30 Things You Might Not Have Known About Cobra Kai
Arriving 34 years after the original Karate Kid, in 2018 Cobra Kai hit laptop screens around the world via YouTube Red. The story follows the washed-up Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who wrestles with the success of his childhood rival Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and reluctantly becomes the sensei he always wished he had, revitalising Cobra Kai dojo.
Now on Netflix following Youtube Red’s transformation into Youtube Premium, with a third season being released in January 2021, Cobra Kai has gained a dedicated fanbase in its own right.
So don your gi, tighten up that iconic headband and ready yourself for spoilers, as today we’re looking at 30 facts you might not have known about Cobra Kai.
30. Only one member of the original Cobra Kai doesn’t appear in the show
Johnny seems to live a pretty solitary and lonely life outside of his work as a sensei, but he does reunite with the old gang in season two, in order to party with Tommy.
All of Johnny’s former friends from Cobra Kai are there at the celebration, but they all remark on the absence of Dutch.
Dutch, whom Daniel LaRusso fought during the legendary All Valley Tournament, is explained to be serving time in Lompoc Prison, which is why he is not around.
The actual reason is that Chad McQueen, the actor who played him, was too busy with commitments to his business, McQueen Racing.
The reasoning for Dutch not appearing in the show is actually pretty ironic, since McQueen’s story mirrors Daniel LaRusso’s own career trajectory.
From the first episode of season one of Cobra Kai, it is established that LaRusso also found success in the world of vehicles, and it too draws him away from karate.
29. Will Smith is one of the show’s producers
Both William Zabka and Ralph Macchio have executive producer credits on Cobra Kai, but they’re not the only stars helping to run the show.
Will Smith also has a producer credit on Cobra Kai, and has a pretty clear reason to be invested in the project.
The reason is that Overbrook Entertainment, the production company run by both Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, has owned a portion of the rights to The Karate Kid for around a decade.
Specifically, they have owned some of the rights ever since their son, Jaden Smith, starred in the 2010 remake opposite Jackie Chan.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see Jaden Smith make anything other than an unrelated cameo in Cobra Kai.
The reason being is that the 2010 remake is not part of what the Cobra Kai creators have referred to as the Miyagi-Verse, and so it cannot be referenced in the show.
28. The show includes never-before-seen Karate Kid footage
Cobra Kai features several flashbacks to the events of The Karate Kid, but if you were thinking that some of that footage didn’t look totally familiar, there’s a good reason for it.
Director John G. Avildsen spent hours filming the 1984 film’s tournament scene for multiple takes and multiple angles, resulting in a lot of footage that never got used.
Rather than being broken up into segments, the final fight from the original Karate Kid was shot all the way through, without being interrupted.
Both William Zabka and Ralph Macchio described it as the toughest scene in the movie, as they had to shoot the whole sequence without stopping.
With that said, that shooting strategy led to a lot of emotional moments, such as when Zabka looked up into the stands to see his own parents sitting there.
That shot, as well as three new angles of the legendary crane kick, are all included at relevant points throughout Cobra Kai.
27. Xolo Maridueña had a super intense training regime
In Cobra Kai, Xolo Maridueña plays Miguel Diaz, a bubbly kid who has just moved to the area and winds up getting picked on.
Diaz begs Johnny Lawrence to train him, inadvertently rekindling the rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and the Cobra Kai dojo in the process.
Given that Diaz eventually starts working his way towards being a karate champion, it makes sense that Maridueña’s training regimen was the most intense of the cast.
Maridueña explained that he had one of the steepest learning curves, having to adapt to a huge workload of different exercise programs.
Maridueña told Glitter Mag Rocks that his training comprised of “a daily 2-4-hour regiment [sic] of working with professional stunts, martial arts, boxing, strength and yoga instructor teams to get me in amazing shape.”
He went on to say: “It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It wasn’t just about learning martial arts, it was about the entire task of learning martial arts and then using it in a way that can be choreographed and filmed.”
26. Daniel might still be the villain
Ralph Macchio, of course, plays Daniel LaRusso in the Karate Kid movies, the character who the series clearly treats as the hero.
After all, it’s LaRusso who is trained by the wise Mr. Miyagi, LaRusso who starts out as the underdog, and LaRusso who eventually manages to win the tournament and defeat his rival.
With that said, many have theorised that LaRusso is actually the villain, since he constantly picks fights with Johnny Lawrence, escalating the violence, and even stealing his girlfriend.
Not only does Cobra Kai constantly reframe events from The Karate Kid so we can see them from Lawrence’s perspective, but it also suggests that LaRusso is continuing his petty ways.
In Cobra Kai, LaRusso often makes situations worse with his hot temper, and consistently believes the worst of Johnny Lawrence, even when there’s actually no reason for him to do so.
Cobra Kai complicates the black and white story of The Karate Kid, blurring the lines between hero and villain, and maybe even pointing to LaRusso being the latter.
25. Tanner Buchanan has the most martial arts training of anyone in the core cast
Tanner Buchanan plays Robby Keane, the semi-estranged son of Johnny Lawrence, who gets drawn into the world of karate thanks to the kindness of Daniel LaRusso.
Keane is in his fair share of difficult and visually impressive fights, so it makes sense that the actor picked to play him would have some karate experience.
What you may not have known is that Tanner Buchanan is the most proficient martial artist in the cast of any original Karate Kid movie or Cobra Kai.
Buchanan has a purple belt in tae kwon do, about halfway to a black belt, which is more advanced than any of the other teenage cast.
In fact, Buchanan’s the most accomplished of anyone in the Miyagi-Verse, including both Macchio and Mr Miyagi himself, Pat Morita.
The only cast member who can beat Buchanan is the 2010 reboot’s Jackie Chan, who of course has a black belt.
24. Hilary Swank could appear in season three
The Next Karate Kid was released in 1994, continuing the original series while moving away from the plotline of the original Karate Kid trilogy. Unfortunately, it is universally regarded as a pretty bad movie.
The Next Karate Kid stars Hilary Swank as a rebellious teenager who uses karate to conquer her anger issues and overcome her troubled family life.
Despite The Next Karate Kid’s lukewarm critical reception, creator of Cobra Kai Jon Hurwitz has hinted that Swank’s character may make an appearance at some point in the show.
Hurwitz recently said in an interview that: “We have not yet reached out to Hilary Swank but we do think about her as somebody who is part of the Karate Kid canon and who could exist in the world of Cobra Kai.”
The real question is whether Hilary Swank would want to return to the role of Julie Pierce, especially considering that the film was one of her worst-received projects.
It’s also unclear how the character of Julie would fit into the Cobra Kai vs Miyagi dojo rivalry if she was to return.
23. Jacob Bertrand’s make-up and hair takes two hours to apply
Jacob Bertrand’s character in Cobra Kai definitely has the most outlandish look of the bunch, but it didn’t start out that way.
Bertrand’s character begins as the shy and retiring Eli, who soon gains a mohawk and a back tattoo, and starts going by the name ‘Hawk.’
Hawk’s look is a huge part of his character, summing up his motive for staying loyal to Cobra Kai, as well as reminding us of his transformation.
His haircut and tattoo also serve to show his physical appearance transforming as his moral code and motivations do, making them way more than just an aesthetic choice.
Hawk’s signature haircut takes a full hour to apply, and Bertrand also has to sit for roughly half an hour while his back tattoo is painted on.
However, it often takes a full two hours to complete the process, as Bertrand would dance around to keep his spirits up while the painting was being done.
22. William Zabka almost said no to the show
Cobra Kai revolves around the performance of Billy Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, the reluctant sensei who slowly becomes determined to be better to his students than his own sensei was to him.
However, it took a seriously compelling pitch to get Zabka on board with the project, since he didn’t approve of Lawrence reopening the Cobra Kai.
Elaborating on his stance at the Tribeca Film Festival, Zabka said: “It’s Pandora’s Box for him. It’s the snake that bit him, you know.”
It’s not difficult to understand how Zabka came to this conclusion when The Karate Kid trilogy makes the unhealthy nature of Lawrence’s relationship to the Cobra Kai so obvious.
Not only does LaRusso object to Lawrence bringing back the Cobra Kai, but Lawrence’s own friends who are former members themselves also question his decision to do so.
In the end, Lawrence decides to keep the Cobra Kai name, but only while staying committed to an entirely different set of morals.
21. It took a lot to convince Macchio to be on the show
Cobra Kai has proved itself to be a success, with a third season being released in January and a fourth season already commissioned by Netflix.
Given that Cobra Kai has been such an obvious slam dunk, it may surprise you to know that neither Zabka nor Macchio were on board at first.
We’ve already discussed how Zabka was nervous about his character revitalising the Cobra Kai after all the torment the dojo caused him.
Macchio, for his part, just felt protective over the Karate Kid legacy in general, and was hesitant to say yes to a project after saying no so many times.
It took many meetings with both actors individually for the creators to finally convince them that Cobra Kai was a good idea.
Of course, both actors have since settled into the show, and have said they are thrilled to return to their iconic characters.
20. Peyton List was convinced she’d failed her audition
Peyton List appears in season two of Cobra Kai as Tory, a talented martial artist who strikes up a rivalry with a certain someone in the core cast.
If you already recognise List, then chances are you’ve seen her work on the Disney Channel, which includes Jessie and Bunk’d.
List was apprehensive about auditioning for Cobra Kai, and was convinced she hadn’t won the role since she auditioned so last-minute.
Her intuition turned out to be wrong, as she actually aced the audition, and was thrilled to be offered the role.
List’s importance to the plot and core characters increases throughout season two, and fans predict she will play a pivotal role in season three as well.
Just as LaRusso and Lawrence’s rivalry causes shockwaves throughout both dojos, the rivalry between Samantha and Tory is theorised to have similarly huge consequences.
19. The show’s creators were inspired by a How I Met Your Mother plotline
We’ve already discussed how Cobra Kai occasionally leans into the fan theory that Daniel LaRusso is actually the bad guy.
Cobra Kai actually went in this direction after seeing this exact theory play out on another popular TV show: How I Met Your Mother.
Throughout How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson makes constant references to The Karate Kid, and explains how much he idolises the hero of the movie.
However, in the season eight episode The Bro Mitzvah, Stinson makes it clear that he thinks Johnny Lawrence is the Karate Kid, not Daniel LaRusso.
In fact, when Daniel LaRusso the actor shows up in the show as himself to congratulate Barney Stinson on his engagement, Stinson is absolutely furious. It is only when William Zabka shows up, having been disguised as a clown, that Stinson calms down.
The creators of Cobra Kai saw this twist and were thrilled that the fan theory of Lawrence being the real Karate Kid was popular enough to be referenced in How I Met Your Mother, because that meant it could be built on in Cobra Kai.
18. Most of the Cobra Kai actors are actually professional dancers
Despite almost everyone in the Cobra Kai core cast having at least a couple of awesome fights under their belt by the end of season one, most of the actors that were cast were not actually martial artists.
Despite this, they were specifically chosen based on how well they would adapt to the stage fighting, and one marker in particular was used to decide how well they would succeed.
Specifically, the casting directors tried to pick actors with a background in professional dance or gymnastics.
Aside from the main characters, almost all the kids training at either dojo have worked as professional dancers at some point in their careers.
The reasoning is that if someone is used to picking up dance choreography quickly, fight choreography shouldn’t be that different.
There’s also the fact that they would have the stamina to learn, rehearse and shoot the long fight scenes, and would be used to paying specific attention to their movements.
17. Nichole Brown wasn’t asked to return for season three
Miguel might have kicked off the whole plot of Cobra Kai by pushing Johnny Lawrence to take up karate again and start teaching, and by being his first student.
However, one student does not a dojo make, which is why the character of Aisha, played by Nichole Brown, is so important.
Aisha isn’t physically bullied like Miguel is, and so it is not a desire to beat her bullies in a fight that encourages her to join Cobra Kai.
Instead, Aisha wants to learn how to be confident and proud of herself, so she can ignore the digital harassment she faces from the popular girls at school.
Aisha is the most morally sound of the Cobra Kai crew, and she maintains some close relationships with her rivals, something that has made her beloved amongst fans.
Unfortunately, Nichole Brown recently confirmed that she wasn’t asked to return for season three, as the writers couldn’t find anything for her to do.
16. William Zabka and Ralph Macchio are actually great friends in real life
Cobra Kia might have a cast that is mostly comprised of teenagers, but there’s no denying that Zabka and Macchio are the heart of the show.
Most of all, Cobra Kai centres on the rivalry between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso, and their attempts and inability to put the past behind them.
Watching the show, it can be super frustrating as the pair continually inch towards some kind of truce, only for situations out of their control to come between them.
Even worse, at times the situations that ruin their fragile peace have been indirectly created by themselves, making the whole thing feel more tragic.
If you find that kind of dynamic pretty stressful to watch play out, it might be helpful to remember that Zabka and Macchio are actually super good friends in real life.
Though they got on well when the first Karate Kid was filmed in the 80s, the two became even closer after the passing of Pat Morita in 2005, and have been great friends ever since.
15. It’s the second time William Zabka and Diora Baird have played a couple
Johnny Lawrence’s plotline in Cobra Kai partly revolves around him trying to pick up the pieces of his personal life and improve his relationships with those he cares about.
That impulse leads him to call ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son, Shannon Keene, who is played by the actress Diora Baird.
Cobra Kai isn’t the only project which sees Zabka and Baird playing a couple, since they are also together in Hot Tub Time Machine.
Released in 2010, Hot Tub Time Machine is a film about, well, exactly what the title suggests.
Zabka plays Rick Steelman in Hot Tub Time Machine while his girlfriend, played by Baird, is never even given a name.
However, despite Baird not even being credited in Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s easy to assume the two have a healthier relationship than they do in Cobra Kai.
14. You can tell the allegiance of the characters by the colours they wear
Cobra Kai is a show about karate, but more than that, it is a show about the shifting loyalty and relationships of the people in each rival dojo.
Allegiances change based on who is dating who, what kind of morals are being taught at each dojo, and the latest escalation of the rivalry.
These constantly shifting loyalties can make it difficult to know how secure each character is feeling in their dojo choice and their karate teachings at any possible moment.
The good news is, if you need to know how a particular character is feeling, all you have to do is look at their clothing choices.
Characters feeling secure in their allegiance to the Cobra Kai will be seen wearing red, with the darker characters wearing black.
In contrast, characters loyal to the Miyagi dojo are often seen in blue, and occasionally in white.
13. Ali may have a bigger role to play in season three
From Daniel LaRusso’s mother to the original Cobra Kai gang, pretty much all the key characters from the first Karate Kid movie are present in Cobra Kai.
However, it doesn’t take a super fan to notice that Ali, the girl who dated both Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, is mysteriously absent from the show.
Both LaRusso and Lawrence talk about Ali constantly, and Lawrence even tells protege Miguel that Ali was the first love that he never really got over.
Throughout the second series, we see Ali’s Facebook profile page, which reveals that she is happily married.
Cobra Kai’s creators have stayed pretty coy about the details of Ali’s involvement in the show, but they have teased that we will see more of her in the future.
Specifically, Ali is due to have a bigger part to play in season three, though it’s not yet known what that part will be.
12. There’s a fan theory that Ali will save Miguel
Though Cobra Kai is predominantly a comedy, it isn’t afraid to dig into hard-hitting subject matter, from broken father-son relationships to the consequences of fighting.
Maybe the darkest point in the series comes at the end of season two when (big spoilers ahead!) Miguel is seriously injured in a brawl between the two dojos.
Though Miguel actor Xolo Maridueña is confirmed to appear in season three, the character’s injury is so severe that it is unclear if he will survive.
Even if he does, it seems like Miguel may never walk again, and that at the very least karate is now out of his reach.
With that said, many fans have speculated that Ali, the lost love of both Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, will be the one to save Miguel’s life.
At the end of season two, it is revealed that Ali is working as a pediatric surgeon, which is exactly what Miguel would need.
11. William Zabka broke a toe kicking blocks for season one
Making Cobra Kai is a super impressive feat, considering just how many young actors had to go through rigorous training in order to become proficient in karate.
Not only that, but the ensemble cast then had to go on to shoot hugely complex stage combat scenes, with a large number of fighters, extras and other variables.
With that said, for as hard as it has no doubt been for the younger actors to put their bodies through the paces, it must have been doubly difficult for the original Karate Kid actors.
Going back to an intense training regime and relearning stage combat in middle age is bound to be a gruelling process, as William Zabka learned.
While kicking through wooden blocks in season one, Zabka felt his toe break, and quickly hobbled off to the side.
Rather than let his waiting stunt double take over, however, Zabka simply pulled his toe out of the socket and reset it himself, before going for another take. Now that’s Cobra Kai spirit.
10. There’s a Cobra Kai video game
Season three of Cobra Kai isn’t set to release until January 2021, and the show’s move from YouTube Premium to Netflix means there’s now a much bigger audience waiting on a third series.
If you’re one of many new fans trying to figure out a way to pass the time until the new season drops, there is something you can do.
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues is a video game roughly based on the events of the first two seasons of the show.
You can play as everyone from Johnny Lawrence to Hawk, and each character has their own special strengths and abilities.
The side-scrolling beat-em-up is no doubt much easier than training in karate for real, and you can become a champion without ever leaving your living room.
All in all, it’s not a bad way to spend the days until season three drops, especially if you pair it with an appropriate 80s rock playlist.
9. Tommy actor Rob Garrison died shortly after appearing in the show
Season two, episode six of Cobra Kai is called Take a Right, and shows Johnny Lawrence at his most confused and conflicted.
However, he is forced to put aside drama regarding John Kreese, his own dojo and his son aside, when he gets a call from his old Cobra Kai buddies.
The episode focuses on Lawrence’s old friends getting back together for one last road trip, in honour of their friend Tommy.
It is explained that Tommy is suffering with cancer, and his old karate friends are breaking him out of the hospital for one night, not knowing how long he has left.
Heartbreakingly, Tommy passes away at the end of the episode, confirming for Lawrence that life is short and his moral decisions are important.
Sadly Rob Garrison, who played Tommy in both the original Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, passed away from cancer shortly after the episode was filmed.
8. Season two gives us a hint about the grown-up Freddy Fernandez’s livelihood
If you’ve watched the original Karate Kid, then you will recognise the name Freddy Fernandez.
Fernandez is the next-door neighbour of Daniel LaRusso, who quickly befriends the kid and teaches him the lay of the land.
Fernandez is probably most famous for wearing his iconic piggy t-shirt, which has become a memorable image from the film.
It therefore makes sense when we see Fernandez’s name all over the freezers and meat stores that we see in Cobra Kai.
When LaRusso attempts to teach his students how to fight in extreme heat and extreme cold, we see the Fernandez name all over his freezer room.
That implies that Fernandez never grew out of his piggy fixation, and went on to run a successful butchering business in California.
7. Tanner Buchanan’s mother is a real karate black belt
We’ve already looked at the fact that Tanner Buchanan, who plays Robby Keene, is the most well-versed in karate out of the entire Cobra Kai cast.
Buchanan has his teal belt, which is around halfway to a black belt, and the actor has kept up training while filming Cobra Kai in order to progress further.
If this seems like an odd detail for a person whose sole focus is acting, then it might make sense to look at his parents.
It turns out that Tanner Buchanan got his love of karate from his mother, Marlona Buchanan, who has had a lifelong interest in the sport.
As surprising as it might sound, Marlona Buchanan actually has a black belt in karate, putting her on par with the professionals.
Her son Tanner inherited his love of karate from her, and it no doubt helped him land a role on Cobra Kai.
6. Fans are predicting Miguel’s turn to the dark side
Miguel is the first young person we ever meet in Cobra Kai, and we’re immediately set up to like him.
Like Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, he loves his mother, is excited to make friends, and wants to learn martial arts just to get bullies to leave him alone.
However, throughout his training at the Cobra Kai dojo, Miguel has moments of serious anger and darkness.
He acts jealously towards his girlfriend, fights dirty and ruthlessly at competitions, and seems to have had the impulse for mercy trained out of him.
Throughout season two, we see him striving towards a lighter path, and he shows mercy to his opponent at a crucial time.
However, it is his decision to be merciful that lands him in the hospital, leading many fans to assume that in season three, a much angrier Miguel will be leaving the operating room.
5. The show’s creators are considering five different spin-offs
Many films and television shows attempt spin-offs that go nowhere, with maybe the most famous being the unsuccessful Friends off-shoot Joey.
Cobra Kai is already technically a spin-off of the original Karate Kid, and so most would assume that a spin-off of Cobra Kai itself would be out of the question.
With that said, the creators of Cobra Kai have made it known on multiple occasions that they are looking for opportunities to make the universe larger.
This could include finding separate stories in the Miyagi-verse to showcase in their own individual projects.
Speaking about the possibility, creator Hayden Schlossberg said: “What I can say is that we have a list of at least five different scenarios that we would pursue, that we could consider.”
Schlossberg went on to say: “Now, some of them are untraditional. Some of them are unlike any kind of spin-off you’ve ever seen before.”
4. We could see Daniel and Johnny team up in season three
Just like The Karate Kid before it, Cobra Kai focuses on the rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence.
Only in Cobra Kai, both karate masters are all grown up, and their rivalry affects far more than just themselves.
The consequences of their hatred of each other come to a head at the end of season two, when the out of control rivalry leads to several of their students getting injured.
As a result of these casualties, LaRusso shuts down his dojo and possibly goes to Japan to reset, while Lawrence loses control of the Cobra Kai to John Kreese.
Given that both Lawrence and LaRusso can agree on the danger of Kreese having a whole new crop of students to radicalise, many fans have guessed that season three will be the season where the two rivals finally bury the hatchet.
After all, in order to defeat John Kreese and his vision for the Cobra Kai dojo, Lawrence and LaRusso may have to team up.
3. Robbie and Miguel making the tournament final actually makes no sense
There’s no denying that Cobra Kai is a fun show, with awesome action and some real heart at the centre of it.
However, as many fans have been pointing out since the first season debuted on YouTube Premium, some of it doesn’t actually make any sense.
Fans are asked to accept a lot of ridiculous things, such as Hawk’s overprotective mother never noticing his full back tattoo, and being totally accepting of his new hairstyle.
Most of all though, all of the timescales in regards to training and karate proficiency seem completely out of wack.
With the exception of Sam, who has been training with her father since birth, all of the kids pick up karate way too fast.
By the time the tournament rolls around, they should not be able to beat seasoned fighters who have been training for years to make the final, even if they are training with legends like Lawrence and LaRusso.
2. Mary Mouser got to keep her favourite outfit from season one
Most TV shows tend to involve a fairly long and exhausting shooting process, and there’s no denying that Cobra Kai was a difficult show to be a part of.
Most of the young cast spent almost all their time on screen either fighting or preparing to fight, which meant a lot of complex and physically arduous karate choreography.
One of the few times the second-generation Cobra Kai actors get a respite from the fighting is when they are hanging out or going on dates.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Mary Mouser, who plays Samantha LaRusso, became super attached to her date night outfit.
The outfit that Sam wore on her season one date with Miguel became such a favourite of Mouser’s that she asked to take it home.
Though the cast, for the most part, weren’t allowed to take anything from the set, Mouser was granted permission to keep the clothes, since she liked them so much.
1. Season three is rumoured to open with a time jump
Though some dedicated Karate Kid fans definitely watched Cobra Kai from the second that it landed on YouTube Premium, many fans instead found it on Netflix.
That means that by the time they started watching it, two series were already out for them binge through at once.
The fact that most fans watched the first two seasons in one go means that the build-up for season three has hit a fever pitch.
Fans are on the lookout for any scrap of information about season three that they can get their hands on, and the creators recently gladly obliged by dropping one hint.
The only thing we know so far is that season three is likely to begin with a sizable time jump, with the core characters in very different places, physically and emotionally, from where they ended season two.
A rumour is even doing the rounds that Daniel LaRusso will have gone to Japan in the season gap, and maybe even taken Sam with him.