Cobra Kai (Season 1) Nods to the Original Karate Kid Series

If you've not seen the new YouTube Red series Cobra Kai, stop reading here. There are spoilers aplenty in this post.

If you've seen it, let's get beyond the obvious references to the original Karate Kid movies like LaRusso Auto "kicking the competition" and a free bonsai tree for every customer. Let's dig into this amazing script-flipping first season of Cobra Kai and pick out some of the more subtle reference to the original 1984 classic!

Episode 1
  • When Miguel meets Johnny, he mentions that he and his family have just moved into the apartment complex and they’re having trouble with their sink. Daniel and his mother experienced a broken faucet of their own when they moved into their new apartment.
  • This one may be a stretch, but as the fight begins outside the convenience store, one of Kyler’s friends refers to him as “Kai.” Maybe an unintentional bit of foreshadowing?
Episode 2
  • The episode opens with Dean Martin’s song “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” -- an obvious reference to Daniel’s final kick in his first tournament.
  • Addressing his new student, Johnny notices that Miguel is distracted and delivers the line “What is the problem, Mr. Diaz?” The dialogue leading up to this line was also used by Sensei Kreese who noticed a distracted Johnny: “What is the problem, Mr. Lawrence?”
  • Johnny instructs Miguel to do fifty push ups on his knuckles -- a punishment also used by Sensei Kreese.
  • As Miguel washes the mats at the dojo, Johnny is sure to remind him to wash both sides. Mr. Miyagi similarly reminded Daniel that part of his training included painting both sides of the fence.
  • Daniel reminds his wife that he was once “pushed off a cliff on [his] bike.”
  • The knife Daniel uses at dinner was brought back from his first trip to Okinawa. This trip was, of course, the basis for The Karate Kid Part II.
  • As Miguel washes the windows in the dojo, he asks Johnny if there is any particular way he should be doing it. Mr. Miyagi may have had a specific method in mind, but in the spirit of Johnny’s lax training, he responds, “I don’t give a shit. Whatever’s easiest.”
  • At the end of the episode, Daniel and Johnny find themselves face to face on the mat in positions similar to where they found themselves in the All-Valley Tournament.

Episode 3
  • One of Daniel’s employees at LaRusso Auto is his cousin Louie -- possibly a reference or relation to his Uncle Louie mentioned in the early parts of the original film.
  • The kids in the Cobra Kai series attend West Valley High School -- the same school attended by Daniel and Johnny.
  • Daniel also attended the Halloween dance during his first year at West Valley High. Thanks to Johnny, Miguel arrives wearing a skeleton costume just like the ones worn by the Cobra Kai in the original film.

  • Daniel mentions that his mom used to drive him on dates -- like the time she drove he and Ali to Golf N Stuff.
Episode 4
  • One of Daniel’s breakfast specialties are his Bananarama pancakes. Bananarama performed Cruel Summer -- the song that plays as in the original film as he arrives for his first day of school.
  • After harrassing Miguel and his friends in the library, one of Kyler’s friends is heard making the comment, “I think he’s gonna cry.” When Daniel is confronted by Dutch in the locker room prior to the tournament, they are run off by the tournament official. As they leave, one Cobra Kai member can be heard delivering the same line.
Episode 5
  • Daniel dines at the Encino Oaks Country Club -- the same place where he was covered in spaghetti after seeing Johnny kiss Ali on the dance floor.
  • Johnny declares, “This isn’t a knitting class, it’s a dojo.” In the original film, when Sensei Kreese suggests that Daniel and Johnny square off immediately, Mr. Miyagi declines the invitation. Kreese responds, “This is a karate dojo, not a knitting class.”
  • Johnny gives his original gi to his student, Miguel in the same way Miyagi have Daniel the patch for his own gi.
  • As Daniel puts on his gi, the music playing in the background is the same music heard in the original film’s climactic final kick scene.
Episode 6
  • When young Johnny visits the Cobra Kai dojo, he watches a class in progress. The audio from this scene is the same audio from the original film when Johnny would have been a teenage student.
  • As Daniel mentions in the car lot, “Things aren’t always what they look like.” Mr. Miyagi delivered a similar message to a frustrated Daniel when he suggests, “Not everything is as seems.”
  • Sid refers to Johnny’s “drum set and roller skates” -- a possible reference to the music video for No More Kings 2007 song "Sweep the Leg."

Episode 7
  • In the episode’s opening scene, as Daniel teaches Robby proper technique for various chores, the music playing the background is the same used in the original film as Daniel trains on the beach.
  • Robby believe he is done with his chores at LaRusso Auto, but Daniel takes him by surprise when he asks, “Both lots?” This is similar to Daniel thinking he is finished painting the fence when Mr. Miyagi asks him, “Both sides?”
  • In an obvious reference to the original film, Robby is angry that he’s just doing all “shitty chores” and not learning karate. Daniel felt the same after his initial training with Mr. Miyagi.
  • The magazine advertisement and poster for the upcoming All-Valley Tournament has changed none from the image used in 1984.

  • When Robby films Daniel’s wife entering the security code at the dealership, a frame-by-frame look at this episode reveals that the code is “198484.” The original film was released in 1984.
  • Daniel refers to Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees and suggests that the shop had a solid business plan but “ran into some bad luck.” This, of course, is a reference to the bonsai shop from The Karate Kid Part II.
  • Daniel teaches Robby to properly trim bonsai trees through visualization, just like he was taught by Mr. Miyagi.
  • The music that plays as the date scene at Golf N Stuff begins is the same music used as Daniel and Ali’s date begins at the same location in 1984.
  • At Golf n Stuff, Miguel and Sam’s date closely mirrors that of Daniel and Ali as they play mini golf and hockey. They also have their pictures taken in a photo booth.

  • As the episode concludes, Johnny and Miguel celebrate with a stiff drink -- similar to the drink Miyagi shared with Daniel.
Episode 8
  • The LaRusso family is visited Daniel’s mother -- Lucille from the original film (and a cameo in Part II).
  • Lucille refers to “those Cobra Kai” jerks and brings up the time they “pushed [Daniel] down that hill.”
  • Johnny talks about the summer of 1982 when Rocky 3 had just come out and his buddy Dutch was a huge Mr. T fan. Dutch, of course, was a part of the Cobra Kai gang from the original film. The original Rocky film was directed by John Avildsen, as were the first three Karate Kid films.
  • In the same conversation, Johnny recalls seeing Ali Mills for the first time and the summer that Daniel moved to California.
  • The music that plays during the training montage is multiple times during the original film.
  • Daniel wears a catcher’s mask and chest protector as he teaches Robby to punch -- just like Miyagi did when Daniel learned similar techniques.
  • Miguel unexpectedly finds Sam with another guy who she has no interest in, yet he misinterprets the interaction. This is similar to Daniel finding Johnny and Ali dancing together at the country club in the original film.
Episode 9
  • When Johnny arrives at Daniel’s house to confront him, he says, “You still can’t leave well enough alone.” In the original film, when the Cobras catch up with Daniel near the apartment building running from the Halloween dance, Johnny says to Daniel, “You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you, you little twerp?!”
  • Offering a car from his dealership, Daniel takes Johnny to his trade-in lot and presents him with an opportunity: “Choose.” Daniel was presented with a similar opportunity with the cars outside Miyagi’s house on his sixteenth birthday: “Choose.”
  • Test driving his chosen car at high speeds with a nervous Daniel riding shotgun, Johnny says, “Relax, Danielle.” In the original film, when Dutch confronts Daniel in the locker room, he refers to Daniel as “Danielle.”
  • On the test drive, Daniel and Johnny stop by the South Seas apartment complex where Daniel and his mother once lived.

  • Sitting at a bar together, Daniel and Johnny recall the spaghetti incident at the country club and Daniel’s knowledge of Ali’s current whereabouts thanks to social media.
  • There’s a confrontation on the beach...and Miguel is wearing a red hoodie and ringer shirt...just like Daniel once wore.
  • Due to a shove from Johnny, Daniel’s All-Valley Tournament trophy is broken. Johnny’s second place trophy was also broken by Sensei Kreese in the parking lot in the opening of The Karate Kid Part II.
Episode 10
  • The Cobra Kai students enter the tournament floor chanting their dojo name -- just like the Cobras did in 1984.
  • Miguel’s first point is earned using Daniel’s famous crane kick.
  • Hawk makes illegal contact in the semi-finals with Robby just like Bobby did with Daniel.
  • Seeing Robby suffering from an injury that could keep him out of the finals, Daniel appears to be preparing Miyagi’s hand-rubbing treatment...before calling for a medic.
  • As Robby returns to the mat, it is announce that “Daniel LaRusso’s gonna coach!” In the same dramatic fashion, it was announce following his return from a devastating injury in the original film that “Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight!”
  • Following the tournament, Daniel and Robby return to Daniel’s original training ground...Miyagi’s yard.

  • And if you watch all ten episodes, you’re fully aware of … well … you know.

Season 2 can't get here fast enough!


Shawn Robare said...

If I haven't already said it on social, this is rad.

TL said...

Thanks, Shawn ... I'm sure there's plenty I missed but I guess that just means I need to keep watching it over and over to be sure. :)