A Karate Instructor Just Found a Mistake on Cobra Kai That Could Actually Be a Major Plot Point

By | September 15, 2020

Throughout the original Karate Kid movies, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in a series of moves—including the famous “wax on, wax off”—that are actually a part of the real-life Goju Ryu tradition of karate. This system was founded by historical karate master Miyagi Chojun, and a photo of him was even included in sequel series Cobra Kai, presumably to lend an additional layer of authenticity and verisimilitude to the martial arts being depicted on-screen.

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But as karate instructor Jesse Encamp explains on YouTube, Cobra Kai also includes several practices which are most definitely not from the Goju Ryu school of karate. For example, at one point, Daniel can be seen teaching his students the kusanku dai, an Okinawan kata. Elsewhere, characters use a knife-striking hand, as opposed to the hooking hand favored by practitioners of Goju Ryu.

“Furthermore, they use weapons, which of course is not something that Miyagi Chojun was famous for teaching,” says Encamp. “And they even do some movements on the beach, which again are different from the classical Goju Ryu system.”

Are these just accidental inaccuracies? Artistic license? According to Encamp, the majority of the martial arts that are shown in The Karate Kid don’t stem from Miyagi Chojun’s teachings at all, but from Mabuni Kenwa. Both men were students of Higaonna Kanryō, a master from Okinawa who traveled to China to study white crane kung fu — which is what you actually see in The Karate Kid, most notably in the now-iconic crane kick scene, as well as in the newer Cobra Kai TV show.

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That would mean that Cobra Kai is actually portraying Shito Ryu, the form of karate originated by Mabuni Kenwa, which incorporates elements of Miyagi Chojun’s Goju Ryu as well as aspects of white crane kung fu.

“Above all, Mabuni Kenwa’s style is famous for the crane pose,” says Encamp, who speculates that in the history of the show, Mr. Miyagi’s sensei was actually Mabuni Kenwa, as traditionally, senseis do not instruct their own children.

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