The much-anticipated season 3 of the Netflix series Cobra Kai dropped January 1st and, in my opinion, did not disappoint. The original movie in the 80s certainly had some part in me starting karate, along with millions of other kids. It started the big kids’ karate boom which was further influenced by Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.
When I heard the Cobra Kai series was starting up on YouTube Red, I got a free month subscription and binge watched the first 2 seasons. Later, just before season 3, the series moved to Netflix and took off. The show has done a fantastic job tying old stories in with new ones while creatively dropping subtle shoutouts to the original movies.
Seasons 1 and 2 focused on catching us up with the characters and developing the new characters and story lines using the first Karate Kid movie. Season 3 brought back Karate Kid Part 2 characters and stories and hinted at some Karate Kid Part 3 possibilities (possible for Season 4?).
This post is not a review or recommendation of the series, nor is it a recap. It is just a bunch of thoughts and reflections that I had while and after watching the season that others may or may not share.
Be warned! What you are about to read contains spoilers for Season 3 of Cobra Kai!
Cobra Kai Karate is Tang Soo Do
It had been rumored and insinuated on multiple social media platforms that Cobra Kai Karate is based on the Korean Martial Art of Tang Soo Do. This theory came from the fact that Pat Johnson was the stunt coordinator for the movies. Pat Johnson trained in Tang Soo Do in Korea then later under Chuck Norris, another prominent Tang Soo Do practitioner.
Well, Season 3 confirmed that Cobra Kai Karate is indeed based on Tang Soo Do when we discover via flashback that Sensei Kreese learned Tang Soo Do from his commanding officer while stationed in Vietnam. While it is cool to know that Cobra Kai Karate is based on the martial art I teach, I do have some issues with it.
The biggest issue is that they keep using the title Sensei. Now I get it that using Sah Bum Nim (Korean equivalent of Sensei) would go over most people’s heads but from a traditional Korean martial artist’s perspective, hearing Sensei, a Japanese title, being used on a Korean martial arts teacher is like nails on a chalk board.
John Kreese’s Background
Season 3 of Cobra Kai also delves deeper into John Kreese’s background for the first time ever. We get to learn a little bit of how this evil Sensei became who he is. While overall I feel this was very well done, I of course have a few issues with some things.
First of all, we learn that Kreese’s commanding officer teaches him Tang Soo Do in preparation for a secret mission. Kreese was already a scrapper from having a rough childhood but had no formal training up until that point. I find it hard to believe that Kreese learned enough of Tang Soo Do in the few weeks prior to the mission to become the expert who trains All Valley Champions.
Second, Kreese is such an evil, sociopathic character. The back story on how he came to live by the tenets of no mercy, strike first, etc., with his girlfriend dying and his CO not telling him, makes us feel sorry for him. They also portray him as a good guy seeking revenge to right an injustice, a very noble thing. To me this does not fit his character. There either better be more to the story to make him this sociopathic or, more likely, we have a redemption story coming in later seasons.
I did like the cobra pit at the POW camp giving Kreese the Cobra Kai name idea.
Daniel’s Return to Okinawa
I thought Daniel LaRusso’s trip back to Okinawa was done to near perfection. The characters of Kumiko and Chozen were revisited and contributed to the series but will not have a recurring role which is how it should be in my opinion. The bar room ice break scene was reimagined beautifully to match the series. There are two things in particular that I have problems with however.
First of all, it is clear that Kumiko was waiting for Daniel to come back but he never did. She says she never married or had kids because no one ever fought to the death for her like he did. Without some additional context, Daniel kind of looks like a jerk for leaving and never contacting her. She clearly still loves him.
Second, how long did he stay in Okinawa? It would seem like he was there only a few days. However, he learns some secret Miyagi-Do pressure point techniques from Chozen and is an expert enough at them to use them on Kreese. Not likely. Well, now that I think of it, in the original movie Daniel became an expert fighter in a few weeks and take out an entire tournament field of black belts so he clearly is able to learn at an accelerated rate that average humans cannot.
The Return of Ali
As with Daniel’s trip to Okinawa, I thought Ali’s return was done quite well. I was worried that she would have a larger role in Season 3 that would take away from everything else but thankfully she did not. It was more of a one-time reunion than anything else. Johnny realizes he is in love with Carmen, Miguel’s mom, and now has closure with Ali.
I actually don’t have any problems to vent about here! The golf n’ stuff scene with Johnny instead of Daniel and the county club scene with Johnny now wearing white and nearly getting spaghetti spilled on him have all helped transform Johnny into the new Daniel Larusso. Did you notice that Johnny now lives in the same Reseda apartments that Daniel lived in during the first movie?
Eagle Fang Dojo
I love the name of Johnny’s new dojo…Eagle Fang. It makes no sense whatsoever but totally makes sense for his character. Once Eagle Fang shirts come on the market, I will be the first in line to buy one.
I know, I know, the crane kick is the iconic kick of the Karate Kid. However, being a martial artist nearly my entire life, the crane kick has to be the dumbest kick ever. Stand on one leg and put both hands in the air and wait for your opponent to come at you. Really? Bad idea.
Over the many years of martial arts, I cannot count how many times someone found out I did karate and immediately mimicked the crane kick in gest. It kind of makes real karateka look silly.
So, seeing the crane kick return in an ancient scroll that Chozen gives Daniel makes me weep a little inside. Perhaps Frodo can take the scroll to Mount Doom on Mordor where it belongs for the rest of eternity.
Now you have to be a true Karate Kid nerd to catch the Terry Silver references in Season 3. As a reminder, Terry Silver is John Kreese’s army buddy that reopens Cobra Kai and falsely befriends Daniel in the Karate Kid Part 3.
There were several Vietnam flashback scenes where Kreese’s secret mission team referred to one of the other guys as “Terry” or “Silver”, but never both names together in the same scene. Kreese also looks longingly at a photo of his army buddies often in season 3. A Terry Silver return in some fashion in Season 4 is imminent.
Season 4 Predictions/Hopes
As I mentioned above, I predict that Terry Silver will return in some fashion. Season 3 had a big Karate Kid Part 2 influence so look for season 4 to be heavy in Karate Kid Part 3 throwbacks. I hope that if Karate Kid Part 3 is the theme for next season that Mike Barnes makes an appearance. Daniel refences his fight with him when trying to make his daughter Sam less scared of Tory so maybe the roles will get reversed and he will need to overcome his fears but now with the help of Johnny. Season 3 also was the first season in which the former Cobra Kai original Dutch is mentioned by name (only once). It would be awesome to see him reunite with his old Cobra Kai gang.
All in all, another fantastic season of Cobra Kai. I can’t wait for season 4!