In the whole original Karate kid Miyagi-san (Pat Morita) teaches Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) a number of moves – including the famous “wax on, wax off” – that are actually part of the real Goju Ryu tradition of karate. This system was founded by historical karate master Miyagi Chojun, and a photo of him was even included in the sequel Cobra Kaipresumably to add an extra layer of authenticity and truthfulness to the martial arts depicted on screen.
But as karate instructor Jesse Encamp explains on YouTube, Cobra Kai also includes some practices that are definitive Not from the Goju Ryu Karate School. For example, one can see Daniel teaching his students the Kusanku Dai, an Okinawan kata. Elsewhere, the characters use a knife-slapping hand, as opposed to the hooked hand preferred by Goju Ryu practitioners.
“They also use weapons, which of course is not something Miyagi Chojun was famous for,” says Encamp. “And they even do some movements on the beach that are different from the classic Goju Ryu system.”
Are these just random inaccuracies? Artistic license? According to Encamp, the majority of the martial arts that are shown in are The karate kid do not come from Miyagi Chojun’s teachings at all, but from Mabuni Kenwa. Both men were students of Higaonna Kanryō, an Okinawan master who traveled to China to study kung fu with white cranes – which you actually see The karate kidespecially in the now iconic crane kick scene as well as in the newer one Cobra Kai Television broadcast.
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That would mean that Cobra Kai actually portrays Shito Ryu, the form of karate developed by Mabuni Kenwa that incorporates elements of Miyagi Chojun’s Goju Ryu as well as aspects of the white crane kung fu.
“Mabuni Kenwa’s style, in particular, is famous for keeping cranes,” says Encamp, who speculates that in the show’s history, Mr. Miyagi’s sensei was actually Mabuni Kenwa, since sensei traditionally doesn’t teach their own children.
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