How John Kreese and Johnny Lawrence redefined the 'Cobra Kai' creed
While it was a win-at-all-costs mindset for Kreese, Johnny felt that mercy was one of the key things important in Karate
Spoiler alert for 'Cobra Kai'
"As different as chalk and cheese" may be one of the most cliched phrases used, but nothing fits the adage more if you compare two of 'Cobra Kai' season two's prominent characters — Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and John Kreese (Martin Kove). The latter was reintroduced in the last episode of season one and has gone on to become a key influencer in season two's plot.
It is well known that Kreese was the sensei of the 'Cobra Kai' dojo in 'The Karate Kid' movie series. He eventually loses face, his students and the dojo after his pupil, Johnny's defeat to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), in the All Valley Under 18 Karate Championships. Much before the tournament though, it is shown that Kreese is a staunch believer of the dojo's creed, "Strike Hard. Strike Hard. No Mercy" and he drills the ideology into his students, even if it included going to extreme lengths to gain victory.
One of the biggest examples was the infamous 'Sweep the leg' instruction that Kreese gives Johnny in order to win against Daniel. It showed that Kreese was prepared to do whatever it takes to win and that meant showing no mercy to the opponent. The sequel also showed that Kreese had sadistic tendencies when he breaks Johnny's second-place trophy in 'The Karate Kid II' (1989) and tries to attack him before Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki Pat Morita) intervenes and saves Johnny.
Now, 34 years later, when Johnny becomes the new sensei of Cobra Kai, he too sticks to the same teachings of the dojo but incorporates values of mercy and fairness among his students. In one of the episodes of the second season, he instructs his students that while it is necessary to win, it mustn't come at a cost.
"His (Kreese) Cobra Kai was old, outdated. This creed on the wall, you follow it to the letter, it will make you strong. It will make you formidable, It will also make you an a*****e. Because it is just black paint on a white wall, but life's not black and white. More often than not, it's grey and it is on those grey areas where Johnny learns in his Cobra Kai to sometime show mercy."
The creators of 'Cobra Kai' too shed light on the different styles of teaching by the two masters. Jon Hurwitz, one of the creators along with Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald said that the moment he utters these lines is probably the most important moment for him in the second season. "While he believed that the creed was the best, he says it loud that it isn't the best," says Hurwitz.
" We didn't want to swing in one direction. He (Johnny) still looks back at it as one of the most important and powerful lessons, but it cost him, and he didn't want his students to go through the same."
Hurwitz also explained that for Kreese to be so strongly attached to the creed was primarily due to the long history he's had. "He's seen action in Vietnam and his passion for his karate dates back a long time."
Which explains why the duo has different methods of teaching. For Johnny, it was about making sure that his pupils don't go on to become a Kreese, even though trying to follow the teaching put Miguel in a critical state at the end of the second season.
But how will this difference in teaching help Johnny in a yet-to-be-confirmed season 3? The last episode saw Kreese take over the dojo again and ingrain the values of the old Cobra Kai. Will the students stay loyal to Johnny or will it be Kreese's 'no mercy' influence that will take over? Only time will tell.