The Karate Kid is a notable coming-of-age film that deals with friendship and bullying. Directed by John G. Avildsen, the film is a classic underdog tale.
The story follows high school student Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) after he moves to California with his mom (Randee Heller). Daniel quickly finds himself in a scuffle with a boy named Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), who is a student of the “Cobra Kai,” a karate dojo. Daniel is saved by his maintenance man, Kesuke Miyagi (Pat Morita), who fights off Daniel’s attackers. Daniel asks Miyagi to train him for an upcoming karate tournament at Cobra Kai. After some convincing, Miyagi agrees. This sparks a mentorship between Daniel and Miyagi, which ultimately evolves into a strong friendship.
As the film progresses, Miyagi not only trains Daniel in combat, but also teaches him several life lessons. An important lesson that Miyagi teaches Daniel is balance, both in karate and life.
Another important lesson that Miyagi teaches Daniel is the importance of confidence, which Daniel lacked after being bullied by Johnny. Miyagi teaches Daniel how confidence leads to success and happiness. Miyagi also expresses the dangers of low self-esteem.
The film’s portrayal of a victim of bullying overcoming his fears and defeating his aggressor is inspirational. Although The Karate Kid was released in 1984, Daniel’s story is still be relevant to the problem of bullying in schools. Daniel’s ability to mature remains a motivational feat for all ages.
The Karate Kid tackles sensitive themes, such as bullying and low self-esteem, in a way that is also quirky and comedic. It’s hard not to laugh along with Miyagi and his surprising teaching methods. The iconic “wax on, wax off” scene is one of the film’s most memorable moments—to Daniel’s initial confusion, Miyagi teaches him how to wash cars in a circular motion. We later learn the importance of the circular motion in combat training.
The dynamic between Miyagi and Daniel provides a feel-good experience for the audience. Through his lessons, Miyagi teaches both Daniel and viewers important values of life. While The Karate Kid can be predictable at times, it offers an inspirational story that will leave you cheering for the underdog.