Look, I’ve often written about some of the issues I take with how martial arts are portrayed on the big or small screen. And those opinions still hold true but this doesn’t mean that I don’t fully enjoy watching martial arts on television. Especially when the story is sound and the plot is solid. With that in mind, I thought I would take a few moments to share my thoughts on Season 4 of Cobra Kai, which my wife and I just finished binging this weekend.
First, I’ve provided my opinion on previous seasons of Cobra Kai in previous posts, so even though some of what I’m about to say will be repeated, it’s still relevant. When I first heard about this show, I was beyond excited. After all, the last time a genuine instalment of the Karate Kid came out was 1994, with Hilary Swank playing the delinquent student who couldn’t stay out of trouble. It was an interesting take on the series, considering the original Karate addressed the classic scenario of the new kid being bullied, ten years prior to that.
When I first watched the Karate kid, I recognized a lot of what Daniel Larusso was going through in myself. Although not so much when the film came out, my formative years were chaotic at best, being bullied and considered an outcast (sound familiar?). When Cobra Kai came out, I was happy to see that Larusso had found some success in his life, including a beautiful wife and kids (one of whom is Type-1 Diabetic in real life), lovely house and prosperous business, he overcame the apparent issues of his youth and made life work for him. This resonated with me deeply.
Then, I faced a speed bump in that only the first two episodes were available on YouTube unless one signed up for YouTube’s streaming service. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to subscribe to YET another service, since I already have a few on the go. Lucky for me, Netflix picked up the series a short while later. I started watching it and enjoying every episode. I think it was an interesting turn of events to see Johnny Lawrence, big, bad-ass bully in the 80’s having fallen down on his luck and became the one with the struggles.
I would never wish ill on any person but there’s something to be said for karma. I know that some of the guys who used to bully me have gone on to face the same karmic consequences as the show’s anti-hero. But I digress… The concept and the storyline was sound and it only took one or two episodes for my wife to get on board and I started the series over from the beginning so that she would be caught up.
Season 3 left off with some really important cliffhangers, including long-time enemies joining forces to overcome a common foe, something you might not see in reality. It also featured episodes where Larusso returned to Japan and Okinawa and put an old rivalry to rest by sparring with Chozen and acknowledging that their respective karate comes from the same roots.
In making my way through Season 4, I could clearly see the struggle of two teachers with very different philosophies trying to keep their students on the straight and narrow. It would be similar to a plumber and an electrician trying to teach a group of apprentices BOTH sets of skills; it can be done, but the difficulty would be immense. Some students would adapt better than others and both groups would go on to compete in the All Valley Tournament, which I won’t get into detail as it may spoil a bit too much of the storyline for those who haven’t yet seen it.
The season finished on a curious note, with Larusso appearing once again to team up with another old rival. It will be interesting to see how Season 5 plays out. That being said, let’s examine a few of my pros and cons for this show. It stands to reason that it IS a show and total realism can’t and shouldn’t be expected. The storyline is somewhat sound, considering I’ve known dojos that demonstrate similar rivalries as depicted in the show.
One aspect that really gets my hackles up, is the fact that we see a number of newly-minted karate practitioners who had never donned a gi before, learning karate and suddenly getting into these long, drawn out fights with their peers within weeks of starting. Considering karate takes YEARS to become proficient, this is definitely an unrealistic expectation for anyone studying unless they have previous training and experience or have done some other martial art.
We see this effect in Samantha Larusso, the protagonist’s daughter. She had been studying karate with Larusso throughout her childhood before taking it up again. And as I’ve recently realized, it can be very much like riding a bike. Tori, one of Cobra Kai’s top students, had some previous training as well before stepping into the Cobra Kai dojo. But then we see some of the less-athletic students who, just a short while prior, were getting their asses handed to them becoming proficient in a short period of time and holding their own. Right. Okay, moving on…
All in all, it is a fantastic show with some great writing and evokes definite feelings of nostalgia in old dogs like me. Including karate into the mix is simply icing on the cake. If you’ve never seen the show, I highly recommend it as something simple and easy to binge, with the seasons running on only about a dozen episodes. ☯️