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10 Life Lessons Learned from Watching The Karate Kid

10 Life Lessons Learned from Watching The Karate Kid

A black and white image of a Bonsai tree

There are, out in the big wide world a whole generation of men who unwittingly carry with them a wisdom and understanding that has been a prominent part of their life from the age of somewhere between 5 and 15 yrs old. Who are these men and why do they harbour this knowledge?

Well, this particular group were fortunate enough at a tender and susceptible age to be exposed to, in The MALESTROM’s opinion, one of the greatest films ever made. A film that would have such a profound effect, it would bring back pangs of nostalgia at the merest hint of some classic 80s music, a shiny new mountain bike, a wooden fence in need of a lick of paint, or even the sight of chopsticks down the local Chinese.

We are of course talking about the 1984 masterpiece The Karate Kid – a film littered with so many earnest and sincere life lessons, it was enough to make impressionable teens the world over respect their elders, never shy away from a bit of hard work and also initiate a burning desire to become a martial art expert!

So in homage to The Karate Kid, the 80’s and of course Mr Miyagi (the late great Pat Morita), we bring you some pearls of wisdom from this classic underdog film. Yep here’s our rundown of 10 life lessons learned from The Karate Kid. And if you’re not tempted to dust down the old VHS recorder upon reading this, then we’re not doing our job properly.

10. Sometimes you have to just walk away

An early scene in the movie sees our Italian-American hero Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) being introduced to his future nemeses in a brutal and devastating manner. Cornered by some bad boy karate students who’ve taken a dislike for this skinny new kid in town. Daniel’s early flirtations with Karate prove no match and in an effort to impress Ali (oh Elisabeth Shue how we pined) he promptly gets his ass handed to him.

Lesson – Protecting a potential love interest is a noble act, although Ali clearly thinks this fight was pointless and isn’t impressed, sometimes it’s best to walk away. It takes Daniel a while to learn this lesson. Bonus lesson, there’s always someone tougher!

9. Be respectful

Daniel shows early signs of maturity in the film, he chats to the ‘crazy’ old woman as they move into their new apartment, even bringing down a bowl of water for her pet dog. This is an early indication that Daniel’s been brought up properly, he’s able to communicate with anyone and has a confidence in himself, that owes much to the role of his wonderful Mum and her ‘who cares what anyone else thinks’ attitude.

It’s an idea that pops up throughout the film, most notably with her car that it’s safe to say, probably didn’t get a clean bill of health on it’s MOT. Ultimately it’s Daniel’s willingness to help his Mum and his respect for his elders that leads him to the door of handyman (now that’s an understatement) Mr Miyagi. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lesson – Kids so often think they know best, but Daniel’s curiosity and in equal parts respect for his elders leads him on a journey that will change his life. Maybe don’t ignore the elderly dude struggling with his shopping next time.

8. Hard work does pay off

Anything worth doing is worth doing properly. Your results in life are oftentimes a reflection of the effort and time you put in. If you manage to learn the benefit of hard work at a young age, the rest of your life should be a doddle. In this case and much to the chagrin of Daniel instead of the intense karate training he desires, first Miyagi instructs the kid to paint his fence and wax his collection of cars.

We the viewers think this old Japanese chap may have found himself some seriously cheap labour to tart up his property and shine up his cars, but later we come to the realisation that the painting motion was all part of the training. Through extreme repetition, fundamental karate movements became second nature to Daniel who later uses it to vanquish his foes.

Lesson – A bit of hard work never hurt anyone, but who knows it might help you hurt some badass bullies!

7. 100% Commitment

In the scene where Myagi is testing Daniel to see if he’s ready to begin his Karate training proper. Daniel gives the half-hearted response “I guess so”. To this, the great mentor responds with an analogy that walking down the left or right side of the road is fine but if you walk down the middle you’ll get in Miyagi speak “squish”.

He’s telling Daniel to pick a path and give it his all rather than taking the middle ground. Being in two minds is a place we’ve all been, some more than others, but indecisiveness can prove costly in any walk of life. You must decide exactly what it is you want to do, how you want to do it – and then go for it!

Lesson – Decide what it is you want from life and work how best you can achieve it, with 100% commitment you’ll fulfill your goals.

6. Face the lions you fear

When Mr Myagi takes Daniel to the Cobra Kai dojo to confront John Kreese and his students he’s making him face his fears head on in order to overcome them. Fear surrounds us in everyday life and if you allow it to become the dominant force in yours, you’ve already lost, as the great mentor himself states –

“It’s ok to lose to opponent. It’s never ok to lose to fear”.

Lesson – Stand up for yourself and what you believe, be mindful of others and you can overcome anything.

An image from the film as Mr Miyagi confronts John Kreece at his dojo
© Columbia Pictures 1984 all rights reserved

5. Find balance in your life

Daniel is a bundle of energy, at times chaotic, a typical teenager some might say. He’s desperate to achieve his goals in the shortest time possible, often at odds with himself and furthermore his arch enemies. His struggle to settle in new surroundings and make friends compounds this even further. Mr Miyagi recognises this lack of balance and offers up some more obscure training methods.

Encouraging Daniel to straddle his small fishing boat he also makes him walk into a stormy ocean in order to teach him balance. Ultimately this is to arm him with the skill necessary to utilise the devastating crane kick that he needs to defeat his opponents. But also Myagi is trying to instill that balance is essential in life to keep yourself stable, a perfect mix of yin and yang.

Lesson –

“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home”. – Mr Miyagi

4. Money isn’t everything

Daniel rocks up for his date with Ali in yes that battered old car – not only that, his Mum is chauffeuring! Alarmed and surprised to see that Ali lives in what looks like the bloody Hamptons, he cuts a clumsy figure as stutters through an introduction to her parents.

Ali, of course, is the only person in this scene who isn’t thinking about class and money, she’s excited for the date, and what girl wouldn’t love Daniel’s Mum. Further embarrassment ensues as they run into Daniel’s rivals and their flash car at the fun park. Ali doesn’t care and is proud to be on his arm.

Lesson – Don’t try so hard, and be yourself if you want to impress the one.

3. Bandanas are cool!

Not much to say on this one apart from the rising sun bandana that Daniel sports in Karate Kid mode is pretty awesome.

Lesson – If you’re over the age of 15, best stick to wearing your Karate Kid bandana around the house, maybe hoovering up or something.

2. Cheats don’t prosper in the long run

During the culmination of the film, at the All Valley Karate Championship Daniel faces his Cobra Kai rivals in an ultimate showdown. With Daniel-san looking pretty tasty a nervy John Kreese instructs his wayward bunch of fighters to finish Daniel’s tournament by injuring him – “No mercy” indeed.

Daniel starts taking punishment leaving him looking dead and buried. It seems we may have seen the last of LaRusso, but after a bit of healing from Mr Myagi and showing an iron will, Daniel toughs it out to go on and face arch nemesis Johnny.

A quick shout out to a classic line during his final fight when one of the Cobra Kai stooges screeches in support of Johhny, “Get him a body bag. Yeah!”. This, of course, is not how our film ends, but more on that shortly.

Lesson – Cheats never prosper of course.

The iconic finale to the film as Daniel standing on one leg performs the crane kick to defeat his nemesis.
© Columbia Pictures 1984 all rights reserved

1. Humility

Johnny bad boy Lawrence, Daniel’s arch nemesis and major antagonist learns humility in the jaws of defeat in spectacular fashion. As Daniel’s journey becomes complete in a goosebump inducing final scene, Johnny is finally beaten and in the process, overcome with emotion raises Daniel’s hand aloft. Relive this crane kicking culmination here and revel in the wondrous simplicity of your forgotten youth.

Lesson – There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.

So there you have it apart from being a great film with one of the best 80s soundtracks going (Cruel Summer by Bananarama anyone) The Karate Kid is bursting with life lessons we can all live and learn from. Why not revisit it soon and let it’s wisdom permeate into your day-today living.

Remember …

“Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” – Mr Miyagi

What are your thought on this 80s classic? Let us know in the comments below. 

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