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Cobra Kai Season 5 finally brought back Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) from The Karate Kid Part III. He’s a changed man from the “Bad Boy of Karate.” Kanan remembers making the Karate Kid sequel, of which posing for that “Bad Boy of Karate” photo was quite memorable. 

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 5.]

'Cobra Kai': Sean Kanan yells at Ralph Macchio
Sean Kanan | Courtesy of Netflix

Kanan spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Aug. 16 about returning for Cobra Kai Season 5. During our interview, Kanan also reflected on Karate Kid III memories. Here’s the true story of the “Bad Boy of Karate” photo, and you can see Mike Barnes again in Cobra Kai on Netflix.

The ‘Bad Boy of Karate’ photo was more significant in the film than on the set

In The Karate Kid Part III, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) returns from Okinawa, Japan with Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). They’re ready to open up a bonsai tree shop, but Barnes challenges Daniel to defend his All-Valley Karate Tournament championship from the first movie. He’s actually working for Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Barnes’ “Bad Boy of Karate” flyer is all over the film to intimidate Daniel.

“I do remember doing that,” Kanan told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “I had no idea that that photo was going to be so iconic. We did it pretty quickly. They just whipped off a couple of shots and people love that photo.”

Just another day at Cobra Kai for Sean Kanan

Most of Kanan’s scenes feature Barnes attacking Daniel to force him to sign the All-Valley Karate Tournament contract. Silver initially offers to train Daniel for the fight, but Barnes is actually working for Cobra Kai, which the audience knows long before Daniel does. Filming those scenes were the focus of Kanan’s work, but the Karate Kid production still needed to take that picture.


‘Karate Kid III’ Almost Starred Brandon Lee as Mike Barnes, Sean Kanan Reveals

“It wasn’t a [photo] shoot,” Kanan said. “It was me standing against the wall of the exterior of the soundstage as I recall and just pulling back my fist and making a face. They snapped off a couple of pictures and that was it.”

‘The Karate Kid Part III’ was a whirlwind for Sean Kanan

Barnes was Kanan’s first major role. By the time he returned for Cobra Kai Season 5, he was a veteran actor from The Bold and the Beautiful and more. The “Bad Boy of Karate” photo was just one of Kana’s whirlwind experiences on The Karate Kid Part III.

“They were always shooting stuff, stuff to either use in the film or for magazines and things like that,” Kanan said. “It was very chaotic. Not that it wasn’t organized but it was chaotic because I was a new actor. There was so much I didn’t really understand. I was constantly doing stuff not necessarily understanding the reason in its totality of what I was doing.”