- "No such thing bad student. Only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do."
- ―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 was 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, although it could be surmised he got certified as an electrician and/or plumber, given his later career as a handyman.
Teaching Daniel Karate
Mr. Miyagi works as a maintenance man in Daniel's apartment building. On one night, when Daniel is being beaten up by a bunch of Cobra Kai students, Mr. Miyagi swoops him and defeats the Cobra Kai's. He then takes Daniel to his house to treat him. The following morning, Miyagi and Daniel go to the Cobra Kai Dojo where Miyagi tries to persuade Cobra Kai's sensei John Kreese to tell his students to leave Daniel alone. Kreese, however, isn't having it and forces Miyagi to have Daniel fight Johnny. Miyagi wants the odds to be more even for Daniel and suggests that Daniel and the Kais match up at the All-Valley Karate tournament a few weeks from then. Kreese likes the challenge and agrees. He also agrees to order his students not to touch Daniel until then.
Over the next few weeks, Miyagi has Daniel to "chores" such as waxing cars with a sponge by moving his hands and arms in a circle, sanding the walkway, staining his fence and painting his house. Daniel however is frustrated that Miyagi is making him doing chores instead of teaching him Karate. Daniel eventually confronts Miyagi, who in turn tells him to show him the motions he'd been using to do the chores. After doing so, Daniel realizes that all the chores Miyagi has made him do are really defense tactics, reflex and muscle building activities. Miyagi then attacks Daniel who counters all his strikes.
As the weeks go by, Miyagi continues to train Daniel and improve his technique. He continues to improve his defense techniques. He teaches him to main strong balance and display offense. Daniel is able to learn the crane kick from Miyagi.
At the All Valley Karate Tournament Daniel reaches the semifinals. In the semifinals he faces Cobra Kai student Bobby Brown who reluctantly and regretfully under Kreese's order illegal kicks and injured Daniel's knee. Daniel is taken to the locker room where a medic tells him he won't be able to finish the competition. Daniel asks Miyagi to use acupressure to fix his knee. Though Miyagi tells him that has nothing left to prove, Daniel insists he will never be able to achieve his life's balance if he knows his tormentors have gotten the best of him. Miyagi agrees and partially heals Daniel's leg.
Daniel returns to compete in the finals. Right before the final round of the match begins Daniel takes up the crane technique pose and with an approving look from Miyagi, waits for Cobra Kai's top student Johnny Lawrence to make his move. Daniel kicks out with his leg and connects with Johnny's chin, scoring a third point and winning the match and title. Miyagi gives Daniel an approving smile when he yells to him that they did it.
Karate Kid 2
Following the tournament Miyagi notices Kreese berating and choking Johnny for losing. He goes to Kreese and persuades him to let Johnny go, who threatens to attack Miyagi next. An angry Miyagi pulls Kreese of Johnny. An angry Kreese attacks Miyagi, who dodges his attacks, which causes Kreese to punch car windows, severely injuring his hands as a result. Miyagi is ready to deliver a heavy blow, only for him to tweak Kreese's nose, making him unconscious as a result.
Six months later, Miyagi learns that his father is dying, and returns to Okinawa, where he is reunited with his childhood crush Yukie. He even runs into Sato, Miyagi's childhood friend who still holds a grudge Miyagi trying to against marry Yukie. Sato relentlessly tries to goad Miyagi into a fight him but Miyagi just wants to make peace with Sato. Miyagi's father unfortunately dies.
Even after his fathers death Sato is bent on fighting Miyagi. He goes as far as to destroy the village in order to fight Miyagi. After seeing Sato destroying the village an angry Miyagi agrees to fight him. However, after Miyagi saves Sato from death during a typhoon, Sato renounces his hate and the two make peace.
On one night when Kumiko, Yukie's Niece is performing Sato's bitter nephew Chozen grabs her and forces Daniel to fight him. Miyagi and Sato try to encourage Chozen not to dishonor Sato but Chozen refuses. While Chozen is getting the upper-hand in his fight with Daniel, Miyagi advises Daniel to stand down, which then allow Daniel to flip him over. Eventually Miyagi brings out his hand drum and beats it, which allows Daniel to understand how to win and he ultimately beat Chozen. Similar to what Miyagi did to Kreese after the tournament, Daniel makes Chozen unconscious by tweaking his nose.
Karate Kid 3
After returning from Okinawa, Miyagi is left unemployed while Daniel is left homeless due to the South Deas Apartment being sold and the new owner deciding to tear it down and turn it into a spa. Miyagi however allows Daniel to stay at his house. Daniel decides to start a Bonsai tree store after seeing Miyagi upset about having to give up his prized Bonsai Trees. While Miyagi advises him not to do that as he knows Daniel's college education is more important, Daniel uses his tuition money to purchase a Bonsai store. The two then work together at the Bonsai store.
At first Daniel wants to re-enter the All Valley Tournament so that he can defend his title. Miyagi however tells him not to which Daniel eventually agrees to. Unbeknownst to Miyagi however However Daniel is soon forced to enter the tournament by Mike Barnes, who unbeknownst to Daniel for a long time has been hired by Terry Silver to beat and harm Daniel in the tournament as revenge for causing his war buddy Kreese's students to quit Cobra Kai following the previous tournament, which ruined Kreese's life.
One day while Miyagi is teaching Daniel at his house, Terry shows up and gives a both Miyagi and Daniel a fake apology over Kreese's behavior after the All Valley tournament, as well as lies to them about Kreese dying as a result of losing his students in order to gain their sympathy. Unaware that Terry is lying, Miyagi and Daniel accept his apology and apologize for what happened to Kreese.
When Daniel decides not to participate in the tournament, he goes to Cobra Kai to tell Terry he does not want to compete, only for Terry to reveal his true motives. Mike and then Kreese appear where the former attacks and beats up Daniel. Miyagi however, who had followed Daniel to the dojo unbeknownst to Daniel, Terry, Kreese and Mike, shows up and beats up Mike, Kreese and Terry. Following this, Miyagi trains Daniel for the tournament.
While Miyagi's teachings seem to be futile in the finals as Barnes repeatedly gets the better of Daniel and even scares him, causing Daniel to lose hope, Miyagi is able to pull him together, and Daniel is ultimately able to win the tournament in the sudden death round by using the Kata move on Mike. After Daniel wins the tournament, he runs and hugs Miyagi.
The Next Karate Kid
Miyagi goes to Boston where he meets his deceased war buddy's widowed wife's granddaughter Julie Pierce, who is angry over her parents recent death. He stays in Boston in order to take care of Julie. While she is cold to Miyagi at first, as time goes by the two bond and Miyagi teaches her karate the same way he taught Daniel.
His lessons allow her to beat up a bully and Alpha Elite student named Ned Randall. After defeating Ned, Miyagi successfully defeats and humiliates Alpha Elite sensei Colonel Paul Dugan, who has been corrupting his students into behaving violently and unethically. Miyagi and Julie leave after defeating Dugan.
Pre Cobra Kai
Even after Daniel's victory in the 1985 All valley tournament, Miyagi and Daniel continued to keep in touch. The Bonsai store that they opened in 1989 ultimately failed. While it hasn't been confirmed whether or not Daniel trained with Miyagi after the All Valley Tournament in 1985, it can be implied that he has, as in Cobra Kai Daniel remembers Miyagi's lessons and practices them, and Daniel himself is much more skilled fighter than he was as a teenager. Miyagi unfortunately died on November 15, 2011 which deeply saddened Daniel.
Miyagi who has been dead for 7 years 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. He is mentioned several times by Daniel and seen in a few flashbacks.
Miyagi is referenced by name several times when Daniel is teaching Miyagi-Do Karate to his students. When Daniel is going over the lessons Miyagi taught him with Robby, Miyagi appears in a flashback teaching Daniel. 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. One day Kreese shows up at Daniel's house where he threatens Daniel with with war between both the Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do Dojos, as well as insults Miyagi's death a second time by saying regards to Mr Miyagi, which angers Daniel. 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.
- "You are about to meet the greatest guy. This guy, he's funny, he's smart. I mean, you got a problem, he's got the answer. He's like no one you'll ever meet. And on top of that, he just happens to be my best friend."
- ―Daniel LaRusso to Jessica Andrews[src]
Mr. Miyagi is a genuinely caring, warm-hearted, and friendly person. He possesses deep and abiding wisdom but also a sly, sarcastic sense of humor. He is a great mentor to both Daniel and Julie, and becomes a father figure to both of them. Despite being a highly skilled fighter he is never aggressive and will only fight in order to defend himself, showing that he does not allow his power to corrupt his mind. Even after his death in 2011 his memory lives with Daniel who uses his teachings to mentor Robby and strives to be as good of a teacher as him.
Miyagi was not without his regrets, however. The loss of his wife and child while he was in the European theater of WWII haunted him for decades. He never remarried, living a solitary life afterwards. When he met Daniel, it apparently filled a void in his life left by the loss of his child.
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, 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.
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.
- In 2015, Mr. Miyagi was inducted into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame in the Contributor Category.
- Mr. Miyagi's death date is six years after the death of his actor Pat Morita, who died in 2005.