I’m still going to do a review of “Cobra Kai” on YouTube and then post it here on my blog, but first, this…
The Karate Kid
Did you go see “The Karate Kid” back when it came out? I did! As a matter of fact, I went on opening day, June 22, 1984. Believe me when I say it made a profound impact on my life.
“Cobra Kai” just came out on YouTube last month (May 2), and it is worth subscribing to YoutTube Red just to watch all 10 episodes of the first season (I’ll talk more about that in the video). But before my youngest daughter was able to appreciate “Cobra Kai,” she needed to watch “The Karate Kid.” After that, she got a better sense for why “Cobra Kai” got me so pumped.
But what my daughters can never fully understand is what I felt when that movie came out. To them, it’s just a movie, but to me, it was a lot like real life…because I was a Karate Kid.
The Karate Me
Back around 1982, I think (maybe ’81), I started taking martial arts. My first lessons came from a man who worked at the hospital with my mother. As a favor (even though he did charge a fee), he took me on as his only student. For several months I trained with him at his house in a big room where he also sewed sails for sailboats.
The first style of martial art I studied was not Karate, but Hawaiian Kenpo. Training would start with a run through the neighborhood and then some wooded area, then some stretching. After that, we would work on various techniques meant to harm one’s attacker. Enough said.
After a few months with my initial instructor, he moved away and left me starting over. It was shortly after that that in 1983, a new Karate dojo opened up about two miles from my home. Walter Ward, a Marine combat veteran from the Vietnam War, became my new instructor (sensei). He was affiliated with Ben Kiker’s United Karate Studios in Dalton, Georga (Great people, btw. Highly recommend them).
I was Mr. Ward’s first paying student. The only other students at the time were his niece and another kid (if I remember correctly), and they went for free. This is one reason why “Cobra Kai” resonates with me, but you’ll need to watch the first episodes on YouTube to understand.
You may not have known this, but in order to make the movie set appear more realistic, the people who made “The Karate Kid” actually held a real Karate tournament during the filming of the last scenes. The “extras” in the crowd not only came to see a movie be made but to watch their own kids participate in a real competition!
Therefore, when I went to see the movie, so much of the tournament part struck a chord with me. You see, I had already been competing in martial arts tournaments and had won several awards. And, as a matter of fact, I had already been training for a tournament that was to take place the very next day!
Now, About That Kick
According to the directors, producers, actors, and stunt coordinators (including the guy who played the part of the main referee, Pat Johnson…9th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and affiliate of Chuck Norris), the “crane kick” was totally “bogus.” In other words, it was a made-up kick meant to look good on screen.
In other words, it wasn’t supposed to work in a real-life competition.
But it did.
Remember that tournament I was supposed to go to on Saturday, June 23, 1984? The tournament that took place one day after the opening day for “The Karate Kid”? Well, evidently one of my opponents hadn’t yet seen the movie… mwwahahaha!
Sooooo… Right off the bat, as soon as I squared off with my opponent and the judge said, “Fight!”, I made use of what has now become cinema legend. I took the position of the crane stance, one leg lifted, then waited for the unsuspecting fool to walk right into a front snap kick to the chest (no, I didn’t kick him in the face – that would have been illegal).
I scored the point and later won the fight! It was awesome!
Then everybody saw the movie.
Oh, well. It worked once, though 🙂
NOTE: As I mentioned above, I did most of my martial arts training with United Karate Studios. My dojo was in Chattanooga, but the main dojo was/is in Dalton, GA. I wanted to give them a shout-out. With UKS I learned respect and self-control. I learned how to fight, but I never had to – because I also learned how to walk away from one. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve worked out like back in those days, but what was instilled in my mind can be drawn upon in an instant.
It’s been a long time, but people with true character never change. I’ve got a feeling that Ben Kiker’s United Karate is still every bit the real-life “Miyagi-do” it was when I did that fantastic crane kick 🙂