust each other fully, if at all.

There is a presumption that Johnny would feel differently if he knew Daniel was a Cobra Kai (or at least from his point of view). This is a fact that Johnny is unaware of and could be revealed in Season 3. If Johnny knew what Terry Silver put Daniel through in ‘85, maybe it would give him some clarity as to why Daniel is so against Cobra Kai. This could mean that Johnny and Daniel both have something in common: Cobra Kai has ruined their lives and gives them motive to take Kreese down for good.

For both men to move forward and reconcile their differences, they would need to acknowledge all wrong-doings from the past, forgive each other and put faith in each other that there is mutual trust. In reality, this wouldn’t happen immediately because what has brought Daniel and Johnny together is their rivalry. And the truth is, their rivalry will always be a part of their interactions, but that doesn’t mean it has to be vindictive or toxic. As Robby hints in Episode 10, Daniel and Johnny could learn a lot from each other.

In fact, there are instances where Daniel and Johnny bring out the best in each other. There is proof in Episode 5, where Daniel confronts Johnny about the vandalism of Miyagi-Do, his car and the theft of Mr Miyagi’s medal of honour. This was a moment where Johnny began to feel uneasy about the future of Cobra Kai and couldn’t believe his students would stoop so low.

While it wasn’t Johnny’s fault, Daniel proved to Johnny that he is not afraid of him anymore and throws the Cobra Kai mantra back at him. By that same token, Johnny proved to Daniel that he is not the same person by showing mercy and not breaking out in a fight. It is in this scene alone that shows both Sensei’s at their best: fearless and honourable.

Whatever happens in Season 3, one thing is for sure: Daniel and Johnny have the chance to take a stand against Kreese and show him that they are no longer enemies. It is easy to see that the King Cobra can play these two like a fiddle, and that is where these two go wrong. Just like Mr Miyagi says in Karate Kid 2: it doesn’t matter who is stronger, it matters who is smarter. Wise words from the wisest of them all. [3/2/20]