Cobra Kai Was Always Right!

I have a confession to make! It’s my dirty little secret only my wife knows… well up until today, at least…

…I binge watch series on the internet!

I know, shock horror, you’re disgusted and want nothing to do with me ever again (read sarcasm if it wasn’t obvious).

Chances are you probably do it too, apparently, it’s become an epidemic with the advent of services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Youtube Red. Although Youtube Red hasn’t got much worth watching… up until recently, that is.

A few days ago, the brand new Youtube Red series was released called, Cobra Kai. After waiting eagerly for months, the excitement for me had reached an almost fever pitch. And once I watched the first episode, it was like a container of Pringles, I couldn’t stop… or I didn’t want to (I’m going with this option, as it makes me sound more in control).

If you don’t know my story, I started training in my first martial art  (traditional karate) at 13 years of age. I had seen the original Karate Kid movie, released in 1982 and I was hooked. Much to my frustration, after pestering my parents for over a year they still wouldn’t let me join a karate club.

Eventually, they relented at the suggestion of my school principal. It was the first year of high school and I was up to my old tricks of misbehaving in class, being rude to my teachers, fighting in the schoolyard… and basically anything else I could think of. Or maybe NOT thinking was the key with all that! So the principal had said my parents should put me into karate, to learn some self-discipline.

Needless to say, I was elated. For me, it was like getting rewarded for being a total $h!t of a kid!

Anyway back to the Karate Kid and Cobra Kai. If you’re around my age (44 at the time of writing this), it’s almost definite that you’ve seen the original karate Kid film at least once and know the general gist of the story.  If you haven’t seen it, what’s bloody wrong with you? It’s a classic must see… at least once.

Like you, I always saw Johnny Lawrence as a bad guy and Cobra Kai as the ‘evil’ karate or bad guys. The Cobra Kai series shed new light on this perspective for me in two chief ways.

Firstly, the series shows another side of Johnny Lawrence; that as a kid, he was psychologically bullied by his step-dad – no wonder he became a bully himself…

Secondly, and my motivation for writing this article; it emphasised that Cobra Kai was a far superior system for real-world street defence. I’m not saying it’s perfect (no system is) and it is still just choreographed fight scenes, but in its main 3 tenents Cobra Kai is 100 percent correct for dealing with a life or death violent situation. Let’s take a look:

  1. Strike First – Striking your attacker pre-emptively (before they have a chance to strike you) can be a critical tactic to use; especially if your aggressor is much bigger than you, it is apparent they are high on certain types of drugs (e.g. crystal meth) or you are facing multiple attackers.

    In any of these scenarios, you cannot afford to give even a split moment of opportunity to your potential threat. As soon as you are confident of their intent to harm you (i.e. their body positioning, they ball their fist and move their arm back, specific verbal threats, a hand reaches for a perceived weapon etc) you must use the element of surprise and strike first.

  2. Strike Hard – Whether you do strike first or second (after a defensive reaction of some kind), your strike(s) need to be effective. Ideally, you want to knock your attacker out – if they’re unconscious, it’s pretty difficult for them to continue assailing you.

    Ensuring you strike hard is reliant on the amount of power you can generate. According to physics, Issac Newton’s second law of motion says Force (power) = Mass x Acceleration.  In layman’s terms, you need good body mechanics of putting your bodyweight behind your strike and you need to train your strike to the point of adequate speed. Being big does not guarantee you can hit hard, nor does having speed. One without the other will not get the job done as well as having both – F = ma

  3. No Mercy – I see this one as a sliding scale; a drunk relative or mate trying to fight you (or someone else) may need to be restrained but also given mercy; unless of course, they are literally trying to kill you. Likewise, a person much less apt than you at violence (e.g. a 50kg female vs a 120kg combat trained male) should be given mercy. Restained yes but there is usually no need to knock them out – if they have a weapon, this changes things completely.

    At the more dangerous end of the scale, a guy determined to harm you, multiple attackers, anybody with a knife or gun (yes there are things you can do – in close quarters), mercy is not highly applicable. These and others are situations are where you want to knock your attacker out, seek to break something, maim or possibly have to kill them.

    The Use Of Force Continuum is a more complicated way to look at this, but that is a discussion for another post. For now, I encourage you to use your common sense, in the context of the examples above.

Although these 3 Cobra Kai tenents are pertinent for real world personal safety, No Mercy does NOT apply to a combative sporting competition.

In a modern contest of combat, there is a winner and a loser; you are not fighting for your life. Yes, you may seek to knock your opponent out (depending on the competition rules), but trying to kill them or give a permanent injury (both of which you may need to apply to survive real world violence) is unsportsmanlike at best and criminal at worst.

It should also go without saying that my above interpretation is not exactly the way Johnny Lawrence was taught by his Sensei, John Kreese. Nor does it fit with the bullying attitude displayed by Johnny and the other Cobra Kai students in the first Karate Kid movie. As with many things (e.g. religion) the concept may be good but the application leaves many opportunities for subversion; we humans are far from perfect – not to mention, the scriptwriters needed to create an exciting story for the movie.

I hope you’ve found my perspective on the 3 main tenets of Cobra Kai beneficial. I certainly didn’t see it this way as a 13 year old or as a teenager, training and competing in sports karate. Now, as a 44 year old, and many years of dealing with violent people (mostly in various security roles) and teaching my own street realistic defence system, it’s clear as day that Cobra Kai was always right – sort of!

Be aware, be prepared, be safe,


P.S. There are a number of other Cobra Kai philosophies that also ring true for being properly equipped for handling real world violence, but we’ll leave them for another time.

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