One of the biggest surprises of the past few years is just how good Cobra Kai has turned out to be. More than just a simple nostalgia trip, Cobra Kai is a brilliant continuation of the Karate Kid trilogy enhancing it, evolving it, developing past themes, and building the franchise up to new heights.
Johnny vs Bullies Season 1 Episode 1 - Ace Degenerate
At this point, all we have seen of Johnny Lawrence is that he is a drunk loser still hung up from a crane kick he received ages ago. So to see him using his Karate skills even if just against some bullies was a stark reminder that these guys got some skills. He sees Miguel getting bullied by some other kids in front of a convenience store and springs into action beating the bullies up silly. Johnny’s style is quick and brutal just like the Cobra Kai motto strike hard strike first. William Zabka looks convincing in the scene making us believe Johnny still had some kick left in him. The scene also mirrors the first Karate Kid movie where it was Mr. Miyagi saving his future student Daniel from bullies thus setting up the heart of the show which was his Sensei/father student relationship with Miguel.Advertisement
Mall Fight Season 2 Episode 5 - All In
These kids sure will fight anywhere. This fight though is more intricate than it seems with some impressive aerial stunts and multiple moving parts as Robby and Sam protect Demetri against Hawk. One thing Cobra Kai does consistently well is use fights to showcase character growth and here we see Sam and Robby using the Wheel Technique they’ve been practicing. The fight is well cross-cut with Robby and Sam training how to use the wheel at the Miyagi-Do pond. It was also notable for being Sam’s first fight showing she was ready to use Karate in real life and that she and Robby had truly become connected.
Miguel vs Bullies Season 1 episode 5 - Counterbalance
Bullies getting what they deserve is always satisfying and this is no exception. When Miguel sees Kyler and some bullies harassing Samantha he steps in yelling at them to leave her alone. They don’t take kindly to this but little do they know that he has been taking lessons from Sensei Johnny. This allowed Xolo Maridueña to showcase his charisma and physical skills mixing Karate with stunts leaping on tables and using ordinary objects like a tray as a weapon. The editing adds a sense of frenetic energy and the hits feel brutal. It is a crowd-pleasing moment that showed that Johnny’s training really was quite effective.
Johnny vs Daniel Season 4 episode 5 - Match Point
When Daniel stubbornly insists that he needs to train the kids in the Miyagi-Do way, Johnny is insulted. The two challenge each other to a duel for who will train the students of which news quickly spread leading to a highly anticipated match-up. Johnny and Daniel have had many confrontations throughout the franchise but none with clear-cut tournament rules like since the first movie. This then acts then as a final rematch to see who is the best once and for all. The choreography once again shines a light on the difference in styles and techniques of these two evenly matched gladiators. Daniel even uses Chozen’s disabling strike which Johnny is able to counter by attacking, buying himself some time to recover. In the end, the fight concludes in a draw highlighting once again the theme that they really should combine and be stronger together.Advertisement
Robby vs Miguel Season 1 episode 10 - Mercy
The final match of the All Valley Tournament acts as a pseudo rematch for Daniel and Johnny but whereas in the original it was clear who we were meant to cheer for, here both Johnny and Miguel have been built up as sympathetic throughout the season splitting our loyalty between them. The drama is also as strong if not stronger than a crane kick as we Johnny’s angst seeing Miguel turn into a version of his bad younger self while his son Robby is fighting under sensei Daniel. The fight choreography itself is slick making it all a complete package.
House Brawl Season 3 episode 10 - December 19
The Miyagi Do students are all in Daniel’s home discussing details of the merger between Miyagi-Do and the newly formed Eagle Fang when Cobra Kai just performs an all-out assault. It is a visceral sequence where you feel these kids are not holding back and really want to destroy each other. There is yet another intricate one-take sequence with the camera panning from one group to another making it all more engaging. The fight also concludes multiple storylines with Sam overcoming her PTSD and facing off with Tory in a weapons battle, Eli having a change of heart as rivals become allies once again, and Miguel facing bully Kyler and gaining confidence in using his recovered back. It is an over-the-top dramatic sequence and it absolutely rules.
Tory vs Sam Season 4 episode 10 - The Rise
The All Valley Female Championship is a dynamite match-up with Tory eager to prove that she is the best and can beat Sam fair and square. The choreography once again soars like an eagle with Samantha LaRusso using multiple styles blending the teachings of Eagle Fang and Miyagi Do and trusting her instincts on when to use each one while Tory is aggressive yet also in control. The character beats within strike just as hard with Tory’s dramatic confrontation with Terry Silver who is asking her to cheat a suspenseful highlight. Tory wins the match finally giving her something to be proud of and be the best at. Sadly, the subsequent revelation of game-fixing marred her victory and most likely devastated Tory.Advertisement
Johnny and Daniel vs Kreese Season 3 episode 10 - December 19
We had been waiting all season for Johnny Lawrence to finally stand up to John Kreese. The fight is for more than the dojo as Johnny is also trying to save his son Robby from the dark side of the dojo. Tragically, Robby embraces the darkness seeing Johnny’s mercy as weakness. This is immediately followed by the arrival of Daniel LaRusso still seething from the Cobra Kai attack on his home as he too engages Kreese one on one. Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove are no longer in their prime so it isn’t the fastest or flashiest of fights but they bring a veteran sense of confidence to their movements showing that these are Sensei’s who know who they are comfortable in their own unique styles. Also admit it, seeing Daniel utilize the disabling technique he learned from Chozen on Kreese’s arms was mighty cool. A true Karate Kid moment.
School Brawl Season 2 episode 10 - No Mercy
Tory is filled with rage having discovered that Miguel and Sam kissed and now she is out for blood. She calls Sam out on the school intercom leading to a hallway face-off. What starts as a one on one fight between the girls quickly escalates into an all-out brawl. Cobra Kai had never had a fight of this magnitude before and to see it happen is stunning and entertaining. It feels wildly chaotic, we are never at a loss as to what is happening. Character beats appear as smooth as the kicks and punches as the scene shifts effortlessly between multiple characters. There is even a bravura one-take sequence that would make Daredevil proud. The dramatic climax is also perfect with Miguel showing mercy and who could forget that jaw-dropping conclusion with Miguel plunging down getting severely injured.
Hawk vs Robby Season 4 episode 10 - The Rise
It was no surprise to see Robby in the finals of the All Valley Karate Tournament as he was clearly the most skilled fighter in Cobra Kai. Hawk was the surprise though as he had seemed. He was a perfect choice though as their match more than lives up to the hype and expectations of a championship match. The stakes are high with no less than the fate of Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang hanging in the balance. It has dramatic music befitting the finals, the choreography is some of the show’s best showcasing Robby’s more aggressive attacking style and Hawk’s more freestyle moves, and both Tanner Buchanan and Jacob Bertrand rise to the challenge making the fight convincing. There are also loads of character beats like Robby hesitating for a split second when he sees Kenny screaming, Hawk being patient and open to changing strategies, and Robby answering back to Terry Silver in a badass moment. The cinematography is also top-notch using the right amount of closeups, slow-mo, and wide shots all edited together in a fast-paced manner that is still easy to follow. Finally, the ending with Hawk getting the win is both unexpected and thrilling and a beautiful culmination to everything he has been through making it a true fist-pump moment.Advertisement
Are there any fights we may have missed?