Netflix’s ‘Cobra Kai’: Is ‘The Karate Kid’ Franchise Based on a True Story?

The Karate Kid might be a classic movie now. But it faced several obstacles — including a potential legal dispute with DC Comics — early on. Of course, the franchise is back in a big way now thanks to Cobra Kai. Yet, even fans of the Netflix series might be curious to know the real story behind The Karate Kid. For instance, is the original 1984 movie based on a true story?

Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio in 'The Karate Kid'
Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio in ‘The Karate Kid’ | Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

‘Cobra Kai’ continues ‘The Karate Kid’ saga

Cobra Kai picks up the story of The Karate Kid in real time. Decades have passed since Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) went head to head at the All Valley Karate Tournament. And when Johnny revives the titular dojo that made him, the old rivalry reignites.

Of course, Cobra Kai has grown a lot since that initial premise. Johnny’s former sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), re-emerged to cause much more havoc. And other favorites from The Karate Kid movies — most notably, Elisabeth Shue’s Ali Mills — have come back too.

In addition to the franchise’s original stars, Cobra Kai introduces an entirely new set of teens. In some ways, their stories mirror that of Daniel and Johnny in The Karate Kid. But they also represent a darker, more sinister side of the franchise, one more in line with modern sensibilities.

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Is ‘The Karate Kid’ a true story?

The Karate Kid has resonated with audiences because the story feels so down-to-earth and relatable. After all, Daniel just wants to find a sense of belonging in his new environment. But while his story feels like something that really happened, Daniel LaRusso actually isn’t a real person.

However, The Karate Kid fans will be delighted to know the film was inspired by true events. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated, screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen based the movie on his own experiences. After getting beat up by a gang of bullies, Kamen sought out martial arts training. Although his initial teacher wasn’t a great fit, he found a Japanese karate teacher who mentored him.

This is in a nutshell the genesis of the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). In addition to Kamen’s own experience, The Karate Kid draws from a news article about a young boy with a single mother who turned to martial arts to defend himself against bullies. So while Daniel isn’t real — and, for that matter, neither is Cobra Kai — the spirit of his story is.

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‘Cobra Kai’ Season 4 is now filming

Morita sadly died in 2005, but Miyagi continues to be a key part of The Karate Kid franchise. Cobra Kai regularly references the impact his teachings had on Daniel. And in season 3, Daniel reconnected with his sensei during a trip to Japan. That storyline hews back to The Karate Kid Part II. And fans expect Cobra Kai Season 4 to move into the following movie.

In particular, the next batch of episodes — which is now filming and will likely arrive in early 2022 — could see Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) appear. A younger version of the character — the slippery benefactor behind Cobra Kai — already popped up. And many fans assume The Karate Kid Part III baddie is heading back to town to help Kreese defeat Daniel and Johnny at last.