Martin Kove

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Martin Kove
Kove at the Louisville Supercon in 2018
Born6 March 1946 (age 78)
Occupation(s)Actor, martial artist
Years active1971–present
SpouseVivienne Love (m.1981; div. 2005)

Martin Kove (/ˈkv/; born (1946-03-06) March 6, 1946 (age 78)[2]) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as John Kreese, the main antagonist of The Karate Kid (1984). He reprised the role in The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), and the television series Cobra Kai (2018–present). Kove also appeared as Nero the Hero in Death Race 2000 (1975), and afterward as Clem in White Line Fever (1975). He was a regular on the TV series Cagney and Lacey (1982–1988), portraying Police Detective Victor Isbecki. He appeared in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).

Early life[edit]

Martin Kove was born into a Jewish American family on March 6, 1946 in Brooklyn.[3]


Kove in The Optimist (1983)

From 1982-88, Kove appeared in the main cast of Cagney & Lacey as New York City Detective Victor Isbecki, a supporting role he reprised in subsequent television movies for the series. During the same time, Kove appeared in the 1984 hit film The Karate Kid as Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese, whose fighting instruction of showing “no mercy” and to “sweep the leg” during the film’s karate tournament entered the American zeitgeist. After playing a traitorous helicopter pilot in the 1985 film Rambo: First Blood Part II, he returned as Kreese for the 1986 sequel The Karate Kid Part II and the 1989 sequel The Karate Kid Part III.

He studied Okinawa-te Karate under prominent black belt Gordon Doversola Shihan.[4][5][6]

Kove in 2015

He appeared in the 2007 music video for the song "Sweep the Leg" by No More Kings as a caricature of himself and John Kreese from The Karate Kid.[7][8]

In 2018, Kove again returned to the character of Kreese for the YouTube Premium web series, Cobra Kai, a continuation of The Karate Kid franchise set 34 years after the 1984 film. The series debuted on May 2, 2018, and was met with critical success. The show was renewed for a second season, which was published on April 24, 2019. In June 2020, Netflix purchased the series, producing a third, fourth[9] and fifth season.

In 2019, Kove parodied his Karate Kid character in a QuickBooks commercial, in which a kinder, gentler Kreese runs a "Koala Kai" dojo of preteen students who are encouraged to "support the leg" and to show "more mercy".[10]

Kove was one of the celebrities competing on season 30 of Dancing with the Stars in 2021.[11] He and his professional dance partner, Britt Stewart, were the first couple to be eliminated.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Kove is the father of twins, born in 1990.[13] One of the twins, Jesse Kove, portrayed the young man who bullies the younger version of his father’s character, John Kreese, in flashbacks for seasons 3 and 4 of Cobra Kai.[14]



Year Title Role Notes
1971 Little Murders Unknown Uncredited
1971 Women in Revolt Marty
1972 Savages Archie
1972 The Last House on the Left Deputy Harry
1973 Cops and Robbers Ambulance Attendant
1975 The Wild Party Editor
1975 Capone Peter "Goosey" Gusenberg
1975 Death Race 2000 Nero "The Hero"
1975 White Line Fever Clem
1976 The Four Deuces "Smokey" Ross
1977 The White Buffalo Jack McCall
1979 Seven Skip
1982 Blood Tide Neil Grice
1984 The Karate Kid Sensei John Kreese
1985 Rambo: First Blood Part II Michael Reed Ericson
1986 The Karate Kid Part II Sensei John Kreese
1987 Steele Justice John Steele
1989 The Karate Kid Part III Sensei John Kreese
1991 White Light Sean Craig
1992 Project Shadowchaser DeSilva Direct-to-video
1992 Shootfighter: Fight to the Death Mr. Lee
1994 Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone Ed Ross
1994 Frank and Jesse Unknown Uncredited
1994 Future Shock Dr. Langdon
1996 Timelock Admiral Danny Teegs
1996 Mercenary Mr. Phoenix
1998 Joseph's Gift Thompsonn
2000 Nowhere Land Hank
2002 Crocodile 2: Death Swamp Roland
2002 Curse of the Forty-Niner Caleb
2004 Illusion Infinity Taxi Driver
2005 Glass Trap Corrigan
2005 Miracle at Sage Street Jess
2006 Max Havoc: Ring of Fire Lieutenant Reynolds
2007 The Dead Sleep Easy Bob DePugh
2008 Chinaman's Chance: America's Other Slaves Sheriff Jones
2009 Middle Men Senator
2011 Savage Jack Lund
2011 The Life Zone Randy Graves
2014 Falcon Song Caspian
2014 Eternity: The Movie Barry Goldfield Sr.
2014 Tapped Out Principal Vanhorne
2014 The Extendables Aye Lewis
2015 The Dog Who Saved Summer Vernon
2016 Traded Cavendish
2016 Jokers Wild Graham Palace
2017 Bring Me A Dream Sheriff Jack Miller
2018 Paint It Red Scabs
2019 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Sheriff On Bounty Law
2019 VFW Lou Clayton
2020 Elvis From Outer Space State Trooper
2020 A Wrestling Christmas Miracle Warden Jeffries


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Rhoda Gary Episode: "Anything Wrong"
1974 Gunsmoke Guthrie Episode: "In Performance of Duty"
1975 Three for the Road Unknown Episode: "The Rip-off"
1975 Switch Bud Episode: "The Deadly Missiles Caper"
1976 Kojak Burl Stole Episode: "Law Dance"
1976 The Streets of San Francisco Willis Hines Episode: "The Drop"
1977 The Rockford Files Harry Smick Episode: "Dirty Money, Black Light"
1977 Code R George Baker 12 episodes
1977 The San Pedro Beach Bums Denny Evans Episode: "The Shortest Yard"
1977 Charlie’s Angels George s2e14
1977–1978 We've Got Each Other Ken Redford 5 episodes
1978 The Incredible Hulk Henry "Rocky" Welsh Episode: "Final Round"
1978–1979 Barnaby Jones Greg Saunders / Stan Benson 2 episodes
1979 Quincy, M.E. Joe Episode: "The Death Challenge"
1979 Starsky and Hutch Jimmy Episode: "Birds of a Feather"
1979 CHiPs Joe Kirby Episodes: "The Death Challenge"; "Hot Wheels"
1980–1981 The Edge of Night Romeo Slade 16 episodes
1982 Cry for the Strangers Jeff Television film
1982–1988 Cagney & Lacey Victor Isbecki Main role
1983 The Optimist The Rival Episode: "The Good, The Bad, and the Nasty"
1985 Murder, She Wrote Gary Ellison Episode: "Armed Response"
1985 The Twilight Zone Joe Episode: "Opening Day"
1989 Hard Time on Planet Earth Jesse 13 episodes
1993 Renegade Mitch Raines / Goliath 2 episodes
1993–1994 Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Chi'Ru Master 2 episodes
1994 Cagney & Lacey: The Return Victor Isbecki Television film
1995 Walker, Texas Ranger Fred Kimble Episode: "Flashback"
1995 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Demetrius Episode: "The Mother of All Monsters"
1997 Assault on Devil's Island Andy Powers TV film
1998–1999 Diagnosis: Murder Captain Walter Newman 3 episodes
1999 Assault on Death Mountain Andy Powers TV film
2001 Under Heavy Fire Father Brazinski Television film
2001 Black Scorpion James Ames / Firearm Episode: "Armed and Dangerous"
2003 Hard Ground Floyd Television film
2003 Barbarian Munkar Television film
2009 War Wolves Malick Television film
2011 Tosh.0 John Kreese Episode: "Broad Breaker"
2013 Our Wild Hearts Grizz Movie
2015 Criminal Minds John Folkmore Episode: "Scream"
2017 The Goldbergs Master John Episode: "The Kara-Te Kid"
2018–Present Cobra Kai John Kreese Guest (season 1)
Main role (seasons 2–present)
2021 Dancing with the Stars Himself / Contestant Season 30
2024 A Taste of Love Glenn Television film (Hallmark)

Video games[edit]

  • Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising (2022) as John Kreese (voice role)


  1. ^ "Martin Kove - C&I Magazine". Cowboys and Indians Magazine. July 5, 2021. Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  2. ^ Rahman, Abid (August 28, 2020). "'Cobra Kai' Star Martin Kove On Returning to Play Iconic Character". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved December 9, 2020. ...the 74-year-old [as of August 2020]
  3. ^ Tucker, Ernest (May 15, 1987). "'Kosher cowboy' bucks heavy image". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 71. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2015.(subscription required)
  4. ^ Curran, Brad (June 11, 2014). "Interview with Martin Kove". Kung-fu Kingdom. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Star of Karate Kid talks with Ballinger Publishing". Ballinger Publishing. October 27, 2014. Archived from the original on July 15, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  6. ^ Angelus, Jerold (June 27, 2011). Martin Kove. Duct Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 9786136779522. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  7. ^ Frye, Cory (March 10, 2018). "Of Being and Johnny Lawrence (Sweep the Leg)". Albany Democrat-Herald. Corvallis Gazette-Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  8. ^ Strauss, Chris (October 9, 2014). "'Karate Kid' villain Billy Zabka is still best friends with the Cobra Kais". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  9. ^ "'Cobra Kai' Gets Early Season 4 Renewal at Netflix | Hollywood Reporter". October 2, 2020. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  10. ^ "- YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  11. ^ "'Dancing With the Stars' 2021: Meet the season 30 celebrity cast". Good Morning America. September 8, 2021. Archived from the original on September 8, 2021. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  12. ^ Mizoguchi, Karen (September 27, 2021). "DWTS: Cobra Kai Star Martin Kove Is the First Contestant to Be Eliminated on season 30". Archived from the original on November 21, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  13. ^ "Who Is Martin Kove? 5 Things to Know About 'DWTS' Season 30 Cast Member". Us Weekly. September 21, 2021. Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  14. ^ Cordero, Rosy. "'Cobra Kai' star Martin Kove on working with his son in season 3, a possible love interest for Kreese". Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  15. ^ "Martin Kove". Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2022.
  16. ^ "Martin Kove". Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Voisin, Scott, Character Kings: Hollywood's Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59393-342-5.

External links[edit]