Mike Barnes is a professional karate fighter who is hired by Terry Silver to beat Daniel LaRusso at the tournament in exchange for fifty percent ownership of Silver's new Cobra Kai dojos. Barnes abuses Daniel throughout the film, but is defeated at the All Valley Karate Tournament. He is often considered Daniel's greatest foe and Daniel himself even regarded his fight with Barnes as the most difficult of his life.
Not much is known about Mike Barnes's early life. But it is known that he is a skilled and vicious karate fighter who has won numerous karate tournaments in the past with little care for his opponents' well being. Because of that, he got the nickname of "Karate's Bad Boy" in a magazine; this is likely what attracted Silver to him, as he wanted Daniel to suffer during the tournament. It is not made clear as to the extent of Mike's victories but it is implied that he was one of the best up-and-coming professional Karate fighters in the country, as he was a tenth-degree black belt and labeled the "tournament terror" and able to practically name his price, which was in the millions. It is also not made clear as to whether or not Barnes won tournaments across the country, continent or the world.
His family is never seen or mentioned, nor is his age, though he was eighteen or nineteen years of age as of 1985. It is also never shown where exactly he was from, though he was not from the greater Los Angeles area, as he told Terry Silver that he appreciated him for "bringing him down", and had a suitcase with him, implying that he was from elsewhere in the country, possibly the east coast. If his original backstory was retained at all, Mike comes from a large, highly competitive athletics family that uses Karate strictly for competition and profit rather than as a discipline in contrast to that of Mr. Miyagi.
The Karate Kid Part III
In 1985, Terry Silver spotted Mike in a magazine and tells him on the phone that he wants him to fight Daniel and beat him at the next All Valley Karate Tournament and will give him 25% ownership of his new Cobra Kai dojos he is going to open. When Barnes arrives at Silver's house, he is introduced to two teenagers from Terry's neighborhood named Snake and Dennis, who will take care of him and his training. Barnes tells Silver that he wants 50% ownership. Silver finds this too ambitious and requests 35%. Barnes thanks Silver and starts to leave. Impressed at the boy's moxie, Silver gives him 50%. When Silver finds out that Daniel is not defending his title this year, he orders Barnes and Snake to force Daniel to enter the tournament. When Barnes confronts Daniel at Mr. Miyagi's bonsai shop, he asks him to sign an application so that he will fight at the tournament. Daniel tells Barnes that he has no reason to fight, but Barnes tells him that his financial future will be ruined if Daniel does not fight him at the tournament. Daniel still refuses and Barnes angrily prepares to fight him, but Snake pulls him back and he and Barnes start to leave.
The next night, Barnes and his friends arrive at the shop and interrupts the dinner date of Daniel and his friend Jessica. Barnes asks Daniel if he signed the application, but Daniel didn't and still doesn't want to fight him. Barnes and his friends begin to trash the shop and Dennis fights Daniel, but gets defeated. Jessica knocks out Snake with a pot but gets kicked in the stomach by Barnes, who then fights Daniel. Barnes easily defeats Daniel, but Mr. Miyagi arrives and defeats the three boys.
The gang escape and Barnes threatens that he will come back for Daniel. When Daniel and Miyagi drive Jessica home, Barnes and his gang steal their bonsai trees and leave a tournament application. Daniel and Jessica decide to retrieve a valuable bonsai tree at a cliff and plan to sell it in order to buy a new stock of trees to sell. They did not realize that the "Bad Boy" and his gang are following them. When Daniel and Jessica retrieve the tree, Barnes and his friends retract their climbing ropes and force Daniel to sign the application. After Daniel signs it, Barnes and his friends pull Daniel and Jessica. Snake gets the application from Daniel and tells Barnes that it is already signed. They threaten to drop Jessica unless Daniel gives Barnes the tree. Daniel reluctantly does so, but Barnes breaks it.
Barnes appears at Mr. Miyagi's house and beats up Daniel, asking him why he called the police on him. Silver, on the next phase of his plan, shows up and "rescues" Daniel. Silver offers to "train" Daniel for the tournament. But Daniel realizes that Silver's teachings has made him a different kid and tells Silver that he will not train with him and will not compete at the tournament. Silver reveals that his true agenda was avenging John Kreese, and Barnes and Kreese enter the room. Barnes viciously assaults Daniel until Mr. Miyagi arrives in defense of Daniel. Barnes, Kreese and Silver are then easily defeated by Miyagi, with Barnes being defeated the quickest. Barnes trains for the tournament. At the tournament, Barnes defeats Dempsey at the finals in order to face Daniel. Silver and Kreese instruct Barnes to score a point and lose that point over and over so that Daniel will experience pain for the full three minutes, and then beat Daniel once and for all in the sudden death round.
During the match, Barnes does what he was told to do and when the initial round concludes, Daniel determines that he is afraid of Barnes and cannot continue, but Mr. Miyagi tells him that his best karate is still inside him and that it is time to let it out. When Miyagi returns to where he stood the whole tournament which was in front of the bracket board, Barnes appears and says extremely cruel and nasty things, in other words, verbally abusing Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. This makes Daniel furious, prompting him to get up and fight. In the sudden death round, Daniel does the kata, which makes Barnes confused. Barnes is unclear on how to proceed, until Terry and Kreese instruct him to win the point. Barnes gets back to his position. After Daniel finishes the kata, Barnes lunges toward him, but Daniel counters his attack, flips him to the ground and punches him, defeating Barnes and winning the tournament for the second straight year.
Barnes, realizing that he has lost and his aggression lets his own guards down, starts slamming the mat in frustration, having realized that his deal with Terry Silver is gone and Cobra Kai was shut down.
Mike Barnes does not appear, but is mentioned when Johnny Lawrence is seeking to have Cobra Kai's lifetime ban from the All Valley Karate Tournament removed. Barnes, Silver, and Kreese's unethical actions are cited in the official by-laws as reason for the lifetime ban.
Daniel tells his daughter Sam that in his second All Valley Tournament, he almost lost to fear due to his opponent being so abusive, but overcame his fear and won in the end thanks to Mr. Miyagi's advice. While Daniel is telling this to Sam, flashbacks of Mike beating and abusing Daniel in the tournament are shown.
After the return of Silver, Daniel tells Johnny about what Terry put him through in the episode Match Point. During the conversation, he mentions his victory over Barnes in the 1985 All Valley Tournament. Later in the episode, Amanda asked Daniel if there were any more old Cobra Kais that could jump back into his life, referring to him specifically. Barnes and Daniels' sudden death match is referenced during the finals of the 2019 All Valley, as when the match goes to a sudden death, the announcer says this is the first time since 1985. When Kreese was arrested later in the episode, Terry Silver told him that he can dig up an old friend or two to help him out with Cobra Kai, referencing Barnes for the last time in the season, which also implies that there is a chance that he could return in the fifth season.
- "You back out of this and this will seem like a pretty nice dream compared to what we all will do to you... and what we'll *all* do to her."
- ―Mike Barnes threatens Daniel and Jessica[src]
Barnes is never even seen smiling unless it is at Daniel's misery and he had no clear redeeming qualities whatsoever, as he is never portrayed in a positive light and was only motivated by pure greed and selfishness rather than any type of discernible goal, as he agreed to torment Daniel LaRusso in exchange for financial compensation from Terry Silver. Barnes committed numerous crimes over the course of the film, including assault, attempted murder, death and rape threats, stalking, grand theft and vandalism under Terry Silver's command. Barnes also had barely a personality at all outside of what Silver ordered him to do, with no clear sense of honor or interests aside from aggression and using his martial arts to gain dominance and superiority over Daniel. All of these traits fit the profile of a Psychopath, though it is unclear as to whether or not Mike was made this way by a brutal life or simply born with a brain wired wrong to disregard other people. However, Mike may have had some moments of sympathy, like telling Daniel that he was "doing this to himself" while beating him up, possibly slightly sympathizing with Daniel a bit.
Mike is an extremely aggressive, competitive, intimidating and highly skilled tenth-degree black belt Karate champion. Barnes is known for breaking the rules of conduct which earned him the name of "the Bad Boy of Karate". Barnes is also extremely narcissistic due to his skills and also greedy, as shown when he demanded 50% ownership in the Cobra Kai Dojo chain just for competing against the much less skilled Daniel LaRusso in the All-Valley Tournament. Mike Barnes is a brutal and ruthless fighter inside and outside the ring, as shown when he and his goons beat up Jessica, threatened to kill Daniel and even vandalized Mr. Miyagi's bonsai store just to get Daniel to compete in the tournament. Barnes was such a ruthless opponent that his conduct during the 1985 All-Valley Tournament singlehandedly got the Cobra Kai Dojo banned permanently. He is a very skilled karate street fighter and a badass as well. He is way more skilled and accomplished than Daniel and is winning for almost the entire tournament.
Mike's behavior and actions are similar to Johnny and Dutch from the original The Karate Kid and Chozen in The Karate Kid Part II. Unlike the other three, however, Mike is far more dangerous, aggressive, and angry than them. Unlike Johnny and Chozen, who possess a certain amount of honor (though the latter's honor is misguided), Mike possesses no morals and does not believe in honor as he's willing to do anything to achieve his goals. Mike claimed that if Daniel did not enter the tournament, he would target him every day for the rest of his life. In further attempts to coerce him to enter, Barnes destroyed almost the entire Bonsai store Miyagi and Daniel built. In a further attempt to sabotage Daniel and Miyagi's store, Barnes attempted to snap the very valuable true bonsai tree, which did ultimately end up surviving. Mike later went to the extent of threatening to kill both Daniel and Jessica if Daniel did not agree to the tournament. Barnes also heavily implied that he and his goons would sexually assault Jessica if Daniel did not agree to his demands.
In the tournament, Barnes was so abusive that Daniel did not even want to continue the fight because he was afraid of what Mike might do to him. Barnes also beat Daniel so badly to the point where he could not get off of the mat, and proceeded to profanely and verbally abuse him, Mr. Miyagi, and his Karate, both of which he deemed a "joke", hurling in numerous racial slurs about Mr. Miyagi. This is a feat of sheer vileness that no other Karate Kid villain has expressed. Daniel feared Mike much more than his previous rivals, which makes Mike his biggest and scariest rival.
- "There's nothing you've got that I can't counter. Your karate's a joke."
- ―Mike Barnes to Daniel LaRusso[src]
Barnes is a highly aggressive fighter, overwhelming his opponents with his speed and intense combinations. He is an underhanded fighter, perfectly willing to cheat to win, or to demoralize his opponent. His physical strength, illegal fighting tactics and intimidation allow him to get the better of Daniel more times than the latter's past opponents. His aggression however, can be a weakness as he can be suckered by a good counter-fighter, which occurred against Daniel in the sudden death round of the finals of the All Valley Tournament. He also easily loses to Miyagi, due to the latters superior defense and technique.
Mike is likely more skilled and a better fighter than Chozen when he was younger, as he repeatedly gets the better of Daniel in a point-based match with rules, but his constant rule breaking prolongs the fight and eventually results in a sudden death match, where he is defeated (just barely), while Chozen, on the other hand, was knocked out completely and beaten by Daniel in a no-holds-barred fight to the death. Had Mike followed the rules the entire time, he would have won easily against Daniel, although it must be noted that Daniel was hindered by his fear of Barnes during their fight and with encouragement from Mr. Miyagi he performed a kata and defeated Barnes.
Concept and Creation
- "I'm what he's talking about, shithead."
- ―Mike Barnes to Daniel LaRusso[src]
When the character was created, Mike Barnes was originally written as a skilled but amateur Karate student who came from a family that trained all of their children in Karate. As evidenced by an early screen test with the then-cast Jonathan Avildsen, Mike Barnes was originally conceived as more of an obsessed fan of Daniel, who respected his skill at Karate and wanted to beat Daniel at the All-Valley tournament for personal reasons, as his two brothers had in the past (both had held the title for five years). This backstory would also put his origin from the Los Angeles area and not from elsewhere in the country. However, instead of simply winning the tournament, Barnes wanted to win "the right way", by traditionally beating the previous champion. This initial portrayal of Barnes was more of a Chozen-type honor-focused character who initially seemed somewhat pleasant. In this original version, Mike was less outright aggressive and more faux affably evil, trying to passive-aggressively manipulate Daniel into competing against him by first complimenting him and then beginning to take a darker tone when Daniel refused. This backstory also mentioned that Mike had been training to fight in the tournament since he was fourteen.
However, the filmmakers ended up re-writing the script and it was decided that Jonathan Avildsen would not work out for the newer Mike Barnes the filmmakers wanted, a taller, more muscular, physically imposing and intimidating nationwide Karate champion. The newer Mike Barnes was written to be more aggressive, less friendly and without any motive other than personal wealth. It is likely that they made this change to raise the stakes to Daniel fighting an unhinged and greedy professional Karate fighter, as well as to cement the wealth and power that Terry Silver had access to, and the lengths he was willing to go to humiliate Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. Since the filmmakers had been previously impressed by Sean Kanan's intimidating audition (Kanan made sure to intimidate Ralph Macchio to be remembered by the filmmakers who had already seen thousands of other hopefuls), they called Sean Kanan back and told him that he got the role. However, Jonathan did such a great job on his early Mike Barnes screen tests, that the filmmakers wrote the character of Snake for him, a character who was much closer to Avildsen's original portrayal of Mike Barnes. The character of Mike Barnes was described to Sean Kanan by the filmmakers as "a seventeen year old white Mike Tyson".