“Refuse the Normalization of the Unacceptable”
-Thomas Ian Griffith
“I figured out one thing for sure. If I did everything my parents told me to do, I’d be wearing a suit and tie at some worthless job while I wait out the clock. I didn’t want that. Now I get to do what I love every damn day. I get to help kids like you find their own way. If you want to sit in the back seat for the rest of your life, then go right ahead. It’s no sweat off my back.”
"This is exactly the problem, you say one thing and then you say the opposite. You both think there's only one side of the story. No there's three. There's your side, then your side and then there is the truth. And the truth is, you guys are more alike then you want to admit." -Allie
With Cobra Kai Season 4 out it is time to highlight why we all should love Cobra Kai, not just for the fights. This show captures so many different types of people and their struggles in life. Cobra Kai captures well the battle of ideas and how to deal with our struggle as human beings. Yet, at the same time captures the humor that helps everyone have a smile during those difficult times. This is a long article, but I promise you that there is a gift at the end for you.
The battle of ideas are all responses to the question of why? We see brilliantly through this show how each character represents a response of the mind to this essential question through thought and action, hence different ways of life in conflict. They even show how some of the villains act rational in what they know in response to this question why? This just raises the question; do they deserve the name villain?
Johnny Lawrence is painted as the villain in Karate Kid Part 1, we see the other side of the story in the beginning of Cobra Kai episode 1. Johnny lives in the past 30 years later and still holds regret and grudges. The past still haunts him, his failures, his losses to Daniel, and how his sensei John Kreese tried to kill him for losing as well. The world seems out to get Johnny Lawrence, but much of the time, the past rules his mind.
Johnny also has a son named Robby that he failed from day 1 and can never have that relationship restored to what it should have been. Robby grows up with divorced parents who practically hate each other, and he is given no guidance in his early years. His “friends” were the only ones there for him, but we quickly find out that they are using him, since they view him as weak and easily manipulable. Johnny is stuck with this mistake of his past, but some new opportunities arise for him to make amends with himself. Luke 9:26 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Miguel is his neighbor who is having a rough time with bullies, he is that nice kid who doesn’t understand virtue is a strength. Today’s culture says that the virtuous are the weak, some have allowed this to be by not standing up for themselves. Unfortunately, there are many like Miguel who do not know where to begin, when it comes to defending your honor and integrity. When you let people bully you, you let them tell you who you are. Standing up for yourself, however, does not mean “giving them a taste of their own medicine.” It means staying strong and not answer them according to their ways.
Proverbs 26:5 “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” People are looking for reactions out of the supposed weak, to give them strength in their ignorance. That becomes their epistemology (way of knowing), how they know things becomes dependent upon the reactions of others. When Kyler and his friends (who follow his boldness) pick on Miguel, they are saying through their actions that Miguel is less than they are. In the parking lot of a local convenience store, we see Miguel get picked on, gets the pepto bismol for his grandmother poured all over him, and his pet name become rhea.
In the minds of these characters, they have reduced this person’s value to that of fecal matter, meaning they can treat him like crap. Then Miguel goes from the mental punching bag to the physical punching bag of these punks. Miguel is punched and pushed into Johnny’s car. This is now the start of the new conflict. This is the point of the bully though; they cause conflict to avoid theirs. As Seneca says: “Dictated by greed, the ignorant stretch before themselves months and years in long array, not bothered about anything and living a lazy life despite knowing that time flies so fast (On Shortness of Life).”
Kyler is literally the dude who runs away from responsibility, we see hints of the pressures from his father. In Season 3, he subtly talks about how his mind has been focused on Trigonometry. If he doesn’t pass, his father is going to have consequences for him. He has a relationship of fear with his Father, that means he is pressured at home and acts out of fear. Miguel and others around him must be lower than his fears.
Going back to the conflict in the parking lot, Johnny steps in at first being provoked by his property getting damage, steps in to defend Miguel because he realizes the cowardice of 4 on 1. Then Kyler, must initiate more conflict because he can’t be wrong, cause if he is wrong, then he must deal with the pressure of his own life. Funny enough, they reduce Johnny who they don’t even know, down to the value of fecal matter. “Wait I think I know this guy, he’s the jerkoff who cleans my Dad’s septic Tank.” “Explains why he smells like @#$%!”
They also make fun of his appearance and everything that they can throw at him to provoke him. It works. “Trust me, You guys are pissing off the wrong guy on the wrong day, alright?” Kyler’s response: “Oh Really, get the hell out of here loser.” This dude just loves making war and many know these types of people on the internet, at least Kyler has the gull to do it in person. He shoves Johnny, this provokes Johnny to strike first. Next thing you know, he does a jump crescent kick also known as a tornado kick(one of my favorite) which sends Kyler several feet from where his confidence once stood. Now, this is not how to truly strike first. I hope to show you that this is a real principle to have with life, for Christians and non-Christians alike.
A Few more notes on the fight, as Johnny continues to embarrass Kyler and his friends, we see how pathetic Kyler is. Even Kyler’s friends, the guys who follow him as an example, know when enough is enough. Kyler continues to try and fight Johnny, getting in some cheap shots. He doesn’t stop, he must be right in the physical altercation, to prove to himself that he was superior in the mental altercation that took before, that battle of value. Johnny strikes first out of physical anger which is foolish in any real example of someone trying to get you, to make you lose integrity.
Daniel in Season 2 is provoked with anger, he wants to fight Johnny to deal with his anger at the destruction of his dojo. He knows he can’t strike first, so he cleverly tells Johnny: “You know I won’t strike first.” This shows that Daniel knows what he is doing in the conflict, avoiding right course of action to deal with what happened to his property. In This instance, Daniel was less wise than Johnny, what also caused that wasn’t Johnny’s fault, it was John Kreese’s fault.
Daniel was provoked by the actions of Cobra Kai, and really was still looking for conflict like Kyler but with more control. It could even be argued that Daniel was the villain in the altercation. Daniel lost control of his humility and integrity in a clever anger, seeming more rational than Kyler, but really it’s the same thing. Trying to get others to strike first to say, “I didn’t throw the first punch”. Johnny loses half of his dojo for not striking first. We also see this as a realization that perhaps, Cobra Kai is not the right way, or at least in the way as John Kreese first taught.
True manipulation and striking first happened beneath the surface, with John Kreese playing on the controversy of Johnny and Daniel’s rivalry. It is shown from the ending of season one, John Kreese’s intention to take back Cobra Kai as his own, by the mischievous smile on his face. This is a mind that has intentions and goals to achieve despite other’s humanity. He ends up provoking Johnny’s student Hawk by playing on the emotions of his breakup with Moon, to blame Miyagi Do and have a vengeful mind. Hawk and a few others of Cobra Kai end up trashing Miyagi Do and this is what provoked Daniel. While Daniel had higher responsibility and control, he still gave into anger. This is how people like John Kreese thrive, to live in the chaos and anger of others to ignore the fact that he manipulated a teenager’s emotions for his goals, to make others like himself.
Johnny goes on a trip to visit his dying friend in his last few days, Kreese goes behind his back by changing plans with the Landlord. By the end of season 2 after the fight that ended up with Miguel’s injuries, we see Kreese strike first by turning Cobra Kai against Johnny and kicking him out of his own dojo. Johnny was left in confusion from this unexpected ending, Kreese made his unfortunes even worse, he took advantage of Johnny’s grace. Next thing Johnny’s learns is that he did not strike first appropriately. For the Christian, how are we to love our enemies without grace being taken advantage of? Do not offer opportunities that they have not earned yet. Grace can offer that agape love, but that does not require friendships of truth and virtue. Or require that you upgrade someone to sensei with bad history off purely the feeling of empathy.
Matthew 7:16-20 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." It’s scary however, cause John Kreese did produce good fruits. There is a problem in Johnny’s thinking that has led to Kreese being able to do this to him.
This could also be a way of attacking the attitude and response of post modernity. Cobra Kai offers a way of life as you could say “The truth, the way, and the life”, this requires people to ignore their own humanity and others. Strike first, is to not think first. To act on the current mood and live your life in that, as Daniel describes Cobra Kai, “its seductive”. It convinces the mind of a temporary fix, not having to think further and deeper. Modernity offers the same way of thinking, merely because of technological advancement, with the assumption that technically advancement cannot have a correlation with regress of mind in other faculties. We have the way and look what it has produced. The inappropriate response of post-modernity is to attack the objective truth model, in prioritizing the individual. Freedom of thinking is beautiful, it keeps us from controlling ways of cobra kai, but you need a foundation and the proper first principles in order to know anything.
We could say that the relativists are the principles and guidance counselors of the school, whose only response to bullying is punishing those who defend themselves and make policies on hopeful dreams. “I just want you all to get along” as one counselor says, yes wouldn’t they like that as well. How is that going to be done? By forcing them to? Nope, in fact it just gives the manipulators even further ground for their vindictive telos, end goals of bullying.
Daniel has the right principles, Johnny has the right attitude. Miyagi Do is about defense of the self, physically and mentally, which is traditional martial arts. However, they have an unrealistic sense of self at times, meaning the goal is to not be provoked at all. In the first clip of Season 4, we get to see Johnny throw a water bottle at Demetri and sarcastically ask, “Are you provoked yet”??? Here’s the point, if your goal is constant “inner peace”, as Johnny also says concerning a fair fight, “Dream on”, is that really realistic to how humans are?
“In the real world, you can’t expect people to do what they are supposed to.” Johnny has a more realistic view of humanity rather than Daniel. With this in mind, we can see where “strike first” is coming from, but we also see the point of not losing yourself to power as Daniel values. How about Provoke Wisdom? No matter what, your mind is going to be agitated by others, you can’t free will this away, you can free won’t this state of mind however. Meaning, not being controlled by feelings and impulses.
Firstly, one must realize the worth of themselves and others. Aristotle uses pride to describe this full realization, however he does not mean the type of pride that the fool has in the Proverbs. A proper word of replacement is self-respect, not an emotional pride. Wisdom first begins with the recognition of value, which then leads to proper discernment and prudence. Discernment is proper knowledge of things(shrewdness) and prudence is choosing the proper things with the most proper knowledge in action.
“He then who is worthy of the small but thinks himself worthy of the great is blameworthy; for it is unintelligent and not noble that he should obtain out of proportion of his worth (86, Eudemian Ethics).” For every human being, we are worthy of honor, not glory. John Kreese’s Cobra Kai seeks glory by striping others of their honor and demand glory for it. They are vain as Aristotle would state.
“But the diffident man who possesses great and honorable things and does not think himself worthy of them-what would he do if he was worthy of small things (87).” These are the diffidence, those uncertain of values, truly lacks discernment of good things vs. bad things as does those who are vain. “The man who is worthy of great goods and thinks of himself worthy of them and is such as to think of himself worthy of them. He is praiseworthy and in the middle between the other two (86). Man is worthy of things within his own nature, when you are ready, you earn your next belt. He thinks himself worthy of that belt and no other belt because of his progress and knowledge to the level of that belt.
At the beginning of Season 2, Cobra Kai champion Miguel and runner up Hawk think themselves as not having to train any further, so they goof around. “We have 11 more months until next years all valley”. They embarrass Johnny in front of his former Sensei, when Kreese at first seems to be of a repentant mind. Johnny calls out their vainness and starts them back at white belt since their mentality speak that. White belt means, the beginning of the journey, so they had to start back where they began.
When it comes to Provoking Wisdom, you know the appropriate time to do so, which is every moment you are fully aware. How do you avoid fights and less provocations? Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” As Johnny sarcastically says to Daniel “No be there”. Kyler’s friends are at fault with his bullying of others, that is the path they chose. They put themselves in harm’s way when they joined in on the fight between Kyler and Johnny. Even they knew when to quit and when enough was enough during that fight.
Truly striking first is taking the options you have to you with responsibility. Giving yourself what is proper and being at the right places at the right times with the right people. Notice how every fight in Cobra Kai starts with a mental altercation, not a physical one. Johnny is described by Daniel as having “a lot of demons”, he is easily provoked, but his ways of dealing with it are foolish. He had been around fools who want glory instead of honor. “Showing off is a fool’s idea of glory (Bruce Lee).” Johnny’s Stepfather showed off with his material possessions and Kreese showed off to students of lesser skill, those who he should have been teaching with humility.
Mr. Miyagi embarrasses Kreese twice in combat, and he didn’t learn. Daniel ends up taking the tradition but immobilizing Kreese in front of his own dojo in the epic showdown at the end of Season 3. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel know how to Provoke Wisdom, by knowing when and when not to be aggressive and using superior knowledge of fighting at the most appropriate time. Do this with life, know your limits but yet know what your best options are.
Be the first, to take those options if the fools don’t, if it’s between two friends of truth and virtue, determine together who should get that option. If you have friends who have other’s best interest in mind while having their own interest in mind, you are truly among the wise. Here’s a key premise to this rule, “the less you feel the need to win every fight, the more you win.” Yet, the goal is to not win, this is the paradox that comes out true. Let people think they are right, to not be prideful(vain) like them by engaging in their folly.
Let the Kyler’s be Kyler’s and find the Miguel Diaz’s in your life to spend your social time with. Nobody can fix your own problems; they can only guide you in what you need to do. Take advantage of what you have control over most, which impacts your mind the most, time. Provoke Wisdom and Strike First at what life truly has to offer, then those who choose to live lesser than what life has to offer, they are the Kyler’s, and John Kreese’s.
I have a 75-year-old Sensei who was a people pleaser and the person to try and fix everyone else’s problems. She at 39, had a family and started taking her kids to some karate classes and had to worry about her own work. She also would not spend much time on herself. Her instructor insisted that she do karate as well, she made excuses that she herself now recognizes as excuses. The instructor simply said: “You don’t have two hours a week? You’re a poor manager of time.”
This caused her to realize her people pleaser mentality and she provoked wisdom at these provocative statements. From there, she decided to strike hard at life. How does strike hard work according to Johnny Lawrence, “its giving it your all’. She started managing her time as reasonably as she can and after ten years, earned her master’s belt and opened her own school. She’s been around for 25 years after her previous instructors said she would be closed after 6 months because she was a woman. She is a 4'10 woman that can put fear into a 6'10 man's mind and body, literally. She’s has had several hundred students and she has helped them with their self-confidence and martial arts skills.
Do you know what is behind this? A driven mind with thought out realistic goals. This is Daniel LaRusso in Cobra Kai, he has a family, four luxury vehicle dealerships in the Los Angeles Area, and is the most well-known in the valley. He has his life in order, provoked wisdom and he knows how to strike hard as well. Daniel used his time in the way it should have been used, he didn’t make excuses and just did. Seneca also states “We do not lack time; on the contrary, there is so much of it that we waste an awful lot.”
Cobra Kai’s strike first is to be as aggressive as you can be to make sure the other person doesn’t have a chance to fight back. Here’s the thing, those who waste their time, have no time to fight back. Obviously in scenarios like self-defense, there will be aggression needed, as we see Daniel has at times in the times where it is needed. Strike first to Johnny and Kreese, is to be aggressive with every challenger. Johnny gets into many fights that he starts, and he suffers consequences of those irrational actions.
Johnny has always been aggressed by his life circumstances, the output of this is not dealt with in his aggressive attitude. Johnny screwed up his life after high school because he took these rules to heart, everything that he is, is Cobra Kai’s strike first, strike hard, no mercy. Proverbs 4:23 “"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Johnny truly had a heart of stone with his most important opportunities of life, his own child Robby, he abandoned from day 1. How did Johnny become aware of this? He ended up giving himself a second chance with Miquel who came to him for help with self-defense.
At first, Johnny is reluctant to help him, for his heart of stone. Miguel describes his deepest fears of a teen, nobody truly can understand what he struggles with except Johnny. This all happens in episode 1, Johnny remembers what he is good at when the past shows up by smashing into his car. He has to see his high school enemy, Daniel LaRusso to get his car fixed. This reminds him of all his struggles, the opportunity to provoke wisdom. Johnny and Miguel’s relationship did not start as a heart to heart but an opportunity for Johnny to fight his past failures.
We see their struggles and the holes in Johnny’s teaching. Miguel ends up getting hurt severely by striking first and hard against Kyler, not thinking first that there are 4 on 1. Through Johnny’s teaching much grief comes up for taking this dangerous task of teaching martial arts and going into the areas of life most don’t. Thus begins the battle of mind, is what I’m doing wrong because I fail? Miguel, even though he is the most injured from this event, doesn’t give up on himself and Johnny.
They begin their training again, and Johnny’s solution is that he was simply lacking good offence. “The best defense is more offense”. However, this did not limit his unnecessary conflicts, it just ended with his rivalry with Kyler. Miguel ends up fighting and winning against four on one odds when he defends Sam’s honor. Later, Johnny and Miguel get into the wrong times and wrong places that gets them into trouble. Miguel got caught up in a high school love drama and Johnny allowed the source of all his troubles back into his life.
Saint Augustine beautifully states: “My unhappiness has no other source than my ignorance.” Even John Kreese knows how to fight smart with his lesson in season 3. What Johnny lacked and even Daniel at times was reason. Saint Augustine is a master of reason in his treatises and apologetic works, this is what his wonderful work of Confessions shows about the Christian faith. Saint Clement of Alexandria has the most badass one liners “Everything contrary to right reason is sin”. Johnny learns new ways to teach through his proper heart for Miguel and his students. Johnny ended up taking the right intentions to heart, which he learns better reasons for his training. He still lacks the strength of reason for doing things properly.
Reason is the guide to proper teaching, but proper teaching must have the willingness to do what is right. Johnny when teaching headbutting says, “you have to really fight here”, pointing to his head. He now begins to provoke reason. What is reason? Dr. Josh Rasmussen has a pretty interesting definition: "Logic is like a telescope that lets us see something about everything, everywhere.” Daniel’s teachings include targeting muscle memory unconsciously through hard work. “Wax on and Wax off” is simply an inward/outward knife hand block. Mr. Miyagi saw the connection between this working of the hand and the usage of it in blocking a punch. He took other fields of knowledge to advance strength in his teachings of martial arts knowledge.
Johnny’s teachings include forcing oneself to endure, not when things call for it, but forcing the time to come upon oneself. “Circle around things your whole life, waiting for problems to show up on your doorstep.” Johnny says this to Daniel in a debate over how to deal with a common issue, Terry Silver. Terry Silver knows how to provoke reason, without the wisdom, but rather cleverness. He knows how to win something from a far, he essentially got Daniel and Johnny to fight each other and mess with their student’s heads. He strikes first in the wrong things the right way. He knows how to get his goals done and he is a master manipulator.
He gets Daniel in Karate Kid III, to go against himself without him even realizing. He always has his cards at hand and knows how to play them to get what he wants. “I’ve been making you do things that you didn’t want to do.” He tells this to Daniel as soon Daniel realizes what he was becoming learning the quicksilver method and cobra kai’s way of life. Terry knows what words to say to throw people off. Him and Daniel have a dispute at the local store where Cobra Kai is located, he tries to manipulate Daniel into the past by gaslighting him into thinking he really has a little Cobra Kai in him. You see the usage of his mannerism, it’s hard to tell whether he believes that about Daniel or whether he is manipulating him in the most subtle and clever way he could in that moment. His weakness, was his loyalty to Kreese. I do take the position that Kreese created the monster of Terry Silver that we see at the end of Season 4. Terry used his reason properly when he was done with Kreese after their failings in Karate Kid Part III. He got his life together for the next 35 years and got rid of his weakness to being a healthy mind.
At the very beginning of Season 4, we see a beautiful scene of Terry enjoying himself playing piano, minding his own business. Then he gets an unknown call from Kreese, and he hangs up immediately, this was the best thing he did the whole season. We also see how he is a decent human being with his party, but Kreese literally shows up to his home, uninvited, like true manipulators do. They have no respect for boundaries and have no regard for people’s respects of themselves. They don’t know when to just let the past be the past and move on. I am going to argue that Terry’s weakness this season was allowing his previously resolved problems back into his life.
We see the debate of the past between Terry and John on the balcony facing the beach. We see Terry’s wit when he listens to Kreese and he plays along with it. He knows what Kreese is doing, playing on a broken friendship because he needs something. Kreese asks him to join Cobra Kai 35 years later. It has to be noted that he got Cobra Kai back by playing on Johnny’s empathy and striking first as the opportunity came to steal Cobra Kai right behind Johnny’s back. He never called Silver to invite him to the “glory days” of Cobra Kai, when he had total control of Cobra Kai by himself.
Towards the ends of the conversation, Terry turns at the beach like he is contemplating, giving Kreese hope, turns back, “I say, no. Back in the 80s, I thought I could conquer the world. I came pretty damn close. I was so hopped up on cocaine and revenge. I spent months terrorizing a teenager over a high school karate tournament. It sounds insane just talking about.” Most likely because it was and that experience of insanity in his mind, Silver had overcome with Kreese gone. Turns out the best thing in his life was John Kreese disappearing, when he had reason on his side.
After Kreese left, Terry starts struggling in his mind again, between for and against. Terry shows up to the dojo to confront Kreese about what he’s trying to do. “You know what you did, I was living a perfectly happy life, then you had to go mess with my head by drudging up the past.” Terry did not provoke reason in this scenario. We see a demonstration of master manipulation by Kreese, Johnny fell for it and so does Silver.
A S-tier narcissist response of gaslighting, is by putting someone else into their narrative. Kreese is the one who clearly lives in the past, by living in other’s mistakes and not fixing his. Terry fixed his mistakes after they lost the all valley 35 years ago. Kreese: “I was just reaching out to an old friend, but if the past bothers you so much, maybe you have some unresolved issues.” He tries to put Terry into the narrative that Kreese lives in everyday, Kreese never left Vietnam, his mind is still there every day. He doesn’t have anyone’s best interest at mind, only his own narrative, because he is still afraid of his past trauma.
Terry: “I told you, I got over my issues.” Kreese’s response: “Or did you just lock those memories for so long, you forgot who you are.” Kreese is making identity claims here, if you mess with someone’s view of themselves, then you win the argument every time. If you try to convince them of something about themselves and let them feel the heat, they will actually forget about the real issues at hand. This is what we call an ad hominem fallacy, to either attack someone’s character or make the debate about someone personally. Terry is practicing defense here, he’s countering Kreeses jabs and feints to throw him off balance. Terry quickly retorts, “Was, was Johnny”.
Kreese at one time was truly Terry’s friend, but he brought him to an even darker path, by making it about himself. We see how in Vietnam, Terry is the most scared and has the most regret. He has the most normal of emotions and dealt with it appropriately when Kreese was gone. Kreese does a valiant act by taking Terry’s place in fighting their commander over the snake pit. That fight got to Kreese’s head, he truly took strike first, strike hard, and no mercy to heart. Young Kreese struggles to be good but gives in, truly consumed by fear. Therefore, everyone else must be like him and in his narrative. Silver got it the worse because he was Johnny’s best friend and the one he manipulated the most.
We see that Silver in Karate Kid Part III, was the best student John Kreese's Cobra Kai. Terry’s reality was Kreese’s reality, he was part of his narrative. Granted, Terry was also in the war with Kreese but they never had a conversation on what was the best outcome, the most reasonable way to go about life after such difficulties. Neither of them provoked reason, to see what the best course of action was. Terry followed Kreese because of his good fruit of sacrifice, but Kreese gave into the “every man for himself” principle of his old commander.
You truly see the look in his eyes when he killed his commander, when he could have saved him. That moment, decision changed Kreese’s life, he never had regret, he never had sorrow. He never even tried to justify it as a necessary act or give a utilitarian defense of his action. “You"re right captain, I didn’t follow your lessons, I won’t make that mistake again, No Mercy!” He stomps on the hands of his former teacher, taking his place as lead Cobra. If we go to Batman Begins, we see Bruce confronted with his former teacher, trying to make him give into the darkness of wrong first principles. “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.” He doesn’t become the execution; he doesn’t take the place that is not his. That is what makes Batman the true Hero, that he doesn’t give into the villain’s reality, their giving up on hope.
It’s easy for Terry to play into Kreese’s new reality, his mind giving up on reality because of other’s manipulations. He trusts Kreese with his life because he saved his life. You know Kreese had the wrong teachings when his best friends must stay away purposely, for 35 years. Who used reason better? Who learned from their past most appropriately? John Kreese, lived life for 35 years, obsessing over the past, while Silver continued to live by playing business fairly. That’s why he was enjoying himself playing piano and hangs up on John. He had accomplished peace of mind without the man who lived in the past.
Kreese can never be happy for someone who is more fortunate or is at a happy place in life, he thrives on other’s miseries. It gives him the driver seat to run away from his own pain and issues. He makes Silver focus on himself, which is one of the key critiques of Daniel’s Miyagi Do, allowing others to make you go on defense, even during conflict. During the tournament, Eli and Sam struggle because Cobra Kai have offensive and defensive moves now, Daniel has to allow them to contradict what he taught them, his only way mentality got in the way of realizing real issues going on. He never learned how to truly beat Kreese and Silver.
Going back to Silver and Kreese confrontation in the dojo, after Terry tells him who he truly had become, he trusts Kreese that he can tell him the truth, but Kreese is the master manipulator here. “Oh yeah, you’re a better man now, is that why you’re here to tell me how wonderful your life is, or did you look in the mirror and realize what you’ve become. You’re just in old man in the last chapter of his life clinging to some bullshit, happy ending.” This is to temp Terry from the truth he has lived for the past 35 years, by painting a narrative. Terry is book smart, but he is not street smart. Kreese is street smart and knows how to manipulate book smart people like Terry.
Proverbs 26:4-5 “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. The self-confident fool thinks too highly of himself and his opinions, and he shares them freely.” Terry did not provoke reason, rather he tried to prove himself, lacking true self-confidence, courage. Courage is appropriate action with right reason, doing what needs to get done, where proper behavior and attitude connect to get something done the right way. One of the highest level of certainties that one can reach about themselves.
Terry takes off his shoes and accepts this challenge from Kreese, which is a challenge of folly, not wisdom. To let someone’s fake narrative to become yours, to step into the red zone of uncertainty. Who was more certain about themselves for the past 35 years? Kreese who sat around and waited for someone else to fix his mistakes? Johnny fixed Cobra Kai for the good of the students, he placed the three rules of Cobra Kai in the best of contexts. Instead of being willing to adapt, like a true Cobra does, Kreese betrayed one of the only people who was ever good to him. His former student was finally happy and thanked Kreese for the best of what he taught.
Like it was stated before, Kreese has to be the guy on top, he cannot be second class. This is why he betrays Johnny and brings back the old Cobra Kai, which did not work in the past and he realizes at the end of season 4 that it was not working, the worst moments of his life caught back up and he finally admitted to himself that he was wrong. Therefore, Silver and Kreese weren’t on the same page towards the last fights in the All-Valley Tournament.
“There are hundreds of other sensei’s in the valley who can help you win your little war.” This is belittling the narrative that Kreese is trying to put into Terry’s head. Kreese knows how to work on a person’s empathy and sensitivity, which unchecked will cause you to lose to feeling, over reason. Kreese: “There is no one I trust more in the world than you (Basically said the same thing about Johnny).” This is to distract from the talk of reality, how Terry is trying to provoke reason with Kreese, who he stills see as an old friend. Literally, Terry keeps falling for it, “this isn’t my fight, not anymore”. Playing into the reality Kreese has constructed in his head for others to share, what is the fight? It’s no longer Vietnam.
There is fight, but it’s not with Miyagi Do or Eagle Fang, its with people trying to cause unnecessary fights with false realities, this is John Kreese’s Cobra Kai. Literally, Cobra Kai went to the LaRusso’s home, Kyle damn near killed Miguel and Tory was ready to hurt Sam with nun-chucks. Things are getting unreal with unnecessary violence. It’s not the kids’ fault, Cobra Kai is all they know, they trust Kreese because he seems like a good and decent person, but they don’t his past, Terry does. Terry is letting the present and future go by allowing the mistakes of his past to be how things are and always are, he has forfeited dialogue, dialect, exchange of reason and ideas.
“If you believed that, you wouldn’t be standing here.” Now Kreese is trying to get into the head of Terry by telling him his intentions and goals, though prior to the conversation, Terry knew exactly what Kreese was up to. He doubted himself, gave into fear, by having to convince others of a most obvious truth. That Kreese was the old man clinging on to some bullshit happy ending by living out the glory days, there is no purpose, just ideology.
Kreese: “You miss this don’t you.” “I can see it in your eyes, you came this close, what’s stopping you now?” He’s trying to play on the good parts of Terry’s mind, not the actual bad parts, where he lost his humanity. Terry was lying to himself when he said said he doesn’t miss a thing. That things he missed was teaching students a truthful way of life so they don’t fall into the mistakes of the past. In fact, when he became Sensei Silver again, this is exactly what we see in his teaching.
“There are three Ds to make a champion: desire, devotion, and disciple.” This is a beautiful teaching from Silver, this is how we conquer the past by moving forward with these three Ds. In fact, during dinner with Kreese, he tells John that he is messing with the drama of the past and its going to take down Cobra Kai all over again. He actually recognizes the good that Cobra Kai can bring for struggling students, he tries to finish what Johnny Lawrence’s Cobra Kai was about. Kreese is not having this anymore, this is where he provokes fear into Terry by bringing up the past, this is the “true” Terry Silver we all know and love, to see in action. Consumed by fear, his reason used towards drama, half-truths, and fake realities. Going back to terrorizing teenagers for the sake of this unknown fight.
Terry is becoming a better Sensei than Kreese. You truly see the look in Kreese’s eyes when Terry showed that even he has a weakness. “Every man has weakness.” “Every man is mortal”. This is said by Socrates. Kreese must live in the reality that he has no weakness and is immortal. He then brings out the old Terry Silver, by playing the guilt card, making him feel with great intensity and fear that he is out of line, like the good old war days, when he couldn’t fight for himself. Kreese gave him strength, but Kreese must be the source of all his happiness, Terry is an extension of Kreese’s personality.
Terry was trying to bring about the exchange of ideas in tournament peacefully, he apologizes to Daniel and understands his anger, we see some real humanity here. Everyone keeps saying that Terry Silver is naturally a narcissist and a psychopath, truth be told, said people never apologize for anything. He would have spun the narrative like he did in the store scene with Daniel, when he has been more influenced by Kreese. We see Terry slowly lose his humanity and wisdom as he trusts Kreese more.
We see Terry reading Leviathan by Thomas Hobbs in the back of the dojo, someone who still reads, despite modern-day trends. Someone who keeps himself informed of the past so they don’t make the same mistakes human beings have made in the past. Kreese brings him his six pack of breskies in celebration of Terrys victory, exposing John’s weakness in his teaching. Ironically, John brings up a landmine Vietnam story to warn Terry about getting out of line, the fear you see in Terry’s eyes. This is what truly manipulative people do, they control you by feelings and fear, they stop you from the weapon they cannot defeat with their fake realities. He stopped Terry from being able to provoke reason, by playing the guilt card.
This is where we see Terry become “cringe” in the ideologies of a raving mad man, no longer young, but old. He becomes the psychopath that everyone loves to see when he fights Johnny and bribes the referee. Truth be told, he was just heeding his captains’ lessons. He allowed John to do that, but it becomes to late to get his humanity back, the joyful Terry we see enjoying himself playing Piano is gone.
Going way back to the dojo scene where Kreese is gaslighting this Terry, He provokes Terry even further, by saying, “afraid you’re a little rusty”. This is the hammer that drove Terry to awaken the sleeping dog inside of him, to allow Kreese back into his life and go back to the villainous Terry Silver by having to prove himself by power. We see him do a front snap kick past John’s head, jab, cross, and uppercut skillfully to prove himself to John. It’s even worse, because he knows he should not have went there by saying, “I shouldn’t have come back here”.
“The struggle between for and against is the mind's worst disease.” Bruce Lee wonderfully stated this in relation to his own mental crisis of his youth, he overcame that by doing what was most wise, he provoked reason & wisdom. The fruits that came from his past teachings to modern martial arts shows this. Terry, struggles with his past self, which is so tempting, the power to dominate, the power to feel greater than others, “to conquer the world” in his own words. The Terry Silver we see at the beginning of Cobra Kai Season 4 provoked wisdom, provoked reason, and with integrity when he ignored Kreese.
Who should we have no mercy on? Others or Ourselves? Season 4 showed quite the opposite of what you would expect from each character. Robby and Tory became more human by dealing with their harsh realities, instead of using John Kreese’s Cobra Kai. Their sensei taught them to use strike first, strike hard, and no mercy in every context but the right contexts. This causes unnecessary drama, this is what Kyler is naturally good at, to cause issues for others to ignore his.
Robby has no mercy on himself when he confronts Johnny at the end of Season 4, saying he wants to stop blaming his own father for all his issues. He also knew that Johnny tried to fix a broken relationship and was patient with Robby, this gives Robby the opportunity to provoke wisdom, provoke reason, with integrity. “I call myself a peaceful warrior because the battle we fight are on the inside.” This is said by Socrates and is so true about ourselves. That we are most aware of our past and must not let that control our minds.
Cobra Kai offers power, feeling like there’s nothing wrong, while in all reality you are causing more harm to yourself than what was done. We see where all of Tory’s real stress and anger comes from, not from Sam, she uses Sam as an object of anger. There is no excuse, but we know she did not have control of herself, since her sensei has the most influence on her mind. We know that there was something good in Tory when we see her change in patience with Sam provoking her. Sam became the bully this season by taking it out on Tory. “Revenge, the measure of which, through impatience of my pain (Saint Tertullian).” Sam lost her patience and was influenced by Johnny’s teaching, not being able to see where other’s come from. It’s where you have a way of life that commands teenagers to try and kill each other is where there is no place for empathy. That’s where we see Daniel’s anger come out at Kreese in their fight at end of season 3. Yet, he was more controlled than Kreese and was able to save his own life by remaining calm, performing what Chozen had shown him.
“If an enemy insists upon war, you take away their ability to wage it.” Chozen is the wisest character in Cobra Kai, he truly knows what life is about and overcame the worst of diseases to the human mind. A prideful hate, wanting someone killed to have a sense of dignity. He overcame that in his darkest moments, to deal with that realization of himself, to realize that something was wrong with him, needed to be fixed.
“Denial is the ultimate comfort zone (David Goggins).” False realities should be one’s main enemies, they are most present to ourselves, to forget who we are. Eli/Hawk had this struggle, his Mohawk defined who he was, that gave him his sense of confidence. Confidence is a sense of true identity. Robby knew this about him, and took away his “enlightenment”, which is what the purple represented. Hawk had his dark period, when he was Cobra Kai’s number one, but he realized as Chozen did, what was truly wrong with him.
We see Hawk become Eli without his Mohawk, someone who gave into the false realities of others. What bullies do truly, make you believe something that is false about yourself. Eli gives up on karate and goes back to video games, leisure time to ignore his real issues. “A man so lost in luxury that he must trust another man’s word to verify whether he is sitting down (Seneca)!” Demetri has to step back in to remind him who he is, not who he was. Hawk has integrity and joins Miyagi do, Eagle Fang was not as forgiving towards his past actions.
We see Eli become Hawk without the Mohawk, when he has to face his past bully, Kyler. We see that his confidence comes back as he jumps up on the mat. Kyler loses and pouts like a little child, who doesn’t get what he wants. Eli fought those false realities by acting on the truth of his past and present, with integrity. He would have nothing to do with his past self, which cost him his best friend and his girlfriend, that pride that John Kreese teaches.
Going back to Tory, we see where she comes from, Amanda says: “There’s got to be someone in your family that can help.” Tory: “Nobody that I can trust.” Then we see the most disgusting kind of person, the one who acts nice, but behind closed doors they are the most venomous of persons. This woman shows up to Cobra Kai before Tory enters the dojo. We see how this woman is clever, but also presents the false realities. This woman is the sister of her dying mother, leaching off her disability money. As Tory calls her, “low class leech”.
Such people get highly offended at the truth about themselves, same as John Kreese realizes that he does have a weakness. “Mind your manners” in a very intimating stare. “When your Mom kicks the bucket”, Tory then aggressively moves towards her because thats all she knows how to do. “Quick temper, just like your old man.” Quick projection from her quick temper when she felt offended. This is another character we see in Cobra Kai that truly is manipulative and cunning, to make Tory look like the phycho, who is just highly provoked. While the true kind of phycho is someone who lives off of manipulating those closest to them and getting enjoyment out of it. She then threatens Tory, she knows how to provoke reason like Silver. She admits to being a criminal and says she knows how to work the system. “A judge is going to look at you and laugh you strait out of court” over custody of her younger brother to threaten Tory.
Tory realizes that Cobra Kai doesn’t work, she goes to Amanda for help. This is when she starts to provoke reason with integrity. Though she doesn’t want to, she realizes it’s the only way out of her bind. Amanda provokes wisdom by being understanding with Tory by relating to her past self, which is why she is willing to help despite what Tory has done. Sam becomes more like the past Tory, responding out of anger and insults. Tory ends up practicing defense against Sam this season, trying to keep herself in check. Miyagi do is about self-integrity, protecting your self from not becoming like those who hurt you and others.
Sam takes up Eagle Fang this season, we see her lose her integrity by becoming Tory. She initiates all the fights this season while Tory holds back, we see that at the prom after party. Both Robby and Tory, are able to fight Sam and Miguel together in sync, both were more connected. We also see them discuss their issues together and they care about each other. Tory was concerned for Robby’s integrity when he finished off Kenny in a very brutal way, seeing what Cobra Kai can really do to you.
Cobra Kai had more restored relationships and then Miyagi do and Eagle Fang. We see how they worked out their differences for the greater good and made it work. Even, John Kreese started to have heart, but it was to late for all the opportunities he ignored. Cobra Kai is more realistic with life’s struggles but handles them by offering power. Power can make a mind lose itself, the type of power that you have to prove to others and yourself by putting others down. By putting others through what you’ve been through.
Johnny got envious of Miguel and Daniel’s relationship; he became afraid of losing Miguel. His Cobra Kai came back out, turning his fear into a weapon to avoid those self-issues we all deal with inside. He had to beat Daniel in a fight to prove to himself and others that he was always the winner, we see Johnny lose himself in his training montage. As funny as it was, it shows a mind losing itself during the struggle of past and the present, ignoring the future. Both Johnny and Daniel lose their alliance, which is why they lost the tournament. We see them recognize this mistake in the final fight, but it was to late to undo.
Tory beats Sam, she proved to herself that she can win and be merciful to those who want to hurt her on the inside. Tory came out on top with integrity. Tory realized her mistakes in her rivalry with Sam and she listened to the wisdom of Amanda. This would change her heart towards Sam, she asked Sam if she is okay after she landed her final kick. Sam is in shock by this response, but most concerned with the fact that she did not win against her rival.
Miguel and Johnny’s relationship suffered from his envy with Daniel. Eagle Fang ends up losing it’s champion because of this broken relationship, Johnny was fighting for his own pride, which cost what he had built with Miguel. After all that training, Johnny made it about himself, Miguel suffered the most from it. Miguel is broken inside and quests to find his father, who doesn’t even know that he exists. Johnny will have the opportunity to fix this mistake of Miguel with integrity. He realized his mistakes and will ask Miguel for forgiveness; it will be easier since his relationship with Robby has been restored.
Both Robby and Johnny had no mercy on themselves at the end, to restore a broken relationship. This is one of the most beautiful moments in Cobra Kai. Robby realized what he was becoming by looking at what Cobra Kai did to Kenny and what it was doing to him. Kenny loses himself at the end of Season 4 by doing what was done to him. “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury (Marcus Aurelius’).” Kenny sets himself on Anthony Larusso, now he becomes the Bully. Not out of peer pressure, but out of enjoyment.
Robby couldn’t save him, at least for now. He decided not to become that, by confessing how he truly thinks and feels to Johnny. That pain inside, Johnny blames himself for their hatred of each other. They both take the fall together and look to restore what was broken. John Kreese, after 35 years realized this, with so many people. By his pride, he made Daniel and Johnny’s life a living Hell. He even manipulates Terry Silver after this 35-year period. “Everyone creates the thing they dread”. Terry completely loses himself; he allowed the past to take over, those feelings and half-truths.
Terry and John celebrate their victory of the all valley. Terry is in a fancy black suit and has a toast ready, but it is not to be celebrated with John. Terry played everyone at the end of Season 4. He bribed the referee, which killed Tory’s self-confidence. When Terry lost his mind, he took it out on Stingray. This is what we see what John Kreese’s best student turned into. He ends up getting Stingray to blame John Kreese for his condition by playing on his weakness, both physical and mental. Back to their celebration, we see Terry play John so cleverly and with class.
This is something John Kreese had coming for 35 years since he has done this with all of his students and did it to Johnny who brought back Cobra Kai. Johnny also brought back to life John Kreese and he got backstabbed for that. Now John Kreese is the one to be John Kreesed. “Everyone has a weakness John and mine is you.” Kreese quickly goes back to the guilt card, because that is all he knows. Terry overcame his fear, what truly drove him insane, loyalty to a man of self-ideology. What Kreese has created is a more clever John Kreese, reason with power together to make for the ultimate Cobra.
“How many more times are you going to expect me to pay that debt until we’re square?” Cops show up and arrest John for something he did not do, but yet everything he has done is now returning the favor to him. His last words to Silver, “You’re regret this, I AM COBRA KAI!” This shows where his heart truly lies, despite his one moment of sympathy. A mad man wrapped up in his self-obsession of power over others. Cobra Kai is about power, Kreese has gone mad now because he has lost this power.
Terry celebrates and smiles that he has lost his weakness. He is enjoying his own theme in his head to this victory. Truth be told, he has taken his weakness to heart. He become like the man who ruined their friendship for the sake of pride and power. Now he is the one in control and the best of manipulators over others. Imagine if Kreese’s last words were this: “I can understand why you’ve done this, I forgive you.” We would not have seen that smile on Terry’s face, we may have seen a face of true guilt, like we saw in episode 7 when Kreese played the guilt card. This may have triggered the Terry that changed his way of life in the 80s after John vanished from it. Both would have no mercy on themselves with integrity. This would have brought back the friendship we saw in the flashback when they both get tattoos and are set off to help others in their troubles.
The Terry we see before his fall of mind, is the one who came back to the true purpose of Cobra Kai. He had his clarity of mind with what gave him purpose in his youth, when he truly overcame his fear of Vietnam. When Terry and Kreese truly had each other’s back. Terry beautiful shows this to Kreese in their argument of how they should handle the humiliation of their students.
“I agreed to come back, to do what we originally set out to do, to turn kids into winners. To bring Cobra Kai back to its former glory. But if we’re going to do that, we have to learn from our mistakes…. You had the entire valley in the palm of your hand, and you blew it. All because of the rivalry you had with Mr. Miyagi… I understand, but now, we’re the old men. And we should use the wisdom we’ve learned… Cobra Kai, it was never about revenge. It was about building strength by taking fears and turning it into a weapon. That’s what we should be focused on. If we’re going to just rehash the past, then history will repeat itself all over again.”
Terry remembered what the original Cobra Kai did for him in his weakest moment, when he knew himself in his youth. When he remembered his deepest moments of mind, he turned those fears into weapons by training kids to deal with their deepest moments of mind. Do I think Cobra Kai actually is the best way to deal with our deepest moments of mind? No. That’s why I hinted very clearly to these three principles, which take to heart and mind both points of Miyagi do and Cobra Kai.
You got to be like a wolf: "Throw me to the wolves and I will return, leading the pack." -Seneca
#1: Provoke Wisdom
#2: Provoke Reason
#3: With Integrity
Have Sense and Honor
Wolves are intimidating and do not take crap. However, they are gentle when they need to be with the relationships that matter the most. In the pack, they have each other’s back in a shared truth, survival. Our shared truth is that we are all humans with minds that can be used either for chaos or beauty. Those who choose chaos of mind will never work together, therefore Terry and Kreese try to control each other, because they do not have self-control. Therefore, Johnny and Daniel split because they got envious, one in rivalry, one in ideology with an unopened mind. Both Johnny and Daniel worked things out and combined their ways together in Episodes 1-3, beautiful relationships that strengthened everyone out of it. How can you use this for your mind and where you are at in life?