This weekend while visiting my best friend of 33 years, we decided after quite a lot of beer that we should watch the Karate Kid, one of the most iconic yet terrible movies of all time. It occurred to me that even if you can look past the confusing racial undertones and, well, Ralph Macchio, there are some lessons to be learned that can be applied to sports and outdoor recreation generally. There is also much that is pure fantasy. Can you differentiate fantasy from reality? Take this quiz and find out.
#1 — True or False: Women will get you into trouble
Daniel-san’s seemingly greatest mistake, at the outset, was falling for the pretty blonde Ali/Elisabeth Shue who had a recent romance with a giant blonde jerk named Johnny. Johnny was part of a blonde and fratty karate gang called the Cobras, led by a caricature dysfunctional Vietnam Vet with apparent PTSD. Obviously, the fact that Ali was interested in Daniel-san meant that Johnny and his gang of blonde frat guys needed to kill him. The romance with Ali is the key fact that sets the entire story in motion.
Clearly, this was the path by which Daniel-san became truly inspired to develop his karate skills and eventually win the big tournament. If it weren’t for Ali, Daniel-san might have never been beaten to a tar and thus forced to discover and develop his talent for karate. Many people, more than who care to admit, have experienced the phenomenon of taking up certain sports or activities to impress or be able to hang out with a person of the opposite sex whom is the object of their intense desire. Invariably the desire fades but oftentimes the passion for the sport carries on.
Daniel: Hey, you got a name?
Ali: Ali… with an I. Hey, what’s your name?
Daniel: Daniel… with an L.
#2 — True or False: A guardian angel will save you in dangerous situations (and will fix your bike)
Daniel-san was out and about and found himself surrounded by the Cobras, who promptly beat the living crap out of him. Mr. Miyagi showed up by magic and karate-mowed-down all the blonde jerks. He also fixed Daniel-san’s bike after he tossed it in the dumpster, frustrated by having been run off the road by the Cobras, who of course have dirt bikes.
In reality, you must always be prepared and hopefully able to self-rescue. In many if not most situations in the backcountry, a “rescue” is likely to be body retrieval. Further, in most instances no one is going to come rescue you from the average tricky situation (or rather you shouldn’t seek rescue). We’ve all been in situations that suck but don’t warrant a 911 call. If you’re lucky your partner(s) will help you out, but in most instances they’re not in a position to get you off the cliff. You’ve got to rally and do it yourself. Also, if you’re going to ride a bike you should probably learn to fix it yourself.
Daniel: All right, so what are the rules here?
Miyagi: Don’t know. First time you, first time me.
Daniel: Well, I figured you knew about this stuff. I figured you went to these before. Oh great, I’m dead. I am dead. You told me you fought a lot.
Miyagi: For life, not for points
#3 — True or False: People who choose motorized recreation are more likely to be sociopaths
Daniel-san rides a bike, the Cobras ride dirt bikes. ‘Nuff said.
Kreese: We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in the streets, in competition: A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.
#4 — True or False: All you need is some training to win
In just a short period of time Daniel-san goes from Cobra-chum to Karate Kid. All it took was some car waxing and painting and the incredible mentorship of Mr. Miyagi. While Daniel-san previously lost each and every fight with the Cobra guys, he won the big tournament, and even inexplicably appeared to win over Johnny who declared that he was alright as he personally handed Daniel-san the giant winning trophy.
It must be assumed that Daniel-san had incredibly natural talent. The reality is that most of us can improve and be slightly better than mediocre with some serious training and effort, but most of us will never “win” and will never impress people like Johnny. For this reason, most of us should set the bar fairly low, ensuring that we are consistently delighted by our average performances when we achieve slightly above our low standards. We should never try to impress Cobras or win them over because, really, they are not cool. They are losers.
Ring Announcer: [Daniel has just scored the winning point with a kick to Johnny's chin, thus winning the championship... ring announcer prepares to present trophy] OUR NEW CHAMPION!
Johnny Lawrence: [with bloodied face taking trophy from ring announcer and presenting it himself to Daniel] You’re all right, LaRusso! Good match!
#5 — True or False: The good guy gets the girl
From the very beginning, Ali/Elisabeth Shue is interested in the scrawny goofy-looking Daniel-san and recognized that the blonde jerk is, well, a jerk. She sticks with Daniel-san until the bitter and glorious end.
Most women, however, seem to be attracted to the Johnnies of the world and have an amazing penchant for picking them out of a crowd. Johnny’s athletic prowess was far superior to Daniel-san’s and Johnny repeatedly humiliated Daniel-san. This, sadly, makes many women tingly. Women tend to reward oafish behavior by taking their clothes off for these Cobra guys and catering to their every whim, only to wonder later why he was such a jerk. This is a perplexing but persistent trend among even smart women.
Ali Mills: You know Daniel, I didn’t go out with you because of a car or where you live.
Daniel: Okay, since we’re on the subject, why did you?
Daniel: Huh? Why did you?
Ali Mills: I thought maybe you and me we’re different.
Daniel: Oh yeah, I’m from Reseda, you’re from the hills, that’s how we’re different.
Ali Mills: Oh, shut up.
#6 — True or False: You need a good teacher
Though both Kreese (the Cobra sensei) and Mr. Miyagi experienced life-shaping and terrible wartime experiences (Kreese in Vietnam, Mr. Miyagi during WWII), Kreese was a poor excuse for an adult, encouraging his students to cheat and act like thugs (“sweep the leg”), while Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san some positive and valuable life lessons beyond just karate. As we all know, Daniel-san came out ahead.
When learning a sport, particularly a potentially dangerous one, it’s imperative that we learn from people who teach the right way to do it and don’t teach bad habits. In most outdoor sports, outdoor ethics are a key component of “doing things the right way.” Choosing a teacher/mentor who leads by example in a positive manner will ultimately lead to a more successful and rewarding experience. Johnny must have felt like a jerk when he still lost despite cheating.
Miyagi: “We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.”
So how did you do?
About the author: When not wasting time analyzing terrible movies, Danni is hiking, running and skiing in northwestern Montana (and accumulating gear). After seeing this post, Head Geargal is likely questioning her decision to allow Danni the elite status of Contributing Geargal and this may be the first and last post you ever see from her.