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Things Only Adults Notice In The Karate Kid

We could all learn a thing or two from "The Karate Kid." Violence should only be used for defense, or at least in a last-resort case. There are no shortcuts in life –– doing the work is the best way to achieve long-term success. Find balance in your life. Never give up. There's more to this film than two people facing off in a karate match –– and there are, likewise, a plethora of elements that could go over the heads of younger audience members.

The 1984 martial arts drama follows Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), a teenager who moves to Los Angeles with his mom, Lucille LaRusso (Randee Heller), so she can pursue a better profession. As the new kid in town, Daniel is picked on for being different: He's a New Jersey native through and through and is less fortunate than some of his classmates. Daniel is, subsequently, picked on at school by a group of bullies who just so happen to know karate very well. Eventually, Daniel goes under Mr. Miyagi's (Pat Morita) mentorship and faces his fears, and bullies, in a karate tournament. Though "The Karate Kid" franchise is based on so much more than romance –– it is, after all, a drama/action film, not a romantic comedy –– Daniel and Johnny's rivalry started because they both liked the same girl. The ensuing events are much more complicated than that, but that occurrence kicked off this franchise, not to mention a spinoff series.

Ultimately, "The Karate Kid" is an everlasting film that's flooded with lifelong lessons –– and here are things only adults notice in this classic movie.

Daniel's mom lets him go to a party

Daniel's mom is laid back and trusts her son. As such, she lets him go to a party immediately after moving to Los Angeles. Mostly, Lucille wants Daniel to make friends and enjoy living in California. And Daniel is 17 years old, capable of making the right decisions. That said, LA isn't necessarily the best place to just allow your teenager to run wild without parental supervision, especially when said teenager seemingly travels everywhere by bicycle.

Though Lucille lets Daniel go to a party, which appears to be a harmless get-together at the beach, this event kicks off the entire franchise as Daniel meets Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) and then fights Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) for good measure. If Daniel didn't go to the beach, he likely wouldn't have become the karate kid. 

All the same, it's not hard for a seasoned viewer to recognize how lenient Lucille is, as she let her teenage son go on a joy ride in Los Angeles virtually a day after they arrived in this new world. And although LA can be a wonderful place that's filled with viable professions, creative outlets, and stunning neighborhoods, parental supervision is typically necessary.

How do Daniel and Ali go to the same school?

Ali and Daniel going to the same high school might seem perfectly fine for younger audience members, but it's not hard for more seasoned viewers to question this occurrence. Ali is from the Hills and Daniel lives in the Valley. The Hills are known as a more affluent part of Southern California –– and Ali appears to be raised by a family that questions their daughter hanging out with a lower-class member. Though that sounds harsh, the way they look at Daniel and his mother when they have to start their car by pushing it says it all. Yet adults will recall that wealth doesn't inherently make a person good, nor does not coming from means make a person bad.

One would assume Ali would go to a nicer high school given where she comes from, the way her family looks at less fortunate people, and the unfairly bad light that tends to be shined on public schools in the real world. That said, perhaps Ali and Daniel's high school has a good reputation. There's nothing wrong with saving money — private schools don't intrinsically create better students.

Daniel's temper

Daniel, to say the least, has a bad temper. Though he's bullied and is standing up for himself, he typically turns to violence and gets into fights. As the new kid at school, he likely doesn't want events to compound, yet his temper tends to get the best of him –– and it typically results in him paying the price. But he gains everyone's respect at the end of the film by winning the karate tournament.

Daniel is a young and flawed (everyone is in their own way) teenager who's just trying to find his way in a city that's much different from where he's from, yet he presumably would have had an easier transition if his temper didn't come out in spades. Fighting might have been easier to digest and rationalize in '80s movies, but even that's a weak caveat. All in all, Daniel is learning how to find balance –– in karate and life. A process that doesn't happen overnight.

Mr. Miyagi fighting kids

Though Mr. Miyagi saved Daniel from getting further bullied, he beat up a bunch of high school kids to the point of knocking them out. A degree of self-defense was warranted, and this scene is important to the story as it displays Mr. Miyagi's karate abilities. But it's harder for seasoned viewers not to question the fact that the karate master beat up a group of minors ... and then left the scene without making sure they were okay.

Sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) is aware of Miyagi harming the kids, yet he doesn't tell anyone about it. This seems odd, considering John teaches his Cobra Kai students violence. They also evidently fight dirty, as John has one of his students injure Daniel on purpose in the karate tournament. 

For better or worse, Mr. Miyagi fighting with high school students is glossed over. And Miyagi takes it under his power to solve Daniel's bully issues by cutting a deal with John.

Lack of parental supervision

"The Karate Kid" is a marvelous film that can teach audience members how to tackle the trials and tribulations of life, yet one common thread is a lack of parental supervision. As an example, Daniel routinely shows up to school with bruises. One would think his teachers would start to question where these battle scars came from. In a roundabout way, this further proves the inconsistencies of Ali's parents allowing her to attend this high school.

Daniel tells his mother that his bruises are from falling off his bike. But instead of confronting this issue head-on, the film seemingly cuts Lucille out for large chunks of the movie. And then Daniel spends a fair amount of time learning karate with Mr. Miyagi. "The Karate Kid" might be about an apprentice and his mentor, but it's hard for more seasoned viewers not to question the fact that parental supervision is lacking in this film, especially when violence is involved. 

But, yeah, sure, the Cobra Kai students continue to pick on one person and ride around town on their motorcycles.

Mr. Miyagi should have talked to Daniel's mom

Speaking of parental supervision, Mr. Miyagi probably should have told Daniel's mom about his bullies. Though the film tends to gloss over head trauma, Daniel appeared to have a concussion, as he was dazed and confused after the Cobra Kai students jumped him on the night of the Halloween school dance. Surely, Miyagi could have told Daniel's mom off-screen, but he presumably takes the parenting duties into his own hands.

Miyagi then teaches Daniel the techniques of karate and makes a deal with a violent person –– all while not talking to Daniel's mom. It's evident that this universe is lacking parental supervision, and Daniel's mom is a single mother trying to balance a new life and career in California. But a conversation with Miyagi and Daniel's mom should have occurred at some point. In Miyagi's defense, Daniel is lacking a father figure and, Miyagi also realizes that the bullying won't stop until Daniel stands up for himself –– and a karate tournament is a seemingly safe environment to tackle the problem head-on.

Daniel's quick training

Not only does the Cobra Kai dojo appear to be the most prestigious karate dojo in town, but Johnny is the top student. Yet Daniel, who was already interested in karate, is just as skilled as Johnny in a matter of weeks. In fact, when Daniel showed up at the tournament, he didn't even know the rules, and likely never ever appeared a karate match. He goes up against people who have presumably been karate students for years, yet manages to win the tournament. The film does, however, allude to his talents.

Nevertheless, Miyagi is evidently an amazing teacher, not to mention a karate master. Though an adequate mentor can take a person a long way, it's just a tad bizarre how Daniel can defeat Johnny in the tournament. Clearly, Daniel is a fast learner and a natural and was putting in some serious work and preparation for the tournament, but that barely makes it less head-scratching.

Daniel is his own worst enemy

Though he becomes a karate tournament champion, Daniel tends to get in his own way. He is, by all measures, his own worst enemy. Seasoned audience members will recall that, although Daniel was bullied, he handled many of the situations too aggressively. His temper and, at times, impatience play a role in his personal struggles. Similar to many young and eager teenagers, Daniel was initially restive and wanted to learn how to punch quickly. He wanted to skip over the technique, discipline, and work. It's not until Miyagi points out the lessons he's been teaching Daniel all along that Daniel realizes Miyagi was teaching him karate. Plus, whether being bullied or not, Daniel did retaliate. He did, after all, pull a prank on Johnny at the Halloween dance, proving once again that he kneecaps himself.

That said, this theme becomes more of a factor in subsequent movies, and plays a much larger part of the franchise's story, especially since the release of "Cobra Kai."

Daniel arguably helps Mr. Miyagi as much as Mr. Miyagi helps Daniel

Younger audience members might rightfully believe that Daniel is the only beneficiary of Miyagi's mentorship, but Daniel helps out his mentor just as much as Miyagi helps him. Outside of the free manual labor, when Daniel meets Miyagi, the Sensei is alone and still grieving the loss of his wife and son. But then he befriends Daniel, and seemingly finds happiness and meaning. He wants Daniel to succeed in the karate tournament just as much as Daniel wants to succeed. Though Miyagi's deal with John was formed out of bullying, the film becomes more about Miyagi and Daniel's relationship and the love of martial arts –– as well as finding balance in all areas of life.

Ultimately, "The Karate Kid" is a champion of the genre and is flooded with a myriad of life lessons that both kids and adults can appreciate. And these events don't take away from the film's overall message.