- "No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher."
- ―Mr. Miyagi [src]
Born June 9, 1925 in Okinawa, Japan. An Okinawan Japanese immigrant to the USA, Kesuke Miyagi learned karate originally from his father, who had been a fisherman. Miyagi initially had a job working for the father of his best friend, Sato, who was also taught karate by Miyagi's father. Miyagi fell in love with a young woman named Yukie, who as arranged to marry Sato. Pre-arranged marriages were a custom in Okinawa at the time. Miyagi made a big speech about wanting to abandon this tradition so he could marry Yukie. Sato felt dishonored by this, and challenged Miyagi to a fight to the death. To avoid the fight, Miyagi left Okinawa and emigrated to the USA.
World War II military service
After first arriving in Los Angeles, he attended the University of California - Santa Barbara and was later interned in the Manzanar Japanese internment camp at the onset of World War II. He also met and married another Japanese woman in America.
During this time, Miyagi joined the U.S. Army and received the Medal of Honor (he was a member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most highly decorated regiments in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients). He was also awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, and the World War II Victory Medal. While in the Army, he taught his commanding officer, Lt. Jack Pierce, the art of karate. During his service, Mrs. Miyagi and their son died in the Manzanar camp due to complications during childbirth, a loss that haunted him for decades. What Miyagi did in the interim between the war and the first Karate Kid movie is not fully known.
The Karate Kid films
At the start of the first movie, he works as a maintenance man in Daniel's apartment building.
In 1985, Miyagi learns that his father is dying, and returns to Okinawa, where he is reunited with Yukie. Sato relentlessly tries to goad Miyagi into a fight, but after Miyagi saves Sato from death during a typhoon, Sato renounces his hate and the two make peace.
In the third movie, he and Daniel begin a business of growing bonsai trees.
In the fourth movie, he mentors the recently orphaned granddaughter of his former commanding officer and teaches her to dispel her anger through the healing powers of the Martial Arts.
In Cobra Kai, Miyagi is revealed to have died on November 15, 2011. Miyagi has apparently left his house to Daniel, as Daniel now owns the property. The memory of Miyagi still continues to play a role in Daniel's life as he seeks to regain balance by practicing karate once again and by becoming a mentor to Robby Keene.
Miyagi is referenced by name several times when Daniel is teaching Miyagi-Do Karate to his students. When Daniel reunites with Kreese, the latter taunts Daniel on Miyagi's death, which Daniel counters with reminding Kreese of his disastrous brawl against Miyagi. As some Cobra Kai students destroy Daniel's dojo, Cobra Kai student Hawk steals Miyagi's Medal of Honor, which incenses Daniel and intensifies the rivalry between the two dojos. The medal is eventually returned by Cobra Kai student Miguel Diaz to Robby, who was staying at the LaRusso home. After Daniel is forced to shut down Miyagi-Do Karate by Amanda because of a major school brawl between his students and Johnny's, which resulted in Sam getting hurt and Miguel getting severely injured, Daniel goes home where he takes down a photo of Miyagi and apologizes for failing his master's teachings.
A true martial arts master, Miyagi possesses extraordinary skill. Primarily a counter-fighter, his ability to read an opponent's intentions is exceptional. He often waits for his opponent to attack, then dodges with one quick, economical motion that positions him perfectly for a counter. Miyagi never wastes movement; whether on offense or defense his techniques achieve maximum results with minimum effort. Aside from the standard strikes his Miyagi-Do Karate also incorporates an arsenal of throws and joint manipulation techniques. Miyagi's karate training has also allowed him to achieve practically superhuman feats of strength, such as splitting a giant wooden beam in half and catching an incoming arrow with his bare hand.
Due to his age and small size Miyagi's opponents constantly underestimate him, and he uses this to his advantage. Miyagi often uses his opponents' body weight and offense against them, and the core of his karate is defensive-minded. It takes a lot of balance and technique to do this properly, but in Miyagi's hands this style is much more effective than any aggressive one. Daniel also seems to be at his best when he follows his mentor's example; he defeats the aggressive and physically dominant Mike Barnes with a powerful counterattack after switching to a superior guard position taken from Miyagi's kata.
In the second film, Mr. Miyagi explains that he is descended from Shimpo Miyagi, who was very fond of both fishing and sake. One day in 1625 while fishing and very drunk, he passed out on his fishing boat off the coast of Okinawa and ended up on the coast of China. Ten years later, Shimpo returned to Okinawa with a wife, two children, and the secret of Miyagi family karate.
- In 2015, Mr. Miyagi was inducted into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame in the Contributor Category.
- Mr. Miyagi's death dates is six years after the death of his actor, who died in 2005.
- With the exception of Chozen (who hit Miyagi while his back was turned), no opponent in the entire Karate Kid series has ever successfully landed a strike on Mr. Miyagi.
- During the storm in The Karate Kid Part II, Mr. Miyagi uses a karate chop to snap a wooden beam similarly thick but much longer and heavier than the plank Sato was unable to dent with multiple strikes, heavily implying that Mr. Miyagi would've won if they were to actually fight.
- In The Karate Kid Part III, Mr. Miyagi defeated Mike Barnes in 3 seconds, John Kreese in 12 seconds and Terry Silver in 32 seconds.