Johnny Lawrence is a fictional character who appears in The Karate Kid series of films created by Robert Mark Kamen. Played by William Zabka, he serves as the central antagonist of The Karate Kid and Daniel LaRusso's primary rival. He appears briefly in The Karate Kid Part II and is one of the protagonists in the Netflix series Cobra Kai.
|The Karate Kid character|
|First appearance||The Karate Kid (1984)|
|Created by||Robert Mark Kamen|
|Voiced by||William Zabka (Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues)|
|Full name||John Lawrence|
|Title||Sensei; founder of "Eagle Fang Karate" All Valley Karate Tournament Champion (1982-1983)|
|Fighting style||Tang Soo Do Goju Ryu|
Miguel Diaz (step son)Unborn child
Johnny Lawrence was born on August 20, 1967. He knew his father for a short while in his life, before he left the family for unknown reasons when Johnny was five years old. Johnny moved to the upscale neighborhood of Encino, California, after his mother, Laura married Sid Weinberg, an executive producer for Lorimar Television. A friendless Johnny was often verbally abused by his stepfather, especially after quitting drums, rollerskating, and magic lessons. As a result, Johnny would use 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.
Johnny entered the All-Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament for the first time in 1981 but failed to make the finals after losing to the much more experienced Darryl Vidal in the quarter-finals. Following this defeat, he took his training more seriously and won back-to-back championships in 1982 and 1983. Johnny made the finals for a third time in 1984, after easily avenging his defeat in the 1981 tournament over Vidal in the semi-finals, and ultimately took second place to Daniel LaRusso after suffering an "illegal" kick to his face. Despite his three appearances and two victories in the tournament finals, he never received the fame or recognition that LaRusso enjoyed after his victories in 1984 and 1985. This, paired with a violent clash with Kreese, led Johnny to abandon Cobra Kai and karate until 2017.
Laura died in 2002, shortly before Johnny's son and oldest child Robby Keene was born in February of that year. Johnny took his mother's death hard, and while grieving went on a drinking binge that caused him to miss his son's birth. From that point on, Johnny became estranged from Robby.
In 2017, after spending several years working as a handyman in the Los Angeles area, Johnny chanced upon a teenager named Miguel Diaz being targeted by a group of bullies. After Johnny successfully fought off the attackers with karate, Miguel convinced Johnny to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo. This brought him into conflict with a still-wary Daniel LaRusso, although the two later reconcile. After losing ownership of Cobra Kai, Johnny formed a new dojo named "Eagle Fang Karate". Johnny also became romantically involved with Miguel's mother around this time, eventually conceiving a second child.
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. Before the events of the film, his girlfriend Ali Mills broke up with him after a two-year relationship. One night at a beach party, Johnny confronts Ali about their breakup and starts getting violent. New Jersey native Daniel LaRusso, who recently moved to the area, tries to stick up for Ali, and Johnny beats him up with his karate skills. Over the next few weeks, Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang harass Daniel in and out of school. At a Halloween dance, Daniel soaks Johnny in the bathroom with a hose while he is rolling a joint, prompting Johnny and the other Cobras to chase him down and beat him until Mr. Miyagi, the maintenance man of Daniel's apartment building, intervenes and defeats Johnny and his gang. The next day, Mr. Miyagi confronts Kreese at the Cobra Kai dojo and proposes that Daniel and Johnny's feud be settled in the upcoming tournament. Kreese agrees, but warns that if they do not attend the tournament, both Daniel and Mr. Miyagi will be declared fair game to Cobra Kai.
At the tournament, Johnny quickly advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against a highly skilled opponent in his semi-final match. When Daniel reaches the semi-finals, Bobby Brown, one of the more compassionate Cobras and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, reluctantly (under orders from Kreese) strikes Daniel's knee with an illegal kick, getting himself disqualified while Johnny looks at Kreese in disgust. Before Johnny is declared the victor 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, considered unethical because of Daniel's injury. Fearing his sensei, Johnny manages to land an elbow on Daniel's bad leg, receiving 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 a new respect for his nemesis, Johnny personally gives Daniel the trophy.
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 and locking him in a chokehold. The other Cobra Kai students, except for Dutch and Jimmy plead for Kreese to let go of Johnny until Mr. Miyagi intervenes. 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 tweaking his nose after halting a fatal blow deathly close to its target. Following the incident, Johnny and his friends leave Cobra Kai.
The Karate Kid Part III (1989)Edit
Johnny appears briefly in a montage at the beginning of the film. It is revealed that Johnny and his friends left Cobra Kai, most likely due to John Kreese’s assault on Johnny and his students, as Kreese is revealed to have no students left. When arguing with Terry Silver, Daniel references his victory over Johnny by saying the crane kick worked the last time during his first tournament only for Silver to retort that Daniel's new opponent Mike Barnes is superior to Johnny.
Cobra Kai (2018–)Edit
Cobra Kai picks up 33 years after the first film. Now in his 50s, Johnny is a down-on-his-luck and alcoholic loner who is estranged from his now-teenaged son Robby who he had with his ex-girlfriend Shannon Keene when both were younger, spending most of his time drinking beer and often resorting to bottles of whiskey when depressed. He struggles to make a living as a handyman in the San Fernando Valley, but is fired from this job after getting into an argument with a customer.
He appears to be oblivious to most technology released 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 its sequel as his favorite movies and continues to listen to classic 1980s rock music. He also harbors a resentment of Daniel, who is now the owner of a successful car dealership despite showing good sportsmanship to him by handing the trophy during the 1984 All-Valley Tournament. The duo re-encounter each other after Johnny's red Pontiac Firebird is towed to his dealership following a hit and run committed by Yasmine, a friend of Daniel's daughter Samantha. Johnny reluctantly allows Daniel to have the car repaired for free, but is enraged to find out that Sam is Daniel's daughter.
One night, Johnny intervenes after witnessing his teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz being harassed by a group of rich bullies at a convenience store. Johnny defeats Kyler and his gang, but is arrested in the process. He is bailed out by Sid, who disowns him and 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. Johnny initially struggles to gain new students, but after Miguel beats up Kyler and his crew in the cafeteria while they are confronting Sam, dozens of new recruits flock to the dojo.
Johnny tries to enter Cobra Kai in the upcoming All-Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament, but he discovers that the dojo has been given a lifetime ban due to the ruthless actions of Kreese, Terry Silver, and Mike Barnes (from The Karate Kid Part III). Johnny decides to appeal the ban, telling the All-Valley Committee that his Cobra Kai is run differently than it was under Kreese, claiming that Kreese has been dead for years and he has never had any association with or even heard of Silver or Barnes. Johnny explains that he alone holds authority over the dojo and that he endeavors to make a difference in the lives of local youth who have been bullied. The board votes to lift the ban and allow Cobra Kai to enter the tournament over the objections of Daniel, who is a committee member. As the dojo gains more students, Johnny gradually earns enough money to keep it afloat and pay back Sid, vowing to never return to him again.
On the back of this success, Johnny trains his dojo even more rigorously. However, his conflict with Daniel is exacerbated by a series of misunderstandings, culminating with Daniel's cousin Louie 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 defuse the conflict by inviting Johnny to breakfast to discuss the matter peacefully and persuades 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 and new employee. At that point, an enraged Johnny shoves Daniel against the wall and storms out while Daniel furiously banishes Robby from his home and dealerships as punishment for his dishonesty.
At the All-Valley tournament, both Miguel and Hawk make it to the semi-finals, along with Robby. When Robby and Hawk fight in the semi-finals, Johnny chastises Hawk for illegally attacking Robby's shoulder, which gets him disqualified and leaves Robby and Miguel to meet in the final match after Robby reconciles with Daniel and apologizes to Daniel for hiding the fact that he is Johnny's estranged son. When Miguel ruthlessly exploits Robby's injured shoulder against his sensei's wishes, Johnny realizes that his teaching methods have corrupted his students. Miguel wins the tournament and thanks Johnny for his guidance, but Johnny is too dejected by his actions to celebrate due to the fact that Miguel and Hawk have become more ruthless as a result of his aggressive teachings. He stops Robby before he can leave the arena and apologizes to him, which Robby accepts with reasonable politeness, implying that Robby still cares about Johnny somewhat despite their strained relationship. Later that night, a very much alive John Kreese shows up unexpectedly at the Cobra Kai dojo to congratulate him.
At the start of the season, Johnny addresses the unethical tactics committed by Miguel and Hawk against his son Robby during the tournament and downgrades his entire team back to white belts to further discipline them, banning any form of cheating or dirty fighting from the dojo despite their "no mercy" teachings. He also begins employing a stricter training regimen, going so far as forcing his students to push a full concrete mixer from the inside. To further promote his dojo, Johnny has his Dodge Challenger repainted black and decorated with Cobra Kai logos, and has the sound system replaced with a cassette player for his mixtape collection. Johnny initially rebuffs Kreese's attempts to reconcile and blames him for ruining his life due to the traumatic aftermath of the 1984 All-Valley Tournament that resulted in Kreese choking Johnny. After Kreese apologizes for his previous actions and repairs Johnny's second-place trophy, he relents and agrees to partner with Kreese by making him an observer before making him a co-sensei.
In the meantime, Daniel reopens Miyagi-Do in an attempt to compete with and undermine Cobra Kai by offering lessons for free. While Daniel initially has little success in these efforts, several Cobra Kai students defect to Miyagi-do after a group of students led by Hawk proceeds to vandalize the Miyagi-do dojo in retaliation for Moon breaking up with Hawk due to the aftermath of the mall fight with Sam, Robby and Demetri with the blessing of Kreese. Johnny eventually discovers that Kreese has been teaching his students the old ways of Cobra Kai behind his back and expels him from the dojo. During this time, Johnny buys a used laptop and discovers the Internet. He also upgrades to a smartphone, joins Facebook, and eventually finds love in Miguel's mother Carmen. At the same time, Johnny slowly reconciles with Robby, who eventually moves in with his father. After a chance encounter at a restaurant, Johnny and Daniel make another attempt at reconciliation. But their uneasy peace proves short-lived after a misunderstanding involving Robby and Samantha, leading to a showdown between Daniel and Johnny in the latter's apartment that results in Daniel cutting ties with Johnny and Robby.
Making matters worse, a massive conflict between the two dojos' students erupts on the first day of school, beginning with Cobra Kai student Tory Nichols picking a fight with Daniel's daughter Samantha in retaliation for a drunken kiss with Miguel at Moon's party and ending with Johnny’s son Robby inadvertently putting Miguel in the hospital. Johnny's life and relationships are severely in limbo, with a missing Robby expelled from school and in legal trouble, and Carmen breaking up with him. To make matters worse, Kreese regains control of Cobra Kai and forces Johnny out, revealing that while Johnny was visiting his dying friend Tommy, he made a deal with the landlord to take over the dojo. Most of Cobra Kai's students turn against Johnny and side with Kreese, who vows to never let them down, while Hawk openly blames Johnny for Miguel's life-threatening spinal injuries accidentally caused by Robby.
A guilt-ridden Johnny goes to the beach and gets drunk, haunted by Miguel's life-threatening spinal injuries accidentally caused by Robby at the end of the school brawl and his betrayals as well as Robby’s expulsion from school and potential legal problems. He throws his bottle of whiskey at his car, abandoning it and his smartphone, which he drops in the sand. He walks away, unaware that Ali has sent him a friend request on Facebook.
Reeling from the fallout of Miguel's hospitalization, Johnny visits Miguel's intensive care unit and gives him some encouraging words to help him wake from his coma. He reluctantly agrees to pair with Daniel in searching for Robby, but the two eventually part ways after a confrontation while following a lead. In order to make amends, Johnny acquires funding for Miguel's surgery by stealing one of Sid's statues to sell at a pawn shop. He also makes failed attempts at reconciling with Robby after his arrest, but a resentful Robby furiously cuts ties with Johnny in retaliation for missing a planned visit to stay with Miguel's family. Once Miguel gets out of the hospital, Johnny then dedicates his time to helping provide him with physical therapy that includes unorthodox methods, and manages to succeed after taking him to a Dee Snider concert, mending his initial rift with Miguel and Carmen in the process.
Motivated by his success with Miguel, Johnny creates a new martial arts dojo called Eagle Fang, composed of Miguel and several other students that Kreese has expelled from Cobra Kai, including Mitch and Bert. Johnny also reconnects with Ali briefly for the Christmas holidays and finally gets closure with her and ends his rivalry with Daniel, while Miguel does the same thing at the students' level by rekindling his romance with Sam and negotiating an alliance between the students of Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang.
When Johnny becomes aware of Cobra Kai attacking Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang at Daniel's home, he confronts Kreese alone and gains the upper hand on him, only to be interrupted by Robby, who has joined Cobra Kai after getting out of juvenile hall to Johnny’s dismay. After accidentally knocking out Robby during his fight, Johnny is ambushed by Kreese and nearly choked to death, only for Daniel to intervene and defeat Kreese. Johnny then gives Daniel the approval to finish off Kreese, only for Miguel and Sam to intervene. Kreese agrees to cease hostilities with both Johnny and Daniel until the upcoming All-Valley tournament before walking back into the dojo with Robby, who has firmly sided with Kreese. Finding common ground, Johnny and Daniel agree to train together with their students at Miyagi-Do.
Despite agreeing to team up, tensions still exist between Johnny and Daniel over how to train their respective students. Furthermore, Johnny becomes jealous when Miguel enthusiastically pairs with Daniel to learn his style of karate, and fears losing his best student to Daniel after losing Robby to Kreese. Eventually, the tensions explode into a karate match between Johnny and Daniel, which ends with no clear winner, and the two cease working together and decide to train their dojos separately after another argument breaks out due to the aftermath of an incident with Cobra Kai shaving off Hawk's mohawk at the tattoo shop. Despite this, Johnny secretly trains Sam, as she has taken a liking to his style of karate.
During this time, Johnny starts taking his relationship with Carmen more seriously, which leads to some awkwardness with Miguel. After learning that new Cobra Kai co-sensei and Kreese's old friend Terry Silver has loaned Robby a car and bribed Shannon with money and a job offer, Johnny confronts him at the old Cobra Kai dojo. In the ensuing fight, Silver handily defeats Johnny but Kreese intervenes and orders Terry not to finish him off.
At the tournament, most of Johnny's students are defeated by both Miyagi-do and Cobra Kai with the exception of Miguel. During the match between Miguel and Hawk (who has joined Miyagi-do), Miguel is seriously injured after spraining a muscle and Hawk wins the match by default when Miguel refuses to fight any further. After Hawk defeats Robby in the All-Boys tournament and Sam makes it to the overall finals, Daniel approaches Johnny and they agree to team up against Cobra Kai after noticing that both students have used both styles of karate with success. However, Cobra Kai ultimately defeats both Eagle Fang and Miyagi-do after Tory defeats Sam, allowing Cobra Kai to win the most points overall. Unbeknownst to anyone except Tory, Silver secretly bribed the referee to rig the final match in Cobra Kai's favor. Meanwhile, Silver has gotten Kreese arrested by framing him for the near-fatal assault on former Cobra Kai student Stingray.
In the aftermath of the fight, Robby tracks down Johnny and tearfully expresses remorse for their animosity due to Robby being disturbed and horrified by new Cobra Kai student and his pupil Kenny's increasingly violent behavior, particularly Kenny's vengeful actions against Daniel's son Anthony and Kenny's sadistic reaction to his final fight with Eli, and the two reconcile. However, Johnny is shocked to learn that Miguel has traveled to Mexico City to track down his estranged father, a move spurred by Johnny having revealed to Miguel his own father walking out of his life as well as Miguel being devastated when Johnny accidentally calls him Robby due to Johnny being drunk and depressed following the aftermath of his altercation with Terry Silver and Robby taunting Miguel about Johnny using him to compensate for his relationship problems with Robby during the after prom pool fight. To this end, Johnny promises Carmen that he will find Miguel and bring him home.
Accompanied by Robby, Johnny travels to Mexico where he eventually convinces Miguel to come home. Johnny is also elated to learn that Carmen is now pregnant with his child and works towards building a family with her. However, he refuses to have anything more to do with the fight against Cobra Kai. After Amanda leaves Daniel over his obsession with Terry Silver, Johnny helps him to see how his obsession is affecting his family and the two men commiserate on their past, even joking about how they might have gotten over their rivalry a long time ago if they had just fought it out with each other. Johnny has to deal with rising tensions between Robby and Miguel before, inspired by his conversation with Daniel, he has them fight it out, leading to a reconciliation and Johnny revealing to Miguel and Robby that Carmen is pregnant with a new baby.
Johnny subsequently agrees to rejoin the fight against Cobra Kai, but a dejected Daniel wants nothing more to do with it after being severely beaten by Silver due to being depressed about his resentment towards Silver straining his relationship with Amanda and his family. With the help of the Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang students and Robby, Amanda and Sam are able to change Daniel's mind, knowing that if they have any chance of defeating Silver, they need Daniel's leadership. In tandem with Daniel's former rival Chozen Toguchi, the two dojos begin working together again, but much more seamlessly. Daniel and Johnny are able to get Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang into an elite international karate tournament, but are informed that they must choose a single name for their combined dojos for the tournament instead of being Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang.
After a drunken night out together, Johnny, Daniel and Chozen are confronted by a vengeful Mike Barnes, Silver's former student who hijacks their limo and furiously demands retribution for Silver burning down his furniture store in retaliation for him helping Chozen and Daniel. Barnes convinces Johnny and Chozen to attack Silver at home and bring an end to him, though Daniel is hesitant to join and ends up stranded in the middle of nowhere after Barnes drives off with Johnny and Chozen. The trio are quickly outmatched when Silver's henchmen appear. In the ensuing fight, Barnes is knocked out while Chozen is severely wounded by Silver striking him with a katana. Silver leaves his henchmen to deal with Johnny as he makes his way to the Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny is outmatched by Silver's henchmen, but reinvigorated by the sight of his unborn child's sonogram, he defeats Silver's henchmen, aided at the last minute by a recovered Barnes.
Johnny then drives Chozen and Barnes to the Cobra Kai dojo just in time to witness Silver's arrest on a litany of charges thanks to his and Daniel's students exposing Silver's bribing of the tournament referee and Stingray's change of heart. Johnny reunites with Carmen and celebrates Silver's downfall with Daniel, congratulating him on finally taking Silver down. The two are then informed by a detective that Kreese has been killed in a fight in prison, but are unaware that Kreese faked his death and escaped.
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 launch of Cobra Kai, which gives a balanced perspective for Johnny, Daniel, and other characters. Zabka continued to be a recurring character throughout the ninth season of the show.
Also in 2013, Zabka voiced Johnny in an episode of Robot Chicken entitled "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm".
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