William Michael Zabka (/ˈzæbkə/; born October 20, 1965)[1][2] is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986) and the TV series Cobra Kai (2018–present).[3] In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing and producing the short film Most.[4]

William Zabka
Zabka at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2019
William Michael Zabka

(1965-10-20) October 20, 1965 (age 57)
EducationCalifornia State University, Northridge (withdrew)
Years active1982–present
Stacie Zabka
(m. 2008)

Early life

Zabka was born in New York City, the son of Nancy, a business liaison, producer, and production assistant, and Stan Zabka, a director, writer and composer.[5] He has a brother and a sister. His father was born in Des Moines, Iowa of Czech descent.[6] He worked as production manager on a number of motion pictures, including the Chuck Norris film Forced Vengeance (1982).[7]

In 1983, Zabka graduated from El Camino Real Charter High School in Los Angeles before briefly attending California State University, Northridge and majoring in film.[8]


Zabka's breakout acting role came in his first movie, The Karate Kid (1984). He played Johnny Lawrence, the main antagonist to the title character and protagonist played by Ralph Macchio. He had no training in karate at the time but was an accomplished wrestler.[9] His participation in the film inspired him to learn the martial art of Tang Soo Do and he later earned a second-degree green belt.[3]

During the 1980s, Zabka appeared in the comedy movies Just One of the Guys (1985) and Back to School (1986). Zabka also co-starred on the CBS television series The Equalizer as the son of the title character (1986–89). He also played Jack, Audrey's jock boyfriend, in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985). He later tried to step away from playing the class bully character. He mentioned in an interview how he was sometimes hassled in public by random people because of the villainous characters he was best known for.[10][11]

During the 1990s and 2000s, he acted mostly in independent films while studying to be a filmmaker. In 2003, he wrote and produced the short film Most (aka The Bridge) shot on location in the Czech Republic and Poland. Most had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2003 and won numerous awards at prestigious film festivals, including Best of Festival at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films in 2003. In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Most in the Live Action Short Film category.[10][11][12]

In 2007, Zabka directed and starred in a music video for the band No More Kings' song, "Sweep the Leg". The video stars Zabka as a caricature of himself, living in a trailer in the desert and obsessed with his role in The Karate Kid. The video includes cameos by several of the original Karate Kid cast members, including Martin Kove and Ralph Macchio.[13][14][15]

In 2010, Zabka directed Rascal Flatts in their music video for the song "Why Wait" and also directed the video for their 2017 hit "Yours If You Want It". Also in 2010, Zabka made a cameo appearance in the comedy movie Hot Tub Time Machine.

In 2013, Zabka and Macchio guest starred in the season 8 episode of How I Met Your Mother, "The Bro Mitzvah". Zabka also appeared in several episodes of the sitcom's ninth season, playing a fictional version of himself. Zabka also directed commercials for clients including Little Tikes and Verizon at Heresy in Venice, California.[16]

Zabka in 2015

On August 4, 2017, it was announced that Zabka would reprise his role as Johnny Lawrence in a 10-episode Karate Kid revival series for YouTube Red titled Cobra Kai that debuted in 2018. He also co-executive produces the series with Ralph Macchio. The series begins 33 years after the events of the first film, and revolves around a down and out Johnny who, seeking to rebuild his life, reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. It reignites his rivalry with a now-successful Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his now-deceased mentor, Mr. Miyagi.[17][18]

Personal life

He married Stacie Zabka in 2008 and they have two children.[19]


Year Film Role Notes
1984 The Karate Kid Johnny Lawrence
1985 Just One of the Guys Greg Tolan
National Lampoon's European Vacation Jack
1986 The Karate Kid Part II Johnny Lawrence Cameo
Back to School Chas Osborne
Dreams of Gold: The Mel Fisher Story Kim Fisher TV movie
1988 A Tiger's Tale Randy
1989 The Karate Kid Part III Johnny Lawrence Archive footage
1991 For Parents Only Ted Alternative title: Mean Parents Suck
1992 Shootfighter: Fight to the Death Ruben Alternative title: Shootfighter
1994 Unlawful Passage Howie
1995 Shootfighter II Ruben
The Power Within Raymond Vonn Alternative title: Power Man
1996 To the Ends of Time Alexander
1997 High Voltage Bulldog
1999 Interceptors Dave Alternative titles: Interceptor Force
Predator 3: Intercepters
The Last Line of Defence
2000 Epoch Joe Television movie
Python Greg Larsen Television movie
Falcon Down Security Guard John
2001 Ablaze Curt Peters
Mindstorm Rojack Alternative titles: Artificial Telepathy
Project: Human Weapon
2002 Gale Force Rance
Python II Greg Larsen Television movie, credited as Billy Zabka
Hyper Sonic The Executive
Landspeed Bob Bailey
Dark Descent Marty (Opening credits only) Alternative title: Descent Into Darkness
Antibody Otto Emmerick
2003 Most
Alternative title: The Bridge, screenwriter & producer
2004 Roomies Slick Salesman Alternative title: Wild Roomies
2007 Smiley Face Prison guard
Cake: A Wedding Story Sam Alternative title: Cake: A Wedding Comedy
Starting from Scratch Bill Bowman
2010 Hot Tub Time Machine Rick Steelman
Mean Parents Suck Detective Ted Clement
2014 Where Hope Grows Milton Malcolm
2015 The Dog Who Saved Summer Officer Johnny & Apollo (Voice) Dual Role
2016 The Man in the Silo Kevin
Year Title Role Notes
1983 The Greatest American Hero Clarence Mortner Jr. 1 episode
1984 Gimme a Break! Jeffery 1 episode
CBS Schoolbreak Special Rick Peterson 1 episode
1984–1985 E/R Druggie Kid/Thief 1 episode
1985–1989 The Equalizer Scott McCall 9 episodes
2013 Robot Chicken Johnny Lawrence, Gibby, American Werewolf (voice) Guest, season 6, episode 15, "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm"
2013–2014 How I Met Your Mother Clown/himself Guest star (Season 8), recurring role (Season 9)
2014 Psych Coach Bagg Guest star: A Nightmare on State Street
2015 Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street Sensei Jeff Guest, season 2, episode 9, "Stanley and the Tattoo of Tall Tales"
2018–present Cobra Kai Johnny Lawrence Main role, also executive producer
Video game
Year Title Role Notes
2020 Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues Johnny Lawrence (voice)
2022 Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising Johnny Lawrence (voice)

Award nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1985 Young Artist Award Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama The Karate Kid Nominated
2004 Academy Awards Best Live Action Short Film Most (shared with Bobby Garabedian)


  1. ^ Hubbard, Linda S.; Steen, Sara J. (1989). "Zabka, William". In Hubbard, Linda S.; O'Donnell, Owen (eds.). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Cengage Gale. p. 467. ISBN 9780810320703. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved December 9, 2020. Born October 20 in New York, NY; son of Stan Zabka (assistant director); mother, a production assistant
  2. ^ Hornik, Susan (April 11, 2019). "How Karate Training Helped Cobra Kai's William Zabka Get Back in Fighting Shape at 53". Men's Health. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2020. ...at age 53 [as of April 2019]
  3. ^ a b "Sweep the Leg! Interview with the real Johnny, William Zabka". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  4. ^ "William Zabka". IMDb. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  5. ^ "William Zabka Biography (1965-)". Filmreference.com. October 20, 1965. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Rechcigl, Miloslav Jr. (November 10, 2016). Encyclopedia of Bohemian and Czech-American Biography. ISBN 9781524620691. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved November 30, 2021.
  7. ^ "A Little About Us..." Zabka.com. March 31, 2014. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  8. ^ Mancini, Vince (June 26, 2019). "'Cobra Kai' Star Billy Zabka On Living With '80s Novelty Fame And What Today's Kids Could Learn From His Generation". Uproxx.com. Archived from the original on January 3, 2022.
  9. ^ O'Neal, Sean (June 8, 2010). "William Zabka". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Fretts, Bruce (March 31, 2014). "Billy Zabka on How I Met Your Mother, the Zabkatage, and Sweeping the Leg". Vulture.com. Archived from the original on September 16, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Sellers, John (June 23, 2011). "And the Number One Dick Is...Zabka!". GQ. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  12. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (August 4, 2017). "'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on June 28, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  13. ^ Anagnoson, Alex (December 14, 2021). "WATCH: 'Cobra Kai' Cast Starred in a 2007 Music Video". Heavy. Archived from the original on October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 20, 2022.
  14. ^ No More Kings "Sweep the Leg" (No More Kings Official YouTube Page) on YouTube
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Weldon, Sarah (August 4, 2017). "The Karate Kid: Where Are They Now?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  17. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (August 4, 2017). "'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red". MSN. Microsoft. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  18. ^ Topel, Fred (April 27, 2019). "'Cobra Kai' Season 2: About That 'Karate Kid' Reunion in Episode 6…". /Film. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  19. ^ Tauber, Michelle (January 11, 2021). "Karate Kid Bully William Zabka Opens Up About His Transformation to Hero in Cobra Kai". People. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2021.

External links