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The Untold Truth Of Daniel LaRusso From The Karate Kid

With the ever-rising popularity of "Cobra Kai," it is clear that fans of the beloved "Karate Kid" series are just as invested in the story of Ralph Macchio's Daniel LaRusso now as they were when he first burst onto the film scene back in the '80s. Whether it's because of Macchio's charm or his slick karate moves, there are ample reasons why "Daniel San" has remained relevant over all these years, even in the midst of a new generation. Whether you prefer to watch the teenage heartthrob take on his archnemeses or the middle-aged sensei shepherding a new crew of fighters, Daniel has gone through a lot since 1984, and he's not slowing down any time soon. This karate legend has a vast history with the sport, and always seems to "kick the competition" into oblivion.

While "Cobra Kai" has increased the relatability of Daniel's one-time bully Johnny Lawrence, the series has also rounded out Daniel as a complex human being who, as it turns out, isn't always the straight-forward hero. Between the exciting action sequences and the heart wrenching confessions, the show not only captures "Karate Kid" nostalgia perfectly, but it feels like the most natural continuation of the story. Even the biggest "Karate Kid" superfans might not know all of the hidden secrets behind Daniel LaRusso, though, nor can everyone see him in a non-heroic light. Here, we're talking about all the untold truth of the "Karate Kid" legend himself, so bow to your sensei as we balance between offense and defense.

He was originally named Daniel Webber

After Daniel's father died, he and his mother moved all the way across the country from the East Coast to the West so that his mom could get a new job in computers. How she ended up working as a waitress, we might never know, but one thing you probably didn't know is that Daniel's surname (no, his last name isn't "San") wasn't always LaRusso. In Robert Mark Kamen's original screenplay, his name was actually Daniel Webber. Whatever the reason for the original surname, once Ralph Macchio — who was riding off the success of "The Outsiders" at the time — was cast in the role, they made sure to change it to something that better represented his Italian heritage.

In light of the way Italian Americans had been presented by Hollywood, the film's scrappy lead underdog character did something fresh and exciting, challenging previous stereotypes. With his New Jersey roots, it made a lot more sense for our favorite karate champion to be named Daniel LaRusso rather than Daniel Webber, and at this point we wouldn't have it any other way, especially since he might've been played by Robert Downey, Jr.. Honestly, Daniel's Italian roots serve to make his experience in the Valley incredibly specific, which helps him (and the world he inhabits) feel just a bit more real.

Daniel is just as much a bully as Johnny (and it affected his kids)

It's no secret that many believe that "Cobra Kai" star, and the original film's bully, Johnny Lawrence is actually the real hero of the story. In fact, that's the reason YouTube Red green-lit "Cobra Kai" in the first place! Part of this is because in the original "Karate Kid" film, Johnny calls himself an "ex-degenerate" and hopes to turn his life around for his senior year. Of course, this all gets ruined within minutes when Daniel intervenes. In fact, Daniel does more than intervene, he pulls the classic Cobra Kai move of "striking first" and trying to move in on Johnny's old flame, actually going so far as to attack the karate champion.

Months go by, and Daniel and Johnny live their separate lives until the Halloween dance at their school, when Daniel pulls a mean-spirited prank on Johnny by dousing him with a hose. This begins the karate-born rivalry between the boys, which spans long into their adulthood. In the 2010s, Daniel is just as judgmental and condescending to Johnny as he was back in high school, often belittling his accomplishments and highlighting his failures. This extends into Daniel's own children, Sam and Anthony, who are sometimes overbearing in their own right. Anthony even bullies a kid into joining Cobra Kai under the tutelage of series' villains John Kreese and Terry Silver.

He blew off his college fund, twice

In Season 4 of "Cobra Kai," Daniel admits to his newest student Miguel Diaz that he never actually went to college, instead just going wherever life took him. While that's not always a good practice, it really worked out for Daniel, who ended up opening LaRusso Auto Group with his wife Amanda not long after they were married. Since then, Daniel has become one of the wealthiest and most successful car dealers in the Valley, always trying to "kick the competition." But none of this was by design, and Daniel's lack of college credit wasn't due to his mother's lack of trying, but rather his selfless desire to help Mr. Miyagi.

Not once, but twice, Daniel gave up his college fund in order to help Miyagi in some way. The first time was in "The Karate Kid, Part II" when Mr. Miyagi was to travel to Okinawa to reunite with his dying father. Daniel spent his college savings on a ticket to accompany his sensei across the globe, which meant the world to Miyagi. In "The Karate Kid, Part III," Daniel spent his winnings from "Part II" on opening a bonsai tree shop called "Mr. Miyagi's Little Trees" with his sensei. He then continued on as a part of his LaRusso Auto Group and didn't let his lack of a college education stop him from living a full life.

He's got one heck of an ego

Okay, so Daniel can sometimes be kind of the worst, and we're not the only ones who think so. While this is only alluded to in "The Karate Kid" movies, "Cobra Kai" makes it abundantly clear throughout. Besides the giant LA billboards with his own face on them, the slogan for LaRusso Auto Group is that they "kick the competition." We get it, you won two karate tournaments as a teenager in the '80s, but it's been nearly 40 years now and it's time to get over it... Nobody likes an eternal high school jock, now do they? Not only that, but his entire arc on "Cobra Kai" (until the Season 4 finale) revolved around him stubbornly insisting the only valid form of karate is the Miyagi-Do way, constantly belittling Johnny's visions for either Cobra Kai or Eagle Fang Karate.

Speaking of Johnny, nothing characterizes Daniel's arc in the first few seasons of "Cobra Kai" more than him trying to roundhouse kick Johnny to the face every chance he gets. Between blatantly bullying Johnny in front of his LaRusso employees to trying to poach his own sons (biological and surrogate), it seems that Daniel's inability to see beyond himself is his fatal flaw. In fact, he doesn't even realize that his children are both spoiled rotten and bullies, instead seeing their family as persistent victims. While the truth is that both sides (including Johnny and Daniel) bullied one another, it takes Daniel way too long (nearly 40 years too long) to gain that basic self-awareness.

Daniel and Miyagi went on globe-trotting adventures to recover a magic shrine

Did you know that Mr. Miyagi and Daniel traveled the world, fought random bad guys, and knew ancient karate magic? According to "The Karate Kid" animated series, Miyagi's magical shrine was stolen and taken to all parts of the globe. To get the shrine and its magic powers back, Miyagi takes Daniel (voiced now by Joey Dedio) and Okinawan newcomer Taki Tamurai on a globe-trotting mission to retrieve them. This show is wacky and finds the trio traveling just about everywhere — from London and New York to Hong Kong and South America, Daniel gets to see the whole world. (He must've had a lot of college money to spend on these globe-trotting adventures.)

While the animated series only ended up with 13 episodes total, it made enough of an impact on the franchise that pieces of the shrine have been seen at the Miyagi-Do dojo in "Cobra Kai," though it's doubtful that they contain any magic powers, or that Daniel scoured the globe for them. The "Karate Kid" animated series definitely isn't canon to the larger "Miyagi-verse," but it has a uniquely '80s animation style that's reminiscent of old "G.I. Joe" or "Transformers" cartoons that make it a lot of fun to watch. If you're interested, most of the series can be found on YouTube.

Daniel makes peace with most of his enemies, even if it takes a while

Over the course of the first three "Karate Kid" films, Daniel made plenty of enemies. Johnny Lawrence, John Kreese, and the Cobra Kais might be the most well-known LaRusso foes from the original film, but the first two sequels pit the Miyagi-Do champion against new opponents. In "Part II," Mr. Miyagi's old friend Sato becomes his enemy — at least until Miyagi saves his life — which causes his nephew Chozen to hate Daniel, leading to a bitter fight to the death by the end of the film (during which Daniel spares his enemy's life). "Part III" introduces even more Cobra Kai baddies, including Terry Silver and Mike Barnes, both of whom become bitter rivals towards Daniel.

While Daniel is certainly known to hold a grudge, his rivalries with both Johnny and Chozen have been resolved on "Cobra Kai," with the Miyagi-Do master making amends with his former tournament rivals. Daniel and Johnny have since teamed-up on multiple occasions to fight against John Kreese and his version of Cobra Kai, and Season 5 promises to see Daniel working alongside Chozen to defeat Terry Silver and his ilk. While Daniel might not be able to make amends with every single one of his enemies, he often finds himself playing peacemaker with those willing to listen.

He almost killed John Kreese

John Kreese started Cobra Kai after returning from Vietnam with the sole purpose of bettering young lives — well, in his own way, at least. Along the way, that turned into the desire to win at all cost, which comes to a head in "The Karate Kid" when he forces his students to fight dirty against Daniel in an effort to defeat Miyagi-Do and win the All Valley Championship. When they lose, Kreese becomes so bitter that he nearly kills Johnny Lawrence and is eventually stopped by Mr. Miyagi. A year later, in "The Karate Kid, Part III," Kreese returns, allied with his old war buddy Terry Silver, to take his revenge of Daniel and Miyagi. Thankfully, he loses then just as he did before.

Years later, Kreese returns to the Valley and joins Johnny's latest Cobra Kai efforts, eventually weaseling his way into his student's heads and expelling Johnny from the dojo. After Cobra Kai attacks the LaRusso's home, Daniel and Johnny confront Kreese. In a moment of weakness, Daniel nearly kills the Cobra Kai sensei (with Johnny's blessing) before being stopped by his daughter Sam and Miguel Diaz. Who would've thought Daniel would resort to that sort of violence? Although, now that Terry Silver is back, it seems like anything could be possible.

There's been debate over whether Daniel's crane kick was legal or not

After nearly 40 years since Daniel won the All Valley against Johnny in "The Karate Kid," there is still debate over whether his iconic crane kick was even legal or not. As the argument goes, in "The Karate Kid, Part III," Daniel mentions to Cobra Kai psychopath Terry Silver that he'd be disqualified for direct face contact. Even Ralph Macchio revealed in an interview that the "No hits to the face was clearly something when the referee made the list of things what not to do." It seems like it's entirely possible that one of the most iconic fights in film history shouldn't have been so exciting after all.

Of course, there's the other side of the coin, with many defending the legality of the kick based on the film's referees, Daniel's then-girlfriend's explanation of the rules, and even all the face hits that occur in "Cobra Kai." Some have even speculated that the refs went easy on Daniel after his injury, but that seems a bit far-fetched since Johnny clearly didn't go easy on him. Either way, we know from Season 4 of "Cobra Kai" that Daniel and Johnny are actually pretty evenly matched, so the fact that one won over the other is shocking in and of itself.

His actual birthdate is unclear

In the first "Karate Kid," Mr. Miyagi celebrates Daniel's birthday with him in an impromptu celebration, one that he'll always remember for years to come. As implied in the film (based on Daniel still learning how to drive), Daniel turns 16, which is why driving one of Miyagi's fancy cars is such a big deal. This would set Daniel's birthdate in 1968 to match up perfectly with the film's 1984 setting. This all seems perfectly reasonable, and audiences wouldn't think twice about it when watching the film, but there's actually a big discrepancy in Daniel's age – though it isn't discovered until the third film in the original trilogy.

In "The Karate Kid, Part II," which is set not long after the events of the first film (though released in 1986), Daniel is a senior in high school, which seems a little strange given the first movie. By "Part III," which is set immediately after the events of the second (and released in 1989), Daniel is no longer in high school at all. "Cobra Kai" creator Jon Hurwitz and "Karate Kid" director John G. Avildsen have both confirmed that Daniel's canonized birthdate is actually somewhere in the year 1966 rather than 1968, which retroactively makes him a bit older than Johnny Lawrence (and definitely older than we all thought).

Daniel's daughter almost opened a dojo with Rocky Balboa's son

Apparently, Macchio was pitched an idea for a "Karate Kid" and "Rocky" crossover in which Daniel's daughter and Rocky Balboa's son (played by Milo Ventimiglia in "Rocky Balboa" and "Creed II") would open their own karate dojo together, with Daniel being the "Miyagi" of the movie. Although even director John G. Avildsen (who had directed the "Karate Kid" films as well as "Rocky" and "Rocky V") was on board, it wasn't enough for Macchio to commit, especially since he didn't see how the idea would even work. Thankfully, the story for both a "Rocky" and "Karate Kid" continuation didn't end there and both franchises continued on long past their not-so-final films.

While we know that "The Karate Kid" continued on with multiple seasons of "Cobra Kai," with a heavy focus on Johnny Lawrence, the "Rocky" series continued on a bit differently. After the revival film "Rocky Balboa" in 2006, the franchise took a nearly decade-long hiatus until the release of "Creed" in 2015, which followed the return of Sylvester Stallone as an older Rocky training Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan), the son of his former enemy-turned-friend Apollo Creed. The hit film was quickly followed by a sequel in 2018, with a third film directed by Jordan set to be released in 2022.

He was inducted into the Fictitious Athletes Hall of Fame in 2018

Athlete Halls of Fame are impressive, with folks from all over the globe competing at elite levels to enter in. While it might not be as physically impressive as a real karate champion's accolades, Daniel LaRusso made his way into the Fictitious Athletes Hall of Fame in 2018. If anyone deserved it after all these years, it was the two-time All Valley champ who not only fought for a trophy in two different films, but for his life in another. There's no doubt that Mr. Miyagi would be proud to know that Daniel's legacy (and his own) has lived on well into the 21st century.

But don't worry, Mr. Miyagi was also inducted in 2015, and even two-time champ (and Daniel's one-time rival) Johnny Lawrence entered in 2020. There's no doubt that the popularity of "Cobra Kai" helped push LaRusso and Lawrence into the Hall of Famers spotlight (Miyagi deserved it no matter if they got in or not), but hey, no complaints here. Out of all the karate stars in the franchise, these three earned their places in the Fictitious Athletes Hall of Fame more than any of the others!