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Dennis Krawec
Dennis Krawec's picture
Was the “Karate Kid” the best series of martial arts movies?

As Obiwan Kenobi would say “from a certain point of view”.

I would be certain that most out there have seen Bruce Lee movies, Jackei Chan, Chuck Norris, JCVD and other movies. Some of the stunts Jackie Chan pulled off were amazing, but oddly to many I would argue that the better and more believable series of movies was the orginal Karate Kid movies with Ralph Maccio written by Robert Mark Kamen in the 1980’s.

First there is no supernatural or mystical elements. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was good; but from a pure entertainment perspective I would say that Big Trouble in Little China  is better.

No warpspeed fight scenes. In the ’Kid’ series of movies the fighting occurs at a real pace. As well the karate techniques are not taken to extremes. Its all possible, even for mid level karateka.

While the story line is simple, it too is not completely far fetched.

Here is where after watching them recently on TV, I’ve taken a second look at them. In the first movie, the small individual fights are realistic enough but are the lead up to the final section of combat, and highlights karate as a sport. In the second movie karate is shown for its intended purpose of self defense. Finally in th third movie, while many decried the seemingly repeated story line of the first movie, we get the snippit that there is more to karate than blocks, punches, and kicks hidden in the kata, and that we all now look to find and study. Go to 1:24 in the youtube clip to see where Danial, after being told not to waste time learning kata by his former Kobra Kai coach, defeats his antagonist by using kata in sport competition.

Anf
Anf's picture

That's a very interesting analysis.

When I was a member of a wado kai association years and years ago (way before the Internet). Our official literature claimed that Mr Miyagi was played by a genuine grandmaster of a traditional style, in some way connected with wado. Looking him up now, Wikipedia suggests otherwise. I don't know what to believe because while Wikipedia is not always correct, neither was printed literature in the 1980s.

Wikipedia does however say that the guy that played Mr Miyagi reached the rank of staff seargent in the US army. I know that just after WW2, the US military did take a keen interest in eastern martial arts as a base for their unarmed combat training. So it is very likely that whatever version of events is closest to the truth, the guy that played Mr Miyagi was a very real practical martial artist. That being the case, I guess it follows that if he was consulted for the choreography of the fight scenes, maybe his real martial arts experience would show through. I think this is in contrast to the other names you mention, who in my opinion, are actors/showmen first, martial artist second. I know this is blasphemy and I'll accept the flak but in my opinion this applies to Bruce Lee as much as anyone.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Anf wrote:
Our official literature claimed that Mr Miyagi was played by a genuine grandmaster of a traditional style …

That’s definitely incorrect.

Anf wrote:
the guy that played Mr Miyagi was a very real practical martial artist. That being the case, I guess it follows that if he was consulted for the choreography of the fight scenes, maybe his real martial arts experience would show through.

Pat Morita (Noriyuki Morita) played Mr Miyagi. He was an actor with no martial arts experience. Stunt doubles did most of the fight scenes; most notably, Fumio Demura 9th dan. Before The Karate Kid movies, Pat Morita was best known for his role as the restaurant owner Arnold in the sit-com Happy Days (odd that I look back on a that 1950s nostalgic show with 1970s nostalgia!).

The fight choreography was primarily done by Pat Johnson (a high ranking black belt under Chuck Norris) and he was also the referee in the first movie.

Good movies, and Pat Morita was fantastic in that role, but he had no karate experience and it was mainly the fight choreography of Pat Johnson, and the physical skills of Fumio Demura, that are responsible for what we see on screen.

All the best,

Iain