Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy
Welcome! If you need a handy recap before Cobra Kai Season 4 drops on Netflix this New Years Eve we’ve got you covered with our full story recap with everything you need to know if you don’t fancy plunging back in and watching three seasons of action.
Cobra Kai is the spiritual sequel to The Karate Kid movies, taking place 30 years after the final confrontation between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. You don’t need to have watched the films to understand what’s happening here, but there are a fair few Easter eggs and inside jokes that fans of the movies will enjoy.
Feel free to check out the below links to jump straight down to the season of your choice, otherwise let’s begin!
Season 1 picks up 30 years after the fateful karate tournament that saw Daniel LaRusso claimed as the winner. His successful karate venture has allowed him to launch a successful dealership chain. His high kick that knocked out Lawrence is infamous, and there are even adverts playing off this. Adverts that our main character, Johnny Lawrence, ends up seeing.
Since losing the tournament, Johnny has been on a downward spiral. He’s drinking heavily, lives alone and has very little going for him. While out one night, a boy called Miguel Diaz is bullied by a bunch of high-school kids. Johnny doesn’t actually care until the fight spills over to his car. In retaliation, Johnny beats all the kids up and inspires Diaz to be taken under Lawrence’s wing and be taught how to defend himself.
Now, Diaz only has a couple of friends at school. Those come in the form of Dimitri and Eli. Adding to the angst is Samantha, a girl who Diaz has a crush on and who happens to be LaRusso’s daughter. Unfortunately Sam ends up with the wrong crowd, which encourages her best friend Aisha to join Cobra Kai, off the back of Diaz’s suggestion.
When Diaz manages to take out a whole bunch of bullies at school who are picking on Sam, videos go viral online which brings Cobra Kai into the limelight. Given Lawrence is clueless about the internet, this viral video brings with it a whole bunch of young blood to join up, including Eli.
Call Me Hawk, Mo-Hawk
Now, Eli sports a pretty big scar up his lip and Johnny encourages him to flip the script and not allow the bullies to take advantage of that. So naturally, Hawk heads home that night, gives himself an epic new mohawk and a new nickname – Hawk.
Johnny also has a son called Robbie who is a delinquent and hanging with the wrong crowd. Robbie sets his sights on LaRusso’s dealership, but he’s caught in the act. Daniel decides against getting the police involved though and ends up befriending the kid, unaware of his connection to Johnny.
Daniel soon starts training him up with classic Mr Miyagi techniques. This sets up an interesting dynamic, especially when LaRusso realizes Cobra Kai is back. The old feud returns!
While there is a moment here where Daniel and Johnny set aside their differences and bond, it doesn’t take long before Johnny finds out that Daniel is training Robbie. Seeing this as a betrayal, it sets up a big fight in the future. This, as it turns out, is made even more dramatic given Sam’s closeness with Robbie and Diaz growing jealous of their connection.
It all boils down to a big karate tournament. All our main characters fight, eventually simmering down to the final match-up between Miguel and Robbie. Now, Robbie has an injured shoulder which Miguel immediately targets. Johnny does try to talk him out of this, wanting a clean fight, but Miguel ignores his sensei and strikes hard and with no mercy, winning the fight and the tournament – but certainly not the war.
Heading back to the dojo that night brings up one final shocking surprise. Johnny’s old mentor, John Kreese, is back!
Read More: Cobra Kai Season 1 Review
Johnny Reunites With Kreese
Season 2 picks up with Johnny Lawrence confronting his old sensei. We waste absolutely no time getting right to the heart of this, as Kreese eventually admits that he’s been living at a homeless shelter. His real drive though is teaching kids karate and he believes Cobra Kai are ready for him to step up.
Lawrence is well aware of Kreese’s questionable methods and keeps more than half an eye on him, making Kreese the assistant sensei. After all, Johnny is on a path to redemption and there’s no way Kreese’s bullish attitude and questionable methods will be embraced by the team… will they?
While Cobra Kai gets some new blood, so too does Miyagi-Do. This is the new karate club set up by LaRusso, instilling inner-peace and defensive tactics, rather than attack. Sam and Robbie are the two star pupils here, but the numbers game is still on the side of Cobra Kai.
The Valley Fest Crash
At Valley Fest, Cobra Kai crash the party with a much bigger demonstration, which gets a whole bunch of new arrivals, including Torie and *checks notes* a bearded man called Stingray, a self-entitled nickname given after rocking up with a swanky new goatee.
Dimitri also tries out for Cobra Kai but it’s way too much for him to handle, especially when he leaves with a bloodied nose. He also leaves a 1 star review online too, which Hawk sees and immediately takes offence to.
Ultimately, Dimitri finds solitude at Miyagi-Do, but a big fight breaks out in the mall later on, as Hawk becomes the very thing he swore not to be – a bully. While on a downward path of depression, Kreese senses an opportunity and enlists Hawk as a personal sidekick.
Turning To The Dark Side
Now, there’s a big drama in the midst of this; a simmering tension bubbling up thanks to Kreese. He has Hawk steal Miyagi’s medal of honor, which LaRusso immediately blames Johnny for, confronting him at the dojo.
While Kreese continues to poison the kids with his venomous words, Miguel Diaz remains determined not to be swayed. In fact, he actually takes the stolen medal back to LaRusso’s place.
The Forbidden Kiss
While this is going on, and the teenage drama continues to swell, things escalate at a big party. Sam kisses Diaz, who’s currently dating Torie and she sees them together. At the same time, Dimitri’s attempts to patch things up with Hawk land him with a drink tipped on his head. It’s all going off and it crescendos into Torie hijacking the PA system at school and calling out Sam for her kiss.
Cobra Kai VS Miyagi-Do: Street Fight
In the school hallway, a big battle with Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai kicks off. There’s a brilliantly choreographed fight here, with Torie playing dirty and hitting Sam with spiked knuckles.
Things are made even worse though when Robbie and Diaz square off. Robbie’s kick to the gut topples Diaz over the balcony, where he lands nastily on the side of the bannister and onto the floor.
It’s a bleak situation, with Diaz in hospital critically injured. Kreese takes advantage of this uncertainty and turns all the Cobra Kai students against Johnny, blaming him for what happened.
John Kreese is now ready to take over Cobra Kai and that sees Johnny kicked to the curb for his troubles. Alone, Johnny receives a text from Ali – the same Ali he messaged earlier in the season and the one he dated way back in The Karate Kid movies. Only, he throws the phone before looking at the notification. What a cliffhanger!
Read More: Cobra Kai Season 2 Review
Teaching Diaz How To Walk
Johnny Lawrence is still feeling guilty after what’s happened to Miguel Diaz. Miguel is alive, thank goodness, but he’s also paralyzed from the waist down. He may never walk again. So naturally, it falls to Johnny Lawrence to step in and help Miguel rise up – quite literally – and walk once more.
While this is going on, Robbie is on the run from the police. He meets Daniel in confidence who unfortunately shows up with officers to arrest him. Daniel convinces him this is the best thing he can do but Robbie believes he’s been betrayed.
Things between the teens continue to escalate. Remember the rivalry between Dimitri and Hawk? Well, it’s still going and this time it all kicks off during a game of laser tag.
Hawk grabs Dimitri’s arm, knocking him on the ground and breaking it with a sickening crack. Hawk has well and truly turned to the dark side and he’s quickly joined by Torie too, who has had a rough upbringing as we know.
Kreese also intends to recruit Robbie too, and in a nice little twist he visits the delinquent in prison and convinces him to join Cobra Kai. Interestingly, Eli’s old bullies show up to the dojo, but Eli is a changed man now and shows that he’s still the top dog.
The Dark Side
When Johnny and Miguel return to school, they find Hawk and the others are well and truly lost. They can’t be convinced to stand down. Naturally, Johnny decides to do the next best thing. He starts a brand new dojo called Eagle Fang Karate. Yep, it’s nowhere near as cool as Cobra Kai but with Diaz and a few of the other kids joining up, it’s a good start.
Now this season also explains the origins of the name Cobra Kai, incase anyone actually needed this. Anyway, during these flashbacks we see more of Kreese and his time during the special forces when he was younger. Kreese was captured and forced to fight to the death against his own teammates, which explains the origins of fighting without mercy and striking first.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Alongside this is a separate walk down memory lane involving LaRusso, who heads back to Miyago’s hometown. Most of this drama stems from a deal at work Daniel needs to push through. His dealership is in trouble but as fate would have it, the person who throws him a bone is someone he knows from the past.
You may or may not remember the little girl LaRusso saved during the monsoon in Karate Kid II. Anyway, she’s actually the Vice President of the car company there, and she helps out Daniel.
The trip also serves a separate purpose, with Daniel learning a new special move to help him going forward. It turns out Miyagi had a special technique; an arm-numbing paralyzing chop that incapacitates your opponent.
Back in town, there’s a cute series of romances that spark up. One is from super-nerd Dimitri who ends up dating mean-girl Yasmin whom Aisha gave a wedgie to back in season 1. Johnny and Miguel’s mum also end up getting together but there’s a complication.
Remember that message from Ali back at the end of season 2? Well, Johnny learns how to use Facebook (hashbrown winning!) and notices a friend request from her. When she heads into town, Johnny and Ali catch up. It’s here we learn she’s recently divorced but Johnny is not going to be unfaithful to Miguel’s mum, whom he’s currently dating. Instead, it sets up a nice little sequence involving Daniel LaRusso, with Ali convincing the pair to bury the hatchet and move past this.
Cobra Kai VS Miyagi-Do & Eagle Fang
Inevitably, this sets up an epic showdown once more. Instead of at school though, this all takes place during a big house party. Hawk notices his old bullies fighting Dimitri and immediately realizes how far he’s fallen. He switches sides and helps Dimitri defeat Cobra Kai.
With Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do on the same side for now, it leaves plenty of food for thought as Cobra Kai are left to run away and lick their wounds.
Prepping for Season 4
Cobra Kai aren’t down and out though. Johnny shows up at the dojo and notices Kreese with Robbie. A skirmish soon breaks out, especially when Daniel appears too. Daniel defeats Kreese using his newly learned Miyagi-Do arm-numbing technique but Kreese promises that this is not the end of their war. That is coming soon, and specifically at the All Valley Under 18 tournament.
Kreese wants to pit the best he’s got against Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do, who both agree to team up and put their differences aside for the time being. It also means Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso are going to joint senseis too! It’s a big fight for dominance of the karate world, who will come out on top?
Read More: Cobra Kai Season 3 Review
So that’s the entire story of Cobra Kai from Season 1 up to the end of 3 in a nutshell. There’s a lot more going on here – including more teen drama and fall-outs – but hopefully this is enough to get you up to scratch in time for season 4!
What did you think of Cobra Kai’s story? Have we missed any crucial details in this recap? Do let us know in the comments below!