Mr. Miyagi achieved instant fame when he first appeared in 1984’s The Karate Kid. The legendary karate master, who coached “Daniel-San” LaRusso and Julie Pierce over four films, became an icon for his ability, sense of humor, wisdom, and Bonsai skills.
Mr. Miyagi was brought to life by actor and comedian Noriyuki “Pat” Morita⏤a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Morita reprised the role on the screen three more times, in 1986’s The Karate Kid Part II, 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III, and 1994’s The Next Karate Kid.
The character’s depth ensured his popularity. He was a World War II veteran who blended deep philosophy and incredible martial arts skills with inspiring quotes. His legendary lines include Karate Kid III’s, “It’s okay to lose to opponent, must not lose to fear!”
But Mr. Miyagi was such a compelling and popular character that the franchise couldn’t contain him. Morita repeatedly brought him to life, or characters a lot like him, outside of The Karate Kid. In the late 1980s, Morita appeared in a series of commercials as the Colgate Wisdom Tooth. He made a cameo in the music video for Ant Farm’s 2001 hit song “Movies” and in an episode of Spy TV a year later. Morita also played a very familiar karate teacher in a 2003 episode of the sitcom Yes, Dear. Two years later, he spoofed the role in Adult Swim’s stop-motion animated series Robot Chicken.
To the character’s credit and how Pat Morita embodied him, repeat appearances didn’t diminish Mr. Miyagi’s legacy but rather kept it alive in popular culture.
Is Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid still alive?
Sadly, Pat Morita died in 2002 and Mr. Miyagi with him, although the character’s death wasn’t confirmed onscreen until 2018.
The Karate Kid franchise is enjoying a resurgence in the form of Cobra Kai, a show that has thrilled old fans and won many new ones with its blend of comedy, drama, and callbacks to the original films.
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Ralph Macchio, who reprises his role as Daniel-San in Cobra Kai, and his on-screen opponent William Zabka have discussed the difficulty of continuing Karate Kid without the franchise’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” However, Mr. Miyagi’s presence remains essential.
The show has shown his gravestone, confirming his death as November 15, 2011, and included frequent flashbacks to the character using footage from the first three films. The season 1 episode “Counterbalance” was dedicated to Morita’s memory.
Proof of Mr. Miyagi’s continued influence lies in the fact that Cobra Kai is referred to as part of the Miyagi-verse. That’s an important reason why the show’s producers have said that characters from the 2010 reset The Karate Kid, which starred Jackie Chan as Mr. Han, a role based on Mr. Miyagi, won’t appear in the show.
The Netflix show’s avid fans continually try to link up every part of the franchise, and as the show has been confirmed for an upcoming fifth season, anything is possible. But for the time being, as Mr. Miyagi would say, “First learn stand, then learn fly.”