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"Mercy is for the weak."
―John Kreese[src]

John Kreese, known mononymously as Kreese, is the main antagonist of The Karate Kid film franchise and Cobra Kai.

Kreese is a vicious and unhinged Vietnam War veteran and sensei of the 1980s karate dojo, Cobra Kai. He instilled a dangerous philosophy of "no mercy" in his students and encouraged generations of bullies. Most notably, Kreese taught karate to a teenaged Johnny Lawrence and feuded with his karate rival Mr Miyagi. After repeated losses at the hands of Daniel LaRusso and Mr Miyagi, Kreese fled the valley and lost contact with his students.

Over thirty years later, Johnny Lawrence reopened Cobra Kai, triggering Kreese to make a surprise return to the valley. He eventually acquires the dojo through nefarious means, becoming the Sensei to an entirely new generation of students.

Biography

Early Life

John Kreese was born in 1946 and lived in the San Fernando Valley. His home life was unstable and marred by the decline of his mother's mental health. In 1965, his mother committed suicide and left Kreese to fend for himself. He was bullied by his peers for his mother's actions, and labeled a freak due to the stigma around mental health. He acquired a job at a diner, and one day, he was busily wiping the counter as a couple of jocks entered the establishment, one of which had his arm wrapped around the shoulder of a pretty young lady by the name of Betsy. The jock, David, bumped into Kreese on their way past him without apologizing, prompting him to give them an angry glare, before going back to work. Quickly composing himself, he dutifully proceeded to provide them with silverwares; and briefly caught the eye of Betsy, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend David.

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Almost immediately after, a uniformed military officer passed through the diner, hoping to draft young men into the U.S. Army, offering the jocks a pamphlet. David accepted and promised that he and his friend would consider it, only to curl it into a ball with a mocking laugh the moment the officer left. Kreese picked up the pamphlet and unfolded it, intrigued by the idea. He hurriedly stuck it in his pocket as his employer told him scolded him. Kreese went back to work, but as he went to carry a tray full of dirty cutlery into the back, David tripped him, leaving Kreese humiliated as everyone laughed at his misfortune. Betsy was the only one who looked at him with pity.

Shortly thereafter, Kreese was taking out the trash when he saw David and Betsy arguing. David was angry that she had made eye contact with Kreese in the diner. He grabbed her firmly and told her never to do it again, but she quipped back to let her go, prompting David to smack her. Kreese came to Betsy's defense despite David's friend being present. David ridiculed Kreese for his crush on Betsy and his mother's death. David and his friend then attacked Kreese. While Kreese did land some hits, the other two had the advantage for outnumbering him, and gained the upper hand. After Davids' friend threw Kreese into a group of trash cans, David started beating him, and even berated him. However, just as David was about to kick him again, Kreese regained his bearings and successfully incapacitated the pair of them, and even retorted to David that he had been fighting bullies all his life. Kreese than offered Betsy a ride home, which she accepted.

Military Career

In the time that followed, Kreese dated Betsy, and enlisted in the military. By 1968, Kreese passed the United States Army Basic Combat Training, and was deployed overseas to serve in the Vietnam War. Kreese became known among his fellow patriots for his willingness to take risks, with his commanding officer speaking highly of his actions. He volunteered to walk point on foot patrols and readily joined an ambush unit at great personal risk. As a member of the unit, Kreese befriended fellow soldier Terry Silver and a brother-in-arms they affectionately called "Twig".

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One day, Betsy had sent him a photograph of her, earning the envy of his fellow soldiers. At that moment, he was approached by a Sergeant, who informed him that their Captain wished to speak with him in the command's tent. The Captain, named Turner, explained that he was forming a special task force that would go on direct action missions in the north of the country. He warned that they would be going "sterile into triple canopy jungle. No insignias, no ID." The team would be led by the Captain Turner himself, and otherwise comprised of Kreese and a couple of other specialists. Allowed to have a say in who these specialists were, Kreese immediately nominated Silver and Twig as candidates for the task at hand.

The unit was trained extensively in guerilla tactics, demolition and hand-to-hand combat by Captain Turner. Turner had previously served in the Korean War and was trained in the art of Tang Soo Do under the tutelage of master Kim Sun-Yung of South Korea. Kreese was taught everything that Turner knew, for the purposes of close quarter combat. During this time, Turner would often berate Kreese for his apparent inability to "shed his humanity" during physical confrontations. At one point during a sparring match, Turner made a point of showcasing this in front of the unit. Kreese had briefly lowered his guard after landing a solid punch on Turner. Turner reprimanded Kreese and warned him to not to lose concentration when he faced an opponent, and to leave no room for hesitation, second thoughts, and to show no mercy to their enemies.

The following day, the task force embarked on their long-awaited reconnaissance mission. They canvassed a compound belonging to the The People's Army of Vietnam. As Silver tried to get hold of air support, Kreese monitored the campsite with a pair of binoculars. He watched as his fellow comrade and friend Ponytail snuck to the edge of the compound to set explosives. Silver's radio erupted and Kreese was ordered by Turner to blow the compound to avoid being caught. Kreese hesitated as Ponytail was still inside and thought his friend could escape in time. Ponytail and the rest of the unit were spotted and taken capture by the Vietnamese enemies.

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The unit was subjected to several forms of torture and punishment, including being locked inside a bamboo cage. The captors made an example of Ponytail by executing him, a casualty that horrified Kreese. Turner blamed Kreese for Ponytail's death and their capture. The unit was then were made to fight one another on a platform suspended over a pit full of venomous snakes, all for the amusement of the Vietnamese soldiers. Kreese tried to look to their commanding officer for leadership, who simply remarked on the unlikelihood of their survival and told him that there were no ranks anymore, with there being every man for himself. When one of his fellow soldiers threw another into the pit, Kreese became uncomfortable. When Silver began to panic, it fell to Kreese to be the one to talk him down. Silver was picked to fight Turner, and Silver refused due to his panicked state. Kreese volunteered to take his place which the captors allowed.

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As they approached the pit, Turner, who had still not forgiven Kreese for their capture, voiced his certainty that he was going to win. Turner claimed that unlike Kreese, he had as he, something to fight for. Kreese objected to the insinuation, only for Turner to inform him that Betsy had died. A letter had arrived to their camp before their deployment informing Kreese that Betsy had been in a fatal car accident. Overcome with grief, Kreese initially fell to his knees but forced up by the captors and onto the platform. Captain Turner overpowered Kreese, having him on the ground and at his mercy. He mocked Kreese once more for his perceived weakness as this was a matter of kill or be killed. Despite on the verge of being thrown into the pit, Kreese was able to stab Turner in the leg with a broken piece of bamboo, and then gain the upper hand and defeat his Captain. Turner hung from the platform, just as the American military support arrived at the camp to save the unit. Turner told Kreese the fight was over and to pull him up, but Kreese coldly replied that he hadn't taken Turner's lessons to heart, but that he would never make that mistake again. Kreese resolved to show Turner "no mercy" by sending Turner to his death in the cobra pit. He freed the rest of the soldiers, with Silver being the only one to stop and acknowledge him for it; embracing him like a brother and vowing to always be there for Kreese for the rest of their lives.

1970-1972

With the mission completed and his military superiors unaware of the full details regarding Turner's death, Kreese received recognition for his contribution to the war. The surviving members of their unit earned berets add a U.S. battlefield commission. Kreese proceeded to serve in a Green Beret unit of the United States Army Special Force for the rest of the war, attaining the rank of Captain himself. Kreese and Silver continued to serve together, with Kreese saving Silver's life several times between 1969 and 1975.

They continued their rigorous workouts and sparring matches throughout the remainder of the war, along with others in their infantry company. According to Terry Silver, they at one point even found themselves under the tutelage of Kim Sun-Yung himself. Excelling at martial arts, Kreese became the U.S. Army's Karate champion; a title he held from 1970 to 1972. He eventually retired from the military and returned to the valley hardened and embittered by the numerous bereavements he suffered in the war, not least of all the loss of his beloved Betsy. He vowed to never lose again, and his mind and heart stayed on the battlefield while the rest of him returned home. He eventually resolved to instill strength and discipline through karate. With the help of Terry Silver, Kreese opened a karate dojo upon returning to The Valley, whose name and symbol was inspired by his victory over the snake pit - Cobra Kai Dojo. For the next decade, Kreese trained young men in "the way of the fist", and instilled in them the creed that Turner had once taught him. He donned a motto for this creed, "Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy".

By 1979, Cobra Kai had a respectable number of students. A twelve-year-old Johnny Lawrence discovered and joined the dojo. One day after a session where Johnny had just been awarded his blue belt, Kreese found Johnny crying over the difficulty of his home life and the strained relationship he had with his stepfather. Kreese was completely unsympatheic, telling Johnny that the moment tears leaves his eyes that he would become a loser and that he did not teach losers. He then forced Johnny to renounce his previous ways, forcing Johnny to shout several times that he was a winner.

Cobra Kai competed in the 1981 All Valley Karate Tournament, though Johnny lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion Darryl Vidal. Johnny fought hard against Darryl which Kreese realized, gave Johnny the inspiration to never lose again. Kreese was proven right when Johnny won the tournament on behalf of Cobra Kai Dojo in 1982 and 1983. The dojo had also won the tournament two times prior to Johnny's first victory (presumably in 1979 and 1980), giving Cobra Kai a total of 4 titles, under Kreese's leadership.

Film series

The Karate Kid

In 1984, Kreese is first seen teaching his students, which includes Johnny Lawrence and the latter's gang at Cobra Kai when Daniel LaRusso walks in the dojo. The morning after Mr. Miyagi beats up Johnny and his gang for harassing Daniel, Miyagi and Daniel walk into Cobra Kai, where Kreese is instructing his students to be merciless to their opponents. When Kreese notices Johnny staring somewhere else, he asks Johnny what his problem is, to which Johnny points to Daniel and Miyagi. Kreese and Johnny go to Miyagi and Kreese tells Miyagi he heard about Miyagi jumping his students. Miyagi tries to make peace with Kreese and convince him to have his students leave Daniel alone, but Kreese isn't having it and wants to settle this. Miyagi decides to settle this by having Daniel compete against the Cobra Kai in the All Valley Karate Tournament, which Kreese gladly accepts. Miyagi then requests Kreese to tell his students to leave Daniel alone until the tournament, which Kreese obliges to. Kreese then threatens to hurt Miyagi and Daniel if they do not show up for the tournament.

Kreese and his students are present at the All valley tournament. Prior to the start of the semifinals, Kreese shows how cruel and unethical he is by instructing his second best student Bobby Brown to put Daniel out of commission, even though Bobby knew he could beat him. When Johnny is down 0–2 against Daniel in the finals, Kreese once again hows how unethical he is by instructing Johnny to sweep Daniel's leg, shocking Johnny. Kreese then tells him to show no mercy. Johnny reluctantly follows through with Kreese's instructions, but ultimately loses to Daniel.

The Karate Kid Part II

Following Johnny's loss to Daniel in the All Valley Karate Tournament, Kreese violently shows up when he looks upon Miyagi and Daniel before he proceeds to Johnny and his gang. Kreese violently berates Johnny for losing. Johnny argues with Kreese and calls him a loser, causing Kreese to break his second-place trophy. Johnny yelled that Kreese is sick, and Kreese attempted to strangle him by putting Johnny in a chokehold. When Bobby and Tommy attempted to stop him, Kreese hit them both. Miyagi intervened and instructed Kreese to let Johnny go, but Kreese threatened Miyagi and called him a racial slur. An angry Miyagi pulled Kreese off Johnny. Kreese attacked Miyagi who dodged the strikes. Kreese punched two car windows and damaged his hands. Miyagi was ready to deliver a blow to Kreese, only for him to tweak his nose and render him unconscious. Kreese's students, now finally seeing who their sensei really is, abandoned the lot and the dojo.

The Karate Kid Part III

Since the 1984 All Valley Tournament, Kreese had become broke and forced to close the dojo after his students abandoned him. A defeated Kreese visited his war buddy Terry Silver, who had originally given him the money to start Cobra Kai dojo, and after hearing Kreese's story, Silver decided to help Kreese. He connected a plan to hire Mike Barnes to defeat Daniel in the upcoming All Valley Tournament. Kreese retreated to Tahiti where Silver had arranged for Kreese to hide. Silver told Miyagi and Daniel that Kreese died after losing his students and his dojo, as part of his plan. Silver recruited Daniel to train with him at Cobra Kai.

Daniel visited the dojo one day, with a plan to tell Silver he wouldn't compete in the All Valley Karate Tournament. After the revelation, Kreese showed himself to Daniel as being alive. Mike Barnes appeared as well, with their true plan outed. Barnes attacked Daniel until Miyagi appeared, having followed Daniel. Kreese, Barnes, and Silver attacked Miyagi. Miyagi incapacitated the trio and escaped with Daniel.

At the All Valley Tournament, everything seems to be going planned as Kreese, Barnes, and Silver win multiple matches. However, in the sudden death round, Barnes faces off with Daniel and loses instantly. Daniel is named the champion and Silver left the arena disgusted and humiliated. As the crowd cheered for Daniel, Kreese became enraged and threw a shirt at them. He almost assaulted the audience or their cheering but was restrained. Barnes, Silver, and Kreese had made a deal to own multiple branches of Cobra Kai Dojo's, a franchise that was called off when Barnes lost to Daniel.

Interim Years

"Things got rough after I lost the dojo. I tried reenlisting but they wouldn't take me."
―Kreese to Johnny[src]

In the aftermath of the 1985 All Valley Karate Tournament, the executive committe would place a lifetime ban on the Cobra Kai dojo for the unethical actions of John Kreese, Terry Silver, and Mike Barnes. After losing Cobra Kai a second time, Kreese attempted to re-enlist in the army, only to be turned down as they wanted younger recruits. It is also implied that Kreese had psychiatric issues preventing him from being fit to serve. He was offered a job from an old friend but turned it down as he felt it was a handout. At some point, he began living in a homeless shelter as he was unable to hold job due to his mental health and physical stature.

Cobra Kai

Season 1

Kreese is shown in several flashbacks to the events of the 1980s. Daniel is confused as to why Johnny would reopen Cobra Kai after everything Kreese did, to which Johnny stated that he isn't going to teach like Kreese did. Regardless, the lessons from Kreese still worked even if the methods didn't. Johnny later learned that Cobra Kai dojo was permanently disqualified from the All Valley tournament following repeated rule breaking from Kreese, Silver, and Barnes in 1985. When the board asked Johnny his relationship with Kreese, he claimed that Kreese had died.

"Congratulations, you did what I always thought you could do, you won. Cobra Kai is back where it belongs. Back on top. Everyone closed the book on us. They thought we were done. But now they see, that the real story has only just begun."
―Kreese to Johnny[src]

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Johnny went on to lead Cobra Kai dojo to victory in the 2019 All Valley Karate Tournament, as his prize student took the championship. As he closed Cobra Kai for the night, Johnny heard commotion in the dojo and informed the visitor that the dojo was closed. A voice congratulated Johnny for bringing Cobra Kai back and reclaiming their champion title. The man emerged to show himself as John Kreese, readily alive and returned to the valley. Kreese noted that they have a chance to finally get revenge on Daniel LaRusso for the closure of the 1985 school. He eerily noted that they won't have Mr. Miyagi to stand in their way.

Season 2

"I founded Cobra Kai. It belongs to me. It always has... and it always will."
―Kreese to Johnny[src]

Johnny, like Daniel in The Karate Kid Part III, is extremely shocked to learn that Kreese is still alive. Kreese congratulates him for training his student to be a champion. An angry Johnny attacks Kreese, but is kicked to the ground by Kreese who then laughs and reminds him that he tought him all his moves. Johnny tells him "not everything" and kicks Kreese's face, making Kreese impressed. Johnny attacks Kreese again and while managing to hit him, Kreese gains the upper had again and kicks him into the glass window. Kreese then tells Johnny he does not want to fight, but to talk. Johnny reminds him of what he did to him, such as teaching him to fight dirty, breaking his second place, trophy and trying to kill him. Kreese states that he did not try to kill him, but this enrages Johnny who tackles him to the ground and successfully puts him in a choke-hold, the latter being similar to what Kreese did to him when Johnny lost to Daniel in the 1984 tournament. However, after realizing that he is doing the same thing Kreese did to him, Johnny shows mercy and lets him go, only for Kreese to exploit his weakness by kicking his foot, causing Johnny to fall down. He also shows he could care less for political correctness.

Kreese reunites with Johnny

The following morning Kreese and Johnny Lawrence meet at a diner per Kreese's request, where Kreese says that he went back to his old profession as a marine and military instructor in the US army to make a living, and that He participated in Operation: Desert Storm and trained Navy Seals in Afghan. He continued his story to say that after retiring from the military, he becomes disillusioned with the current generation as he sees them as a bunch of feeble show-off and ass kisser. This makes him attempt to join Johnny's Cobra Kai dojo by persuading Johnny to join his cause, only for Johnny to furiously push him away. However, after revealing he fixed Johnny's second-place trophy from the All Valley tournament in 1984, Kreese manages to convince Johnny to let him observe his teaching at his Cobra Kai dojo again and is introduced by him to his students.

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Later, after Miguel tells Johnny that some parts of Kreese's story doesn't make sense as Kreese cannot distinguish of the fact Mogadishu is part of Somalia and Rwanda is a country not a city, Johnny trails Kreese to find that he's actually been living in homeless shelters over the past 10 or so years and had worked various multiple jobs. Kreese revealed that while he did attempt to re-enlist, the military didn't accept him as he may have failed a psych eval and alluded to having PTSD. One of his old Vietnam friends offered him a job, but he felt that it was just a hand-out. Now seeing the man's humanity and vulnerability, Johnny puts his full trust in Kreese.

Now a sensei at Johnny's Cobra Kai, Kreese uses his position to begin teaching Johnny's students to be more aggressive and to show no restraint in fights. When Johnny leaves the dojo to deal with a dying friends final days, Kreese secretly makes arrangements with Armand Zarkarian, the owner of the strip mall that Cobra Kai is in to obtain ownership of the dojo. He claims to get on top of invoices and other business issues that Johnny had neglected as well. He also begins conditioning Johnny's students to be more aggressive in fights in a brutal tracking and hunting game much like how he originally trained the members of Special Forces during his service in Vietnam. Under his orders, Hawk and two other students vandalize the Miyagi Do Karate Dojo. After Johnny returns and finds out what Kreese has been teaching his students, he kicks Kreese out of the dojo and gives his students a speech on when to show mercy.

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However, after Miguel is severely injured by Robby Keene after showing mercy to him in a fight, a handful of Johnny's students which include Hawk, Tory, Raymond and Mitch leave him and go to Kreese, who has now become the owner of the dojo. When Johnny goes to confront Kreese, his students block him, loyal only to Kreese now. Upon seeing what his dojo has turned into and realizing his grave mistake for trusting Kreese and bringing Cobra Kai back in the first place, Johnny tells Kreese if he wants Cobra Kai, then he can have it. Johnny then storms out in anger & now Kreese is the dojo's sole sensei.

Season 3

"We won't just dominate the tournament. We'll melt this whole snowflake generation!"
―Kreese to Johnny[src]

Kreese later finds Daniel, who was looking for Johnny, in Cobra Kai dojo. During their meeting, Kreese taunts Daniel by telling him how much he failed, making fun of Mr Miyagi and claiming their fight is "inevitable". Kreese also tells Daniel that he and Johnny will finish the rivalry and fight against him together.

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Kreese's cruelty and ruthlessness reaches extreme levels. He continues to encourage his students to be ruthless and merciless to their enemies. His first action is to identify and kick out several students who he doesn't believe are Cobra Kai material, most notably Bert for being unwilling to feed a mouse to the snake and seeing Bert's love of pets and animals as weakness. He then starts recruiting local bullies like Kyler and well as athletes known for bad attitudes. He then sets his new untrained students against established members of Cobra Kai kicking out those who lose. He later puts a snake in LaRusso Auto Group due to Daniel and his wife Amanda trying to get him evicted.

At several points, there are flashbacks of his time in the army and in Vietnam, where he was shown meeting Terry Silver, training, fighting, and being exposed and eventually corrupted to the ruthless and no mercy mentality that he would not let go of. He experienced several traumatic events, such as being captured in Vietnam, watching Ponytail be executed by the Vietnamese, watching two of his fellow soldiers fight to death under the Vietnamese's order, and learning that his girlfriend Betsy died, with the latter likely upsetting and infuriating him the most. After being captured by the Vietnamese, his group was forced to fight one on one to death. It was during his one on one match with his captain when Kreese finally accepted the no mercy mentality, and committed his first ruthless act by killing his captain, despite the American Forces arriving to rescue them.

One day, Kreese meets Johnny in a bar, where he tells Johnny he had to kick Johnny out because he was being soft, and then says it's time for him to come back to the dojo. Johnny however, refuses because he can't trust him. He attempts to get him back again after learning about Johnny's new dojo, but once again he refuses.

Kreese meets Robby at juvie

Some time after his conversation with Johnny, Kreese visits Johnny's son Robby Keene in juvie. He first talks to Robby about when he found out when Johnny was tough and a winner, but Robby tells him that he doesn't care. Kreese then says he doesn't deserve to be here, and even reminds him that he tried to break up the fight, but Miguel attacked him. Robby, however tells him that he is wasting his time, and that he doesn't want another sensei. Kreese decides to leave, but not before telling Robby that he should act more ruthless and strike first. Robby follows his advise by attacking his juvie goons that have been harassing him shortly after his conversation with Kreese.

When Robby is released from juvie he visits Cobra Kai and begins his training with Kreese, who also lets Robby live in the dojo as he's been outcast from his father and Daniel. Kreese installs his ruthless mentality into the impressionable boy. On one night, Kreese orders Tory, Hawk and some of his students attack the Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang Karate students who had just formed a truce at the LaRusso household. Unbeknownst to him however, Hawk would realize that his teachings are wrong, leading to him defecting and siding with Miyagi Do in the fight.

After learning about the fight, Johnny goes to Cobra Kai to confront Kreese, but is shocked to see Robby training with him. Kreese gives him one last point to join him, with Robby telling Johnny to listen to him. Upon hearing Robby's request, Johnny becomes enraged and attacks Kreese. Kreese fights back, but is bested by Johnny. Robby watches on helplessly. Then eventually, Robby defends Kreese and attacks Johnny, but Johnny doesn't want to fight his own son and Robby continually attacks Johnny and even attempts to sweep his own father's leg but misses. Johnny then ends up unintentionally making him unconscious.

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While tending to Robby, Kreese tries to murder Johnny by choking him from behind. He is stopped by Daniel who tells Kreese that he wanted a fight so now he has one. Kreese grabs Daniel and throws him through the glass pane on the front door. Grabbing a glass shard, Kreese attempts to murder Daniel by stabbing him. He warns him that it's time for Miyagi and Daniel to reunite, though Daniel temporarily disables him by using pressure point techniques he learned from an old friend. Daniel is about deliver a final blow with permission from Johnny, but ultimately spares Kreese after Sam and Miguel arrive. Robby, who awakens, stands next to Kreese and shows his loyalty to him. Kreese agrees to cease hostilities until the upcoming tournament, and promises to leave if Cobra Kai loses. Kreese retreats into the dojo where Robby ultimately follows.

The morning after the fight, Kreese remembers Terry promising him that he owes him for the rest of his life, after saving Terry and the other prisoners in Vietnam. Back in the present, Kreese makes a phone call to an old pal.

Season 4

Kreese seeks to make an alliance of his own by convincing his former war buddy, and the original Cobra Kai dojo owner Terry Silver, to return to the valley and help him win the 2019 All Valley Karate Tournament against Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. He learns that Silver is not the same man he was in the 80s, the last time they saw one another. He's found therapy, a good woman, and a stable mindset. He refers to their antics in the 80s against Daniel to be insane. Kreese reminds him of their time in Vietnam together, hoping that the reminiscing will make Silver remember why they started the dojo. Silver still refuses, with Kreese returning to his dojo in an attempt to prepare his students the best he can for the upcoming tournament. He convinces Robby Keene to stay at Cobra Kai by giving him an outlet for his anger and hatred. Kreese learns of Tory's struggles now that she's lost her job, and confronts Amanda LaRusso over the incident, for she had gone to Tory's work to ensure that the latter left Sam alone. He reveals the truth of Tory's homelife to Amanda, then threatens what would happen if he reported their close proximity to the authorities. He agrees to let things settle themselves on the mat, as he does admire her protective nature when it comes to Sam.

Personality

"Mr. Miyagi always told me there's no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. And your dad had the worst teacher there ever was. It sent him down a wrong path."
Daniel LaRusso to Robby Keene[src]

John Kreese was raised by a single, yet mentally unstable, mother. His mother killed herself when John was a child, which subjected him to tormenting and bullying in his teen years. He was labeled a freak and an outcast. He hardened to the cruel and unfair circumstances of his life, but still kept hope for the future. He joined the military in search of a second chance; a chance to serve his country and do something honorable with the small life he had been given. He fell in love with a woman, was hopeful for the future, yet kept himself guarded during his time in Vietnam. Kreese was taught martial arts and a merciless mentality was drilled into him at every opportunity. Kreese's outlook on the world shifted when he and his unit were kidnapped in Vietnam and subjected to torture at the hands of their captors. They were forced to fight one another to the death, watch their comrades die, and then repeat the viscous cycle. Kreese had empathy for a frightened soldier named Terry Silver and took his place in the fight against Captain Turner. Turner exploited the vulnerable situation to tell Kreese of Betsy's death, news which devastated Kreese and nearly broke him. During the fight against Turner, Kreese had the upper-hand but also a chance to save Turner's life as American allies had arrived to rescue the captives. Kreese chose to kick Turner to his death, declaring that they show know mercy.

This was a tipping point for Kreese's emotional stability, as his later personality can only be described as cold, calculating, aggressive, and bad-tempered. He created a karate dojo which he poured his life into, but his deep-hatred for outsiders or people who he deemed weak would be his downfall. He instilled the same fear, merciless, and aggressive way of thinking into his students. He subjected them to arguably the worst forms of psychological, and sometimes physical, abuse until they did what he expected of them. He shaped young men into his image; aggressive, sexist, and hateful. Kreese has a deep hatred for his competitor and Japanese sensei Mr. Miyagi, who he called racial slurs and put down at every given chance. His hatred extended to Miyagi's student, Daniel LaRusso, who rivaled that of Kreese's star-student and protégé Johnny Lawrence. As their rivalry escalated, anger became bloodthirsty, and pride became obsession. He pressured Johnny into winning the All-Valley tournament, but when he failed, Kreese attacked the teenager and tried to choke him to death. He attacked his students but was stopped by Miyagi, who once again, stopped Kreese from following through with what Kreese deemed an appropriate action. His obsession escalated as he recruited an old pal, to hatch a meticulous, vindictive, and cruel plan to crush Daniel's mentality and life. He used under-handed and cheap tricks in an attempt to win the tournament.

This plan also failed, leaving a prideful Kreese once again humiliated. He spiraled into a drunken, drug-addicted, homeless stupor. He began to experience PTSD from his time in the war, but was to proud to accept help when it was offered. Over three decades later, Kreese heard of the reopening of Cobra Kai and returned in search of the glory he had lost before. He enacted a rouse to get Johnny to trust him again, using the subvert manipulations to eventually steal the dojo back. As the sensei of Cobra Kai once again, he continues to corrupt his students mind and convince them to go to war with Miyagi Do. He has shown multiple cruel and sadistic traits towards those he believes have betrayed him or that refuse to conform to his way of behaving. Kreese has no qualms breaking the law, manipulating people, and even attempting murder if it means salvaging his pride. He doesn't care if his opponent is weaker then him, so long as they can be beaten.

Fighting Style

"The fight is only over... when you say it is."
―John Kreese to Hawk[src]

Captain John Kreese was originally trained in the art of Tang Soo Do, a Korean style of martial arts similar to Taekwondo and Karate, under the direction of a commanding officer who previously studied under master Kim Sun-Yung of South Korea, from whom he learned not only various punches, strikes, stances and blocks, but also a variety of powerful kicking techniques, such as the roundhouse kick, which Kreese would later be noted to be particularly good at. His skills was such that he held the title of karate champion of the United States army from 1970 to 1972, before he eventually went on to continue his training under said master himself. Under his tutelage, Johnny Lawrence, Bobby Brown, Jimmy, Dutch, Tommy, Jerry, and Mike Barnes would all become skilled martial artists in their own right. Trained for combat under the principles of "no mercy", Kreese have long become the epitome of ruthlessness. He will do anything, no matter how underhanded, to win. That said, he is a good all-around fighter with a solid defense and good counters. According to Johnny, Kreese's 'ultimate kick' is the roundhouse kick. However, the years have cost him some of his ability; his student Johnny Lawrence, who was once putty in his hands, fought with him on reasonably equal terms. He never approached Miyagi in terms of skill, with Miyagi defeating him effortlessly on two occasions.

Prior to joining the military, he defeated both David and his friend, despite being outnumbered. Despite initally being overpowered by Turner in Vietnam, he regained his footing after stabbing him with a bamboo stick, and proceeded to defeat and kill his captain. Even as a septuagenarian, Kreese is capable of fighting against his former pupil Johnny twice, subduing Tory's landlord, beating up Zarkarian's nephews, and throwing Daniel through a glass pane. While he does have the upper hand for the majority of his first fight with Johnny, he is eventually overpowered by the latter. However, after Johnny shows mercy, Kreese wins by exploiting Johnny's newfound merciful nature. During second fight with Johnny, the latter repeatedly gets the better of Kreese, and Kreese is only able to get the upper hand when Johnny is focused on Robby and not paying attention to the fight. During his fight against Daniel, the latter gains the upper hand by disabling Kreese through pressure point techniques. While a modern day Kreese is still a strong and capable fighter, it is clear he has lost some of his strength overtime.

Relationships

Terry Silver

"I owe you man, you saved my ass. Anything you need, I'm there for you, your whole life. You hear me Johnny? Your whole life. I owe you."
Terry's promise to Kreese in Vietnam[src]

Terry and Kreese in Vietnam

Kreese and Terry met in Vietnam as they were in the same infantry division of the US Army. They were fast friends and comrades, with both men being recruited into a special task force unit by their Captain. While on a mission, Kreese couldn't detonate the bombs laid by a fellow soldier, due to the soldier not being in the clear, and the unit was kidnapped as a result. The unit underwent horrific torture as they watched their friends either be executed or fight to the death above a snake pit. Silver was selected to fight against their Captain, but the man was terrified of the possiblity. Kreese volunteered in his place, saving Silver's life. Kreese beat their Captain just as American forces arrived to rescue the unit. Kreese freed the captured soldiers, with Terry thanking Kreese by making a promise to be there for him for his whole life, no matter what. Following their discharge from the military, they got matching cobra tattoos to celebrate their plan to open a karate dojo using the training they received in Vietnam. Silver was forced to back out of his senseiship, but remained the primary finanical backer of the dojo. In 1985, Kreese needed to defeat the teenaged Daniel LaRusso in the All Valley Karate Tournament to restore his reputation and student-base. Silver concocted a revenge scheme, despite Kreese's insistence his friend didn't owe him anything. He felt he owed his life to Kreese many times over. Despite their elaborate plan, they failed and fell out of contact for over thirty years.

Johnny Lawrence

"You were my best student. You had so much potential, I just couldn't stand seeing you loose."
―Kreese to Johnny[src]

Kreese is probably the most responsible for Johnny's life turning out the way it did. Yet sadly, the closest thing Johnny ever had to an actual father, but now fully his arch enemy. After joining Cobra Kai, Johnny quickly becomes Kreese's top student. The two would develop a bond, mostly on Johnny's end, as he looked up to Kreese. He instructs Johnny to be merciless. However, after ordering him to sweep Daniel's leg in the finals of the all valley tournament, Johnny expresses discomfort, while realizing Kreese has gone too far, but reluctantly proceeds. Johnny however loses to Daniel. After the loss, an angry Kreese berates him, calls him a loser, and proceeds to choke him. Johnny however, is saved by Miyagi. Now, realizing how horrible of a human being Kreese is, Johnny and his friends leave the dojo. Over the span of thirty years, Johnny believes Kreese had died, but is sorely mistaken. The man returns to the valley looking to become partners and co-senseis.

Initially, Johnny wants nothing to do with Kreese, due to his past actions. However, when Kreese fixes his second place trophy from the 1984 tournament and apologizes for his behavior, Johnny forgives him and allows him to co-teach at the dojo in his belief of giving others a chance to change. However, halfway into season 2, it is revealed Kreese is still a corrupt human being, as he is poisoning his students into being more vicious and ruthless and reverting Cobra Kai back to how it was in 1984. When Johnny finds out, he kicks him out of the dojo. In the season 2 finale however, Kreese reveals to Johnny that he struck a deal with the landlord to give him the dojo, making him the owner of Cobra Kai again. A handful of Johnny's students have left Johnny and joined Kreese after the school brawl. Realizing he made a mistake giving Kreese a second chance and re-opening Cobra Kai, Johnny angrily leaves the dojo, but not before telling Kreese that if he wants Cobra Kai; it's his.

Kreese tells Johnny he took away Cobra Kai for going soft, and then tries to convince him to return, but is refused as Johnny doesn't trust him. Despite their strained relationship, Kreese still had some twisted attachment to Johnny and seemed to genuinely want him by his side at Cobra Kai as he later attempts to convince him to rejoin again after leaning about Johnny's new dojo, but is refused. After learning about the fight at Daniel's house, Johnny goes to Cobra Kai to confront Kreese, but is shocked to learn Robby is his student. Kreese gives him one more chance to join, but a furious Johnny attacks and gets the better of him. However, while Johnny tends to an injured and unconscious Robby, Kreese attempts to murder him and seems to finally give up all hoped he had on his former student returning to him, only to be stopped by Daniel. After losing to Daniel, Kreese promises Johnny and Daniel that he will leave Cobra Kai if they lose the All Valley tournament.

Mr. Miyagi

"You've got real nerve, old man. Real nerve."
―Kreese to Mr. Miyagi[src]

Miyagi was Kreese's biggest enemy, due to their conflicting morals and teaching tactics. Kreese's hatred for Miyagi continued after the latter's death, with Kreese holding a deep resentment for the man. They first met in The Karate Kid, when Miyagi attempts to convince Kreese to have his students leave Daniel alone, but a stubborn Kreese wants to settle things physically. This cultivates in them agreeing that Daniel will compete against them in the All Valley Tournament. Kreese underestimated Miyagi and was greatly amused by how confident he was when he stood up for Daniel, showing that he had some respect for him, even if it was very little.

In The Karate Kid Part II, when Kreese is choking Johnny for losing to Daniel in the tournament, Miyagi tells him to let him go, but when Kreese refuses and uses a racial slur against him, Miyagi pushes him off. A furious Kreese then attacks Miyagi, only to be severely wounded and immobilized by the latter. Mr. Miyagi shows mercy to Kreese, as he feels that living is a worse punishment than death.

In The Karate Kid Part III, Mr. Miyagi learns from Terry that Kreese has died, though the man is unaware of Kreese's scheming plan for revenge. When Terry, Kreese, and Mike harassed Daniel, Mr. Miyagi arrived to protect him and Kreese stopped Terry from attacking Miyagi initially as he wanted to fight him by himself at first, saying that they were '"old friends". Ultimately, Kreese's desire for revenge doesn't come to fruition as Mr. Miyagi helps Daniel defeat Mike in the sudden death round of the All Valley, to win the title for the second straight year.

Thirty years later, Kreese mocked the deceased Miyagi on a few occasions and was happy to learn that the Miyagi-Do name was dragged through the mud in the aftermath of the school brawl.

Daniel LaRusso

"Hello Danny boy, nice try but you can't end a war with diplomacy. So I suggest you prepare your students for battle, because now is open season...on them and you."
―Kreese to Daniel[src]

Kreese and Daniel have been enemies since 1984, when Daniel was sixteen and posed a threat to Kreese's ruthless karate tactics and business. 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 The Karate Kid Part II, 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 The Karate Kid Part III, Terry lies to Daniel that Kreese is dead which upsets Daniel, though this lie is part of Kreese's plot to get revenge on Daniel and Miyagi for their actions at the All Valley. Daniel is later shocked when he sees Kreese is alive and ultimately beats Kreese once more when he defeats Mike Barnes. Despite being a major threat in Kreese's life, John never actually spoke to Daniel directly or had any type of dialogue with the kid, but enjoyed seeing him suffer as evident by his reactions to the beatings the young LaRusso took from Lawrence and Barnes.

Over thirty years later, Daniel is under the impression that Kreese had died once again, but 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. Kreese shows up at Daniel's house, and threatens him with war between the to dojos, as well as insults Miyagi's death. Kreese mocks Daniel and Miyagi, to which Daniel reminds Kreese the number of times Miyagi defeated him. After learning that Kreese sent his students to attack the Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang students, Daniel attacks him in the Cobra Kai dojo. When Kreese attempts to kill Daniel with glass, Daniel defeats him using the pressure point techniques that Chozen taught him. After his defeat, Kreese says he will leave Cobra Kai if they lose the All Valley.

Robby Keene

Robby is Kreese's new student, though to Kreese he is clearly a weapon and tool, not a student. When Kreese visits Robby in juvie, he convinces Robby to act more aggressively, which he does against his bully Shawn. Preying on the already crestfallen and distraught Robby's anguish and confusion, Kreese corrupts his mind to further turn him against Johnny and Daniel and to join Cobra Kai, which Robby does after being released from juvie later in the season. When Johnny is beating up Kreese, Robby defends him and attacks Johnny, only for Johnny to accidently knock him into lockers. Robby gets up and stands next to Kreese and tells Miguel, Sam, Daniel and Johnny to get out of here. He then walks back in the dojo with Kreese, as Robby lives in the dojo due to having no home and Shannon being in rehab still.

Tory Nichols

Tory is Kreese's second most corrupt student. After joining Cobra Kai, she enjoys Kreese's no mercy mentality. When Kreese asks her if she is coming back to Cobra Kai, Tory says she can't because of her sick mom and landlord. Kreese shows some sympathy for her mom, due to his own mom dying years ago. He then confronts her landlord and threatens him to leave her alone. After his confrontation with her landlord, Tory returns to Cobra Kai.

Other Relationships

Trivia

  • Kreese's counterpart in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid is Master Li.
  • Colonel Dugan in The Next Karate Kid seems very similar to Kreese, though he is more cold and ruthless than Kreese.
  • It's left deliberately unclear as to whether Kreese faked his own death twice, or if Johnny was informed he had died in 1985 along with everyone else and never found out otherwise.
  • In an article about the 1983 All Valley tournament during season 3, the title said he led Cobra Kai to a 4th victory, which means that he had at least one student that won the tournament before Johnny won his first.
  • In the framed picture of Kreese as the U.S. Army's Karate Champion for 1970-1972, Kreese is wearing the insignia of a U.S. Army captain (pay grade O-3), and the beret flash of the 5th Special Forces Group on his beret, with the distinctive unit insignia used by all U.S. Army Special Forces units superimposed on the flash.

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