“Strike hard. Strike fast. No mercy.” It was the motto of the Cobra Kai dojo, the most fearsome karate school in the San Fernando Valley during the early 1980s. Then, in 1984, a kid from New Jersey and the maintenance man from his building upended the All-Valley Karate Tournament by defeating Cobra Kai’s star pupil Johnny Lawrence.
The tournament helped forge a life-long bond between the Jersey kid and the maintenance man, leading them to Japan and taking on Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese a year later. But Johnny never recovered from his first meaningful defeat.
Johnny’s life is the subject of the upcoming YouTube Red series Cobra Kai. Set some 30 years after the All-Valley Tournament depicted in The Karate Kid, it finds Johnny (William Zabka) on the skids and looking to reclaim the Cobra Kai motto for himself. The teaser trailer for the series, released last week, captured the imagination of fans who never forgot Johnny or his dojo. While many details are still under wraps, here are a few things we know about Cobra Kai, which is expected to debut in the not-to-distant future.
When we last saw him in the opening moments of The Karate Kid Part II, he was smarting from his defeat, but happy enough with a second place trophy until Kreese (Martin Kove) tore the trophy apart and tried to choke him out. Thanks to the intervention of Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), Johnny escaped Kreese’s clutches and left Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) alone during their last semester in high school.
These days, he’s still living somewhere in the Valley; though his once affluent lifestyle has disappeared. The down-and-out Johnny hopes to find a sort redemption by reopening the Cobra Kai dojo. But he also plans to reignite his rivalry with LaRusso, whose life seems like a great success by comparison.
It seems after all these years, Kreese’s influence still matters.
— Cobra Kai (@CobraKaiSeries) February 22, 2018
In The Karate Kid Part III, LaRusso convinced Mr. Miyagi to postpone his retirement in Okinawa and open a bonsai shop. The shop was, literally, on the wrong side of the tracks and their entrepreneurial spirit was stymied by Kreese and his Vietnam vet pal Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) – the money behind Cobra Kai. Finally agreeing to defend his All-Valley title against Silver’s hand-picked bad boy, LaRusso won the title again and, seemingly, defeated Cobra Kai for all time.
And like Johnny, Daniel is still in the Valley – the hills of Encino to be exact. It is unclear when Mr. Miyagi finally said goodbye – or if he ever made it back to Okinawa; he was still living in the States during 1994’s The Next Karate Kid – but without his mentor’s obscure wisdom and obtuse training techniques, Daniel struggles to balance his career running a successful string of car dealerships throughout the Valley and the needs of his family.
Currently, Zabka and Macchio, who also serve as executive producers on the series, are the only returning actors from The Karate Kid film series. Though, it isn’t hard to imagine Johnny will face an Intellectual Property lawsuit should the program acknowledge the existence of Part III’s Terry Silver or invite Kove to reprise his role as John Kreese.
New cast members include Parenthood‘s Xolo Maridueña as a bullied young man who comes to Johnny for guidance while Tanner Buchanan plays Johnny’s estranged son Robby Keene. On Team LaRusso, Courtney Henggeler plays Daniel’s wife/business partner Amanda and Mary Mouser plays their daughter Samantha.
The first season is comprised of 10 half-hour episodes.
Hot Tub Time Machine’s Josh Heald and the Harold & Kumar duo of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossber are the executive producers and principal writers on the series. They will also direct most of the season.
“Cobra Kai will be a true continuation of the original films – packed with comedy, heart, and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry,” the team said in a statement last August.
YouTube Red has not announced an official date, but you can expect to see the next chapter in Johnny and Daniel’s story to begin sometime in late spring.