- "Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy!"
- ―Cobra Kai's motto
From the 1970s to the 1980s, John Kreese served as the sensei of the dojo. He instructed his students to show no mercy towards their enemies and punished them when they didn't follow through. This made the students vicious and unethical in their fights. The dojo was shut down twice, once 1984 and again in 1985.
Johnny Lawrence re-opens the dojo decades later. However, after a secret negotiation between the landlord and Kreese, Johnny loses his dojo to Kreese, who takes back Cobra Kai. Johnny subsequently opens the Eagle Fang Karate dojo to contest with Cobra Kai. Once Terry Silver got back into the fray of Cobra Kai, he would move the Cobra Kai Dojo to its original location in a better part of town.
- "Do you remember when we got from 'Nam? We went through hell seeing our friends die. Only to be welcomed back by hippies who called us killers. People needed to learn respect, some discipline. That's why we started Cobra Kai. Together, we made a difference."
- ―Kreese reminsices with Silver[src]
After returning to America from the Vietnam War, Terry Silver and John Kreese were greeted by hippies who called them murderers. The protests against the Vietnam war had turned them from heroes to outcasts. They wanted to teach the world respect and discipline through the ways of karate. Silver, coming from a financially wealthy background, agreed to help Kreese open a dojo they called "Cobra Kai". However, Silver's father wanted him to go into the family business and threatened to cut him out of the inheritance if he disobeyed. This crushed Kreese, who didn't think he could open the dojo without Silver there to teach as a co-sensei. Silver promised to be there for him someday, but that day couldn't be now. He maintained his position as a strong financial backer. The mantra of the dojo became "Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy." and was drilled into Kreese's prospective students. The dojo was founded briefly before the 7th annual All Valley Karate Tournament took place, as Kreese wanted to enroll prospective students in the tournament to gain notoriety.
Kreese's students became skilled fighters and competed in the All Valley Karate Tournament. Cobra Kai won the tournament four times between 1970 and 1983, with the most notable champion being Cobra Kai star Johnny Lawrence in 1982 and 1983.
In 1984, Johnny, who was the leader of the Cobra Kai gang and two time defender of the All-Valley Karate championship title, makes enemies with a high school senior named Daniel LaRusso, the main protagonist, and constantly bullies him. One night, Johnny and his gang beat Daniel up in a merciless way until a man named Mr. Miyagi, who happens to be a martial artist, arrives and rescues Daniel. Daniel and Mr. Miyagi show up at the Cobra Kai dojo where they meet Sensei John Kreese, an ex special forces Vietnam veteran who dismisses the peace offering. Mr. Miyagi tells Kreese that Daniel will fight the his students at the All Valley Tournament and demands that the bullying cease when Daniel is training. Kreese agrees, but warns that if Daniel does not fight at the tournament, the harassment will resume and Mr. Miyagi will become a target. At the tournament, Daniel defeats Cobra Kai students Jerry, Jimmy, Tommy and Dutch, allowing him to make it to the semifinals. Johnny advances to the finals. Kreese instructs one of his compassionate students, Bobby Brown, to deliver a blow on Daniel's leg. Bobby reluctantly does so, getting disqualified at the process. Daniel is taken to a locker room afterwards, where the doctor determines that he cannot continue. But Daniel wants to continue anyways, so Mr. Miyagi uses a pain suppression technique allowing Daniel to finish the tournament. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel hobbles to the ring. Daniel fights Johnny and quickly takes a 2-0 lead, as well as, gives Johnny a bloody nose. Kreese then instructs Johnny to sweep Daniel's injured leg, which is an unethical move. Horrified at the order, Johnny does as Kreese said anyways, due to the latter's intimidation, tying the score in the process. As Johnny is about to beat Daniel, Daniel assumes the crane stance and delivers a kick to Johnny's chin, winning the tournament and becoming the new champion. Johnny, having found respect for his nemesis, gives Daniel his trophy himself.
Furious over Johnny's loss to Daniel at the tournament, Kreese attacks Johnny and several of his friends whom try to defend him in the parking lot after the event. However, Mr. Miyagi arrives and rescues Johnny. Miyagi immobilizes Kreese and is about to deliver a heavy blow to Kreese that could kill him, but instead tweaks his nose and walks away, humiliating Kreese. Following this incident, Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kais quit Cobra Kai, as they now see Kreese as a truly vicious and unethical human being.
- "I've always live my life by the rule. If you get, you give. For the last 20 years, I've gotten from karate. I've gotten discipline, health, self-confidence, inner peace. Everything that makes me what I am today. And today, It's time for me for give it back. It's my pleasure to announce my partnership with the greatest karate man I have ever known. Sensei John Kreese. Together. Together we're about to open a chain of Cobra Kai Dojo's where young people come and learn the values I've learned. Honesty, Compassion, and Fairplay."
- ―Terry Silver[src]
After a year of not having any students, Sensei Kreese is ostracized and broke. He receives a message on his answering machine for All Valley Karate Committee member Pat Johnson that because of his non-payment of dues that all dojos pay in order to keep in standing, that Cobra Kai has been dropped from the rolls of eligible dojos. With no way to go, he visits his Vietnam war comrade Terry Silver, the wealthy owner of a toxic disposal business and founder of Cobra Kai, to hand in his key to the dojo. Silver won't accept the key, saying "I didn't buy it (Cobra Kai) for the rent, I bought it for you". Silver and Kreese scheme to take revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi for humiliating Kreese and for the loss of his dojo and revitalize Cobra Kai. Silver sends Kreese to Tahiti to rest up and get his life back in order. Silver recruits 'Karate's bad boy' Mike Barnes to represent Cobra Kai and beat Daniel at the next All-Valley Tournament, in exchange for 25% (later 50%) of his new dojos. When Silver sneaks in to Mr. Miyagi's house, he overhears Daniel telling Miyagi that he will not be defending his title at the tournament this year. So, Silver has Barnes and his (Silver's) henchmen force Daniel to sign up for the tournament. After a series of confrontations, Daniel signs up for the tournament. Silver offers to train Daniel at the Cobra Kai dojo, which is the next phase of his plan for revenge. Throughout Daniel's training, Silver forces Daniel to hit a wooden dummy, which makes his knuckles bleed. And Daniel's frustration alienates himself from his closest friends. Daniel eventually destroys the dummy, which makes Silver declare that Daniel is ready for the tournament. One night, Daniel and his best friend, Jessica Andrews, go to a nightclub. There, Silver bribes a man to fight Daniel. Daniel punches the man's nose and Jessica storms out of disgust. Shocked by his behavior, Daniel apologizes to Mr. Miyagi and Jessica and tells Silver at the Cobra Kai dojo that he will not fight at the tournament. However, Silver reveals his true agenda to Daniel when he asks Barnes and Kreese to enter the room. After Barnes viciously assaults Daniel, Mr. Miyagi arrives and defeats the three men. Daniel decides to fight at the tournament and Mr. Miyagi trains him.
At the tournament, following Barnes' victory in the semifinals, Silver gives out Cobra Kai t-shirts to the crowd and announces that he will open a chain of Cobra Kai dojos. Prior to the finals, Silver instructs Barnes to commit illegal strikes against Daniel, which will prolong the fight and make Daniel suffer and feel pain, before eventually beating him at the sudden death round. Barnes does so, and Daniel is afraid of him and is unable to continue, but Mr. Miyagi encourages him to continue. In the sudden death round, Daniel does the kata that Mr. Miyagi taught him. When a confused Barnes attacks, Daniel flips him into the ground to win the tournament for the second straight year. Disgusted and humiliated, Silver walks away from a stunned Kreese and Barnes, while the crowd throws the t-shirts back to them; Cobra Kai was shut down for good (or so it seemed, anyways).
In the aftermath of the 1985 All Valley Tournament, the executive committee issued a lifetime ban on Cobra Kai due to the illegal and unethical tactics done by Silver, Kreese, and Barnes. Devastated by the loss and crippled by shame, both Kreese and Silver abandoned Cobra Kai dojo and left it closed down.
Thirty-three years after losing the All Valley in 1984 and thirty-two years after Cobra Kai was shut down, Johnny, who is seeking redemption, reopens the Cobra Kai dojo with money from his stepfather, Sid. Through the dojo, he begins teaching his sole student Miguel Diaz how to defend himself. However, his rivalry with Daniel is reignited when he reopens the dojo. Daniel, who is now a rich auto dealer, influences the landlord to double the rent just to close down the dojo. Johnny has a tough time searching for more students. However, Miguel eventually helps him get more students when he demonstrates Johnny's teachings against a group of school bullies. However, the students that come to the dojo aren't what Johnny expected and he begins insulting them. Because of this, they end up quitting including Demetri and Eli Moskowitz, the latter becoming Hawk and returning to the dojo.
Johnny learns that Cobra Kai was banned from the All-Valley Tournament in 1985 following the events of The Karate Kid Part III, which Johnny was unaware of as he had quit Cobra Kai about one year prior. Johnny convinces the committee, other than Daniel and one other to reinstate Cobra Kai. Miguel manages to win the tournament for Cobra Kai. However, Johnny feels bad about how he taught his students to use illegal moves and no mercy fighting to win the tournament, as well as making Miguel and the rest of students even bigger bullies than he was originally taught to be, reflecting on his own time in the dojo.
Back in the dojo, John Kreese — who was thought to be dead — comes into the dojo, much to Johnny's shock. Kreese congratulates Johnny for winning. He also tells him that this is only the beginning for Cobra Kai, and that Johnny still has a lot more to learn.
Johnny wants nothing to do with Kreese at first, but gives him a second chance and allows him to co-teach with him when the latter apologizes and fixes the second-place trophy Kreese had destroyed thirty-four years earlier. Johnny attempts to make his students better by banning cheating and unethical moves. He even tells Miguel how his merciless approach and lack of honor came back to bite him in order to motivate Miguel to be a better man than him.
Under Johnny's nose, however, Kreese corrupts several of Johnny's students and manipulates them into acting more viciously, the same way he taught Johnny when he was a student. Under his orders, Hawk and three other students (Mitch, Edwin, and Big Red) trash their rival dojo, Miyagi-Do Karate, which is run by Daniel, and Hawk steals Mr. Miyagi's medal of honor. While they were successful in destroying the Dojo, it causes a few Cobra Kais (Nathaniel, Chris, Abe, Lil Red, and Frank) to defect and join Miyagi-Do after realizing their harsh methods. While Johnny is away meeting his old friends in Cobra Kai, Kreese betrays Johnny by meeting with the landlord and striking a deal with the latter to get full ownership of the dojo. After finding out what Kreese has been doing, Johnny kicks him out of the dojo but it was too late, and the damage has been done. Tension between the Miyagi-Dos and Cobra Kais began to rise just as John Kreese returns to teach Cobra Kai which led to a massive school fight between the two rivaling karate dojos.
During the West Valley High School karate war between Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do, Miguel Diaz beats Robby Keene, the son of Johnny and a member of Miyagi-Do, but listens to Johnny's advice by showing him mercy instead of breaking his arm. Robby, however, then angrily attacks Miguel and inadvertently kicks him off a railing, injuring him severely and rendering him unconscious.
Johnny feels guilty about what happened to Miguel. When he returns to the dojo, he sees Kreese teaching several of his students. He confronts Kreese and tells him to get out, but Kreese reveals that he was able to acquire the dojo while Johnny was away. Now Kreese has full ownership of the dojo and several of Johnny's students have turned on Johnny and became loyal to Kreese.
An angry Johnny coldly tells Kreese that if he wants Cobra Kai, he can have it. Johnny then angrily walks out whilst Kreese trains the kids.
Cobra Kai has lost some students as a result of the school fight and Kreese kicking out certain students he doesn't deem worthy, though he brought in some new recruits and convinced Tory to return to the dojo. Kreese is shown continuing to instill his ruthless mindset in his students, which includes dropping a snake in the dojo. The students are still at war with the Miyagi-Do students and also develop a rivalry with a new dojo called Eagle Fang Karate, run by Johnny and consisting of a few former Cobra Kai students that either left or were kicked out.
By the end of Season 3, Hawk, who was one of Kreese's most corrupted students, finally realizes that Johnny is right and Kreese's methods are wrong, which prompts him to turn against the Cobra Kais and side with Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang, as well as reconcile with his former best friend Demetri, after Hawk feels reluctant to be on Cobra Kai with two of his own personal enemies. Kreese challenges Daniel and Johnny to settle their feud in a tournament - the winner will claim the valley while the loser leaves the valley. The three dojos launch into intense training to prepare for war. The morning after the house fight and Kreese's fight with Daniel and Johnny, Kreese makes a call to his friend.
After the LaRusso House fight, some of the original members of Cobra Kai quit from the dojo and the remaining students that are still with Kreese following the attack are Tory Nichols, Kyler Park, Edwin, Big Red, Dieter, Paul, and several other unnamed students (most of them weren't present for the LaRusso House Fight). Kreese calls his old friend from the army and fellow co-founder of Cobra Kai, Terry Silver, for his aid in helping the Cobra Kai dojo win the 2019 All-Valley Karate Tournament, only for Silver to hang up on him. Kreese tracks Silver down in order to remind him that they always had each other's backs and promised each other that Cobra Kai would never die. Despite Kreese's best efforts, Silver refused to return to the drama of his past, insisting that he was happy with his new life. However, Kreese's attempts eventually paid off and Silver agreed to return to L.A .to become the second sensei in the Cobra Kai Dojo. Robby, who had recently decided to join the dojo to win the tournament, began teaching Tory, Kyler and the other students everything that he had learned from his training in Miyagi-Do Karate under the tutelage of Daniel to help the Cobra Kai students strengthen their defense, making them more formidable fighters.
The dojo received another student named Kenny Payne, whose bullying at the hands of Anthony LaRusso and his friends was growing worse every day and was advised by his brother Shawn to seek Robby's help. Although he initially had trouble in remaining in a fight without flinching or running, Kenny follows Robby's advice of using his great speed to attack, which he did by punching Kyler when the latter was distracted. Kreese decided to give Kenny a spot in Cobra Kai, with Robby becoming a mentor to the younger student. Determined to get revenge on Hawk for betraying them, bullying Kenny and drenching them in the baseball field, Robby, Kyler, Tory and two other Cobra Kai's track him down and shave his mohawk, causing severe damage to his confidence and reputation. Piper Elswith and some of her friends joined the dojo shortly after Silver ordered new gear for the students.
Several months later, the tournament begins, with Cobra Kai gaining the upper-hand against the Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang dojos in the skills competition. In the sparring matches, Kenny and Robby are put against each other despite being in the same dojo. Though Robby was hesitant in facing his pupil and close friend, Kreese manipulated him into taking Kenny down to prove his desire to become a champion. These words encouraged Robby to defeat Kenny rather easily, though Kenny ended up sustaining a bloody nose, much to Robby's concern and guilt. Robby then succeeds in defeating Demetri, who was unable to score a single point throughout the entire fight. Despite Chris coming to a tie of 2-2 in his match against Kyler, the latter uses blocks from Miyagi-Do to counter Chris' attacks and becomes the winner of their match. Although Kyler was confident that he would beat Eli, who he had constantly bullied in the past and who had recently joined Miyagi-Do, Eli had his confidence restored after rekindling his relationship with Moon and easily takes Kyler out of the tournament. Meanwhile, Tory defeats Eagle Fang rookie Devon Lee with little difficulty, eliminating Eagle Fang from the girls' division, and Sam manages to beat Piper by combining the Miyagi-Do's defensive tactics with Eagle Fang's more offensive moves, advancing to the quarterfinals.
Robby's final match is against none other than Eli and both fighters come to a tie of 1-1. After a long exchange of techniques and blocking, Eli manages to pin Robby down and prepared to strike, only for the three-minute window to come to an end, which leads to a Sudden Death match for the first time since the 1985 Tournament. Both Robby and Eli take off their gis in preparation for the final round. The two resume the fight but when Robby had the upperhand and was about to deliver the final strike, he becomes distracted by Kenny cheering for him to finish Eli off, allowing Eli to get back on his feet. Eli eventually manages to take Robby down with a scissors takedown and delivered a kick to his abdomen, scoring the final point, which made Eli the champion of the Boys' Division.
The final battle turns out to be between Tory Nichols/Queen Cobra vs Samantha LaRusso/Bonsai Badass. Although Sam wins the first round by striking Tory with the flying tornado kick that Johnny had taught her, Tory begins to turn the tide and gets a lead 2-1 in the next two rounds. In the fourth round, Sam strikes Tory, though the referee refused to award a point due to Tory being out of bounds upon being hit. Sam manages to tie the score in round 5 with a double punch. In the sixth round, Sam seems to gain the upper-hand and both female fighters grapple on the ground until Tory accidentally elbows Sam in the face, though this did not give her a penalty. Silver then tells her to elbow the other eye but Tory counters saying she doesn't need to cheat to win. After Kreese hears what Tory said, he now realizes what he put Johnny through and has a change of heart. He tells Tory to win how she feels is right. In the final round, after a great deal of blocking and exchanging of techniques, Tory ultimately succeeds in delivering a kick to Sam's gut, resulting in Tory becoming the champion of the Girls' Division and Cobra Kai becoming the grand champion of the tournament. As Cobra Kai celebrates another victory, a proud Terry Silver announces to the public that they planned in opening Cobra Kai franchises throughout All-Valley for all youths willing to become a member of the dojo and learn their way of the fist (something that he planned to do in 1985 if he would've had Mike Barnes beat Daniel which was abandoned since Barnes lost), much to everyone's delight, except for Daniel, Johnny and students of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do, who felt crushed with their defeat.
When Tory is about to return to the locker room to fetch her stuff as the rest of her teammates including Kyler scheduling a victory party at his house, she witnesses an exchange between Silver and the referee, which reveals that Silver had bribed the referee to ensure Cobra Kai would become the winner of the tournament, which severely shocked and disappointed Tory. Johnny visits the now-empty Cobra Kai dojo, which is now empty except for the dojo's motto "STRIKE FIRST. STRIKE HARD. NO MERCY!" on the wall. He is visited by his son Robby, who admits that he thought he could use Cobra Kai to achieve his goals but he believes that he messed everything up by exposing Kenny to the dark philosophy of the dojo, which turned him into a corrupted individual and bully. He adds that he joined Cobra Kai to control his anger but it made everything worse. After, Robby breaks down in his father's arms and Johnny assures his son that they would fix everything together.
At Silver's mansion, Silver and Kreese are drinking for the victory of Cobra Kai. Their moment of celebration quickly turns into an argument when Silver confronts Kreese for still showing a soft spot for Johnny Lawrence, who Silver believed to be the former captain's weakness, and that Kreese never truly meant in bringing Silver back to the fray prior to informing Kreese that his weakness was the former captain himself. An incredulous Kreese refused to believe that he was Silver's weakness and argued that he had been Silver's strength ever since their near-death experience in Vietnam, which led an exasperated Silver to ask how many times he was supposed to repay his debt until he and Kreese were even. Before the argument could escalate, police cars arrived at the mansion and the Detective declared, "John Kreese! You are under arrest for aggravated assault and attempted murder! You have the right to remain silent!" Kreese initially fought back by elbowing one of the officers in the face but was ultimately dragged away, with Silver promising his former best friend that he would recruit some old friends to help him further his plans for Cobra Kai during Kreese's absence. Kreese vows to destroy Silver and make him regret his betrayal once he got out of jail, claiming, "I am Cobra Kai!" though Silver is not concerned one bit with these threats and happily kept drinking at his victory in usurping the dojo from Kreese.
Cobra Kai, or "the way of the fist," is an aggressive, strong, merciless style of karate. Its founder, John Kreese, learned hand-to-hand combat from Captain Turner, who learned Tang Soo Do, a style of martial arts similar to taekwondo and karate, from Kim Sun-Yung. Cobra Kai karate is heavily kick-oriented and focuses less on self-defense; instead, students are taught the best defense is more offense, diametrically opposed to Miyagi-Do Karate. Students are taught to "finish" their enemy and strike when they are weak, and that the fight is not over until they say it is. For the 51st annual All Valley Karate Tournament, former Miyagi-Do Karate student Robby Keene taught the Cobra Kai's Miyagi-Do. This upped their defensive strategy and allowed them to anticipate attacks.
List of Students
- Several unnamed students, with at least one of them winning an All-Valley Tournament before 1981.
All students have since left the dojo.
- Johnny Lawrence
- Bobby Brown
- Several unnamed students retired
All students have since left the dojo.
- Aisha Robinson (quit)
- Bert (kicked out)
- Hawk (defected)
- Demetri Alexopoulos (quit)
- Kev (former)
- Tim (former)
- Bob (former)
- Caleb (former)
- Ryan (former)
- Frank (quit)
- Abe (quit)
- Mikey Miller (quit)
- Chris (quit)
- Mitch (kicked out)
- Big Red
- Lil Red (quit)
- Nathaniel (quit)
- Dirk (former)
- Doug Rickenberger (quit)
- Stingray (kicked out)
- Tory Nichols
- Kyler Park
- Brucks (kicked out)
- Sarah (kicked out)
- Paul (quit)
- Robby Keene
- Several unnamed students
- Robby Keene
- Tory Nichols
- Kyler Park
- Kenny Payne
- Piper Elswith
- Big Red
- Several unnamed students
- The basis of the Cobra Kai fighting style incorporates elements of Tang Soo Do, Shotokan, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and American military hand-to-hand combat, among others. In The Karate Kid Part III Terry Silver claimed that both himself and John Kreese had studied under Master Kim Sun-Yung in South Korea. Cobra Kai is a mixed style with an emphasis on aggressive philosophy.
- In an article about the 1983 All Valley tournament, it was stated that Kreese led Cobra Kai to 4 wins in the All Valley tournament in their short existence. This means that Cobra Kai had already won twice prior to Johnny's first victory, and Cobra Kai's first two victories presumably occurred in 1979 and 1980.
- Hawk was the most loyal member of Cobra Kai until the Season 3 finale, where he defects to Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang.
- After Hawk defected and Mikey quit afterwards, Dieter and Edwin are the only students left from the first batch of next generation students, when Johnny Lawrence reopened Cobra Kai.
- Its counterpart in the 2010 remake is Fighting Dragons Studio, but it also has similarities with Alpha Elite of The Next Karate Kid.