- "I know I said you have to... let go of your anger and show forgiveness, but... when the fight comes to you, you have to be ready to fight back."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to Robby Keene[src]
Daniel was a bullied high school student whose life changed when he was mentored by a wise karate sensei, who taught him both valuable life lessons and self-defense. Daniel was able to use this training to protect himself and others, winning two consecutive championships and beating aggressive opponents that challenged him.
Years later after his initial training, Daniel settled down in the valley where he met a woman named Amanda and later on they were married with the pair eventually welcoming two children Samantha and Anthony. As Daniel continued on with his life as a devoted husband and father, he and Amanda are the owners of an auto-dealership chain called LaRusso Auto Group. He also retired from karate and used martial arts as a gimmick to promote his business. When his high school rival Johnny Lawrence resurfaced and opened Cobra Kai Dojo, Daniel was inspired to teach Miyagi-Do Karate to a new generation of students.
Their rivalry had higher stakes then before, and things escalated during a school brawl that involved Daniel's daughter, Johnny's star student and estranged son. The aftermath of the high school karate war found Johnny and Daniel as reluctant allies, and they were forced to join forces once again when John Kreese challenged their respective dojos in the All Valley Karate Tournament.
- 1 Early History
- 2 Film series
- 3 Interim Years
- 4 Cobra Kai
- 5 Personality
- 6 Fighting Style
- 7 Relationships
- 8 Trivia
- 9 Gallery
- 10 References
- "What point? That I can take a beating? I mean, every time I see those guys, they're gonna know they got the best of me. I'll never have balance that way. Not with them, not with Ali. Not with me."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to Mr. Miyagi[src]
Daniel was born in New Jersey on December 18, 1966, to Lucille and Mr. LaRusso. He spent much of his life in Newark, New Jersey. Daniel attended a Summer camp at the insistence of his mother and made three friends. One of which was a girl named Judy, who was his first girlfriend. He also was a member of the Newark YMCA, where he took a beginners course in karate.
However, when Daniel was eight years old, his father died of a terminal illness. Daniel later expressed that his strongest memory of his childhood was saying goodbye to Mr. LaRusso and being proud that he could be there for his father in the last minutes of his life. As years passed and Daniel matured into a teenager, his mother Lucille worked hard as a widow. She worked two jobs to support her son.
Daniel seemed to enjoy his early life in New Jersey. When he moved away from Newark and took a last look at the neighborhood he grew up in, multiple friends from the neighborhood and their parents were there to wish Daniel and his mother best of luck in their new home.
Lucille LaRusso was transferred from her current job to a branch office in California. She leased an apartment in the "South Seas" complex in Reseda, California, and took Daniel along from a cross-country venture across the United States that started in Newark and ended in Reseda.
Upon arriving, Daniel befriends one of his neighbors, Freddy Fernandez, after karate kicking a gate door into Freddy's face, but Freddy doesn't take offense, and invites him to a beach party. Before the beach party, Daniel meets his future mentor, Mr. Miyagi, when Daniel goes to ask him to fix their new apartment's leaky faucet.
Daniel then goes to the beach party. It is at this beach party that Daniel first encounters Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), and is instantly infatuated with her. He attempts to teach her how to bounce a soccer ball in the air. As he does this, Ali's ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence is riding dirt bikes with his friends. They stop to talk, and it is pointed out to him that they can see Ali flirting with Daniel. This leads to Johnny going down to the beach to confront Ali. She is less than receptive, and in his frustration, he breaks her radio. Johnny, the star pupil of the Cobra Kai Dojo, and the winner of the last All-Valley Karate Tournament, beats up Daniel when he tries to insert himself into Ali's private business and attacks Johnny. This leads to Daniel sucker-punching Johnny before being leveled by Johnny's counterattack. Freddy reluctantly abandons Daniel on the beach after being asked by his friends why he brought a loser like him to the party.
Daniel would start the school the next day at West Valley High School and would first run into Freddy and his friends, many of whom mock Daniel for how he lost to Johnny the way he did. He also runs into Ali again, whom flirts with him as well as showing him her soccer moves, which are considerable. Daniel would get into the try out line for the school's soccer team, but is spotted by Johnny and his Cobra Kai allies, whom all collude to do embarrass Daniel during his try out. When the try out begins, Bobby Brown inititiates a soccer hook play that levels Daniel while leveling him. Daniel is not amused and tackles Bobby and brawls with him and even lands a very strong punch on Bobby. But before Bobby and the Cobra Kai's can retaliate, the soccer coach intercedes, and kicks Daniel off the team for striking a teammate.
Daniel would also begin exploring his relationship with Ali at school, with time spent in the school cooridor as well as lunch together at school and other activities. But the always present spectre of Johnny and the Cobra Kais hang over Daniel, prompting Daniel to often evade events or things if Johnny and his allies are around.
In the following weeks, Daniel occasionally falls under the ire of Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kai gang, who harass him. Daniel believes his karate lessons from the Newark YMCA are insufficient to defend himself from the likes of Johnny, and checks out the Cobra Kai dojo. In doing so, he sees the star pupil is none other than Johnny, who is Kreese's assistant instructor. While going to the head of the class to teach the white belts, Johnny smirks at Daniel. Daniel departs Cobra Kai and goes to a restaurant across the street to meet his mother, who is glad Daniel disapproved of the dojo as she remarks she would have probably been unable to afford its tuition. Lucille also tells Daniel some good news, she got promoted in her job, but her managerial training program will likely mean nights away from home. While riding his bike home, Johnny and the Cobra Kai's ambush Daniel, and force him off an embankment that seriously injures Daniel. Daniel, in a rage, would trash his bike, and confront his mother about coming out the California in the first place.
In the aftermath of this, Mr Miyagi would overhear this, and would recover Daniels bike from the trash bin and repair it for Daniel. It was in the aftermath of this, that Daniel would first get to speak to Mr Miyagi on a personal level and would be introduced to the world of miniature bonsai trees. The two would begin a lifelong bond over this, as Daniel would spend a lot of time after school with Mr Miyagi learning how to tend bonsai trees.
Throughout the film, Daniel alludes to being influenced by a “little voice in [his] head.” He first mentions it to Ali, but later on he appears to be having a lively conversation with the voice for roughly five minutes after his mother leaves him alone at the table. One theory popularized by fans of the film speculates that the “little voice” he speaks to belongs to none other than Johnny, who appears to be able to not only communicate with him inside his head but also see through his eyes, as evidenced by the fact that in the Cobra Kai pilot, Johnny is able to see a perspective of Ali in flashbacks that only Daniel has ever seen (while they were on a date in Karate Kid I).
This conflict finally comes to a head at their high school Halloween party. Daniel, wearing the costume of a shower stall, is found by Ali, and the two of them share a dance in the reclusivity of Daniel's costume. Ali shares with Daniel the issues of Johnny and his agression. Later, Daniel has to head to the bathroom to clean off the residue that a gimmick chicken egg did to him. While in the bathroom, he discovers that Johnny is in one of the toliet stalls. Seeing a chance to get back at Johnny, Daniel places a hose over Johnny as he is rolling a joint, and turn it on, completely drenching Johnny. Daniel tries to escape, but hotly pursued by Johnny and the Cobra Kais, whom chase Daniel down from school, down the streets and all the way back to an empty lot near his apartment complex. The Cobra Kai's are finally able to catch up with him, and begin beating Daniel (with the exception of Bobby Brown [one of the more moral and less-corrupted students in Cobra Kai], who tells his friends to leave Daniel alone and that the latter has had enough, only to get rebuked by his friends). Viewing the attack, Mr. Miyagi intervenes. He jumps down from the fence, and beats all of Daniel's assailants single-handedly. When Mr. Miyagi dressed Daniel's wounds, he tried to get to the bottom of why he was assaulted. Mr. Miyagi surmised that their problem was a bad attitude, and it stemmed from their sensei, as Miyagi believed there is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. When Daniel suggested talking over the problem with their sensei, Mr. Miyagi was reluctant to get involved, but did so after he realized Daniel was trying to solve a problem with his head instead of his fists.
Daniel and Mr. Miyagi go to the Cobra Kai Dojo the next day to attempt to make peace, and ask the sensei, John Kreese to order his students to stop. Kreese teases Daniel that he should fight his own battles, to which Miyagi says maybe so for one bully, but five bullies ganging up on Daniel like last night was too much to ask of anyone. Kreese agrees to even out the odds 1-1 and arranges a fight on the spot, but Miyagi says there is enough fighting. Miyagi finally agrees to settle the issue mano-a-mano through the forthcoming All-Valley Karate Tournament, to which Kreese agrees, as well as order all the Cobras not to harass Daniel until then so he can train.
Mr. Miyagi begins to teach Daniel the ways of karate through a series of labor tasks, including paint the fence, paint the house, wax the car, and sand the floor. It is thru out this training that Daniel beings to learn the aspects of Miyagi-Do Karate, and after a few trials, begins to really absorb the lessons that Mr Miyagi is teaching him.
Daniel would also continue his relationship with Ali during this time. They would go on their first date together to Golf N' Stuff Arcade, where they would have an evening together. Daniel and Ali continued to see each other. Another night was supposed to happen when Daniel went to the Encino Oaks Country Club to pick Ali up from there. Daniel would sneak into the country club when Ali was running late (she was being held up by her parents, and also Johnny, whom claimed to offer a truce). While dancing together, Johnny spied Daniel watching them and took the opportunity to kiss Ali. This prompts Daniel to turn and run but runs into a waiter and both of them are sprawled on the ground covered in spaghetti. Daniel would turn and run from the country club, and missed seeing Ali deck Johnny for all this.
Daniel, angry over what he had just witnessed, returns to Mr Miyagi's home, where he finds him drunk, as he is commemorating his long lost wife and child, whom died while being interned in the Manzanar Internment Camp while Mr Miyagi was overseas with US Army in the Europe theater of operations during World War 2. Daniel is able to help Mr Miyagi to his bed, and sees his Congressional Medal of Honor. Daniel would take in what he just witness and thru himself into this training even more then ever as he reaches heights in Karate that he had never thought he could do.
On his birthday, Daniel would celebrate it with Mr Miyagi, knowing that the tournament was nearly at hand. During the evening together Daniel was given his first car, a 1947 Ford Super De Luxe. He would also give Daniel a Gi for the tournament with the Miyagi family crest on the back. Daniel would go to back to GolfNStuff, to celebrate and would try to make amends with Ali. He was still of the belief that Ali was not interested in him for not being of means, but is corrected by Ali's best friend Susan that Ali had punched Johnny at the country club. Realizing that Ali had always been true to him, he makes it up to her, and the two of them reconcile and share their first kiss at GolfNStuff. She also vows to be there for Daniel at the Tournament the next day.
When the tournament comes around, Daniel signs in, and is confronted in the locker room by the Cobra Kai's. Dutch attempts to start a fight with him, but it is quickly broken up by official Pat Johnson. Daniel discovers that Mr Miyagi had never fought in a tournmaent before, but Ali, whom is also pretending to be Mr Miyagi's translator, learned a lot about tournaments from her time with Johnny, and tells him the rules of the tournament.
In the first round, he struggles against his opponent, and is in danger of losing a point after running out of the ring. However, after getting some advise from Miyagi, Daniel successfully defeats his opponent and moves on to the next round. In round 2, he faces Cobra Kai student Jerry and successfully defeats him. In round 3 he defeats Cobra Kai student and one of his bullies Jimmy. In round 4 he faces Cobra Kai student and one of his bullies Tommy. Despite losing a point to Tommy, Daniel recovers and beats him. In the quarterfinals, he faces Cobra Kai student and one of his bullies Dutch. While Dutch gains the upper hand at first, by kicking Daniel in the face, Daniel recovers and defeats Dutch by kicking him. He also defeats Cobra Kai student named Eddie in the preliminary rounds.
He makes it to the semifinals, against the Cobra Kai member Bobby Brown. Bobby is told by Kreese to put Daniel out of commission, and despite Bobby's protests about being disqualified and believing he could beat Daniel, he still follows Kreese's orders. Bobby savagely hurts Daniel with an illegal kick to the knee. The tournament is suspended where Daniel will be allowed fifteen minutes to be examined by a doctor, and if Daniel cannot fight, Johnny will win by forfeit. In the infirmary, the doctor thinks Daniel should sit it out, but disappointedly says how well Daniel did out there. Ali is saddened that the Cobras will win and get to jeer Daniel, and Miyagi thinks Daniel should follow the doctor's recommendation, as there is nothing to prove and he did his best up until now. Daniel recalls Miyagi did a pain suppression massage when he had been sore in training, which healed Daniel's arm. Mr. Miyagi agrees to try the massage. Meanwhile, the ring announcer is about to award the championship to Johnny, only to be told by Ali that Daniel will fight. As Daniel hobbles to the ring, the ring announcer surprisingly speaks into his microphone "Daniel LaRusso is going to fight?" as the crowd bursts into applause. The ring announcer then happily says he is glad the finals are on, as that is what the audience came to see.
Daniel starts strong, winning the first two points. However, when Johnny sweeps Daniel's leg and fights more aggressively and underhandedly, as per Kreese's orders, Daniel loses the next two points. Johnny grabs one of Daniel's kicks from his injured leg, and elbows it, causing Daniel an insane amount of pain. Daniel is no longer able to stand on that leg, so he assumes the crane technique position as his final stance, and when the ref signals the next bout, Johnny moves forward, only for Daniel to kick Johnny in the face, winning the tournament. Daniel is then rushed by his friends and family, and Johnny grabs the trophy from the organizer of the tournament, and presents it to Daniel, saying, "You're all right LaRusso! Good match!" The movie then closes with Daniel looking towards Mr. Miyagi,who was sitting on the bleachers, and sees him smiling proudly.
- "Live or die man!?"
- ―Daniel, as he prepares to finish Chozen.[src]
Immediately after the tournament, Daniel is showering and changing into street clothes. He is remarking what his athletic future holds, to which Mr. Miyagi dryly remarks "Early retirement". As Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are leaving the All-Valley Tournament, they overhear John Kreese berating Johnny for losing. Kreese then starts to mercilessly strangle Johnny, despite the pleas of the rest of the Cobra Kai. Mr. Miyagi intervenes, and after tricking Kreese into punching two car windows and making both of his hands bleed, Miyagi pulls him down and appears to be preparing a killing blow. However, he only honks Kreese's nose, causing Kreese to faint in embarrassment. Daniel, astonished by all this, remarks how Miyagi could have killed Kreese, but Miyagi philosophically responds that for a man like Kreese, who has no concept of forgiveness, "living is a worse punishment than death". As Johnny and the Cobras dispose of their Cobra Kai gis and leave in disgust, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel there has been enough fighting for one night and that they should go meet Mrs. LaRusso and Ali at a restaurant for a celebration dinner.
Six months later, Daniel angrily comes to Mr. Miyagi's house with his car, steamily stating that Ali did something to the car. He also tells him that Ali has fallen in love with a football player as well. To make matters worse, he is supposed to go away on a long trip with his mom. But Mr. Miyagi calls his mom, and convinces her to let Daniel stay with him. Miyagi then gets a letter from Tomi Village saying that his father is dying, so he makes emergency plans to travel to Okinawa. On the day of his flight, Daniel is nowhere to be found, so Mr. Miyagi simply gets in a taxi without saying goodbye. At the airport, he is met by Daniel, who figured he must have come there to say goodbye. However, he sees Daniel with a ticket on the same flight as him. He wonders where Daniel got the money, to which Daniel says he emptied his savings account intended for college. Mr. Miyagi does not think it is a good idea for Daniel to tag along, but as the flight is about to depart he approves of taking Daniel with him to Japan.
When they get off the plane, they are told that a car is waiting for them, so they get in the car. But the driver was Chozen Toguchi, who was Sato Toguchi's nephew. He takes them to a warehouse, where Sato is waiting. Sato used to be Miyagi's best friend, until a girl came between them. Miyagi also fled before the two could fight, and this insulted Sato's honor, which he could not get over. Then, they go to Miyagi's house, and see Miyagi's father. While they are in Okinawa, Miyagi tries to teach Daniel the Miyagi family technique, but Daniel is unable to grasp it. Chozen makes life difficult for them when he goes to their house and starts screaming in the night for Miyagi to come out, and destroying the thin walls with a spear. Miyagi's father dies, and Sato gives Miyagi three days to grieve before they must fight. Miyagi goes to Sato's mansion, and talks to Sato while he is trying to break a thick beam of wood, which Miyagi and him had found on the beach when they were still best friends. This is when the famous quote happens. Miyagi says, "Same piece of wood we found on beach that day", and Sato says, "Same!".
Meanwhile, Daniel is hanging out with Kumiko, and it is clear they are developing a relationship, but Chozen is making Daniel's life miserable. Daniel then catches Chozen cheating the villagers on produce with fake weights. And, when Daniel and Kumiko stumble into a building where people are placing bets on how many ice blocks people can break, Daniel is telling Kumiko how the people are doing it wrong. Chozen then challenges him to do better, and while Daniel is trying to leave, Miyagi comes in, and places 600 dollars on Daniel breaking all of the ice blocks. Chozen says he cannot cover that, and that is when Sato comes in and says that Chozen is covered. Daniel succeeds, and this further angers Chozen, who later goes up and robs Daniel to get his money back.
Things come to a head, when a huge storm comes, destroying much of Okinawa. Sato is trapped in a destroyed building, trapped beneath a large piece of wood. Miyagi hears his screams, and runs out from shelter to save his old friend. he breaks the wood, and helps Sato get to shelter. Sato then decides to forgive Miyagi, and disowns his nephew who had done nothing to help people. Chozen then runs into the storm.
There is a huge celebration that the storm has passed, and Kumiko is dancing in the island in the middle of the castle. Chozen ziplines in screaming, and holds a knife to Kumiko's neck. He then orders Daniel to come into the circle, and then drop the bridge. He wants to fight to the death and Daniel accepts in order to save Kumiko. They begin to fight and Daniel holds his own, striking Chozen as often as he is hit himself. However, Chozen begins to get the upper hand, despite Daniel attempting the crane technique, for which Chozen knows the counter and he turns it against him. When it looks as if Daniel is going to lose, Miyagi starts twirling a hand drum. Soon, all of the onlookers are also twirling their hand drums. Miyagi is telling Daniel to use the drum technique, and Daniel finally understands the Miyagi family technique.
Daniel starts to repeatedly punch Chozen in the face, while twisting his upper body with every hit, so it resembles a swinging drum. He knocks Chozen to the ground, and tells him, "Live or die man!" Chozen responds, "Die. Deciding not to give him what he wants, " Daniel says, "Wrong!" and honks his nose, similar to what Miyagi did to Kreese following the tournament,. The camera then focuses on Miyagi, who is once again smiling proudly at his student, and the movie ends.
In The Karate Kid Part III, Daniel and Miyagi return to Los Angeles from Okinawa, Japan only to discover that the South Seas apartment complex is being converted into condominiums, leaving Miyagi unemployed and Daniel homeless. They also learn that Daniel's mother, Lucille, is in New Jersey taking care of Daniel's ill uncle. Miyagi invites Daniel to stay at his house, and Daniel uses his college funds / ice-breaking winnings to realize Miyagi's dream of opening a Bonsai tree shop. As thanks, Miyagi makes him a partner at the business. When Daniel visits a pottery store across the street, he meets Jessica Andrews; though Daniel has a brief crush on her, she tells him that she has a boyfriend back home in Columbus, Ohio, but they remain friends.
Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese is now broke and destitute after losing all of his students. He visits his Vietnam War comrade, Terry Silver, a wealthy businessman who founded the Cobra Kai Dojo with profits from his billion dollar toxic-waste disposal business. Silver vows to personally help him get revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi and re-establish the Cobra Kai, sending Kreese on vacation to Tahiti to rest and recuperate. Silver hires "Dynamite" Mike Barnes, a vicious karate prospect nicknamed "Karate's Bad Boy", to challenge Daniel at the upcoming All Valley Karate Tournament. Silver also hires two goons to help Barnes, called "Snake" and Dennis. Silver sneaks into Miyagi's house to gather information and overhears Daniel telling Miyagi that he will not defend his title at the tournament. Barnes and some cohorts attempt to coerce Daniel to enter the tournament, but Daniel refuses, and Barnes departs in a rage. The next morning, as Daniel and Miyagi are practicing kata, Silver interrupts and lies about John Kreese suffering a fatal heart attack after losing his students, and begs forgiveness for Kreese's behavior.
Barnes and his friends return to make Daniel sign up for the tournament; when Daniel again refuses, a skirmish ensues until Miyagi arrives and fends off the three men. After driving Jessica home, Daniel and Miyagi return to find their stock of bonsai trees missing and a tournament application hanging in place. To replace the missing trees, Daniel and Jessica decide to dig up and sell a valuable bonsai tree that Miyagi brought from Okinawa, and planted halfway down a cliff. As they retrieve it, Barnes and his henchmen appear and retract their climbing ropes, leaving Daniel no choice but to sign up for the tournament. After pulling them back up, Barnes breaks the tree. Daniel returns to the shop with Miyagi's damaged bonsai, which Miyagi attempts to mend. Miyagi tells Daniel that he sold his truck to buy a new stock of trees, and cannot train him for the tournament.
Silver offers to "train" Daniel for the tournament at the Cobra Kai dojo with a series of brutal, violent, offensive techniques. He derides Miyagi's kata forms and pressures Daniel to destroy a wooden practice dummy, causing him several injuries in the process. Throughout his training, Daniel's frustration alienates him from Miyagi. While Daniel and Jessica are at a nightclub, Silver bribes a random man into provoking a fight with Daniel, who responds by punching the man and breaking his nose. Shocked by his aggressive behavior, Daniel apologizes and makes amends with Jessica and Miyagi. Daniel visits Silver to inform him that he will not compete at the tournament, but Silver reveals his true agenda to Daniel as Barnes and Kreese enter the dojo. After Barnes viciously assaults Daniel, Miyagi intervenes and finally agrees to train him. They replant the healed bonsai and begin training.
At the tournament, Barnes reaches the final round to challenge Daniel. Silver and Kreese instruct Barnes to inflict serious damage on Daniel, keep the score a tie, and finally beat him in the sudden death round. Barnes gets the upper hand during the fight while taunting Daniel relentlessly. When the initial round concludes, Daniel wants to concede, but Miyagi urges him on. In the sudden death round, Daniel performs the kata; as a confused Barnes lunges toward him, Daniel flips him to the ground and strikes him to win the tournament a second year in a row. Silver walks away in disgrace while the crowd throws their Cobra Kai shirts back at him. Daniel runs to Miyagi and proudly embraces him.
In the three decades since the events at the 1985 All Valley Karate Tournament, Daniel's life only went uphill. In 1985, he briefly opened a bonsai tree store with Mr. Miyagi, though it eventually went under. He and Ali Mills continued to date in their college years, though their relationship ended under ominous circumstances. After graduating college, Daniel worked for several small used car dealerships, pursuing his passion for automobiles. He quickly established a great reputation of honesty and service with his customers, and quickly become one of the top auto salesman in the valley. He met a woman named Amanda and they were married after a few years of dating. He and Amanda opened a car dealership in the valley called LaRusso Auto Group. Their grand opening came mid-way through Amanda's pregnancy with their first child, Samantha, who was born on October 15, 2002. As Daniel adjusted to life as a father, he kept in close contact with Mr. Miyagi and ensured that Sam had a relationship with him. It is possible he continued to train with Miyagi. Meanwhile, LaRusso Auto Group became one of the top dealerships in the valley, making the LaRusso family wealthy. He capitalized off his success in the 1985 Karate championship to help further sales, coining Karate-themed catch phrases and commercials.
Amanda and Daniel had a second child, Anthony, on July 8, 2007. When Samantha was eight, Daniel began to train her in karate, sharing the knowledge and wisdoms that Mr. Miyagi gave him. On November 15, 2011, Mr. Miyagi passed away and willed Daniel his house, his old dojo and all cars. The passing of Miyagi was difficult for Daniel, who struggled coming to grips with the loss of his mentor.
33 years after the events of the first movie, Daniel LaRusso is now 50 years old and a successful car dealer, owning the LaRusso Auto Group, a chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley with his wife Amanda. While working at one his dealerships one day, he encounters Johnny Lawrence, who was at the dealership to reclaim his car, after (unknown to Daniel) Daniel's daughter Sam had been riding in a Range Rover with a friend of hers, who was not paying attention to the road and collided with Johnny's Firebird. Despite Johnny's reluctance, Daniel has Johnny's car fixed for free. But when Daniel gives Johnny a bonsai tree and tells him he does not blame him for everything that happened back then and comments how everyone is better off with no Cobra Kai, he inadvertantly triggers Johnny to reopen Cobra Kai.
While driving home from work one day, he notices that the Cobra Kai dojo has reopened at a strip mall in Reseda, which revives his rivalry with Johnny Lawrence. Fearing that Johnny will create a new generation of bullies, Daniel becomes focused on trying to close Cobra Kai. This only seeks to inflame tensions, as Johnny has some awareness Daniel wants his dojo closed down, but does not know all the reasons. One night Johnny, whose judgment is clouded by heavy drinking, engages in a sophomoric prank; vandalizing one of the billboards for LaRusso Auto Group by spray-painting a penis next to Daniel's head. This becomes the talk of the town, which makes Daniel the butt of the jokes in online forums and gives rival auto dealer Tom Cole an opportunity to mock the LaRusso Auto Group. This also spills into Samantha's social life; for when she dumps her boyfriend, he retaliates by associating her with the vandalized billboard, causing her to be ostracized from virtually everyone in her class.
Soon after, Daniel manipulates Johnny's landlord into doubling the rent on his tenants, attempting to force Johnny to close. However, this fails due to Johnny's student, Miguel, defeating a group of bullies in the school cafeteria, which is then posted to the internet and causes Cobra Kai to become rapidly popular and take in many more students, as well as Daniel's plan falling through when the landlord accuses him of embroiling him in a conspiracy and dissolves their deal. Another factor that saves Johnny from bankruptcy court is Amanda's disgust over Daniel's plan, saying it will also ruin businesses adjacent to Cobra Kai and that this conniving attitude is not like the man she married.
After Amanda calls Daniel out on his recent actions, Daniel goes to Mr. Miyagi's grave, admitting that ever since his mentor's death, he has lost his way, letting his anger take control of him. Just before he leaves, he remembers the lesson Mr. Miyagi taught him about balance 34 years prior. Thus, Daniel cleans out and rebuilds his old training room, once again resuming his training.
After Daniel tries unsuccessfully to persuade Samantha to go back to karate, he takes in and trains Robby Keene, who, unknown to Daniel, is actually the son of Johnny and had started working at Daniel's company as an act of revenge against his father, after seeing him with Miguel and believing Johnny had replaced him. Daniel begins training Robby with the same methods that Mr. Miyagi had taught him decades earlier, such as "wax on, wax off."
Later, Daniel attends the meeting of the athletic committee for the City Karate Tournament of which he is a member, where Johnny is trying to convince the committee to lift the lifetime ban on Cobra Kai for the events that had taken place in Karate Kid III. Johnny tells the committee that his teachings are different from those of John Kreese and Terry Silver, stating that Kreese himself is dead. When the committee says their sole 1985 entrant was also an instigator who got the ban imposed, Johnny truthfully says he has no allegiance to Mike Barnes. He says that he has learned from his past mistakes and that his dojo is now a place where people who get bullied are taught self confidence and how to stand up for themselves. Despite Daniel's furious objections, the committee is convinced by what seems to be Johnny's genuine sincerity. They vote 3–2 in Johnny's favor to lift the ban and declare his dojo eligible for the forthcoming tournament, which infuriates Daniel.
While at a family reunion, Daniel rants about how dangerous and cruel Cobra Kai is, which affects his daughter Sam, who, unknown to Daniel, was dating a student of Johnny's.
Some time later, Johnny confronts Daniel at his home, as, unknown to Daniel, Daniel's cousin Louie and several bikers Louie had hired destroyed Johnny's car and set it on fire. However, before they come to blows, Amanda quickly defuses the looming fight with an invitation to peacefully discuss the matter over breakfast. When they realize Johnny's side of the story is accurate as Louie was earlier boasting in front of them about his plans for vengeance, Amanda proposes they terminate Louie, as well as give Johnny one of their cheaper cars for free to make amends.
While on a test drive, the two bond together over beers, where they end up visiting Daniel's old apartment and reveal their stories before they met, Daniel learning that Johnny's childhood hadn't been as perfect as he previously thought. When Johnny returns Daniel to his home seemingly friends and having finally put their grudge behind them, and possibly about to do a fight for fun (like the ending or Rocky III between Rocky and Apollo), Daniel introduces Robby to Johnny. When Johnny finds out Daniel is training Robby, his own son, Johnny becomes infuriated. Daniel is shocked and infuriated when he learns that Robby is Johnny's son, once again igniting the fires of hatred between the two men. Feeling betrayed, Daniel tells Robby to get out of the house, as Daniel suspects Robby is involved in some con against him.
The morning of the annual All Valley Under-18 Karate tournament, Daniel is depressed about the events with Robby, and initially refuses to attend the tournament, until he is forced to go by Amanda. They sit in the front row, and Daniel is visibly dismayed when Cobra Kai makes their grand entrance. Then, much to Daniel's surprise, he learns that Robby is participating as a fighter unaffiliated with any dojo. Later, as a deliberate slight and insult to Daniel, Johnny has Miguel use Daniel's signature move, the Crane Kick, to defeat an opponent, which infuriates Sam.
Although initially hesitant, Daniel becomes more and more excited as he watches Robby fight, and approaches Robby after he is injured by being attacked from behind during the semifinal match, and advises him to find balance in his life by letting go of his anger toward his father, forgiving him for not telling him the truth about him and Johnny. Daniel assists Robby back into the ring and agrees to him fighting as a member of Miyagi-do Karate with Daniel as his coach.
Unfortunately, Robby ultimately loses the tournament final to Miguel, after Miguel quickly realizes that Robby's shoulder is injured and targets it to get the win, even pulling Robby's arm when Robby tried to help Miguel up. Afterwards, Johnny approaches Robby and Daniel and tries to apologize, though without success. Daniel coldly congratulates Johnny for getting the win.
After the match, Daniel reassures Robby that he's proud of him and he fought with honor, unlike Miguel. Robby comments that Cobra Kai is going to take over karate in the Valley, something that Daniel says will happen "over his dead body." He then takes Robby to Mr Miyagi's old home, and reveals that he plans to use it as a dojo to continue Robby's training and teach others Miyagi-Do Karate, in order to defeat Cobra Kai in the subsequent tournament and bring them down once again. Unbeknownst to Daniel, however, another old enemy from the past has returned: John Kreese, ready and eager to get his revenge against Daniel once and for all.
Daniel starts training Robby and within no time Sam joins the training. After finding out from Sam that Robby's mom is away and Robby is all alone Daniel has Robby come stay with him. After persuasion from Amanda, as well as some personal reflection, Daniel realizes Cobra Kai is not going to vanish into thin air and his attempts to derail it were ultimately hurtful to Johnny. He goes to the studio with the intent to inform Johnny of Robby's situation, only to see Johnny with Kreese. Jumping to conclusions, Daniel renews his vengeful plans to stop Cobra Kai from taking root in the Valley.
While teaching Sam and Robby, Daniel is concerned that he won't be the teacher Miyagi was but Amanda tells him he does not need to be like Miyagi. In order to get more students, Daniel does commercial where he promotes his Dojo and trashes Cobra Kai. However he has trouble getting more students when some potential students think Miyagi-Do is a facade to get people to do free work. He continues to struggle when Johnny, angry at Daniel commercial then gets his revenge by having Cobra Kai overshadow Miyagi-Do at a Valley Fest presentation. However, things start to look up for Daniel when Demetri, a bullied student, joins Miyagi-Do.
One one night a few Cobra Kai student's under Kreese's order trash Daniel's Dojo and steal Miyagi's Medal of Honor. When Daniel, Robby and Sam see the dojo trashed and Miyagi's badge of honor missing, an angry Daniel goes to Cobra Kai where he confronts Johnny who does not know what Daniel is talking about as he is unaware that Kreese instructed his students to do so.
Despite another setback things look up for Daniel once again when a few Cobra Kai students, unhappy with Kreese's ruthless teachings, leave the dojo and join Miyagi Do.
Daniel's fixation with his dojo and students prevent him for going to work, causing Amanda to pick up all of Daniel's slack and an employee Anush to quit out of frustration for Daniel's absence. Amanda then calls Daniel out for being unable to balance both jobs. Feeling guilty, Daniel makes things right by showing up to work and picking up the clack. He even spends more time with Amanda, causing her to forgive him.
On one morning Kreese shows up at Daniel's house where he threatens Daniel with war between the two dojos and mocks Miyagi's death which angers Daniel. Fortunately, both Daniel and Sam find Miyagi's Medal of Honor on the ground, though both are unaware that Miguel gave it to Robby the previous night and Robby planted it there.
On one night Daniel and Amanda go out for dinner but end up going to the same restaurant where Johnny and his date Carmen are eating, and ended up sitting with them which angers both Daniel and Johnny. However the two bond and resolve their differences when Johnny reveals he kicked Kreese out of Cobra Kai. The along with Amanda and Carmen spend time joking and dancing. Daniel even reveals to Johnny that both he and Amanda have re enrolled Robby in school, which Johnny appreciates. They end the night on good terms.
The next morning Daniel notices Sam did not return from Moon's party the previous night. Both he and Amanda go onto Sam's computer where they see Sam's former friend Aisha messaging her if she is ok after being drunk last night which shocks Daniel and Amanda. Daniel then tracks Sam through his iPhone and finds out she is at Johnny's house. He goes to Johnny's house and knocks on the door. When Johnny opens the door Daniel asks if Sam is there to which Johnny says she is and he tells Daniel to not overreact which angers Daniel. Daniel demands Johnny open the door, but Johnny shuts the door, stating he will bring Samantha to him when he has calmed down. An angry Daniel then kicks the door open, then both he and Johnny have a brief fight which is broken up by Sam and Robby. Daniel angrily tells Robby that it's up to him if he wants to end up like Johnny and takes Sam home.
He drives Sam to school. After a school brawl which results in Sam being severely injured by Cobra Kai student Tory she is sent to the hospital. When Daniel and Amanda visit Sam in the hospital both are shocked to find out Robby kicked Miguel off a railing resulting in the latter being severely injured. Johnny, who is also at the hospital to see Miguel, gets into an elevator with Daniel. Neither man says or does anything, but both glance at each other in shock akin to "What have we done?". Daniel leaves the hospital but when he comes back Amanda notifies him that Sam is getting x-rays and may have broken ribs, and then bluntly tells him to stop Miyagi-Do because of all the pain it has caused. Daniel agrees to do so.
- "I tried my best. I thought I was doing the right thing. I'm sorry."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to a photo of Miyagi[src]
Daniel goes back home where he takes down a picture of Miyagi, saying he did his best to do the right thing and apologizes. Elsewhere, unbeknownst to him, Kreese has taken the dojo away from Johnny.
- "Everyone looks to me for answers and I'm spinning around so much I can't tell which way is up."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to Kumiko[src]
Daniel is left to pick up the pieces following the school brawl. He is upset when Sam is suspended for two weeks, but still attempts to reason with Amanda who is infuriated with the outcome. She informs him that the dealership is declining rapidly since the events at the school. He assures her that he will fix everything, a promise that sours quickly when a PTA meeting proves how damaged the LaRusso family name has become. In the meantime, Daniel tries to locate a still-missing Robby Keene, and realizes that he stole a car from the LaRusso lot. His attempts to track Robby through the cars GPS is futile, as Robby removes the GPS. Upon returning to Miyagi-Do, he finds an upset Sam who admits that she feels guilty for everything that happened and feels conflicted over whether or not their the good guys. He reminds her that they try to be which is what makes them better than the Cobra Kai's. Their talk also makes him realizes that like Sam, he can't run away from his problems. He decides to enlist Johnny's help in finding Robby, and is floored to see that John Kreese is not only still in the valley, but has taken over Cobra Kai. Daniel shows restraint as he doesn't let Kreese bait him into a fight, but Kreese eerily warns him that their fight will come one day - it's inevitable. The next morning, Daniel finds Johnny and convinces him to help locate Robby before it's too late.
The unlikely pair venture on a road trip to search for Robby, but their conflicting personalities and views on life continuously get in their way. Their partnership starts an uneasy reunion with Johnny's ex-girlfriend Shannon Keene, before shifting to a surprisingly natural "good-cop bad-cop" routine with two of Robby's former cohorts Trey and Cruz. An unexpected car chase with a thug who stole Robby's van turns violent, when Johnny insists on confronting the man who is joined by his gang. After beating the thugs, Johnny roughly interrogates one of the men and is angered when Daniel pulls him off. Their alliance abruptly ends after a fight between them, with Johnny taking the car that used to belong to the LaRusso auto group. As he's about to leave, Daniel receives a call from Amanda telling him that Robby showed up at Shannon's rehab. He hurries over to talk to the boy who apologizes for getting Daniel involved in everything and offers to pay him back for the van. Daniel isn't worried about any of that and assures Robby that everyone is just worried about him. He apologizes for the last time they spoke and explains that he's going to help him through this next part. Before Daniel can explain, two police officers arrive and arrest Robby who attempts to flee. Daniel is upset with the outcome and promises to visit Robby everyday, but the boy coldly tells him not to bother.
In the days that follow, Daniel shifts his attention to his suffering business. They have been forced to pull their karate-themed advertisements in an attempt to focus their attention on sales, as the manufactures won't be happy with their numbers. A surprise visit from Tom Cole and Anoush brings what seems to be the LaRusso's last hope, as Cole offers to buy the dealership. The offer is extremely low and unappealing to the LaRusso's, who reject the offer. Louie, who is warned by Anoush, informs Daniel and Amanda that Cole secured an exclusive deal with Doyona International in Tokyo. Doyona distributes all the Japanese cars internationally, and with Cole's deal the LaRusso Auto Group won't have access to those cars. With his business failing and his dreams crumbling, Daniel is reminded of a bonsai trimming lesson from Mr Miyagi, and realizes what he needs to do. He aligns himself with Anoush to flip the script on Cole and propel the next part of his plan forward. In a last effort to save his company, Daniel flies to Tokyo to converse with the board of Doyona International.
When the board rejects his plea due to the negative press surrounding the LaRusso name following the school brawl, Daniel feels depleted and failure. With his morale the lowest it's ever been, he decides to take a spontaneous trip to Okinawa. He soon learns that the Okinawa he remembers is very different from the one it is today, with Tomi Village having been converted from a quaint village to a strip mall. While exploring the new mall while learning about the villagers that were given jobs, he hears familiar music and is drawn to a group of young women O-bon dancing. He is shocked that the leader of the group is his childhood love, Kumiko, who achieved her dreams of traveling around the world as a dancer. The reunion is cathartic for him and they share where they are in their lives. Daniel reflects on his training with Mr Miyagi and how he is now the age that Mr. Miyagi was when they first met. He still feels a sense of great loss over his mentors death, and wishes he could talk to him again. Kumiko offers to help with that and brings him to her home where she shares a series of letters with him. Mr. Miyagi had continued to write letters back and forth with Kumiko's now deceased Aunt, Yukie. One of the letters is particularly emotional as it was written the week Mr Miyagi died. He wrote how lost he was before meeting Daniel-san, "with his kind heart, strong chi, and loyalty and love for those around him is a guiding light." He writes how proud he is of Daniel and how he has realized that is the people in his life that guide him back to the right path and not the signs. Kumiko gifts Daniel the letter when she is finished reading it, asking if he knows what to do now - and he does.
Daniel is preparing to leave the following morning when Kumiko surprises him with a final visitor - his former nemesis Chozen Toguchi. He remembers the brutal fight they shared over thirty years ago, and how he spared Chozen's life. The reunion is tense and uncomfortable, with Chozen's rigid ways still present despite the passing time. Kumiko leaves the men alone, much to Daniel's dismay, but warns that they have more in common then he might think. Chozen and Daniel venture to a dojo that overlooks the mountains, and Daniel remembers more of Miyagi's lessons as he learns that Chozen has continued the Miyagi-Do ways in Okinawa. He refuses to share secrets with Daniel and labels him a foreigner, which Daniel negates as Miyagi treated him as a son. A sparring match between the two men shows Daniel how much he can still learn, and the men find themselves relating to one another, as Chozen has changed quite a bit since their last encounter. Now having learned Miyagi pressure points and receiving some sage words, Daniel prepares to leave Okinawa once more. But Kumiko interrupts with one last parting reunion - Yuna, the young girl that Daniel saved in Japan over thirty years ago during a typhoon. He is elated to be reunited and she tells him that she is the VP of sales for Doyona International, and can save his business.
He returns to America feeling energized, only to learn that things between Kreese and Amanda escalated during his trip. Daniel is left to pick up the pieces of his drifting family, with Sam refusing to participate in karate while Amanda takes their situation with Kreese to the police. Daniel is stunned at how much happened while he was away, including Kreese's restraining order against Amanda. The situation makes her realize just how serious thing are with Kreese and how psychologically abusive the man is. They work together to outmaneuver Kreese by renting Kreese's dojo space for twice the amount Kreese pays, making a shady deal with Armand Zarkarian. This deal falls through when Kreese overpowers Armand's men, which forces the realtor to concede. As payback for their attempts to tarnish his dojo, Kreese lets a live snake into LaRusso Auto Group during its biggest sales day. With the rivalry between dojos intensifying and the obvious fact that Kreese isn’t going anywhere, Amanda and Daniel both decide to reopen Miyagi-Do, but it’s an off-putting idea to Sam. He takes her fishing in an attempt to understand where he sudden disdain for karate is coming from. She opens up about the trauma that she has from her fight with Tory. Daniel gives her sage advice on conquering her fear, telling her that only she can pick herself up not anyone else. In time, Sam comes around to the idea of practicing karate again and Daniel trains her in boa staff fighting - using the techniques from fishing.
Daniel heads to the juvenile detention center to see Robby on his release day, but is surprised when Johnny is already there waiting. Their arguing escalates just as Robby exits the building. He promptly tells both men to leave him alone. Upon returning home, Daniel learns that the city council has canceled the upcoming All Valley Karate Tournament and rallies together with Amanda to save the tournament. He is joined at the meeting by Sam, Amanda, and much to his surprise, Johnny and Kreese. The rivaling sensei's being to argue in front of the council, shedding a negative light on the tournament and convincing the council to cancel the event. It isn't until Miguel and Sam take the podium that they are able to save the tournament. The next morning, Daniel arrives at Miyagi-Do for training and sees Miguel and Sam kissing. He is surprised by their relationship and a little disappointed in Sam for kissing Miguel when Robby has just been released. He is even more disappointed to hear that Robby saw them already the night before. She asks him to keep an open mind, though he worries that she's inviting more drama into her life by dating.
He upholds his agreement with Sam to keep an open-mind by talking to Miguel. They learn they have more in common than they thought, with both of them coming from the same area, similar family backgrounds, and have similar reasons for getting involved in martial arts. Miguel reveals that Johnny told the events of his high school rivalry with Daniel much differently, so Daniel sheds some light on the matter. He also shows Miguel the yellow car that Mr. Miyagi gave him. At the end of their conversation, they shake hands and part on good terms. That evening, Daniel attends a charity event with Amanda where he is shocked to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills, who is back in town for the Christmas holiday. He is even more surprised when Johnny appears moments later, having attended the event with Ali. He excitedly introduces Amanda to Ali, though he grows uncomfortable as the women begin to swap stories about their times with Daniel and Johnny. By the end of the event, Ali sweetly tells Daniel that they had more good times together than bad. They part on good terms.
Daniel comes home to the aftermath of a brawl as his house and injured Miyagi-Do students along with Sam. He flees to Cobra Kai Dojo to confront Kreese in person. He arrives just in time to save Johnny from a deadly chokehold by Kreese. He kicks Kreese off Johnny and furiously confronts him about sending his students to Daniel's house. He angrily states that if it's a fight that Kreese wants then he's finally got one. The men square off with Kreese reminding Daniel that this was inevitable. As they fight, Kreese threatens that Daniel can't keep the defense-only act up forever, to which Daniel retorts that he doesn't have too. They continue to fight until Kreese lifts him into the air and they collapse through the glass door of the school. Kreese picks up a shard of glass, threatening to reunite Daniel and Miyagi. Daniel remembers his training with Chozen, if an enemy insists on war, than you take away their ability to wage it. He does just that by expertly deploying pressure point attacks that cripple Kreese so he can't fight back. Johnny emerges from the dojo and gives Daniel a nod. Daniel prepares to strike a final blow to Kreese when Sam shouts for her father, having arrived with Miguel. Having won, Daniel tells Kreese to keep his Cobra Kais away from their kids. Johnny supports Daniel but Kreese wants to settle things the old-fashioned way with a tournament. The losing dojo will leave the valley. Johnny and Daniel agree to the terms just as Robby emerges from the dojo telling them all to leave. Daniel is a saddened with Robby's alliance but retreats home for now. He and Johnny unite their dojos as they train for the tournament that will determine not only the fate of their dojos, but the fate of the valley.
- "You know me, I've always been a bit of a hothead, so..."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to Miyagi's tombstone[src]
Throughout the years, Daniel is consistently friendly, fairly relaxed, and open-minded. When first arriving in California he easily makes friends before the confrontation with Johnny, though the bullying he endures greatly affects his mental state. He lacks confidence in himself and others, living in a state of fear and panic. He seeks to better protect himself by learning martial arts, where he befriends Mr. Miyagi. Miyagi serves as more than a sensei to Daniel, as Miyagi takes on the role of mentor and serves as a father-figure. Daniel's impatient attitude often caused friction for the pair, as Daniel rushed into things instead of thinking it through. He was quick to anger and lash out at those around him due to his frustration. As he learns how to better himself physically, he couples that with a growing emotional quota. He falls in love for the first time, a relationship that forces him to work through his issues of jealousy and abandonment.
Daniel is frequently heroic. He tries to stand up for those who are considered the underdogs of a situation, such as when he stands up for Ali at the beach, rescues several people during a typhoon and, perhaps zealously, takes it upon himself to protect people from the negative influences of the Cobra Kai Dojo. Matching this heroism is bravery. When necessary, Daniel demonstrates an ability to overcome fear or difficult odds if it means doing what is right or standing up for himself. Equally, he is prone to panicking in the face of threats. His progress is hindered by the mental and emotional assaults he endures at the hands of Mike Barnes and Terry Silver, all of which was orchestrated by Silver. The manipulation was hard for Daniel to overcome and work through, as he placed his trust in the wrong people. However, he eventually finds the resolve to overcome this fear and panic with help from Miyagi and Lucille. He even faces his duel with Chozen, knowing it is to the death, without flinching.
Linked to his tendency to panic is his harsh reaction when faced with a resurgent Cobra Kai. Because Daniel was bullied and treated so poorly by members of the Cobra Kai Dojo during his teen years, he associates the name with corrupt individuals, assault, bullying, and manipulation. He was spurred into acting offensively to avoid facing the trauma he endured, and to ensure that his children never had to endure it themselves. As he seeks to destroy the dojo, a much darker side of his personality shows. He manipulates the rent of innocent shop owners and conducts a crusade as he matches Johnny's immaturity and low-blows equally. He is closed to the idea that Johnny or anyone involved in the dojo could change, showing that at least some part of him was trapped in the past instead of moving forward with the life he created. He felt the same way about Chozen, until their reunion. Daniel does realize his mistakes and rededicates himself to his mentor's teachings of balance, harmony, and peace. This method of grounding himself is therapeutic for Daniel and allows him to realign himself with his core personality of being a good person. He even takes in the loner Robby Keene, as the boys journey of poverty and bullying is similar to Daniel's. He sees potential in the boy when no one else does, and seeks to be the mentor to Robby that Miyagi was to Daniel.
When Daniel does learn that Robby was manipulating him as a way to anger Johnny, who is Robby's father, Daniel is deeply betrayed and lashes out at Robby verbally. He refuses to associate himself with Robby and bans him from the LaRusso household, despite Robby's attempts to win back his trust and show that, while his initial intentions were negative, he's changed. Daniel has much difficulty with the concept of giving old enemies a second chance, especially when they've proven themselves detestable people many times over. This reluctance to give second chances stems from his betrayal at the hands of Silver and Kreese when Daniel was a teenager.
Daniel's current rivalry and distrust of Johnny and Cobra Kai is not only based on their past disdain, but also his disgust at Johnny's inability to learn a lesson since then and at how much Johnny has wasted his life. Though most of their hostility has been due to misunderstandings and outside sources. This rivalry fuels much of Daniel's choices later in life, but also gives him tunnel vision. Because of his obsession and inability to move past a thirty year rivalry, many avoidable incidents take place. He stops focusing on his business which begins to have financial difficulties, his marriage suffers from his distance, his daughter rebels into a karate brawl, and he loses the trust of many in the valley. When Daniel learns how much he's overlooked he tries to correct his mistakes, though he still falls into old patterns as he makes up for his past actions.
However, when he learns how far he's drifted from his family, he corrects himself. He shows a protectiveness over them and his unit, begins to communicate more openly with his wife, and attempts to make amends with Sam. When his family is threatened by Kreese and the Cobra Kai's, Daniel is infuriated and the incident leads to a long-awaited fight between him and Kreese. With his family threatened and morality in question, Daniel almost delivers a final blow to Kreese, showing that his heroism and strong moral character can be challenged under the right circumstances. The only thing that stops him is his family.
- "Daniel was the best fighter that day."
"He was the best around."
"Nothing's ever gonna keep him down."
- ―Chris Cotter, Steve Levy and Randy Scott
Through Miyagi's training Daniel's inherited style is strong in defense and solid in offense, with a notable emphasis on effectively countering his opponent's attacks. These skills assist him during his fights with Johnny and Chozen, the first of which emphasizes his ability to sneak in behind his opponent's guard to strike, whereas in the latter Daniel's karate has become more rounded, due to his experience, allowing to provide effective offense and defense.
During his teen years, Daniel struggled against opponents that were physically stronger, more skilled, and aggressive and dirty fighters. During his fights with Johnny, Chozen and Mike, Daniel struggled when all three fought more aggressively, and when the former and latter fought underhandedly. Despite struggling when his opponents fight more aggressively or underhandedly, Daniel often has one last tactic in the end which allows him to emerge victorious such as the Crane kick, and the Kata which Miyagi taught him.
Even after Miyagi's death in 2011 Daniel still remembers Miyagi's lessons and practices what Miyagi taught him, in particular that karate is only used for defense. He later uses his teachings to instruct Johnny's son Robby, in both karate and emotional balance, which leads to him reopening Miyagi-Do Karate. He also uses Miyagi's techniques to defeat Robby's attackers with astonishing ease and efficiency, which clearly demonstrates just how far Daniel has come from his teenage years when he struggled to take on multiple opponents. During this fight, Daniel again displays his style's preference for effective counterattacks; as Daniel notes to Johnny - "you know I'm not going to strike first."
Under Daniel's tutelage, Samantha LaRusso, Robby Keene, Demetri, Chris, and Nathaniel would become skilled martial artists in their own right. After being defeated by his old enemy Chozen, Daniel would learn from him about targeting pressure points, something that allowed him to defeat John Kreese in a fight, switching from defense to offense. Notably, in this instance, Daniel strikes first in anger to protect Johnny whose life was in danger. He also deploys the Miyagi pressure point training he received from Chozen. able to render Kreese incapable of fighting back.
Miyagi was Daniel's mentor and karate sensei, but the mentorship went beyond karate. Daniel learned valuable life lessons and inner-peace from Miyagi, eventually coming to view the man as a father-figure. Miyagi felt the same way, as he had lost his wife and only child during World War II, while Daniel's father had died at a young age. They each filled the gaps left by their tremendous loss. While Daniel loved Miyagi, he was not above snapping at the man or lashing out. He even revolted against Miyagi at one point, believing his teachings were no longer correct. When Daniel saw the error of his ways, Miyagi welcomed Daniel back without judgement. The elder's teachings were often shrouded in mystery that annoyed his young apprentice. When Daniel got married and had a family of his own, he included Miyagi in every possible aspect to the point where Miyagi viewed Daniel's daughter as a granddaughter. Miyagi was also incredibly good-natured to Daniel's mother, Luceille. Unfortunately, Daniel and Miyagi's relationship ended when the latter died. Daniel was left devastated by the loss. He soon discovered that Miyagi had willed him his complete antique car collection and his house which doubled as a dojo. To honor his friend, Daniel began giving away bonsai trees to all his customers that purchased a car from LaRusso Auto Group. Upon reopening Miyagi Do, Daniel strived to be as good of a teacher as Miyagi was. When he felt that he failed, he apologized to a photograph of Miyagi for not doing the right thing.
Daniel visits Okinawa in an effort to save his business. He visits Miyagi's old village where he revisits many of his memories of his old mentor. Daniel tells Chozen that Miyagi saw him as his son. He discovers that Miyagi hid more dangerous parts of Miyagi-Do from Daniel, presumably to protect him. The visit allows Daniel to learn more about his beloved mentor, reconcile with Chozen, save his business, learn new Miyagi-Do techniques, and later reopen Miyagi Do.
Lucille is Daniel's mother, having raised him by herself after the death of Mr. LaRusso. The pair were close after the death and relied on one another during difficult times. She was aware that her son was being bullied and supported his choice to learn karate. As adults, the pair remained close. She often served as his sounding board when he had troubles in his marriage or with his children.
Amanda is Daniel's wife and the mother of their two children. They met and were married in the early 2000s, after which, they started a family with the birth of their first child, their daughter Samantha, followed by the birth of their son Anthony several years later. A few months before Sam was born, they also opened an auto dealership together and became business partners. The success of their business allowed them a grand lifestyle that they both enjoyed. When Daniel is faced with the return of his high school nemesis and bully Johnny Lawrence, Amanda becomes his moral voice of reason and support system. She often tries to guide him in the right direction even if he ignores her advice. When Daniel's obsession with Miyagi Do and the drama surrounding his karate life, he inadvertently leaves Amanda to deal with the dealership, finances, and household herself. This negatively affects their marriage and she informs him of how his actions have affected her, something he was completely unaware of. He has to work to earn back her trust and support through actions instead of empty promises. Over time, they reconcile, though she believes he should close Miyagi Do due to the violence it has created.
When John Kreese returned to the valley, Amanda initially didn't understand the intense hatred or fear that Daniel held toward Kreese. She felt it was unwarranted in some aspects and frequently told him to stop fueling the growing tension. It wasn't until Kreese turned his sights on Amanda, the dealership, and Sam, that she believed Daniel. They worked together to see legal action against Kreese, only to learn he had already placed a restraining order against Amanda. When the Cobra Kai's attack the Miyagi-Do students, Daniel and Amanda become closer than ever as they face their issues head-on as a unified team.
Samantha is Daniel's daughter. They have a close relationship, though Daniel's a lot closer with her than with Anthony, teaching the former karate while the latter's always got his face buried in video games. Amanda has even called her Daniel's "Mini Me" a few times. In a flashback, it's revealed that Daniel claimed her as his child while she was still in utero. Daniel also provides Sam with consolation when she's scared of Tory and promises he will always be there for Sam.
Ali is Daniel's ex-girlfriend. They first meet on the beach in the first film and become friendly, though this earns the ire of her ex-boyfriend Johnny. Later in the fil, the two would become a couple. In Karate Kid 2 however, Daniel tells Miyagi that she left him for a football player at UCLA after Senior prom. Over thirty years later, Daniel tells Johnny that Ali is married and living in Denver working as a pediatric surgeon, according to her Facebook profile. Months later, Daniel, Johnny and Ali are reunited and Ali helps the two men to reconcile. Daniel and Ali part ways on friendly terms. When Daniel brings up the end of their relationship, Ali tells him that they were kids at the time and the good times that they shared far outweighed the bad.
Johnny is Daniel's first rival when Daniel moved to California from New Jersey. Despite not actually moving in on Johnny's ex-girlfriend Ali (instead he was just meeting and bonding), Johnny saw it as him stealing her, and immediately confronted her. However, LaRusso kept butting, so Johnny had to push him away, thus causing a rivalry. Their rivalry supposedly ends after Daniel beats Johnny in the finals of The All Valley Tournament. However, their rivalry is reignited when Johnny reopens Cobra Kai over 3 decades after Johnny's defeat. Despite this, however, Daniel explained to Robby that it wasn't Johnny's fault for being aggressive, only his teacher Kreese was to blame for teaching him these aggressive things. There are also occasions where both Daniel and Johnny bond, even though those moments are short lived.
Ali helps Johnny and Daniel see that they are more alike than they would like to admit and the two finally reconcile. Previous to this, Daniel indicates to Chozen that he wishes all of his rivalries could end well, suggesting that he desires a good end to his rivalry with Johnny but can't find a way to do it. Daniel later saves Johnny from John Kreese and the two men confront Kreese together, both wanting Cobra Kai to end for good. Now united against a common enemy, the two begin working together to take Cobra Kai down, bowing to each other in respect as they begin training students together.
Despite Daniel's feud with Johnny, it is in fact Kreese who is Daniel and Mr. Miyagi's true mortal enemy. In the finals of the 1984 All Valley Tournament during the original Karate Kid film, Kreese tells Johnny to sweep Daniel's foot. Johnny however, loses to Daniel.
In Karate Kid 2, Daniel witnesses an angry Kreese berate and abuse Johnny for losing the tournament. However, Kreese is stopped and immobilized by Miyagi, which impresses Daniel.
In Karate Kid 3, Terry tells Daniel that Kreese is dead, making him sad, but Daniel is unaware that Terry is lying and this lie is part of his plot to get revenge on Daniel and Miyagi for ruining Kreese's life after the 1984 All valley. Daniel is later shocked, when he sees an alive Kreese at the dojo. Ultimately the plot fails, when Daniel beats Mike to win the All Valley.
Thirty years later, Daniel is shocked to see Johnny with an alive Kreese. Kreese mocks Miyagi's death, but Daniel responds by reminding him of what Miyagi did to his hand, which makes Kreese a little uncomfortable. Later in the season Kreese shows up at Daniel's house, and threatens him with war between the to dojos, as well as insults Miyagi's death. After learning that Kreese sent his students to attack the Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang students, Daniel attacks him in the Cobra Kai dojo and defeats him using the pressure point techniques that Chozen taught him. Daniel agrees to settle the matter with the tournament again and starts working with Johnny to defeat Kreese and Cobra Kai once and for all.
Daniel's second arch-rival after Johnny and almost most certainly his deadliest. Their rivalry begins in Karate Kid 2 when Daniel and Miyagi go to Okinawa. While he and Johnny may have greatly disliked each other, Chozen's was one of deep burning hatred. Chozen often bullied and harassed Daniel. However, Daniel overcame Chosen in the end by beating him in a fight, and ultimately humiliating him by not giving him his wish to die.
Daniel returns to Okinawa to save his business where he meets Chozen again thanks to Kumiko. Their reunion is awkward because Chozen appears to still harbor anger towards Daniel, leading to another fight between the two men where Chozen shows Daniel deadlier techniques of Miyagi-Do that Mr. Miyagi hid from him. Chozen beats Daniel and is poised to kill him, only to humorously honk his nose as Daniel did to Chozen years before. Having changed for the better, Chozen genuinely enjoys paying Daniel back in such a fashion and drops his act. Recognizing that Chozen has in fact changed for the better, Daniel receives training from him regarding pressure points and Chozen provides Daniel with a secret scroll with more information on the matter. Chozen reveals to Daniel that after their fight, he was filled with shame and wanted to die before Sato saved him and helped Chozen become a better man. Daniel offers his forgiveness to Chozen who accepts it, stating that it means a lot to him. Daniel admits to enjoying the friendly end to their rivalry and wishes that all of his rivalries could end so well. Like Daniel, Chozen has grown up to become a teacher of Miyagi-Do Karate, training others in the lessons that their sensei's had taught them. Daniel later tells Kumiko that he and Chozen learned something important from each other as she had hoped. Daniel later remembers Chozen's training and uses it to defeat John Kreese.
Robby was a friend of Daniel and former employee at LaRusso Auto. They first meet when Robby is hired at LaRusso Auto, but Daniel is unaware that Robby is Johnny's son. Within no time they develop a friendship. They become closer when Robby does karate with Daniel. However, after finding out that Robby is Johnny's son. he kicks Robby out as he feels used and conned. Despite the anger, he roots for him in the All Valley Tournament and eventually forgives him and becomes his teacher in the finals. Unfortunately Robby loses, but Daniel is proud of him for fighting honorably. After the tournament, Daniel takes Robby to his house and enlists him as his first student in the newly re-opened Miyagi Do Karate.
Robby comes to stay at Daniel's house after his mother takes off. This combined with Miyagi Do Karate allows them to interact even more. However, when Daniel finds Robby and Sam at Johnny's house the morning after Sam got drunk in a party, an angry Daniel rebukes Robby and says he lost his trust. Daniel then leaves, making Robby upset. Later at the hospital following the school brawl, Daniel is shocked to learn that Robby kicked Miguel off the railing.
Robby goes on the run and Daniel tries to find him. Shannon calls Daniel to talk to Robby, and Daniel tells Robby that he turned him to the Police to get a shorter sentence of a few weeks at Juvie. Robby thinks Daniel betrayed him. After Robby is handcuffed and taken away by the police, Robby orders Daniel to not visit him in juvie as he thinks Daniel betrayed him. The next day after being questioned and placed in juvie, the officer calls him to a phone call and Daniel calls him from the dealership with Amanda by his side and tries to talk to Robby, but Robby hangs up on him which makes Daniel upset. When Robby is released from juvie, Daniel and Johnny tell him that he always has a home with either of them, but Robby tells Daniel and Johnny to leave him alone and walks away. After Daniel defeats Kreese at Cobra Kai, Robby coldly tells Daniel, Johnny, Miguel and Sam to leave.
- Kumiko (Ex-Girlfriend/Friends)
- Yuna (Rescued from a typhoon/Allies/Friends)
- Jessica Andrews (Former Crush/Friends)
- Freddy Fernandez (Childhood Friend)
- Louie LaRusso Jr. (Cousin/Employee-Employer/Friends)
- Mike Barnes (Enemy)
- Terry Silver (Enemy)
- Counselor Blatt (Acquaintance)
- Shannon Keene (Friends)
- Carmen Diaz (Friends)
- Yukie † (Friends)
- Bobby Brown, Tommy †, Dutch (Childhood Bullies)
- Toshio (Enemy)
- Taro (Enemy)
- Snake (Enemy)
- In 2018, that character of Daniel LaRusso was inducted into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame.
- Originally, the character was named "Daniel Webber", but after Ralph Macchio booked the part, the character's name was changed to LaRusso to reflect Macchio's Italian-American heritage.
- It was important to the cast and crew to have a positive representation of Italian-Americans, due to the harsh depiction of Italian-Americans in media at the time. Mark Kamen, Randee Heller, and Ralph Macchio was presented with a letter of commendation by the Italians Against Discrimination for The Karate Kid.
- His the remake of 2010 counterpart is Dre Parker.
- Daniel's education beyond high school remains unknown, as he frequently spent the money he was supposed to use for college. First on a plane ticket to Japan and again when he uses it to open Mr. Miyagi's Little Trees.
- He is a fan of REO Speedwagon.
- His drinks of choice are club soda, Ketel Martinis, and Don Julio 70.
- Daniel is a fan of the HBO television series, Game of Thrones.
- It has been confirmed several times, including by Jon Hurwitz and John G. Avildsen, that in the original Karate Kid, Daniel's birthdate is supposed to be 1968, and he is 15-turning-16. However, because The Karate Kid Part II has Daniel graduating high school, and The Karate Kid Part III has Daniel in college, both of which take place less than a year after The Karate Kid, Daniel's canon birthdate was moved from 1968 to 1966, making Daniel 17-turning-18 in The Karate Kid, and places him at nearly 51 years old at the start of Cobra Kai.