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Cobra Kai's Sean Kanan Reveals That He Almost Died While Shooting Karate Kid Part III

Over the course of the five seasons that currently comprise "Karate Kid" sequel series "Cobra Kai," nearly every villain from the original trilogy of "Karate Kid" films is redeemed to some degree, with really only a single exception. Among them, former young karate prodigy Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) in "Cobra Kai" Season 5 ranks arguably among the best redemption arcs in "Cobra Kai."

Barnes is an outright villain throughout "Karate Kid Part III," serving as protagonist Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio)'s final opponent in the film's climax. However, in "Cobra Kai" the older Barnes is a changed man from the jump, offering Daniel an apology as soon as they become reacquainted decades after their fight. Kanan told Looper in an interview that he appreciates the way "Cobra Kai" introduces new dimensions to characters that may not have had much depth previously. "I've said this before: I'm now a guy that's 33 years older, both as an actor and also as a human. I've got a lot more that I'm able to draw upon and bring to the role, and it's been great getting a second whack at this thing," he said.

As it turns out, Kanan's still-thriving acting career almost came to an end early on, when he suffered a near-fatal injury while filming "Karate Kid Part III."

Kanan narrowly survived a life-threatening injury

In an interview with The Daily Mail published in the wake of "Cobra Kai" Season 5's release, Mike Barnes actor Sean Kanan discussed in detail a near-fatal injury he sustained in the midst of filming "Karate Kid Part III." As he recounted, it began when he felt pain in one thigh that he attributed to routine muscle strain. However, after it caused him to pass out, a doctor diagnosed this as internal bleeding. "They said, 'We don't know if we can save your life — we're going to try'", Kanan explained. "It was the scariest thing that's ever happened to me in my life."

Not only did Kanan survive the necessary surgery, but he requested a procedure that would leave his abdominal muscles untouched in order to quicken his recovery. This proved necessary, because a studio representative told Kanan that if he took more than what he remembers as 12 days to recover, his role would be recast. Eventually, they decided to stick with Kanan but hire a stunt performer for physically strenuous sequences. Kanan, however, trained with "Rocky" director John Avildsen to get back into working shape.

"When people ask me, Is 'Karate Kid III' a special movie to me? I think a lot of people think it is because it inserted me into this worldwide phenomenon. It's not because of that, it's because at 22/23-years-old I remember I was faced with my own mortality," Kanan said. "They didn't know if I could live."