- "Your Karate is a joke!"
- ―Mike Barnes[src]
Michael "Mike" Barnes (also referred to as simply "Mike", "Dynamite" Mike Barnes, "Tournament Terror" and "Karate's Bad Boy") is the tertiary antagonist of The Karate Kid Part III and Daniel LaRusso's primary rival in the film. He is played by Sean Kanan.
Mike Barnes is a professional karate fighter who was hired by Terry Silver to defeat Daniel LaRusso at the tournament in exchange for 25% (later 50%) ownership of his new Cobra Kai dojos. Barnes harasses and torments Daniel throughout the film, but is defeated by Daniel later at the tournament.
Concept and Creation
- "I'm what he's talking about, shithead."
- ―Mike Barnes to Daniel LaRusso
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.
- "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. People with this disorder are also prone to breaking laws, something Mike had no qualms about doing. Barnes committed numerous crimes over the course of the film, including assault, attempted murder, death and rape threats, stalking, grand theft and vandalism. Barnes also has barely a personality at all, with no clear sense of honor or interests aside from aggression and using his martial arts to gain dominance and superiority over others. 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.
Mike is an 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 very arrogant 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 in 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.
Mike's behavior and actions are similar to Johnny and Dutch from the original The Karate Kid and Chozen in The Karate Kid Part 2. Unlike the other three, however, Mike is much more aggressive and angry. 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. It is often believed that Mike is just as skilled as Chozen if not more so, since Mike Barnes did Karate for a living. Barnes is a bigger threat than Chozen as he intimidates Daniel, has no sense of honor whatsoever and repeatedly got the better of Daniel in a point-based match with rules, but constantly broke the rules which prolonged the fight and eventually resulted in a sudden death match where he was 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.
Mike claimed that if Daniel did not enter the tournament, he would come after 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.
Once there, Barnes was so ruthless 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 angrily berate him for almost a solid minute about his teacher and his Karate, both of which he deemed a "joke", hurling in numerous racial slurs to Miyagi and insults to Daniel as well. This is a feat of sheer vileness that no other Karate Kid villain even came close to doing.
Due to his vile behavior never seen by any other Karate Kid villain — and by a young person no less — Mike is often thought of as Daniel's worst nemesis in the Karate Kid films and somewhat of Daniel's true opposite.
Fictional Character Biography
Not much is known about Mike Barnes's early life. But it is known that he is a highly 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, 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 likely roughly 17 or 18 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, a strict contrast to that of Mr. Miyagi.
The Karate Kid Part III
- "(to Daniel) Why are you being so stubborn?!"
- ―Daniel in the fight with Mike and Terry's sons[src]
- "(to Daniel) COME ON, GET UP! Get on that line! GET ON THAT LINE, LARUSSO! You're WORTHLESS! Your slope teacher's nothing! Get up, man! You're no champion! Get up! You suck, LaRusso! You SUCK, man! And your teacher's karate is SHIT! You hear me?! It's SHIT! You're a joke, LaRusso! Your karate's a JOKE and your teacher isn't worth shit! He's NOTHING! HE'S NOTHING! And YOU'RE NOTHING! I OWE you! I OWN YOU, LARUSSO! Where's your little Jap teacher now, huh? He's a PHONY, man! He's a FAKE! And he didn't teach you NOTHING! Your karate's SHIT! YOU HEAR ME?! GET UP!"
- ―Mike Barnes relentlessly taunting Daniel during the All-Valley Tournament[src]
Terry Silver spotted Mike in a magazine and tells him on the phone that he wants him to fight Daniel and defeat 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 to ambitious and requests 35%. Barnes thanks Silver and starts to leave. Impressed at the young man'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 Miyagi arrives and defeats the three men. 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 Miyagi's house and beats up Daniel, asking him why he called the cops. 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 man 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 Miyagi arrives and rescues Daniel, who decides to compete at the tournament. Barnes trains for the tournament. At the tournament, Barnes defeats his last opponent in order to face Daniel. Silver and Kreese instruct Barnes to score points and lose them so that Daniel will experience pain for the full three minutes. Then, in sudden death, Barnes will defeat Daniel once and for all.
During the match, Barnes did what he was told to do and when the initial round concludes, Daniel determines that he is afraid of Barnes and cannot continue, but Miyagi tells him that his best karate is still inside him and that it is time to let it out. Barnes appears and says awful and mean things about Daniel and Miyagi. This makes Daniel very angry, prompting him to get up and fight. In the sudden death round, Daniel does the kata; Barnes is confused and doesn't know what to do. While Barnes letting his own aggression out. After Daniel finishes the kata, Barnes lunges toward him, but Daniel counters his attack, flips him to the ground and punches him, winning the tournament.
Barnes, realizing that he has lost and his aggression lets his own guards down, starts pounding the ground in frustration, possibly having realized that his deal with Terry Silver is off and Cobra Kai was shut down (presumably for good).
Despite not making an appearance, it is revealed that the Cobra Kai was banned from the All Valley tournament due to his, Kreese's and Terry Silver's actions in 1985. Also, it's possible that Mike was the one who fired Johnny in Ace Degenerate.
Mike Barnes does not appear, but in the episode "Take a Right." his photograph is shown in archive footage from The Karate Kid Part III in a flashback sequence when Daniel tells his students about the time he joined Cobra Kai.
Sean Kanan has expressed interest in reprising his role in Cobra Kai, so it is possible that the character will return in the third season.
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 latters past opponents. His aggression however can be a weakness as he can be suckered by a good counter-fighter.
- Sean Kanan is a real martial artist and performed all of his own stunts for the role. Kanan even almost died during filming because one of his stunts went wrong and he needed surgery.
- Sean Kanan beat out 2,000 other martial arts hopefuls for the role of Barnes.
- There is a fan theory suggesting that Johnny's old boss in the first episode of Cobra Kai, only referred to over the phone as "Mike" is Mike Barnes.