Inspiration behind the plot of the movie Karate Kid


Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in “The Karate Kid” (1984).

The Karate Kid tells the story of a young man named Daniel LaRusso determined to learn karate through the patient instruction of his wise old teacher, Mr. Miyagi, in order to defend himself against bullies and bad guys. It was such a success upon its release that he ended up becoming one of the the most profitable 1984 films, and spawned two sequels, a nominated television series, as well as “The Next Karate Kid,” a 1994 recast film starring Hilary Swank and Pat Moriega.

However, many may not be familiar with the inspiration that drove screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen to write the original film. For those who are fans of TV or movie series, the real story behind the movie that started it all might be worth knowing. Here’s what you need to know.

Much of the script was based on Kamen’s own life

Robert mark kamen

GettyScreenwriter Robert Mark Kamen attends a screening of “The Karate Kid” in 2012.

Although many “Karate Kid” fans are familiar with the legendary fights that took place in the films – primarily between Daniel and bully Johnny Lawrence – few may know that it was a similar brawl involving Kamen who served as the host. main inspiration for the script of the film. According to Illustrated sports, “The screenwriter took up martial arts after being blown up by a gang of bullies at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.” In 1964, Kamen was 17, roughly the age of Daniel LaRusso in the original film.

After deciding to practice karate for self-defense, Kamen followed the instructions of a “earthy sea captain who preached raw violence, who helped on the revenge front but left Kamen eager for a bond. deeper spiritual with the craft, “a description that sounds awfully familiar with sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove), a character Kamen designed to be the film’s antagonist.

As Sports Illustrated explained, Kamen then extended to the Okinawan art of “GōjÅ«-ryÅ«” – intended to “turn aggression against the aggressor with smooth blocks and sharp counterattacks” – under the guidance of an instructor from Okinawa who spoke little English but was a master of the art.

According to SFGate, this instructor – a clear basis for the iconic Mr. Miyagi – was called Meitoku Yagi and was a student of Miyagi Chogun, the founder of GōjÅ«-ryÅ«.

It was then producer Jerry Weintraub who approached Kamen to write a screenplay based on something Weintraub had seen on local news, according to LA Weekly. The article states that “the story was about a boy from the valley, who, like many children who are bullied or bullied, just didn’t know how to respond or fight back. “

Kamen, who according to LA Weekly had been studying karate for 17 years, previously co-wrote “Taps”, A 1981 Golden Globe nominated drama starring Sean Penn and Tom Cruise, and was fairly well established in the film industry. It was then that Columbia Pictures hired him to write a screenplay based on what Weintraub had seen. After that, the “Karate Kid” script was born.

“The Karate Kid” has had a lasting influence on the way we see karate

Robert Mark Kamen and Martin Kove

GettyRobert Mark Kamen (L) and “Karate Kid” and “Cobra Kai” star Martin Kove in 2012.

The influence of Kamen’s screenplay was more than just the popularity of the franchise itself.

According to many, the film changed the way America viewed and engaged in karate itself. As Kamen puts it in LA Weekly:

When I started to train [in 1964], there were very few dojos. They weren’t teenagers kicking, getting belts, and putting on padding. It was very, very serious, traditional, hard-core stuff. I think it changed when I wrote The Karate Kid. People have started to open these dojos everywhere.

In a 2018 group interview Directed by Sports Illustrated, Pat Johnson, the film’s martial arts coordinator, said of the film’s lasting influence: “Every parent across the country wanted their kids to protect themselves from bullies, so karate studios wrote people to the right and to the left. “

In the same interview, Kamen said that around the release of “The Karate Kid,” dojo owners across the country called him to tell him that their attendance had doubled. He explained that potential clients asked to learn “Mr. Karate Miyagi”, to which Kamen replied, “What is this?

Chad McQueen, who plays Cobra Kai Dutch, responded by saying, “That’s the big plus point: this movie has probably saved a lot of ass screaming.”

Andrea G. Henderson