A Tale of Two Dojo: Cobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do

Two girls do kata together in karate gis
SAM and TORY do kata together

As the fandom awaits the next and final season of Cobra Kai, let's take a moment to appreciate the fine season 5 storytelling that broke open the mythos further in the Miyagi-verse. In season 5, The Big 3 (John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald) and their fine team of writers filled in some gaps in the Miyagi-verse timeline that solidify the cannon of how these dojos operate and function in the world of San Fernando Valley and beyond. These events gel together to create a picture of two truths that are irrefutable in the Miyagi-verse: Cobra Kai wrecks chaos and division; Miyagi-Do brings reconciliation and redemption. A closer look at this timeline of events elucidates a mythology that leads to inevitable conclusions for our characters. In other words, careful analysis helps us theorize where the story will end, and what will always happen in these respective dojos. Read on for more proof or listen to the podcast version.



Two men look at a portrait on the wall
DANIEL and MIYAGI look at a portrait of SHIMPO MIYAGI

Strong Wind, Strong Sake

Let's start with the Miyagi-Do timeline. In 1625, Shimpo Miyagi passes out in a boat while drunk and the strong winds propel him to China. In 1635, he returns to Okinawa with a wife, two kids, and the secrets of Miyagi Do karate.

Fast forward about 300 years to June 9, 1925: Nariyoshi Kesuke Miyagi, who we know as Mr. Miyagi, is born to Miyagi Chojun, also a fisherman. Miyagi learns karate from his father, along with his best friend Sato.

In 1943, Mr. Miyagi leaves Okinawa to avoid fighting Sato. Mr. Miyagi falls in love with Sato's betrothed Yukie. When Sato discovers this betrayal, he challenges Miyagi to a fight to the death. Miyagi chooses to run away from the situation and avoid the fight, abandoning his town, family, and the woman he loves, Yukie. Not necessarily Mr. Miyagi's finest moment. He often scolds Daniel to not run away from his problems. But that's what Mr. Miyagi did, although his intentions were good. It also brings him to America, where he could meet Daniel and capture our hearts.

Then in 1984, Mr. Miyagi meets Daniel LaRusso and begins to train him in karate. Daniel fights and beats Johnny Lawrence in the All-Valley Karate Tournament.
 
Two men and a woman operate a drum
[L-R] SATO, YUKIE, and MIYAGI demonstrate the drum technique

Deep in Heart, Sato Still Know Right from Wrong

In 1985, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel travel back to Okinawa so that Miyagi can mourn his father's death. Despite Sato's many attempts to exact revenge during his visit, Miyagi and Sato reconcile. Daniel and Chozen become mortal enemies when Chozen challenges Daniel to the death, after he feels dishonored in front of his uncle.

But why do Sato and Miyagi reconcile? Both of them have deep roots in Miyagi-Do karate – a karate based on empathy, honor, and the desire to protect. The mantra of karate being for self-defense only reveals the desire to protect not just friends and family – but mankind. Mr. Miyagi decides to serve as mentor and protector to Daniel because he sees the humanity in Daniel. Sato has this root and foundation, even though his heart grows sour for a time.

Four people stand around a city map in a room with bliinds on the windows
[L-R] DANIEL, CHOZEN, AMANDA, and JOHNNY strategize

Many of Us Used to Be Enemies, but Rivalries Don’t Need to Last Forever

Fast forward about 50 years. In 2017, Johnny and Daniel come into contact again after Johnny attempts to bring back Cobra Kai to train Miguel in the tournament. Daniel remembers the old Johnny and does everything in his power to stop Cobra Kai from making a comeback.

But eventually, Johnny and Daniel end up coming together as they realize they have a common enemy that is out to get their kids. The enemy isn't necessarily John Kreese or even Terry Silver. It's the poison in the water surrounding Cobra Kai, a poison that runs deep in the heart of the DNA of that dojo.
 
Two men talk with sais in their hands
DANIEL and CHOZEN discuss how they will handle SILVER

Only You Can Take Honor from Yourself

In Cobra Kai, season three, Daniel reunites with Chozen during Daniel's business trip to Japan. Since Chozen left his village in shame, he experienced a dark night of the soul and came out a better person. The roots of Miyagi Do run deep inside of Chozen and drive this follower to find balance and peace, which always leads to reconciliation. He returns to his uncle, asks for forgiveness, and devotes himself to re-learning the ways of Miyagi-Do.

Chozen has learned techniques that Mr. Miyagi did not share with Daniel. Chozen is now a trusted family friend and the heir apparent of Miyagi Do karate. He's the protector and guardian. He continues the lineage that Mr. Miyagi began and becomes the guardian angel to the LaRusso family.

There are many examples of this pattern of the people of Miyagi-Do eventually finding balance and peace throughout the series of Cobra Kai. Robby and Johnny, Robby and Miguel, Hawk and Demetri, and Sam and Tory. Each of these "sworn enemies" eventually find common ground. All of these pairs feature at least one person trained in the ways of Miyagi-Do. Their roots of Miyagi-Do help these duos to find reconciliation.
 
One man holds another down
CAPTAIN TURNER ready to eliminate a young KREESE

That Violence Followed You Home

A careful study of Cobra Kai reveals an opposite formula. The history of Cobar Kai begins (as far as we have been shown) in 1969. John Kreese meets Captain George Turner during his time serving the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Turner recruits Kreese for his special taskforce, along with Terry Silver and Ponytail.

Captain Turner taught John Kreese a philosophy of kill or be killed and no mercy. We learn Captain Turner was taught by Master Kim Sun-Yung. It's a philosophy based on the need to outsmart and outwit your opponent, but it's all a philosophy based on fear and the need to bring your enemy off balance. You have to annihilate your opponent. It's you vs. me. The desire to win trumps any will to protect. And the mission outweighs any allegiance to a particular person. Kreese learns this when Captain Turner orders him to trigger explosives when Ponytail has not moved past range of the blast. His hesitation and concern for his friend places them all in danger. Kreese absorbs this truth: Captain Turner has no qualms seeing me or any of us dead. Loyalty does not exist in this dojo.

What then happens then in the relationship between Kreese and Captain Turner? The student learns from his teacher. The Viet Cong capture the taskforce and decide to make them fight to the death. Kreese betrays his mentor and leaves him to the snakes. A legacy now begins that supposed allies always turn against each other.

A man in a karate gi puts his hand on the shoulder of his student
TERRY SILVER disciples DANIEL in the ways of COBRA KAI

You And I are the Only Ones Who Can Trust Each Other

In Cobra Kai philosophy, relationships form as a means to an end. And usually in the form of a leader and a follower. But the leadership model is the type used in a narcissistic relationship: love bombing, devaluation, discard. The "stronger" person finds their target and makes them feel special. They then begin to separate the target from other supporters so that the relationship becomes the center of the target's universe. The target now relies on that person for their value and worth. Once that link forges, the narcissist begins to change language from loving to abusive slights. Lastly, once the person is no longer a supply of something the narcissist wants, they discard them. We see this pattern between Turner and Kreese, Kreese and Johnny (during the beginning of Karate Kid II), Kreese and Silver, and also between Silver and Daniel in Karate Kid III.

This relationship of imbalance is necessary to keep the student the weaker vessel. Because Kreese betrayed Turner, he always must be on guard for his students betraying him. That's why you always slightly abuse your students. If they fear you, they won't be strong enough or brave enough to betray you. The relationship must always be one person in control, but that always causes resentment that can fester.

Two men talk to each other
KREESE turns down SILVER'S suggestion to enter to Sekai Taikai

Everyone Has a Weakness, John. And Mine is You.

During the Viet Cong imprisonment, Kreese took Terry Silver's place in the snake pit fights. Silver swears his allegiance to Kreese and promises to always be there for him. Kreese wants Silver to help him set up some dojos together, but unfortunately Silver's father wants him to help with the family business. But an uneasy alliance forms between them. Terry adores Kreese – until he begins to suspect that Kreese's affections lie elsewhere. This is the missing piece we learned in Cobra Kai, season 5.

By 1979, Cobra Kai dojos are doing well. In 1980, Silver and Kreese travel to South Korea to train under Kim Sun-Yung, Captain Turner's mentor. They learn the Way of the Fist: "Strike first. Strike Hard. No Mercy." There they meet young Kim-Da-Un, the granddaughter of Kim Sun-Yung.

Terry has grand plans for expanding Cobra Kai's reach by entering into the Sekai Taikai tournament. Kreese turns him down and chooses to focus on the dojo he has. He waxes on poetically about his new student Johnny Lawrence. After what we've seen from how Terry Silver talked to Kenny, we know that Silver's words, "I'll follow your lead, John," were probably only a facade for a seed of resentment that has bloomed full grown by Cobra Kai season 5.

A Black teen looks angrily at an opponent
KENNY'S internal anger may fuel him to be prey to SILVER'S indoctrination

I Spent a lot of My Life Listening to Others: My Father, My Captain, My Best Friend.

Immediately before the flashback of Kreese and Silver in Korea in 1980, we witness a scene where Terry Silver begins the indoctrination process on Kenny. He singles out Kenny as having a lot of potential. He witnesses Kenny's abuse by Kyler and realizes this kid is ripe for the old Cobra Kai treatment. He tells Kenny that he reached his true potential when he stopped listening to others and listened to his own instincts. Terry believes he had to turn against Kreese to be himself. He tells Kenny to stop asking people what he should do and start thinking for himself. When Kenny takes these words to heart and stops taking abuse from Kyler, we cheer in the moment. However, if history repeats itself, Kenny will eventually be put under the thumb of Terry Silver. Silver only wants Kenny to come into his own power enough to give Silver the power he craves.

In contrast, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that he needs to choose his own way to grow – not just follow Miyagi blindly. He needs to think for himself. That is not allowed in Cobra Kai. Any slight is recorded as a huge betrayal and reason to sever the ties.

Turner turns against Kreese. Silver turns against Kreese. Kreese ditches Johnny once he loses to Daniel. And we witness how quickly the group turns on Tory when they observe she's not going to blindly follow them. She questions them and endures the same abuse Daniel did. They pressure her to punch a stone dummy, letting her know what happens to those who step out of line.
 
A line of students do karate exercises
The strength of MIAYI-DO lies in their unity 

This is What We Have that Cobra Kai Does Not

In the fight for the Valley, Miyagi-Do will come out on top because of their philosophy. During the "protect the egg" drill, Chozen says of Cobra Kai: "Their movement mile wide, but only one inch deep. But our movement, inch wide, but mile deep." The pattern of division and conflict of Cobra Kai weakens any impact they could have in the long run. On the other hand, Miyagi-Do's pattern of reconciliation and redemption makes them strong and an impenetrable wall.

Miyadi-Do will win, not just because they are the good guys but because the history and mythos these writers have crafted demands that inevitable conclusion. Love is stronger than hate.
 
Three girls do kata together
DEVON, SAM, and TORY united as one front

Putting it All Together for Cobra Kai Season Six

So what does this mean for the upcoming season six of Cobra Kai?

Kenny and Anthony will reconcile

Anthony has roots in Miyagi-Do. He will find a way to make peace with Kenny. By the end of season five, Kenny is already faltering after witnessing the character flaws of Terry Silver. Sure, he wants to feel important just like anyone, but his allegiance to his brother and Robby is greater than any he has formed with Terry Silver. He may stay in Cobra Kai for a bit, but I have a feeling that will not last for long. Also, just like Daniel ends up using Silver's words against him, I have a feeling Kenny will do the same thing and show how he won't be used by Silver.

Kim Da-Un and Kreese will team up, but that won't last for long

Cobra Kai season five already laid the groundwork for a team-up between Kreese and Kim Da-Un. We see how she looked up to him as a child. Kreese winks at her and takes the fall for the vase that got broken. They most likely had a congenial relationship. He may have been her first crush. When Kim Da-Un gets off the plane, she looks around, disappointed that Kreese is not there. She clearly wants to work with him. The release date trailer already leaks that Kreese will approach Kim Da-Un. These two will team up, but Cobra Kai team ups never seem to last long.

Cobra Kai will continue to lose students because it never ends well for them

After Daniel defeats Terry Silver at the end of season five, we see Terry Silver being carted off to prison. Kim Da-Un looked pretty disgusted, so I'm guessing she will return to Korea. Cobra Kai is out of business for now. John Kreese may try to resurrect the dojo in time for Sekai Taikai.

The tournament may not end with Miyagi-Do winning, but that group will come out on top.

Because of everything above.

A reveal that somehow these philosophies intersect.

Somewhere in the past, do Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai intersect? Did Kim Sun-Yung and Mr. Miyagi or Sato know each other? Do these worldviews collide so that the hatred spurring Cobra Kai can finally be put to rest? Sato said, "I was wrong. Hate is wrong." I wonder if those words will finally have the ultimate say.

Can't wait to see how it all plays out.

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