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Cobra Kai: Which Cast Members Actually Know Karate In Real Life?

One of the principal joys of Netflix's "Karate Kid" sequel series "Cobra Kai" is its bizarro setting in which present day teenagers settle otherwise typical adolescent disputes through disciplined combat. While this means that virtually every cast member is competent enough at karate to believably fight on camera, some actors are genuine martial artists whereas others simply learn on the job.

The one young "Cobra Kai" actor with a real-life black belt is Owen Morgan, who plays the short and stereotypically dorky Bert. Since his family operates a karate dojo, Morgan began training in the martial art at a young age and attained his black belt rank in 2019 shortly after debuting on "Cobra Kai."

In an piece for TheWrap, meanwhile, author Tony Maglio interviewed some main cast members and found out that, among its young talent, Hawk actor Jacob Bertrand and Robby Keene actor Tanner Buchanan are the ones with the most martial arts experience — Bertrand is a purple belt in karate whereas Buchanan is a multidisciplinary martial artist with a background predominantly in taekwondo.

The article also mentions that longtime Johnny Lawrence actor William Zabka is a karate aficionado, which it turns out is more common among the show's older cast members than its younger actors.

Cobra Kai's middle-aged cast is full of talented martial artists

While William Zabka didn't begin studying karate until his key role in the first "Karate Kid" film, he maintained his interest in the martial art moving forward and eventually earned a green belt. That said, Zabka is the least experienced at karate of the main villains from the original three "Karate Kid" movies, each of whom returns in "Cobra Kai."

For example, John Kreese actor Martin Kove knows multiple martial arts and holds a black belt in Okinawa-te karate. Meanwhile, Yuji Okumoto, who plays reformed "Karate Kid Part 2" villain Chozen Toguchi, told martial arts blog Ikigai Way that he studied both the Chito-ryu and Shotokan styles of karate during his childhood. Mike Barnes actor Sean Kanan was actually cast in "The Karate Kid Part 3" because of his karate experience, he told Black Belt Magazine — he knows both Shito-ryu (distinct from Chito-ryu) and Shotokan karate.

Terry Silver actor Thomas Ian Griffith might be the most skilled martial artists in the "Cobra Kai" universe. He told The Wrap that he began studying karate in high school and has practiced nearly every day since, totaling something like forty-plus years of training. He holds black belt rankings in both taekwondo and Kenpo karate.

Between its two generations of cast members, then, "Cobra Kai" features its fair share of trained martial artists drawing on real-life experience for its plentiful action sequences.