Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

We Finally Know The Origin Of The Karate Kid 2's Secret Drum Technique

Fans of the Karate Kid movies are well aware that Mr. Miyagi's (Pat Morita) lessons to young Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) weren't exactly straightforward. It's pretty obvious that everyone's favorite coming-of-age-slash-martial-arts-film sensei — not so fast, Chuck Norris from Sidekicks! — believed that the journey through a lesson was more valuable than the destination that was the actual technique. While they were great for laughs, uber-technical maneuvers like "Wax on, wax off" and "Paint the fence" were more than just a kooky old man trying to get free labor out of his young protege; they were loosely based on a teaching method known as disguised repetition.

In addition to getting Mr. Miyagi a shiny car, "Wax on, wax off" taught the titular karate kid rudimentary defensive techniques. But, like, to infinity. "Paint the fence"? Same thing; Daniel learned blocks — disguised as torturous manual labor — to the point that they became second nature to him. They might not be too flashy in the dojo, but they did a great job of training the wet-behind-the-ears kid from New Jersey to avoid taking damage. Switching to offense: Lyoto Machida may have knocked Randy Couture out with a modified form of the "Crane kick" at UFC  129 (via Bleacher Report), but most martial arts experts are dubious on its potential effectiveness. 

In considering The Karate Kid II, fans of the second movie have long wondered the inspiration behind the mysterious "Drum technique." Thankfully for those fans, there's now an answer.

The origin of the drum technique in Karate Kid 2

Franchise writer Robert Mark Kamen appeared in a recent Karate Kid-meets-Cobra Kai virtual cast shindig organized by Josh Gad and available on YouTube. Kamen revealed that the drum technique became a part of the franchise lore courtesy of a martial arts master named Chokei Kishaba — whom he described as "probably the greatest living karate man in Okinawa."

"He was going to show me the secret to all karate when I met him, and he took out this drum and he did this," Kamen said, miming the movement. "And I said, 'I am so stealing this.'"

Kamen went on to describe his teacher as "the most dangerous guy in all of Okinawa." 

"He said 'This is the secret' and Ralph performed just like the drum," Kamen added.

Unfortunately, Kamen didn't reveal the precise meaning behind the drum technique, which is a subject of some debate. While some believe it's a general principle of staying in constant motion to avoid being struck by your opponent, others have different theories. When the subject came up on Reddit's AskScienceFiction subreddit, user Crory compared it to something more along the lines of Drunken Fist than karate.

"You position yourself with both arms to your left and swing them both one after another, the first as a backhand and then the second almost directly behind it as an open palm attack or punch. If your opponent gets hit he gets hit twice, which sucks the most. If your opponent dodges the first in any direction other [than] stepping backwards, you can still step forward and adjust your angle and attempt the second strike as a very quick follow through," they said.

In the scene in which Daniel offers Chozen a beatdown, he does indeed turn the tide when he starts whipping his arms from side to side, pivoting at the waist, though it's unclear from the 1980s-quality recording whether he's landing one blow or two at a time. Mind you, he'd probably still be getting his butt handed to him if Mr. Miyagi hadn't offered him that auditory trigger by spinning the hand drum.