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What You Didn't Know About The Karate Kid's Tournament Referee

The mega-successful teen drama-slash-martial arts flick "The Karate Kid" rocked the box office in 1984 (per Box Office Mojo), spawning two sequels building on the relationship between New Jersey transplant Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and his sensei, handyman and karate master Nariyoshi Miyagi (Pat Morita). There would be a Daniel-free sequel involving Mr. Miyagi mentoring a young female trainee (Hillary Swank) (1994's "The Next Karate Kid"), an animated series (1989's "The Karate Kid"), a remake (2010's "The Karate Kid," featuring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith) and a sequel series (Netflix's ongoing "Cobra Kai"). But nothing's ever topped the original when it comes to sheer cultural impact.

If you're a fan of 1980s films, you've definitely seen "The Karate Kid" at least once in your lifetime. But we bet you didn't know this fun fact about the referee who sees through the film's climactic showdown between Daniel and his rival from Cobra Kai, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) at the All Valley Karate Championship Tournament.

The tournament's referee is a genuine karate master

Per IMDb, the tournament's referee is portrayed by legendary martial artist and karate choreographer Grandmaster Pat E. Johnson. Johnson not only put together the fights for "The Karate Kid," he also put in choreography work for all three of the film's sequels. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment posted a full featurette from their DVD release of "The Karate Kid" featuring Johnson talking about the different styles of martial arts he combined and used to create the film's signature martial arts sequences, which can be watched on their official YouTube account.

Johnson also choreographed karate-centric fight sequences for all three "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movies and the 1995 big-screen version of "Mortal Kombat." He got his start as a stuntman, working uncredited in Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon." Since then, Johnson has since worked as a stunt coordinator in films such as "Batman & Robin," the movie version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "To Live and Die in LA."

As his title suggests, Johnson has made a name for himself in the karate world. Per a 2020 article from Den of Geek, Johnson was a student of martial artist and actor Chuck Norris. He subsequently headed the actor's Black Belt Competition team. Under Johnson's stewardship, the group was undefeated, racking up 33 international and national titles without a single break. His part in "The Karate Kid" may be small, but it's an acknowledgment of the talents of a memorable man whose work shaped the way moviegoers would come to look at karate for decades.