Cobra Kai is the continuation of The Karate Kid that we didn't know we wanted. Focusing on bully Johnny Lawrence as opposed to protagonist Daniel LaRusso was a fascinating choice that went a long way to flesh out both characters. With two seasons under its belt and a third one on the way, Cobra Kai is changing that universe for good.
To make a lot of its important changes, Cobra Kai had to alter some things about The Karate Kid or expand on them. There were some interesting alterations, which is why we're looking at 10 big changes Cobra Kai made to The Karate Kid.
10 JOHNNY'S SIDE
Johnny Lawrence was the bully and antagonist of The Karate Kid. However, there were moments that showed he just had a bad teacher and got a bad lot in life. That's precisely what Cobra Kai expands on to create its narrative.
Johnny relays the events of The Karate Kid to Miguel, stating how Daniel LaRusso kept butting into his relationship with Ali and even antagonized him and his friends when they weren't doing anything. What's impressive about Johnny telling the story is that it's hard for the audience to not rethink The Karate Kid and wonder if we were rooting for the wrong person.
9 DANIEL IS OUTDATED
Daniel LaRusso had a wonderful teacher in the form of Mr. Miyagi. He learned how to do powerful karate and used it to win the All-Valley Tournament. Fast forward three decades later, and Mr. Miyagi has passed away. Now that Cobra Kai is back, Daniel feels the need to use his knowledge to bring them down.
However, in the spirit of his rivalry with Johnny Lawrence, Daniel has become a bit outdated himself. He's let his rivalry overcome the lessons that Mr. Miyagi taught him. That comes to a head in season two, when his first concern in the finale is to bring Cobra Kai down.
8 JOHNNY MISSED ALI'S BIRTHDAY
At the start of The Karate Kid, Johnny and Ali had already broken up. The reason wasn't revealed until season two of Cobra Kai. When Johnny was out with his old karate friends, they joked about all the trouble they got into. Unfortunately, one of their nights led to Johnny getting extremely drunk, which caused him to miss Ali's birthday.
This was the straw that broke the camel's back, leading to Ali dumping him after they had been together for two years. Regardless of whether Johnny thought they'd work it out or not, it seemed that Ali was never going to return to him.
7 THE ILLEGAL FACE KICK
The Karate Kid created one of the most iconic moments: the crane kick to Johnny Lawrence's face. However, Cobra Kai puts a different spin on that moment. It acknowledges that such a kick to the face is illegal in a karate tournament, but Daniel managed to get away with it.
Not only does this taint that moment (in an interesting way), but it also paints Daniel's character in a different light. He worked hard to win that tournament, but he didn't necessarily win fair and square. It becomes all the more thematic when Miguel beats Robby by unfairly exploiting an injury.
6 THE NEW SHOT
Cobra Kai did more than just continue The Karate Kid's story. It used a new shot from the original that had never been shown in the film. This shot was essentially a close-up of Daniel's crane kick right when it connects to Johnny's face.
The thinking behind using this shot was letting the viewer feel the impact of the kick so they would grant more empathy to Johnny right from the start. This shot is used in the opening for Cobra Kai, ending with the back of Johnny's gi and the logo for Cobra Kai. The audience feels Johnny's defeat right from the start.
5 NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT KREESE
John Kreese made a big impact in The Karate Kid. After losing the All-Valley Tournament to Mr. Miyagi, things didn't go well for him. However, he had seemingly disappeared for decades, returning in season two of Cobra Kai.
While Daniel and Johnny are well aware of him and what he means for Cobra Kai, nobody else seems to share that sentiment. None of the Cobra Kai students know who John Kreese is, and Johnny never took the time to teach them. Kreese was able to not only fake his own death but essentially be a ghost for many years until his return.
4 JOHNNY'S STEPFATHER
Like many people expected, Johnny Lawrence grew up in a wealthy home. However, money can only take one so far. Johnny lived there with his mother and his stepfather. While his mother loved him, his stepfather was very abusive. Johnny would get home every day just to be bullied by his stepfather, who constantly told him that he would never achieve anything.
This gives us a good reason as to why Johnny became a bully in The Karate Kid. Most bullies start out as people who have been bullied themselves. It doesn't justify his behavior, but it helps us understand what he did.
3 KARATE WAS A PHASE
In the midst of The Karate Kid, it seemed that karate was all that mattered. It was the center point of the franchise, making it feel like it would always be the most important thing to those characters. Decades after the film, though, both Daniel and Johnny have seemingly left it behind.
Johnny only thinks about it in memories and Daniel just uses it as a marketing tactic for his auto business. This not only makes the world feel more real, but it somehow lightens the events that happened in The Karate Kid. After all, it was just a silly karate tournament.
2 DANIEL'S IDOLIZATION
Daniel's victory at the All-Valley Tournament was a memorable moment for many moviegoers at the time. However, the impact it had on the world remained to be seen. In Cobra Kai, we see that the people in the valley were famously aware of Daniel's crane kick, just like the rest of us. In many ways, he was treated just like a celebrity.
This change paints a further gap between both Daniel and Johnny. Daniel is reaping in the benefits and fame that come from winning a tournament with an illegal kick. It only made Johnny that much more spiteful of his old rival.
1 ALL COBRA KAI HATED KREESE
John Kreese was effective, but there's no arguing that he was a dangerous teacher. He taught his students to exploit the weaknesses of their opponents and show no mercy at all times. In Cobra Kai, we see that Johnny hated Kreese for this, which is understandable.
However, when Johnny meets up with his old karate friends, it seems that sentiment is shared across the board. When Johnny talked about his new Cobra Kai and said that Kreese was helping run it, Johnny's friends were mortified. It seemed that all the Cobra Kai members hated John Kreese for what he taught them, but the new Cobra Kai students love him.