The world of The Karate Kid has expanded and evolved thanks to the first two seasons of the original series Cobra Kai. Though the show sank its roots into the inherent rivalry between one-time bully Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), the program has done an outstanding job of getting its audience to invest in a world of new characters who get caught up in the wake of this contentious relationship, whether it be Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser), Johnny’s top student Miguel (Xolo Mariduena), or Sith Lord karate master John Kreese (Martin Kove).
It only makes sense that as the show continues, the television drama will continue to mine important elements from the Karate Kid movies, and that includes the homeland of Miyagi (the late Pat Morita), Okinawa. Cobra Kai fans knew that Daniel would be returning to the Japanese prefecture in season three (currently available to stream on Netflix), but didn’t know how deep into the former relationships that the scripts would take LaRusso. Ahead of the season, Ralph Macchio talked to EW about why now was the right time for Daniel to face off against another bully from his past, Chozen, played by Yuji Okumoto in the sequel The Karate Kid Part II. Macchio explained:
I think is important for the character, because in The Karate Kid Part II, it was a quote-unquote fight to the death. The first time, it was a tournament, the next time, you're in a foreign country and only the person who lives at the end wins. So the level of facing a character who seems so unredeemable in Chozen — what it does, and I alluded to this earlier, it kind of informs maybe for LaRusso how he could be doing better on his end with his own life, his own rivalry, the whole Cobra Kai/Miyagi-Do thing. So by having this experience in Okinawa, it will inform him to better himself and be more focused on what he can be doing better. Not only just with the Johnny Lawrence rivalry, but even just how to move forward in all aspects of his life.
This sounds a little bit like a crucial lesson that Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) started to take away from Season One, when he visited the grave of his former teacher, Miyagi, and understood that “balance” was crucial to all elements of life. Not just with karate, but in the real world, too. So far in Cobra Kai, Daniel’s rivalry with Johnny has poisoned so many important aspects of his day to day, from his car business to his relationship with his daughter. Facing Chozen seems like it’s going to be another important life hurdle that Daniel will need to get past.
The “fight to the death” that he’s referring to happens at the end of The Karate Kid Part II, where Daniel has “disgraced” Chozen by helping the man’s uncle during a deadly storm. Chozen had the opportunity to save his uncle, but Daniel showed the bravery needed, and made Chozen look bad. This led to a challenge, and it wasn’t the safety of a tournament. It was a real fight, with tough consequences. Watch this to help you prepare for their reunion in season three of Cobra Kai: