- "Mercy is for the weak."
- ―John Kreese[src]
John Kreese, also known mononymously as Kreese, is the main antagonist of possibly the entire Karate Kid Franchise. He is a Vietnam War veteran, former U.S. Army captain and the co-founder of the original 1980s karate dojo Cobra Kai. He taught dozens of students to be merciless and vicious in their lives, including a young Johnny Lawrence. After repeated losses at the hands of Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi, Kreese fled the valley.
He returned over thirty years later upon hearing that Johnny reopened Cobra Kai. He eventually acquires the dojo through nefarious means, becoming the Sensei to an entirely new generation of students. Kreese is described by those around him as deeply disturbed and unhinged, forcing his "no mercy" philosophy of aggression and violence on his students.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues
- 3 Personality
- 4 Fighting Style
- 5 Relationships
- 6 Trivia
John Kreese was born in 1946. Little is known about his early life, except for the fact that he came from an not altogether stable household, and that it was marked by the decline of his mother's mental health. Throughout his teenage years, he was constantly attacked by bullies, and labeled as a "freak" for the way for he behaved.
Tragedy struck in 1965, by which time Kreese was living in the San Fernando Valley and successfully acquired a job at a diner, when Kreese's mother finally gave up on life and committed suicide; for which he was showed little sympathy by those around him. One day, Kreese 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, who bumped into him 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 eatery, hoping to persuade young men to be drafted 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 military man left. Seeing this, Kreese picked up the pamphlet and unfolded it, clearly intrigued by the idea, and 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 up, leaving him humiliated and furious on the floor as people laughed all around, with the only exception being Betsy, who was worried, and the owner, who mistook the tumble for clumsiness.
Shortly thereafter, Kreese was taking out the trash when he spotted the jocks from before, with David and Betsy arguing: Upset that she had made eye contact with Kreese in the diner, David had grabbed her firmly and told her never to do it again, and brutally smacked her across the face when she told him to let her go. Roused to anger by this, he dropped everything to confront him, demanding to know if David had never learned to "keep his hands to himself." Briefly ridiculed for having a crush on her, and mocked his mother's death before violently assaulting him, leading to a two-on-one fight between him and the bullies. At one point, he was knocked to the ground by David, who appeared to have the upper hand and mockingly asked him if he was scared, only to be caught off guard when Kreese regained his bearings and successfully incapacitated the pair of them, retorting that he had been fighting bullies all his life, and hence assured him that he was not. Exhausted and bruised, but ultimately victorious, Kreese caught Betsy's eye once more, and made offered her a lift home.
In the time that followed, Kreese would eventually begin dating Betsy, and at some point thereafter, he followed through on his new ambition of enlisting. By 1968, Kreese had underwent and passed the United States Army Basic Combat Training, the recruit training program of the United States Army, and subsequently been deployed to overseas in order to serve in the Vietnam War. Once there, Kreese quickly became known among his fellow patriots for his willingness to take risks, to the point where his commanding officer would speak very highly of him to the higher-ups in the unit, commending him for how unflappably he volunteered to walk point on foot patrols and readily joined ambush teams at great personal risk. While there, he befriended fellow soldier Terry Silver and a brother-in-arms affectionately called "Twig", on account of his skinny build and lack of visible muscle mass.
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. Upon following said direction, Kreese found him at the back of the tent, punching away on a raised cluster of bamboo sticks tied together and held up by rope in a crudely crafted exercise area. 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, where they would "go 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.
Trained extensively in guerilla tactics, demolition and hand-to-hand combat by their Captain himself; their new commanding officer Turner, who had previously served in the Korean War and been trained in the art of Tang Soo Do under the tutelage of master Kim Sun-Yung of South Korea for the purposes of close quarter combat with North Korean soldiers, proceeded to teach them everything he knew. It is unknown exactly how long he trained them for before he judged them ready to go on the mission, but the team in question would not leave for North Vietnam until some time the following year, in 1969. During this time, the Captain would often berate Kreese for his apparent inability to "shed his humanity" during physical confrontations, and at one point during a sparring match, he even made a point of showcasing this in front of his peers when Kreese briefly lowered his guard after he had landed a solid punch on him; reprimanding him in a manner that was very reminiscent of how Kreese himself would one day address the students in his dojo; warning him to not to lose concentration when he faced an opponent, and to leave no room for hesitation, second thoughts and to show to mercy to their enemies.
The following day, the task force embarked on their long-awaited mission, and eventually found themselves doing reconnaissance on a compound belonging to the The People's Army of Vietnam. As Ponytail tried to get hold of air support, Kreese monitored the campsite with a couple of binoculars and watched as Ponytail snuck to the edge of the camp to set up explosives. However, when Silver's radio erupted, Kreese was ordered by the captain to blow the compound, but Kreese hesitated as Ponytail was still there. Kreese became indirectly responsible for their subsequent capture when he hesitated, and all five of them were spotted and rounded up when Ponytail was caught trying to run back to the rest of the task force. The unit was subjected to several forms of torture and punishment, and ultimately hurled inside a cage made of bamboo and locked with a chain whilst the enemy decided to do with them; but not before making an example of Ponytail by shooting him dead with a bullet to the head, a casualty that horrified Kreese and caused the Captain to furiously blame Kreese for letting happen. Following their capture, they were made to fight to the death on a platform suspended over a pit full of venomous snakes, all for the amusement of the North 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. When one of his fellow soldiers knocked another into the pit, an uncomfortable Kreese looked down.
When Silver was picked to fight their commanding fighter and was in no state to do so, Kreese stepped up and volunteered to take his place, which he was allowed to do. As they approached the pit, Turner, who had still not forgiven Kreese for being the reason the unit was captured, voiced his certainty that he was going to win, as he, at the very least had something to fight for. Confused by this, Kreese objected to the insinuation, only for his elder to inform him that Betsy was dead. Before they were went on this mission, a letter had arrived to their camp stating that Betsy had been in a fatal car accident, and "wrapped her car around a tree driving to visit her grandmother in Pasadena." Overcome with grief, Kreese fought the officer with all his might, but though he had been hard-pressed to do so, Captain Turner still managed to overpower him, having Kreese on the ground and at his mercy and about to push him down into the pit, once more mocking him for his perceived weakness in failing to realize that on the battlefield, it was a matter of kill or be killed, at which point Kreese was able to stab him in the leg with a broken piece of bambus, pick himself up and finally get the upper hand, before succeeded in kicking him off the platform just as American soldiers and US Air Force jets arrived at the camp to save the unit. The officer told Kreese the fight was over and he could pull him up, but Kreese coldly replied that it was indeed true that he had never truly taken his lessons to heart, but that he would never make that mistake again. To drive home the point, Kreese resolved to show his commanding officer "no mercy" by sending Turner to his death in the cobra snake pit before he went to free 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 if there was ever anything he needed from him.
With the aforementioned mission successfully completed and his military superiors unaware of the full details surrounding the untimely demise of his commanding officer, Kreese went on to receive recognition for their contribution to the war effort the surviving members of their team and, as their late Captain had predicted, this victory did indeed "earn him his beret, and a U.S. battlefield commission to boot," after which 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 following Kreese's promotion, with the former saving his life several more times between 1969 and the war's inevitable end in 1975. In the absence of their captain's tutelage, however, but their training in unarmed combat no less important than before, they continued their rigorous workouts and sparring matches throughout the remainder of the war, along with others in their infantry company so that more soldiers could learn the valuable combat skills, and 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. Hardened and embittered by the numerous bereavements he suffered in the war, not least of all the loss of his beloved Betsy, upon his return to the United States, Kreese went back home to the Valley with the vow of not losing ever again. And, as is the case with many who have seen action and faced the horrors of war, his mind and heart stayed at the battlefield when the rest of him returned to the United States. While no longer serving active duty, however, he still resolved to serve his community by instilling 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 snakepit; Cobra Kai. And so it was that for the next decade or so, Kreese would train young men in the area in "the way of the fist", and instill in them the creed that his commanding officer had once taught him, and which he summed up through a simple motto: "Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy".
By 1979, Cobra Kai was already running and had a respectable number of members when then twelve or thirteen year old Johnny Lawrence discovered and joined the dojo. At some point between then and 1984, Kreese happened upon Johnny crying over the difficulty of his home life and the strained relationship he had with his stepfather, and told him not to give into and hence "lose" to his negative feelings, proceeding coaching him in how to channel his anger into the pursuit of karate by telling himself by telling himself over and over that it did not matter what anyone told him, as long as Johnny himself knew that he was "a winner." in the 1981 All Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion Darryl Vidal, but didn't make the fight easy, which made Kreese realize he would not lose again. Kreese was proved right when Johnny won the tournament in 1982 and 1983. Under Kreese's leadership, Cobra Kai won the all valley tournament 4 times between the late 1970's (probably 1979) and 1983.
The Karate Kid (1984)
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 (1986)
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 proves himself as a sadistic sore loser by berating Johnny for losing. Johnny argues with Kreese and calls him a loser, causing Kreese to break his second-place trophy (which Johnny seemed fine with winning). After Johnny insulted him by calling him sick, Kreese attempted to strangle him with his arms. When Bobby and Tommy attempt to stop him, Kreese hits them both. Miyagi instructs Kreese to let him go, but Kreese threatens him and call him slope (a racial slur towards Asians). An angry Miyagi pulls Kreese off Johnny. An angry Kreese attacks Miyagi but ends up wounding his hands thanks to Miyagi dodging both his strikes, which causes Kreese to punch two car windows. Miyagi is ready to deliver a huge blow to Kreese, but only for him to tweak his nose, rendering him unconscious as a result. Kreese's students, now finally seeing the man he really is, depart the dojo.
The Karate Kid Part III (1985)
Just over 9 Months following the 1984 All Valley tournament and Kreese's actions in the aftermath, Kreese is down in luck, as not only did all his students resign following his actions in the aftermath, but he hasn't had a single student walk in his dojo since, and he's broke and risking losing the Dojo. Defeated and with nowhere to go, Kreese visits his Vietnam War buddy Terry, who had given him the money to start the Cobra Kai dojo.
After listening to Kreese's story, Silver decides to help him out by harassing Daniel and Miyagi and even hiring Mike Barnes to defeat Daniel in the All Valley Tournament. Kreese then goes to Tahiti to rest as per Silver's request. Terry lies to Daniel and Miyagi about Kreese passing away over losing all his students to gain their trust, particularly Daniel's. Terry manages to convince Daniel to join Cobra Kai. However, when Daniel comes into the dojo one day and tells Terry he won't compete in the All Valley tournament, Kreese appears in front of him, shocking Daniel as a result. Barnes proceeds to beat up Daniel, but Miyagi who had followed Daniel, shows up. Barnes, Kreese and Terry attack Miyagi, but all are beaten by the latter.
At the All Valley tournament, everything seems to be going planned. It appears that Kreese's revenge is being fulfilled. However, in the sudden death round, Mike loses instantly to Daniel, making Daniel the champion. With Daniel's victory, Cobra Kai is closed for good (so it seems). Disgusted and humiliated, Terry proceed to walk out of the arena. Kreese throws a shirt at the audience, and almost assaults them for cheering for Daniel. The deal that Mike Barnes had with Terry Silver and Kreese to own multiple branches of Cobra Kai Dojo's is off due to Barnes losing against Daniel.
After losing Cobra Kai a second time, Kreese attempted to re-enlist in the army, only to be turned down as they wanted fresh blood- it is also implied he had psychiatric issues preventing him from being fit to serve. A war buddy (possibly Terry Silver) offered him a job, but Kreese turned it down as he felt it was a handout. At some point he began living in a homeless shelter. Throughout this time, his humiliation and hatred for Mr. Miyagi and Daniel still burned.
Kreese is shown in several flashbacks. When Daniel asks Johnny, who is the new and current owner of the Cobra Kai Dojo, why he is bringing Cobra Kai back after what Kreese did to him, Johnny replies that he isn't Kreese, and that the lessons he'd learned from him still worked.
When trying to get the ban lifted on Cobra Kai for the tournament, it is revealed that Cobra Kai got permanently disqualified from the All Valley tournament because of repeated rule breaking from Kreese, Silver and Barnes in the All Valley Tournament during 1985. When the board asks Johnny his relationship with Kreese, he claims that Kreese is dead.
- "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]
However, in the last scene of the first season of Cobra Kai, Kreese appears in the Cobra Kai dojo much to Johnny's shock, where he congratulates Johnny for bringing Cobra Kai back and reclaiming their champion title. Now, he has a chance to finally get his revenge against Daniel LaRusso for putting the Cobra Kai out of business, this time without Mr. Miyagi to stand in his 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, on his dojo, during their meeting, Kreese taunts Daniel telling him how much he failed, making fun of Mr Miyagi and claiming that they'll eventually fight as it's something "inevitable". Kreese also tells Daniel that he and Johnny will finish the rivalry and fight against him. Kreese still thinks that he is still teamed up with Johnny.
Throughout the season, 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.
Later in the season, when Robby is released, he goes to Cobra Kai, and starts learning from Kreese. Kreese also lets Robby live with him at the Dojo and lets him sleep there for that night on the same day he was released. Kreese installs his ruthless mentality. 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. 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, but is stopped by Daniel who saves Johnny and attacks Kreese and tells Kreese that he wanted a fight and he has got one. Kreese then grabs Daniel and throws him through the glass. Grabbing a glass shard, Kreese attempts to murder Daniel with glass and tells him that it's time for Miyagi and him to reunite but Daniel temporarily disables him by using pressure point techniques he learned from Chozen. Daniel barely spares Kreese after Sam and Miguel break up the fight. Robby then stands next to Kreese and stays loyal to him. Kreese agrees to cease hostilities until the upcoming tournament, and promises to leave if Cobra Kai loses. Robby then says to Miguel, Sam, Johnny and Daniel whom he views as people who betrayed him tell them to leave.
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 call to Terry possibly for help with structuring the team.
Kreese appears in the video game Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues if playing the Cobra Kai side of the story at admin desk in the Cobra Kai Dojo, the main antagonist of the game, & the final boss.
- "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]
Pre Karate Kid
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.
Karate Kid 2
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.
Karate Kid 3
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.
Pre Cobra Kai
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.
Cobra Kai Season 1
Kreese is still extremely bitter at Daniel and Miyagi for ruining his business and is still bent on getting his revenge.
Cobra Kai Season 2
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.
Cobra Kai Season 3
Kreese is continuing instilling 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 and war buddy. They first met during their time in the army. After Kreese saved his life in Vietnam, Silver then promised him that he owed him for the rest of his life, and the two went on to be good friends. After the army, the two continued to be friends, with Silver founding the Cobra Kai Dojo and enlisting him as the sensei.
In Karate Kid 3, 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, his former war buddy, refuses to let him gives up, and concocts a revenge scheme. While Kreese tells him he does not owe him anything, Silver asks him how many times did he save his life in war, to which Kreese says he lost count. Unfortunately, Silver's plan fails in the end when Daniel defeats Mike Barnes to win the tournament, resulting in Cobra Kai being shut down.
In the third season of Cobra Kai, Silver appears in some of Kreese's flashbacks during 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. Back in the present day, Kreese makes a call, possibly to Silver.
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 is Kreese's biggest enemy. They first meet in The Karate Kid, where Miyagi attempts to convince Kreese to have his students leave Daniel alone, but a stubborn Kreese wants to settle things between them, which 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.
Mr. Miyagi and Kreese don't interact in Cobra Kai due to Mr. Miyagi's passing, but Mr. Miyagi is reference by Kreese in seasons 2 and 3. There are two occasions in season 2 when Kreese mocks Mr. Miyagi's death to Daniel's face. During Daniel's confrontation with Kreese in the beginning of season 3, Kreese mocks him, only for Daniel to remind him that Miyagi has defeated him more than once. During Kreese's fight with Daniel near the end of season 3, he threatens to send him to Miyagi and tries to kill him with glass, only to be defeated by the latter.
Daniel is Kreese's second biggest enemy. In the finals of the 1984 All Valley Tournament during the original Karate Kid film, Kreese tells Johnny to sweep Daniel's foot. Johnny however, loses to Daniel.
In Karate Kid 2, Daniel witnesses an angry Kreese berate and abuse Johnny for losing the tournament. However, Kreese is stopped and immobilized by Miyagi, which impresses Daniel.
In Karate Kid 3, Terry tells Daniel that Kreese is dead, making him sad, but Daniel is unaware that Terry is lying and this lie is part of his plot to get revenge on Daniel and Miyagi for ruining Kreese's life after the 1984 All valley. Daniel is later shocked, when he sees an alive Kreese at the dojo. Ultimately the plot fails, when Daniel beats Mike to win the All Valley.
In the first season of Cobra Kai, Daniel asks Johnny why would he open Cobra Kai after what Kreese did to him?
In season 2 of Cobra Kai, Daniel is shocked to see Johnny with an alive Kreese. Kreese mocks Miyagi's death, but Daniel responds by reminding him of what Miyagi did to his hand, which makes Kreese a little uncomfortable. Later in the season Kreese shows up at Daniel's house, and threatens him with war between the to dojos, as well as insults Miyagi's death.
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.
Hawk was Kreese's most corrupted student until he defected. After becoming the Co sensei in season 2 of Cobra Kai, he poison's several student's mind to be more merciless, with Hawk being the students he corrupts the most. Under his orders, Hawk and some of the students destroy Miyagi Do. by the end of the season, Hawk is revealed to be one of the handful of students that sides with Kreese and leaves Johnny, after Kreese takes back Cobra Kai.
In season 3, certain choices made by Kreese, such as kicking out several students and recruiting his former bully and rival, Kyler land Robby respectively, lead to Hawk becoming concerned and uneasy. By the end of the season, Hawk realizes that Kreese's lessons and mentality are wrong, which leads to him defecting and siding with Miyagi Do and Eagle Fang. It is likely that Kreese is aware of Hawk's defection.
Tory is Kreese's second most corrupted 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.
Captain Turner was Kreese's cold and ruthless captain in the war. In their first meeting, Captain praised Kreese for his abilities and asked Kreese to go on a mission with him in Vietnam, which Kreese accepted. During his training with Kreese, he instructed him and his team to be merciless to their opponent. In Vietnam Kreese was instructed by Turner to blow up an air support despite one of their soldiers being there, and his hesitation led to Kreese and his group to be captured, causing an angry Turner to blame Kreese.
While captured, they were forced to fight one on one to death. After Kreese volunteered to fight Turner, Turner chose the moment before he and Kreese were supposed to take the platform to inform him of Betsy's death. Kreese fell to his knee in grief. During the fight, Kreese was being beaten by the Captain and his at his mercy. Kreese was also berated by the captain for failing to shed his humanity. However, Kreese then managed to stab Turner with a broken piece of bambus and then proceed to get the upper hand, before succeeded in kicking him off the platform. When American soldiers and US Air Force jets arrived at the camp to save the unit, Turner instructed Kreese to help him up, but Kreese, now finally accepting the No mercy mentality, kicked Turner off the platform and sends him to his death. From then on, Kreese is a ruthless and merciless human being.
Betsy was Kreese's girlfriend until her death. When Kreese saw Betsy at a table in the diner where he worked, the two smiled at each other, angering her boyfriend David. Later, when noticing David smack her for looking at Kreese told him to back off. David and his friend attacked Kreese, who defeated both of them. After defeating them, Kreese and Betsy began a relationship. When Kreese left for the army, they kissed goodbye and he promised to return to her safely.
At one point during his time in the army, She wrote to him diligently and he did the same, keeping the spark of hope alive for them to be reunited when Kreese returned to America. One day however, she died in a car accident when she was going to see her grandmother. Her family informed Kreese of her death, but his Captain Turner (Kreese's captain in the army) withheld the information from him as he thought it would distract Kreese from their impending mission. However, after Kreese and his group were captured in Vietnam, they were forced to fight one on one to death. Turner chose the moment before he and Kreese were supposed to take the platform to inform him of Betsy's death. Kreese fell to his knee in grief. Betsy's death likely hurt him the most, and may have been the main reason he turned into a ruthless and merciless human being.
David was Kreese's bully. When Kreese smiled at David's girlfriend Betsy, David rudely intimidated him, causing him to back off. He then tripped Kreese while Kreese is taking the dishes back into kitchen, causing Kreese to be humiliated. After witnessing an angry David smack Betsy for looking at Kreese, Kreese told him to back off, causing David an his friend to attack Kreese. While Kreese was hurt by both of them, he successfully defeated both of them. After Kreese defeated David, he wasn't seen again, while Kreese started a relationship with Betsy.
- 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.
- Kreese can be compared to Star Wars Villain Darth Sidious.
- Both are the epitome of evil.
- Both used deception and manipulation to rise to power.
- Both killed their mentors (Captain Turner/Darth Plaguies). Ironically, encouraged by the very teachings of their respectives mentors; Captain Turner demanded them to be ruthless and sheds their humanity, and Darth Plagueis, as a Sith lord, he and Sidious were tied by the Rule of two, that encourages the apprentice to kills their master to reclaims the title.
- Kreese convincing Johnny that he is a changed man, can be similar to Sidious's alter ego Sheev Palpatine portraying himself as a honest senator and later chancellor of the galactic Republic
- Kreese manipulating some of the Cobra Kai students, most notably Hawk to be more vicious is similar to Sidious manipulating Anakin Skywalker into joining the dark side, and becoming a vicious person.
- Kreese orchestrating the war between Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do is similar to Sidious orchestrating the Clone Wars.
- Kreese manipulating his way into becoming the owner of Cobra Kai again is similar to Sidious manipulating his way into becoming the chancellor and later emperor.
- Kreese taking back Cobra Kai is similar to Sidious completing the Sith's revenge, and turning the galactic republic into the galactic empire.
- Kreese turning several students of Johnny against him and to his (Kreese's) side, is similar to Sidious turning the Clone Commanders/Troopers against their Jedi Generals and to his side, via order 66.
- Kreese making Hawk is right hand man is similar to Sidious turning Anakin into Dark Vader, and making him his apprentice.
- Kreese instructing Hawk and some of the students to trash Miyagi Do is similar to Sidious instructing Vader to attack the Jedi Temple.
- The students devoted loyalty to Kreese in the season 2 finale is similar to the Clone later Storm Troopers devoted loyalty to Sidious.
- Kreese losing all his students following the 1984 tournament and eventually the dojo following the 1985 tournament, is similar to Palpatine being killed both times by Vader and Rey respectively.
- Kreese coming back to power in Karate Kid 3 and season 2 of Cobra Kai is similar to Sidious coming back to power if Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
- In addition Sidious became the emperor.
- Kreese can potentially match this if he becomes the Head President of the All Valley committee.
- Following the end of the second season of Cobra Kai, his actor Martin Kove later appeared in an ad QuickBooks, in which a gentler version of his character runs a "Koala Kai" dojo of preteen students who are encouraged to "support the leg" and to show "more mercy".
- 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.