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Mr. Miyagi’s a Liar

· Creative Writing

The Karate Kid takes place in southern California, where Daniel LuRusso moves with his mother after she accepts a new job. He pretty quickly finds himself as the target of beefed up (dare I say, sufferers of roid rage) bullies, who study karate at the Cobra Kai Dojo. Lucky for him, Mr. Miyagi shows up, defends him from the bullies and agrees to teach him karate. Mr. Miyagi works out an agreement with the sensi at the Cobra Kai Dojo, the students there will leave him be while he trains for a tournament, and never bother him again if he wins a karate tournament. Then Daniel and Mr. Miyagi get to work on perfecting Daniel-san’s karate skills. The Karate Kid is a great example of a classic eighties film.

The coming of age story is riddled with tropes we’d expect from films of the times, but presented in a really endearing way. It was a really sweet film that I believe has some lessons to teach us even today. It doesn’t come off as a cheesy angsty coming of age story, the characters seem to be genuinely connected. Daniel out of real need for a friend, and Mr. Miyagi out of genuine concern for a kid in a tough spot. But, I’ve got beef with Mr. Miyagi. He’s kind of a liar and a generally poor example to a lost 15 year old kid. If Mr. Miyagi’s intention was to teach Daniel-san to stand up for himself with real integrity, he sort of failed. I’m sure the character’s intentions in the film were all very pure and upstanding, but boy, did he go about teaching him the wrong way

Miyagi had a bad habit of bending the truth. He lied, not in so many words, but in deeds, throughout the film. He wasn’t forthcoming with Daniel about his teaching methods, Daniel’s obvious frustrations could have been avoided if Miyagi had been honest. He did it while entering Daniel into the karate tournament with his fake Dojo, and Daniel’s made up black belt. And while I understand there are cultural nuances here that I may not fully understand (Mr. Miyagi is from Japan where karate, arguably, originated. The importance of belts may be overstated in the appropriated versions of karate) not teaching a kid the importance of following the rules and honesty has to fall somewhere on the poor mentorship spectrum.

He taught Daniel that standing up to a bully with a physical fight would be the best method of dealing with abusive behaviour. For goodness sake, the man gave alcohol to a minor! I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say, this type of behavior isn’t exactly what we want from mentorship for the children in our lives.

And in the end Daniel gets what he wants; he kicks Johnny’s butt, he wins the trophy, he gets the girl, but what did he learn? He learned that it’s ok to lie, to fight, to steal. Mr. Miyagi’s intentions are good, but there are core tenets of karate that he fails to teach Daniel is his journey to karate victory. Students of all martial arts forms are taught to live with honesty and integrity, regardless of the outcome. Mr. Miyagi’s teachings lack these core principles. These missing lessons diminish the triumph Daniel gained in the end.

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