‘Karate Kid III’ Had a Completely Different Plot Before It Became John Kreese’s Revenge

The Karate Kid Part III is perhaps the least discussed of the film series, even less so than The Next Karate Kid. Cobra Kai surprised fans by referencing events of the third film in its second season. In season 1, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) didn’t even know who Karate Kid III villain Terry Silver, John Kreese (Martin Kove)’s old war buddy, was. The show has made events of the sequel canon, but if the original writer and director had their way, the third film would have been completely different.

John Kreese actor Martin Kove
Martin Kove chops William Zabka in Cobra Kai | Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen and director John G. Avildsen spoke with Mandatory about their films in 2013 and 2014, back when the site was called CraveOnline. They revealed their original plan for The Karate Kid Part III , as well as why the producers rejected it. 

There was originally no John Kreese in ‘Karate Kid III’

In Karate Kid Part III, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) helps John Kreese (Martin Kove) get revenge on Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) because of Cobra Kai’s defeat. Kamen, however, did not want to write that story.

“I turned down doing Karate Kid III because I wanted to do something different,” Kamen told CraveOnline. “I wanted to have them flashback to 16th century China and do a historical flying people movie — I wanted to do a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie. That’s what I wanted to do. Guy McElwaine, rest his soul, refused to do it. He wouldn’t do it. Jerry [Weintraub] wouldn’t do it. They didn’t want to mess with the franchise.” 

Karate is a Japanese martial art, but Kung Fu and wirework movies are a Chinese style. Kamen and Avildsen knew how to make it work for Karate Kid III, though.

Karate Kid star Pat Morita
Pat Morita | Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

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“If you remember in the second one, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel the story of how Miyagi family Karate came to be,” Avildsen told CraveOnline. “The ancestor of Miyagi was a fisherman. He was out fishing, had too much sake and fell asleep and woke up off the coast of China and came back ten years later with a Chinese wife and a secret to Miyagi family Karate.”

‘Karate Kid III’ would have been a time travel movie

Avildsen and Kamen had an idea to send Daniel (Ralph Macchio) back to historical times so they could meet Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita)’s ancestors.

“I thought the third one, Ralph and Pat would time travel back to ancient China,” Avildsen said. “Pat would play the Miyagi character as the ancestor and we would see how that all began.”

Kamen explained Karate Kid III would be a dream.

Karate Kid training
L-R: Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio | Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

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“Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are in a boat,” Kamen said. “It all happens when Daniel gets hit on the head and he has a dream. He’s in a coma or something and they see a boat in the mist. It docks and Mr. Miyagi and Daniel follow the first Miyagi ancestor into China and then they get involved in this thing. It would’ve been really cool but nobody wanted to do it.”

Producers had other reasons for bringing back John Kreese

The Karate Kid III they ultimately made had Kreese (Martin Kove) return for revenge on Daniel. Avildsen said there were miserly reasons to keep the sequel modern day.

“The Chinese government was all enthusiastic about it and Columbia at the time was owned by Coca-Cola,” Avildsen said. “It was going to be a great opportunity for them to do business in China. There was going to be nothing political about it, but the producers didn’t want to spend the money to go to China so we just did the first one over again. The third one wasn’t very good I’m afraid.”