Life Lessons from Movies

The Karate Kid

In Drama, Movies on March 14, 2013 at 6:30 PM

The Karate Kid (1984) is a drama directed by John G. Avildsen about Daniel (Ralph Macchio), a newcomer to a high school where he is bullied, which prompts him to seek the teachings of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), an elderly Japanese martial arts master.

Life Lesson:

Learn to defend yourself in a way that should gain the respect of your opponents.

Movie Scene:

Daniel: “Do you think I had a chance of winning?”

Mr. Miyagi: “Win, lose, no matter.”

Daniel: “No, that’s not what I mean.”

Mr. Miyagi: “Hai. Had good chance.”

Daniel: “Well, can you fix my leg? I mean, with that thing you do?”

Mr. Miyagi: “No need fight anymore. You prove a point.”

Daniel: “What point? That I can take a beating? I mean every time I see those guys they’re gonna know they got the best of me. I’ll never have balance that way, not with them, not with Ali, not with me.”

Mr. Miyagi: “Hai.”

Mr. Miyagi claps his hands together to massage Daniel’s leg, which allows Daniel to fight in the Karate championship against his biggest tormentor.

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  1. Defending yourself can come in many forms. The best way would probably be one where you use your mind, your wit, to stop attacks without escalating the tension, and without the need for physical violence. A scene is the movie that accomplishes this is when Daniel disperses the group of bullies by asking his history teacher, Mr. Harris, to review the lecture about how the Plains Indians acquired the horse. Instead of letting the bullies intimidate him, Daniel outsmarts them: as soon as the teacher begins to explain, the bullies suddenly remember they have other places to go.

  2. There are many ways to read the phrase: “should gain the respect of your opponents”. One way is as is demonstrated in the movie: showing superior skill while overcoming obstacles. People don’t generally attack someone they respect. If you can outmatch a bully, they will leave you alone. So you need to defend yourself wholeheartedly from the get-go, i.e. the very first instance someone tries to put you down. Otherwise, they just learn that you can be a victim, that is, someone they can disrespect.

    Another way to read the Life Lesson is to learn to fight back in an honorable way. This is also demonstrated in the movie: Daniel never cheats even when his opponents do. If you defend yourself without resorting to underhanded, mean-spireted attacks, then you can be proud of yourself and most people will respect that, even bullies.

    Finally, it is probably the case, as is displayed in this movie, that the reason someone wants to put you down in the first place is because they are jealous of you or you are a threat to them in some way. In the movie, Daniel’s antagonist, Johnny Lawrence, is really motivated by his anger over his ex-girlfriend Ali’s interest in Daniel. Hence, the bully, Johnny, is the one in a weak position, and in real life if you can figure out what the insecurity is of a bully, you can use that information to defend yourself. In a way then, the bully already respects you at some level— you just need to make it easier for them to accept it.

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