Ace Degenerate
Season 1, Episode 1
Air date May 2, 2018
Written by Josh Heald
Jon Hurwitz
Hayden Schlossberg
Directed by Jon Hurwitz
Hayden Schlossberg
Episode guide
The Karate Kid Part III
The Next Karate Kid
Strike First
"I'm gonna be your sensei. I'm gonna teach you the style of karate that was taught to me, a method of fighting your pussy generation desperately needs. I'm not just gonna teach you how to conquer your fears. I'm gonna teach you how to awaken the snake within you. And once you do that, you'll be the one who's feared. You'll build strength. You'll learn discipline. And when the time is right, you'll strike back."
Johnny Lawrence to Miguel Diaz[src]

Ace Degenerate is the first episode of the first season of Cobra Kai and the first episode of the show altogether.


34 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence's life has taken a rocky turn as he tries to forget a past that constantly haunts him. He seeks redemption by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai karate dojo. But the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry of yesteryear is reignited when their lives become intertwined with the next generation of “karate kids".


The season opens with a Flash Back to 1984 and the All Valley Karate Championships, maybe the beginning of everything that went wrong with Johnny Lawrence's life. A closeup of Johnny lying on the mat after that fateful Crane Kick fades to Johnny in present day. After breakfast in his lonely bachelor pad, he takes out the trash, brushes off his new teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz, and jumps in his red Pontiac Firebird to head to the job he hates. On the way to work, with Poison's "Nothing But a Good Time" ironically playing on the soundtrack, he sees a billboard for Daniel LaRusso's chain of car lots. An attractive jogger calls him a creep when he tries to turn on the charm.

While at his handyman job in a gated community, Johnny gets treated like dirt; he's fallen a long way since the country club of his youth. An argument with a terrible customer leads to him getting fired. Later, Johnny goes to get a slice of pizza at the local bodega, where he's berated by a meth addict. Miguel comes out of the store and a group of bigger boys start to bully him, pouring a bottle of Pepto-Bismol on his head before throwing him against the hood of Johnny's car. When Johnny objects, they turn their attention to him but are soundly beaten by the former All Valley champion. For his trouble, Johnny gets maced and arrested.

Early the next morning, Johnny arrives home from his night in jail, only to be accosted by Miguel, who asks him about his moves. Johnny clarifies that it was "old school karate" but refuses to teach Miguel despite his pleading. He goes inside and his stepfather is waiting for him. Sick of bailing Johnny out, Sid gives Johnny a cheque, as an effort to "buy him out." Johnny tears it up and Sid leaves in disgust. Johnny then proceeds to get drunk in front of the TV; when yet another ad for LaRusso Auto Group comes on starring Daniel, he throws his beer bottle through the screen and leaves.

Though he's been drinking, Johnny decides to go for a drive. He happily reminisces about the times he spent with his Cobra Kai friends, and Ali, "the one that got away", but then remembers Daniel not only as the one who "stole" Ali, but also getting beat up by Mr. Miyagi, and his defeat he suffered to Daniel at the tournament. He ends up at the sports complex which was the site of his humiliation. He recalls the time his mentor and sensei John Kreese attempted to kill him in the parking lot after failing to win the match, when a car full of reckless teens slams into his car and drives away. To add insult to injury, the car gets towed to his nemesis' place: LaRusso Auto Group. The next morning, Johnny dons a paper-thin disguise and tries to quietly tow his car to another lot. However, Daniel walks by and notices him. Daniel is happy to see him and calls over his associates. Daniel prompted by his cousin Louie, ribs him a little about losing the All Valley tournament (though Johnny claims that Daniel won with an illegal kick to the face). Daniel then offers to fix Johnny's car for free. Johnny doesn't want his charity but reluctantly accepts, and he turns and leaves when he recognizes Daniel's daughter as the girl in the back seat of the car full of teens who hit his car. This is the last straw: he changes his mind and tells Miguel he'll teach him karate. He uses the check Sid gave him to re-open the Cobra Kai dojo, vowing to teach Miguel the same kind of karate he learned.



  • The episode's title "ace degenerate" is a reference to the first scene where Johnny appears in The Karate Kid. After one of his friends referred to him as an "ace degenerate", Johnny claimed he was an "ex-degenerate" now that he was a senior. In this episode, it showed that he was an "ace degenerate" after all.
  • For promotional reasons, the episode can be watched without a YouTube Premium subscription, and is available worldwide, including in markets where the YouTube Premium service itself is not yet available. Click here to see the full episode.
  • The woman who argues with Johnny who got him fired from his job later returns in Season 2 in the episode "Glory of Love" as one of the women he tries to date.
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