Johnny Lawrence (character)

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Johnny Lawrence
The Karate Kid character
First appearance The Karate Kid
Created by Robert Mark Kamen
Portrayed by William Zabka[1][2]
Owen D. Stone (young)
Gender Male
Occupation Karate instructor
Family Laura Lawrence (mother)
Sid Weinberg (stepfather)
Spouse(s) Shannon Keene (ex-wife)
Significant other(s) Ali Mills
Children Robby Keene (son)
Nationality American

Johnny Lawrence is a fictional character who appears in The Karate Kid series of films created by Robert Mark Kamen. He serves as the main antagonist of the original Karate Kid film, a minor character in The Karate Kid Part II and one of the main protagonists of the Cobra Kai web television series.[3][4][5]

Fictional biography[edit]

Johnny Lawrence was born in 1967. He moved to the upscale neighborhood of Encino, California, after his mother Laura married Hollywood producer Sid Weinberg. Johnny had no friends and was ridiculed by his stepfather, especially after quitting drum and magic lessons. He often used his Walkman to drown out Sid's heckling. One day in 1979, while riding his bicycle, a 12-year-old Johnny discovered the original Cobra Kai dojo and spent the next five years learning karate under sensei John Kreese.


The Karate Kid (1984)[edit]

In The Karate Kid, Johnny is the top student of the Cobra Kai dojo, leader of the Cobra Kai gang, and two-time defending champion of the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament. Prior to the events of the film, he broke up with classmate Ali Mills after a two-year relationship. One night at a beach, Johnny confronts Ali over their breakup, but New Jersey native Daniel LaRusso interferes with the argument, and Johnny attacks him after Daniel sucker punches him in the face. Within the next few weeks, Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang harass Daniel in and out of school until Mr. Miyagi, the maintenance man of Daniel's apartment, beats up the gang to save Daniel. The next day, Mr. Miyagi confronts Kreese and proposes to have Daniel and Johnny's feud settled in the upcoming tournament. Kreese agrees, but warns that if they do not show up at the tournament, both Daniel and Mr. Miyagi will be declared fair game to Cobra Kai.

At the tournament, Johnny advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against a highly skilled opponent. When Daniel reaches the semi-finals, Kreese instructs Bobby Brown, one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, to put Daniel out of commission. Bobby reluctantly does an illegal kick to Daniel's knee, getting himself disqualified while Johnny looks at Kreese in disgust. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Ali informs the tournament announcer that Daniel will fight in the final round. During the fight, Daniel gets the upper hand and gives Johnny a bloody nose. Kreese orders Johnny to sweep Daniel's leg, an unethical move. Fearing his sensei, Johnny hits Daniel's bad leg with an elbow strike and receives a warning from the referee. Upon the restart of the round, Johnny loses the match after Daniel lands a crane kick to his face. Having gained respect for his nemesis, Johnny gives Daniel the trophy.[6]

The Karate Kid Part II (1986)[edit]

In The Karate Kid Part II, Kreese harshly reprimands Johnny for losing to Daniel, breaking his second-place trophy in the process. The other Cobra Kai students plead for Kreese to let go of his stranglehold on Johnny until Mr. Miyagi intervenes in the incident. Mr. Miyagi dodges Kreese's punches, causing Kreese to injure his hands from breaking two car windows. He further humiliates Kreese by squeezing his nose. Following the incident, Johnny and his friends decide to leave the Cobra Kai dojo forever.

Cobra Kai (2018–)[edit]

In Cobra Kai, which takes place 34 years after the first film, Johnny is a down-on-his-luck alcoholic loner who is divorced and estranged from his teenage son Robby while struggling to make a living as a handyman in the San Fernando Valley.[7] He appears to be oblivious to most current technology after the 1990s, as he still carries a flip phone and is unfamiliar with the Internet and social media platforms such as Facebook. One night, Johnny saves his teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz from a group of rich bullies at a strip mall after they shove Miguel against his red Pontiac Firebird, but is arrested in the process. He is bailed out by Sid, who offers to buy him out of his life with an undisclosed sum of money. Realizing he needs to reorganize his life, Johnny uses the money to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, with Miguel as his first student. After Miguel beats up the rich bullies in the school lunchroom, dozens of other students flock to the dojo.

Johnny tries to enter his dojo in the upcoming All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament, but he discovers that Cobra Kai is serving a lifetime ban due to the ruthless actions of Kreese, Terry Silver, and their student Dynamite Mike Barnes from The Karate Kid Part III. Johnny approaches the All Valley Committee and explains that his dojo is nothing like the original, considering that Kreese has been dead for years and he has never had any association with Silver or Barnes. Instead, Johnny explains that his dojo is under his sole authority and he endeavors to make a difference to students who have been bullied all their lives. Despite objections by Daniel, who serves as a member of the committee, the board votes to lift the ban and allow Cobra Kai to enter the tournament. As the dojo gains more students, Johnny earns enough money to keep it afloat and pay back Sid, vowing never to return to him again.

With that success, Johnny trains his dojo with even more rigor. However, his conflict with Daniel is exacerbated by a series of misunderstandings, culminating with Daniel's foolish cousin destroying Johnny's car and assaulting him supposedly in Daniel's name. Enraged, Johnny comes to Daniel's home to assault him, but Daniel's wife, Amanda, manages to quickly defuse the conflict by inviting Johnny to breakfast to discuss the matter peacefully and persuading her husband to give Johnny a car from the trade-in lot of his dealership as compensation. While test driving a 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, Johnny and Daniel make considerable progress coming to terms, until their return to Daniel's residence leads to Johnny discovering that Robby is Daniel's protege. At that point, Johnny shoves Daniel in a rage, only to have Robby defend his teacher.

At the All Valley tournament, both Miguel and Eli (nicknamed Hawk) make it to semi finals, along with Robby. When Robby and Hawk fight, Hawk is disqualified for injuring Robby's shoulder with an illegal attack, leaving Robby and Miguel to meet in the final match. When Miguel ruthlessly exploits Robby's shoulder against his wishes, Johnny realizes that his teaching methods have been corrupting his students. Miguel wins the tournament and thanks Johnny for his guidance, but Johnny is too dejected by his actions to celebrate. He confronts Robby before he can leave the arena and apologizes to him, which Robby accepts with reasonable politeness. Later that night, his old sensei, John Kreese shows up at the dojo, telling him the real story is just beginning.


The character has been mostly positively received. Initially, he was seen a typical 1980s movie villain. Since the turn of the 21st century, he has being seen as a sort of sympathic antihero especially since the character's reappearance in Cobra Kai.[8][9][10][11] The perception that Johnny Lawrence was the real victim was parodied in How I Met Your Mother in the episode "The Bro Mitzvah".[12]


  1. ^ "That bully Johnny from The Karate Kid is speaking out against bullying". Metro. November 17, 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2018. 
  2. ^ Sellers, John (June 23, 2011). "Interview with The Karate Kid's Billy Zabka". GQ. Retrieved June 22, 2018. 
  3. ^ "The Karate Kid's villain speaks out against bullying". Retrieved June 21, 2018. 
  4. ^ White, Lori Ann. "Sweep the Leg! Interview with Johnny, William Zabka". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved June 24, 2018. 
  5. ^ O'Neal, Sean. "William Zabka". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 22, 2018. 
  6. ^ Powell, Larry; Garrett, Tom (December 20, 2013). "The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid and Other Underdogs". McFarland. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Google Books. 
  7. ^ Griffin, David (9 May 2018). "Cobra Kai: Ralph Macchio and Billy Zabka on Reigniting Their Classic Karate Kid Rivalry". IGN. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 
  8. ^ "The Way of Fatherhood, as seen in "Cobra Kai"". Salon. 17 June 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 
  9. ^ Swansburg, John (11 June 2010). "The Nuanced Villains of the Original Karate Kid". Retrieved 21 June 2018 – via Slate. 
  10. ^ "Who was the real bully in The Karate Kid – Daniel or Johnny?". National Post. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 
  11. ^ Vas, Gergo. "Proof That Daniel Was The Real Bully In The Karate Kid". Kotaku. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 
  12. ^ "Billy Zabka on How I Met Your Mother, the Zabkatage, and Sweeping the Leg". Vulture. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2018.