[Today we begin Karate Kid Week, an extended consideration of the seminal work of 1980s cinema. –Ed.]
It pained me to type that title. Really, it did, because I love that scrappy kid. He moved to a new town, got the girl, and wore one of the greatest Halloween costumes in history. But I’ve watched his final, dramatic Crane Kick over and over, and I’m convinced that any decent karate judge would have kicked him out of the tournament for it.
We don’t learn much about the rules of the All Valley Karate Tournament. About 30 seconds before Daniel’s first fight, his now-sort-of-girlfriend Ali briefs him on the rules:
Everything above your waist is a point. You can hit the head, sternum, kidneys, ribs.
Fair enough. So a kick to the head should be fair game.
HOWEVER. I have consulted the USANKF Sport Karate Rules, and they make it very clear that in a tournament, you do not have a license to strike someone as hard as you can. Allow me to quote from Article 8: “Prohibited Behavior.”
Traditional Karate techniques delivered full-power can cause extremely serious injury, even death. Karate competition is a sport, and for that reason some of the most dangerous techniques are banned and all techniques must be controlled.
Now watch Daniel’s Crane Kick again, slower now. And tell me: does it look “controlled?”
It looks to ME like he’s kicking the guy in the face as hard as he possibly can. Daniel could have easily broken Johnny’s nose, or even snapped his neck.
Of course, I’m not an expert. Terry Bryan, on the other hand, is. Terry amassed over 300 karate tournament victories, and served as General Secretary for the USA National Karate-Do Federation. I emailed Terry and asked him to watch Daniel’s Crane Kick. He emailed me back and confirmed my worst fears:
Depending on the rules of that specific tournament but in most, yes he would have been disqualified.
Now I suppose he does allow us a little wiggle room – we don’t know what crazy rules could have been in play at the All Valley Tournament. Maybe kicking a guy in the face with all the force you can muster is a perfectly legal technique, thanks to the aggressive lobbying of the Cobra Kai.
But just watch the kick a final time, now slowed down and magnified to show the impact.
Does that seem safe? I’m sorry, but Daniel Larusso must be disqualified. He’s lucky Johnny didn’t press charges.
And now, just for fun, here’s the kick at 1% speed: