‘Cobra Kai’ Season 4: How Terry Silver Actor Thomas Ian Griffith Learned Martial Arts Before ‘The Karate Kid Part III’

Cobra Kai fans were already excited about season 4. Netflix just whet their appetites exponentially when they announced Thomas Ian Griffith would return as Terry Silver. The show has teased Griffith’s Karate Kid Part III character before but now he’s back for real. In anticipation of his return, Griffith discussed his martial arts training prior to his 1989 movie appearance. 

Terry Silver actor Thomas Ian Griffith standing on the red carpet
Thomas Ian Griffith | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Griffith was a guest on the Cobra Kai Kompanion podcast on July 30. Going back to the beginning of his career, Griffith shared his introduction to martial arts. Cobra Kai Season 4 premieres in December and Netflix has already renewed the show for season 5.

Thomas Ian Griffith studied martial arts before Cobra Kai even existed

The first documented appearance of the Cobra Kai dojo was in 1984’s The Karate Kid. Griffith would not appear until the 1989 sequel, but he began studying martial arts long before the movies. 

“I got into the martial arts young,” Griffith said. “I went to a local Kempo school for a while. It was sort of a way to keep me out of trouble. Then I ran into a kid who was a Tae Kwon Do artist. I saw him throw an amazing spinning hook kick and I was like, ‘Wow, what was that?’ He said, ‘Come with me, I’ll show you.’”

Griffith grew up in Hartfort, Connecticut. By high school, he said, he was a martial arts devotee.

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“So he took me to the north end of Hartford where there was this very, very traditional Tae Kwon Do school,” Griffith said. “The instructors and masters spoke very little English but they were just  incredible teachers. And I begged my parents, ‘Please can I go there.’ So I started right before high school there and it was my life through high school. It was my sport through high school. I just loved it. It gave me a sense of purpose,  a place to go after school. I owe so much to the whole training, the whole world to it that taught me so many things I still value in my life today.”

Thomas Ian Griffith had a growth spurt during Tae Kwon Do training 

In The Karate Kid Part III, Griffith towers over Ralph Macchio. Griffith said his growth spurt occurred just before high school

“I was always kind of tall but I was chunky, never grew into my body,” Griffith said. “It wasn’t until 8th grade, around 8th grade, I just shot up and sort of oh, okay, this is what I’m capable of doing. I followed boxing, Karate, wrestling. I loved all that stuff but once I found Tae Kwon Do this felt like it was a part of me. I could use my height, my reach, it was more speed based because I was thin as a rail growing up. I just fell in love with it.”

Thomas Ian Griffith had to prove he was Cobra Kai worthy 

The Karate Kid Part III was an audition Griffith’s agent sent him on. It became the first movie he booked after some TV roles. Griffith recalled when casting director Caro Jones brought up martial arts. 

It was like, ‘Do you know anything about Karate?’ Are you kidding me? This is my world. I’m sure every actor that walked in the room said the exactly same thing so she’s just looking at me but somehow I convinced her. She said, ‘All right, [director] John Avildsen is screen testing some guys on the Warner Bros. lot. Go and you can read with him there if he has time.’ I went in, I met with John. Ralph was there doing screen tests. I guess they were looking for Terry Silvers and I read the scene with John. He liked it and he said, ‘Stick around.’

Cobra Kai: Daniel fights Kreese in the dojo
L-R: Ralph Macchio and Martin Kove | Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

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Once they began filming, Griffith worked with fight choreographer Pat Johnson to show Avildsen what he could bring to the film.

“When I walk on set I see Pat Johnson who’s the fight choreographer,” Griffith said. “We have so much in common with all the Karate tournaments. He’s like you’ve got to show John you really do this. Ther ewasn’t much Karate for Terry’s character in the original script. Next thing I know I’m doing katas and I’m breaking boards. It was fantastic.”

Source: Cobra Kai Kompanion podcast