FILM: Five Thoughts on Martial Arts, Children, and the Karate Kid

1. First of all, with apologies to the Smith-Pinkett family, when I refer to "The Karate Kid,"
I am always referring to the 1984 coming-of-age film starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, and the always adorable Elizabeth Shue. Always.
2. There have been few cinematic mentors that are as kind, as wise, and as eccentric as Mr. Miyagi. I love how he is so odd and how he pokes fun at Daniel, yet is also constantly affirming and positive about what he does well. Underratedly prescient for its time. 
3. Need to see the sad cultural disintegration of body image depictions in film? Check out the cheerleading scenes and ask whether any of them would have a chance at getting screen time in a teen flick today. Sad. Healthy, happy, well-figured...but far too robust in comparison to the twizzle figured skeletons who hog magazine covers and pass for mainstream today.
4. Daniel LaRusso is one of the most refreshing depictions of teenagers - wants to be cool, a little nerdy, a little romantic, a little athlete, a little clunky, a little smooth, a kid who stumbles his way through situations he doesn't feel comfortable in, has anger issues, yet also is respectful, open-minded, and learns to listen. Some sweet scenes with his mom where you're just waiting for some hip wisecrack, but they don't come. Just a bit of banter, but without the eyerolling meanspiritedness and self-awareness. 
5. It's all about Mr. Miyagi. What a character - a character that is easy to parody now, but almost 30 years on still has such a unique and fun chemistry with protege Daniel. And in the pre-Wikipedia days of the '80s, I wonder how many viewers raced to their encyclopedias to read up on Japanese-American internment during World War II, which is alluded to in a lovely little scene.
6. This movie is what kickstarted my lifelong love affair with headbands and bandanas.
7. My daughter kept saying: "This is a REALLY good film," and I squeezed her tight every time and said: "You are correct."
8. Elizabeth Shue is one of the best teen film actresses ever. Timeless. 
9. Use your heart. Find your balance. Concentrate. Nobody makes me want to go wax an automobile or paint a fence quite like Mr. Miyagi ordering Daniel-san to go perform another mundane chore in the name of learning karate.

So good. You're the best around, Mr. Miyagi.

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