Mr Miyagi: A Man of Iron Qualities

Miyagi. The name that strikes fear into the hearts of Cobra Kai everywhere

Mr Miyagi

Before I go any further – if you haven’t seen any of the original Karate Kid movies

a) shame on you

b) spoiler alert

The Karate Kid movie franchise is awesome. Well, the first movie anyway. Looking back with hindsight – Karate Kid 2 & 3 are actually pretty ass. And ‘The Next Karate Kid’ with Hilary Swank…

The basic premise is the old tale of the outsider / underdog rising up to beat the odds. Very feel good…all very nice. But what elevated the original movie from good to awesome and made the sequels passable was the character of Mr Miyagi.


Mr Miyagi is – in all senses of the word – the man

If you are of a certain vintage, you probably grew up with his lessons on life and karate. He is wise, funny, self-reliant and indestructible in pretty much any hand-to-hand combat situation.

He is also one of the most patient characters in cinema history. Put yourself in his shoes. Would you have the patience to deal with that whiny turd Daniel LaRusso? Me neither. Think about it:

  • Miyagi was enjoying a quiet life as a building maintenance man. Daniel and his mum move in and the first thing he does is break the water faucet in the apartment before barging into Miyagi’s office area with a bad attitude and a demand to fix the leak
  • He then gets Miyagi involved in his playground war with the Cobra Kai lads. Miyagi skilfully negotiates a truce for Daniel and tries to teach him some karate, only to be met with more attitude. Despite this, Daniel somehow manages to win the All-Valley Karate Championship and Miyagi thinks it’s job done. He can go back to his maintenance man ways and get on with his life in peace.
  • But no. Daniel reappears a few months later, angry and whiny having broken the car Miyagi gave him as a gift, broken up with his girlfriend and complaining that he has to move to Fresno where his mother got a job.
  • Miyagi, being a man of action, quickly fixes the car, calms the boy down and provides him accommodation for the summer
  • But when he gets word that his father is dying back in Japan he makes plans to spend a few final quality moments with Miyagi Sr. before he takes The Long Journey. And like a bad smell that just won’t go away, Daniel San turns up at the airport, uninvited, and tags along.
  • During what is an emotionally difficult time for Miyagi, Daniel causes untold chaos in Okinawa. Chaos that Miyagi once again has to set right – all the while mourning his recently deceased father, trying to woo his former honey and make amends with his childhood friend.
  • And finally – when the pair return to America, Miyagi decides it’s time to realise his dream and open his own bonsai store. Once again, Daniel’s meddling ways almost destroy this dream when he antagonises Mike Barnes and his cronies who then smash the store up multiple times. So when Daniel once again gets in way over his head with Barnes, Terry Silver and John Kreese, Miyagi finally has enough and takes matters into his own hands once again by beating the bejesus out of the trio before training Daniel once again to win the All-Valley Karate Tournament


And it all started with a leaky faucet…..

Miyagi was in the right place at the right time to help Daniel. Help him in every aspect of his life. He is the father figure that is missing from Daniel’s life and acts as a perfect counterpoint to his mother – offering help and advice on life in a non-judgemental way, fulfiling a crucial role of passing on the most important life lessons to the boy.

Granted – at the climax of ‘Karate Kid 3’ Daniel is still a rash and moany snot, but I can’t help feeling his life would have been in a much worse place had he never met the man from Okinawa.

Miyagi is the perfect mentor figure – he has all the characteristics of a man who lives a life of the Iron Qualities and demonstrates composure, self-reliance and how to live life by a code.

And he introduced the world to the crane kick – which has since proven effective in real life, with UFC fighter Lyoto Machida using it to dispatch UFC legend Randy Couture, proving Miyagi right: “When done right, no can defense.”


So Miyagi has earned his spot as a Man of the Month. But what is it exactly that means he is a man of the Iron Qualities? Check it:

“Never put passion in front of principle, even if you win, you’ll lose”

Miyagi has a clearly defined set of rules that govern how he lives his life. And he sticks to these. Through his teachings to Daniel, we understand what it is that drives Miyagi and what is important to him.

What he’s also saying here is that letting emotions get in the way of your principles is not a good thing. Just look at any one of Daniel’s many emotional outbursts throughout the series to see this in action. Having a temper tantrum like a child is not the Iron Qualities way.


“Here are the 2 Rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule Number 1: ‘Karate for defence only.’ Rule Number 2: ‘First learn rule number 1.’”

Following on from the previous point – Miyagi is telling Daniel that there are rules to using karate like a true man. The rules have evolved over time through the experiences of many men throughout history.

He is also telling Daniel that picking fights and bullying people because you know the crane kick or the drum technique is not the way. But if someone starts some shit with you, that’s when you neutralise the enemy – much like Miyagi does in every fight scene in which he’s involved. I mean…the man beat the shit out of Cobra Kai badass John Kreese without even touching him. Damn.


“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” ” [makes squish gesture]

Be decisive. When the time comes to take action, take action. Don’t hesitate.

Have an opinion. Take a stand. And be prepared to defend that position.


“It’s ok to lose to opponent. It’s never okay to lose to fear”

Sometimes in life, you find yourself in a pickle. How you react in that situation is what makes you a man. Acting in the right way despite being afraid is what separates the men from the boys.

Miyagi is faced with several daunting prospects throughout the movies. Each time, he shows composure and takes decisive action. Like a boss.


“Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better”

Miyagi essentially teaches Daniel how to be a man through the medium of martial arts. Here he is telling him that a man should focus on all aspects of his life and seek improvement in each of those areas. It’s no good being an Olympic karate champion if you have no friends, can’t talk to a honey and have no knowledge of great literature and art.


“Daniel San… you too much by self… not good. To make honey, young bee need young flower… not old prune”

Miyagi is specifically talking about Daniel spending time with his woman – but he is also saying that if you want to become a better man, you need to put yourself in the best environment to make that possible. And that includes surrounding yourself with the right people.

I do find this one kind of ironic as Miyagi appears to have no other friends in America apart from Daniel…


“First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule Daniel San, not mine”

Everything in its own time. Patience and composure. The journey to being a man of Iron Qualities is just that – a journey. And it never ends. Enjoy taking the next step in that journey today, and don’t worry about the steps to come until that time comes.


“Always look eye”

I’ll end with this one. And I’ll let the video do all the talking. This is the big reveal from the first movie, where we find out what “wax on, wax off” really means.

As usual, Daniel is being a whiny brat. But where Daniel sees a problem, Miyagi sees an opportunity.

And count how many times Miyagi refers to eye contact. Always look eye, men.





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