Johnny Lawrence (character)
|The Karate Kid character|
|First appearance||The Karate Kid|
|Created by||Robert Mark Kamen|
|Portrayed by||William Zabka|
Owen D. Stone
Laura Lawrence (mother, deceased)
Sid Weinberg (stepfather)
|Spouse||Shannon Keene (ex-wife)|
|Children||Robby Keene (son)|
Johnny Lawrence is a fictional character who appears in The Karate Kid series of films created by Robert Mark Kamen. He serves as an 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.
Johnny Lawrence was born in 1967. He never knew his father. Johnny moved to the upscale neighborhood of Encino, California, after his mother Laura married Hollywood producer Sid Weinberg . He had no friends and was verbally abused by his stepfather, especially after quitting drum, roller skating and magic lessons. Johnny 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.
Laura died in 2002, shortly before Johnny's son Robby Keene was born in February.
The Karate Kid (1984)
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, his girlfriend Ali Mills broke up with him after a two-year relationship. One night at a beach, Johnny confronts Ali over their breakup and starts to get violent. New Jersey native Daniel LaRusso tries to stick up for Ali, and Johnny beats him up with his karate skills. Within the next few weeks, Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang harass Daniel in and out of school. At the Halloween dance, Daniel soaks Johnny with a hose while he is rolling a joint, causing Johnny and the other Cobras to chase him down and beat him until Mr. Miyagi, the maintenance man of Daniel's apartment, intervenes and defeats Johnny and his gang. 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 in his semi-final match. 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.
The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
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 mocking Cobra Kai's founding tenets and squeezing his nose after halting a fatal blow deathly close to its target. Following the incident, Johnny and his friends decide to leave the Cobra Kai dojo forever.
Cobra Kai (2018–)
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 Keene while struggling to make a living as a handyman in the San Fernando Valley. He spends most of his life drinking bottles and cans of Coors Banquet beer and will often resort to bottles of whiskey when he is depressed. Johnny 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. In addition, Johnny cites Iron Eagle and Iron Eagle II as his favorite movies and continues to listen to classic 1980s rock music. He is also resentful toward Daniel, who now owns a successful car dealership. 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, his stepdad, who offers to buy him out of his life with an undisclosed sum of money. Johnny initially rejects the money out of pride, but after reuniting with Daniel, 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, claiming 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 cousin destroying Johnny's car and assaulting him supposedly in Daniel's name. Enraged, Johnny comes to Daniel's home to fight 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 karate protégé. 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, Johnny chastises Hawk for injuring Robby's shoulder with an illegal attack, disqualifying him and 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.
In Season 2, Johnny addresses the tactics committed by Miguel and Hawk and has his entire team restart from white belt to further discipline them, banning any form of cheating or dirty fighting from the dojo. To further promote his dojo, Johnny has his Dodge Challenger repainted black and decorated with Cobra Kai logos, and he has the sound system replaced with a cassette player for his mixtape collection. Johnny attempts to reconcile with his old sensei Kreese, but after seeing the tactics used by his students during a war game at Coyote Creek, he confronts Kreese and kicks him out of the dojo. During this time, he buys a used laptop and discovers the Internet. Johnny would also find true love, as he begins dating Miguel's mother Carmen. At the same time, Johnny slowly reconciles with his son Robby.
However, after Miguel suffers serious injuries at the hands of his son Robby during a massive karate war on the first day of school, Johnny's relationships are now in limbo. To make matters worse, Kreese regains control of Cobra Kai, revealing that while Johnny was visiting his dying friend Tommy, Kreese made a deal with the landlord Armand Zarkarian to take over the dojo, and the students (Hawk, Stingray and Tory, among others) sided with Kreese. Feeling abandoned by his girlfriend, betrayed by his former sensei and students, and guilty about Miguel's injuries, Johnny goes to the beach and abandons his smartphone and his Challenger, seemingly to drop out of sight. He is, however, unaware that Ali has sent him a friend request on Facebook.
"Johnny Lawrence," as conceived in the original films, was an archetypal bully. Since the turn of the 21st century however, his character (along with the character "Daniel LaRusso"), has been more deeply developed.
Notably in 2013, Macchio and Zabka made a guest appearance as themselves in the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother ("The Bro Mitzvah"). In the episode, Macchio is invited to Barney Stinson's bachelor party, leading to Barney shouting that he hates Macchio and that Johnny was the real hero of The Karate Kid. Towards the end of the episode, a clown in the party wipes off his makeup and reveals himself as Zabka. This influenced the 2018 web television series, Cobra Kai, gives a balalnced perspective for Johnny, Daniel, and other characters.
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- "The Way of Fatherhood, as seen in "Cobra Kai"". Salon. 17 June 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
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- Gonzalez, Sandra (April 29, 2013). "'How I Met Your Mother' recap, 'Bro Mitzvah': The REAL Karate Kid". ew.com. Retrieved May 12, 2018.