- "Mercy is for the weak."
- ―John Kreese[src]
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.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Film series
- 3 Cobra Kai
- 4 Personality
- 5 Fighting Style
- 6 Relationships
- 7 Trivia
- 8 Gallery
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.
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 it, 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, clearly intrigued by the idea. He hurriedly stuck it in his pocket as his employer told him off for slacking off, and went back to "bussing the tables." As he went to carry a tray full of dirty cutlery into the back, David tripped him, leaving Kreese humiliated as everyone left 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 upset 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. The jocks ridiculed Kreese for his crush on Betsy and his mother's death. The trio fought violently until Kreese regained his bearings and successfully incapacitated the pair of them, retorting that he had been fighting bullies all his life. Kreese than offered Betsy a ride home, which she accepted.
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".
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 Ponytail snuck to the edge of the compound to set explosives. Ponytail's radio erupted and Kreese was ordered by Turner to blow the compound to avoid being caught. Kreese hesitated as Silver was still inside and though his friend could escape in time. The unit was spotted and taken capture by the Vietnamese enemies.
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. Thus, 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.
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. Kreese was able to stab Turner in the leg with a broken piece of bamboo and gain the upper hand. Turner hung from the platform as 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.
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 during practice, Kreese found Johnny crying over the difficulty of his home life and the strained relationship he had with his stepfather. Kreese told Johnny not to give into his negative feelings. He taught Johnny to channel his anger into karate, reminding the boy that it didn't matter what anyone told him, as long as Johnny himself knew that he was "a winner."
Cobra Kai Dojo 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 went on to win two more times within that time frame.
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 him (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 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 call 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. He visited Terry Silver, a man who Kreese served in the Vietnam war alongside. Silver 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. 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.
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.
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]
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.
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. At first Kreese gains the upper-hand, but Johnny is eventually able to overpower Kreese and put him in a choke-hold, 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.
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.
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 (Source: Season 2, Ep 4). One of his old Vietnam buddies (it is unknown whether is Terry Silver or not) offered him a job, but he felt that it was just a hand-out. Johnny now 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 go spend time with his old high school friends, Kreese secretly makes arrangements with the landlord of the mini-mall Cobra Kai is in to obtain ownership of the dojo, as well as 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.
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 it's his. Johnny then storms out in anger & now Kreese is the dojo's sole sensei.
- "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.
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 (like Mitch). 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 a fellow soldier (Ponytail) being 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.
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.
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 friend.
- "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]
During his childhood, he had an unstable mom who eventually committed suicide, and he himself was a victim of bullying. However, he eventually stood up for himself and beat up a guy named David who insulted him earlier and was harassing his girlfriend Betsy. He then started a relationship with Betsy and went off to the army. During his time in the army, he was exposed to the ruthlessness and no mercy mentality. Ultimately, the traumatic events he went through, with the most notable saddening one being his girlfriend's death, led to him being merciless, starting with him killing his captain in a death match, despite the American forces arriving to rescue them. He then rescued his fellow imprisoned soldiers, with one of them being Terry Silver, who promised him that he owed him for the rest of his life.
Kreese was a strict and ruthless teacher who taught his students to be merciless to their opponents. Prior to the start of the semi-finals of the All Valley Tournament he showed how low he was willing to stoop when he instructed Bobby to put Daniel out of commission. During the finals he further showed how low he was willing to stoop when he told Johnny to sweep Daniel's foot. His actions in the semi-finals and final show that he is a cruel as unethical teacher that was willing to win at all costs.
Despite being a soldier like Mr. Miyagi, but unlike him, Kreese sees his students are more like soldiers than martial artists, which is the root cause of his strict and violent teaching. For him, life is a battlefield and one must fight for its with any means necessary much like a soldier willing to do everything to survive in the battlefield. One can interpret that Kreese cannot let go of his view as a soldier when it comes to civilian life.
Following Johnny's loss to Daniel in the All Valley Tournament, Kreese berates Johnny and breaks his trophy, showing how much of a sore loser he really is. He then chokes Johnny and hits students Bobby Brown and Tommy when they try to stop him, thus further proving to everyone how cruel and vicious he really is. Even after Mr. Miyagi stopped him from killing Johnny, he became angry and even tried to attack Miyagi, ultimately getting himself passively immobilized by him in the process. After being defeated by Mr. Miyagi, Johnny and his own students resign their membership in the dojo, walking away from him in disgust.
Nine months after the tournament, Kreese's business reputation has dive bombed. In addition to his entire class resigning at the 1984 tournament, Cobra Kai has become a disreputable dojo due to Kreese's violent post-tournament spectacle. He comes in one day to an empty dojo, and listens to two messages on his answering machine, one from Pat Johnson, the referee from the 1984 tournament, who says the deadline for registering Cobra Kai for the 1985 All-Valley Tournament is coming due, and if he fails to enter at least one student, Cobra Kai will be dropped from the rolls. He then hears a message from the phone company, warning that they are terminating his service for non-payment. Defeated, he goes to see his best friend Terry Silver in order to surrender the keys to the dojo to him, defeatedly admitting he ran the business into the ground. Silver, however, tells him to forget about his financial problems. He says all businesses face slumps, pointing out how his own business, Dynatox, is always in trouble with the law due to their polluting ways. When Kreese tries to get Silver to face reality as he is bankrupt and going nowhere, Silver says no, John Kreese is on his way to Tahiti. While recuperating in French Polynesia, Silver amortized all of Kreese's back debts and buys him the title to several more dojos, making a simultaneous plan to ruin Mr. Miyagi and Daniel for beating Cobra Kai at the last tournament and making Cobra Kai the most proficient karate school in California. Bolstered by Terry Silver's financial clout, Kreese becomes as arrogant as he did prior to the 1984 tournament. He enjoys making Daniel suffer. However his revenge is ruined when Daniel beats Barnes in the sudden death round, causing a humiliated Kreese to walk out of the dojo.
In the 33 years between Karate Kid 3 and Cobra Kai, Kreese's life went downhill. Not only could he not re-enlist in the army due to them wanting young blood and possibly due to his mental illness, but he eventually goes to live in a homeless shelter. He, however, would not let go of the pain Daniel and Miyagi caused him, and wanted revenge. His life after losing to dojo is similar to Johnny's after he lost the tournament as their lives got worse, but unlike Johnny, who had some positive things go for him albeit for a short time, Kreese had pretty much nothing going for him. Kreese is still extremely bitter at Daniel and Miyagi for ruining his business and is still bent on getting his revenge.
Kreese shows to be bitter with the current society as he views as weak, feeble and full of show-off rather than real warriors. He shows great disgust and disdain for ones such as Demetri and Stingray. To Kreese, War is the only thing that ever bred true greatness.
At first, Kreese appears remorseful for the way he treated Johnny. Feeling like Kreese has changed, Johnny gives him a second chance. After Kreese reveals to Johnny how much he has gone through since he lost the dojo, Johnny puts more trust in him, while Johnny thinks he can monitor and control the situation with Kreese.
However, halfway into the season it is revealed that Kreese has not changed and is still a cruel and corrupt man. He uses his ruthless and no mercy personality, as well as his past war tactics to corrupt several of Johnny's students minds and turn them into ruthless and cold blooded teenage human beings. Under orders Hawk whom he manages to corrupt the most, and some other students to trash Daniel's dojo. While Johnny is away hanging out with his Cobra Kai friends Kreese takes this opportunity to corrupt and manipulate Johnny's students even more and betray Johnny by secretly meeting with the landlord, Armand Zarkarian and striking a deal with the latter to have him own the Dojo.
He shows up at Daniel's Dojo at once where he threatens him with war between the two dojos. He also continues to emotionally manipulate and flatter Johnny regarding "how he'll make Cobra Kai bigger than ever before" and how Johnny feels about letting Daniel teach his son karate instead of himself. After discovering Kreese's scheme, an angry Johnny banishes Kreese from the dojo.
However, by the end of the season he reveals to Johnny that he now owns the dojo. Hawk, Tory, Raymond, Mitch and several other of Johnny's students are now training with Kreese and completely under his spell. By this point Kreese has corrupted several of Johnny's students enough to betray Johnny and follow him. Although they may be corrupted, Kreese thinks he is doing the right thing by showing them 'no mercy', as what happened to Miguel who broke his back, which the Cobra Kai's blames Johnny for teaching them mercy during a fight. How Kreese thinks is he is making Cobra Kai better and stronger. He even once said in the finale "One day you'll thank me, Johnny." Johnny only see what Kreese's teachings turned him into, so he left in total anger telling Kreese that if he wants to take ownership of the Cobra Kai dojo, then he can have it.
Despite taking over Cobra Kai and corrupting many students, he has not completely corrupted Cobra Kai as Miguel, who is still loyal to Johnny, and other students such as Aisha, were not present when Kreese took over, possibly indicating that others students have opposed Kreese's method.
Kreese is continuing to instill his ruthless mindset in his students. His ruthlessness escalates as his mental stability fractures. He feeds a mouse to a snake in front of his students after they name it, and kicks out the students that protests the death of the mouse such as Bert. To get back at Daniel and Amanda, Kreese breaks into LaRusso Auto and leaves a live snake in one of the cars. He later attempts to murder Johnny.
At certain points in the season, flashbacks of his time in Vietnam are shown, which point out how his experience the circumstances and specific situations led to him becoming a ruthlessness and merciless human being that is still the same to this day.
He eventually gains a student in Johnny's son Robby Keene and poisons his mind with his ruthless mentality. After Johnny confronts Kreese in the finale and finds out Robby is his student, he brutally attacks Kreese and gains the upper hard, but is eventually stopped by Robby. While Johnny is tending his unconscious son, Kreese uses this opportunity to attempt to murder his former pupil, but is stopped by Daniel, who defeats him by using the technique Chozen taught him. After his defeat, Kreese decides to settle this beef in the All valley, promising to leave if Cobra Kai loses.
Despite his ruthlessness, he is shown to have a certain amount of respect for women when they are being targeted by aggressive men. This is evident when he protects Tory by threatening her harassing landlord, and again, when he protected Betsy from her abusive boyfriend, David. He instead verbally antagonizes women he views as his enemy, such as Amanda LaRusso, then reacts legally to undermine her reputation with law enforcement.
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. Even as an old man he is formidable. However, the years have cost him some of his ability; his student Johnny Lawrence, who was once putty in his hands, is now able to fight with him on reasonably equal terms. However, in terms of skill he never approached Mr. Miyagi, who defeated him effortlessly on two occasions.
Even as a septuagenarian Kreese was able to fight against his former pupil Johnny in season 2 and won when the latter showed mercy. According to Johnny, Kreese's 'ultimate kick' is the roundhouse kick, implies when he says 'you still have a hell of a roundhouse' to Kreese in All In. In Season 3 he's seen capable of subduing Tory's landlord and beating up Zarkarian's nephews, however, during his second fight with Johnny, the latter repeatedly got the better of him, and he could only get the upper hand when Johnny was focused on Robby and not paying attention to him. During his fight with Daniel in the same season, the latter got the upper hand by disabling Kreese through the lessons he learned from Chozen. It is very evident that both Johnny and Daniel can beat an old Kreese, as his age has finally taken a toll on him, though he still is a capable fighter and very dangerous if you turn your back on him.
Terry Silver is Kreese's best friend, having fought together in Vietnam. After Kreese saved his life in Vietnam, Silver promised Kreese that he owed him for the rest of his life, and the two went on to be good friends. After they were discharged from the military, Silver founded the Cobra Kai Dojo and enlisted Kreese as the sensei. In The Karate Kid Part III, Kreese, who lost all his students following his actions in the aftermath of the 1984 All Valley, accepts defeat by handing the keys to Silver. However, Silver refuses to let him give up and concocts a revenge scheme. While Kreese is insistent that Silver doesn't owe him anything, Silver reminds Kreese that he saved his life countless amounts of time. Unfortunately, Silver's plan fails when Daniel defeats Mike Barnes in the All Valley Karate Tournament, resulting in Cobra Kai being shut down. In the third season of Cobra Kai, Silver appears in flashbacks during of their time in the army and Vietnam. In the last scene of the flashback, Silver promised Kreese he owed him for the rest of his life after being saved by Kreese is Vietnam.
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.
During the first season of Cobra Kai, Johnny is under the impression that Kreese is dead. However, following Cobra Kai's victory in the all valley tournament in the season 1 finale, Kreese shows up at the dojo, revealing that he is alive.
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. 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. Realizing he made a mistake giving Kreese a second chance, Johnny angrily leaves the dojo, but not before telling Kreese that if he wants Cobra Kai; it's his.
In season 3, when Kreese meets Johnny at a bar, he tells him 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. Kreese attempts to convince him to rejoin again after leaning about Johnny's new dojo, but is refused. In the finale, 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, only to be stopped by Daniel. After losing to Daniel, Kreese promises Johnny and Daniel that he will leave Cobra Kai id they loses the All Valley tournament.
Miyagi was Kreese's biggest enemy, due to their conflicting morals and teaching tactics. Kreese's hatred for Miyagi continued into 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.
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 instead of giving him a heavy blow, 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, but is unaware that Terry is Kreese's friend and is lying about his death in order to get revenge on him and Daniel for ruining Kreese's life following the 1984 All Valley Tournament. Later, when Terry, Kreese and Mike are harassing Daniel, Mr. Miyagi shows up. After Mike is beaten by Miyagi, Kreese attacks him, only to be beaten again. 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.
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. Over thirty years later, Daniel is under the impression that Kreese had died, an d 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.
In season 3, during their first meeting, which is at the dojo, 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 is Kreese's new student, though to Kreese he is clearly a weapon and tool, not a student. When Kreese visits Robby in juvie during season 3, he ends up convincing 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 is Kreese's second most corrupt student. After joining Cobra Kai in season 2, she is corrupted by Kreese's no mercy mentality. However, the two are shown interacting, outside of Kreese's teachings with the whole class.
In season 3, they have more interactions. 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. Tory gets more corrupted by Kreese's teachings. By the end of the season, Tory is revealed to be one of the handful of students at Cobra Kai remaining.
- 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.