- "So have patience, my friend. I'm just getting everything rolling. When I'm finished with that kid, he'll be begging ME to be his teacher! And you know what he's going to learn from me?! PAIN! In EVERY part of his body! And FEAR in EVERY part of his mind! And here's the kicker: he's going to *thank* me for it! ... Johnny, by the time that little twerp steps into the ring to defend his title, I'm going to have him thinking he's *invincible*! And then, he's gong to find out what pain and fear really mean... right in front of A THOUSAND PEOPLE!"
- ―Terry Silver to John Kreese[src]
Sensei Terence "Terry" Silver is the main antagonist of The Karate Kid Part III.
A close friend of John Kreese from his military days (and the true owner of the Cobra Kai Dojo), Terry Silver is a wealthy and corrupt billionaire/toxic waste dumper who helps Kreese get revenge on Daniel LaRusso after his humiliation at the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament. Also a Karate expert, Silver hatches an elaborate, time-consuming and expensive plot to trick Daniel into training with him so he can lose to Mike Barnes in the All Valley Karate Tournament and redeem Cobra Kai in the eyes of the public.
He is played by Thomas Ian Griffith.
Fictional Character Biography
Terry Silver was born in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 12, 1951. His parents, Morton and Myra Silver, owned a small jewelry store. His father was a notorious gambler and spent much of his time in Las Vegas casinos, earning thousands of dollars one day and losing them the next. It was during his childhood that the young Terry Silver vowed always to invest his money wisely, after seeing the poor example set by his father. As a high school student, Silver lettered in baseball and track, though he had not yet discovered Karate. Even as a young man he was legendary for his athletic and academic accomplishments, his confidence, and his sense of compassion, honesty and fair play. However as seen in the movie he had lost all of his morals and become corrupt. At the age of 17, Silver’s parents were killed in a car accident. His father had gambled away most of his money and so Terry was left with very little inheritance.
With nowhere to turn, Silver lied about his age and enlisted in the United States Army in 1969. The falsification of his age was one of the hardest decisions of Silver’s life, since he had always believed so strongly in 100 percent honesty, but he reasoned that he was already sufficiently mature to serve in the military, and that it was for the good of his country. After completion of Basic Training, Silver attended Ranger School in Fort Benning, Georgia and was then deployed to Vietnam with the 75th Ranger Regiment. It was in Vietnam that Silver would meet one of the primary influences on his later life, Capt. John Kreese. Kreese, then a First Lieutenant, was the Commanding Officer of the infantry company which Silver was assigned to, and had already distinguished himself with heroic service in combat during the previous years of the war. Kreese was a specialist in long-range surveillance patrols and an expert in jungle warfare, and was invaluable to the young Silver as a mentor and father figure. Silver credited Kreese with saving his life several times during harrowing night-time patrols in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region, where the two came under enemy fire on countless occasions. Silver himself was awarded three Purple Heart medals over the course of his combat service from 1969 to 1972, and Kreese earned a Silver Star and was promoted to the rank of Captain.
In 1970, Kreese became the U.S. Army’s Karate champion, at which point Silver requested that Kreese train him. Though he had no prior experience in Karate, Silver’s exceptional athleticism and his physical stamina made him a natural for martial arts, and Silver began undertaking extensive Karate lessons from Kreese in between combat missions. Kreese, who had studied under Kim Sun-Yung of South Korea, instilled in Silver the creed of “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.” The two 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 hand-to-hand combat skills. It was this small but elite group of soldiers who became the very first “Cobra Kai” class, and all of them received a distinctive tattoo of a fist clutching a cobra, which was to become the symbol of their brotherhood.
Career in Business
After his military service, Silver took advantage of the G.I. Bill to earn a college education. He attended California Institute of Technology, where he majored in physics and minored in business administration. He studied nuclear physics under the legendary Richard Feynman, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in 1976 and his Master’s two years later. He was a member of both the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and the Phi Beta Kappa Society, in addition to being president of the CalTech Karate Club. Silver’s Master’s thesis was titled “The Disposal of Nuclear Waste in an Environmentally Responsible Society.”
While in college, Silver had already begun to make clever investments in companies developing innovative technology, starting out with the small inheritance left by his deceased parents. Using his own knowledge of the scientific field, he was able to multiply his initial savings many times over; by 1977 he had earned his first million on the stock market, and the following year he had quadrupled this amount. In November 1978, he founded DynaTox Industries, a company dedicated to the disposal of nuclear waste.
In 1979, Silver traveled around Europe making contacts with nuclear power companies in the United Kingdom and France, where nuclear plants were booming in comparison with America, which was still reliant on fossil fuels. Silver, with his knowledge of nuclear physics, worked with several power plants helping them to manage their spent nuclear fuel in an efficient and safe way. He developed considerable expertise in the field of hazardous waste disposal, and was presented with the Ecological Guardian award by the British government. It was during this time that he first developed an interest in fine luxury automobiles, and he purchased several Rolls-Royce limousines as well as Jaguar sedans and Aston-Martin sports cars. Silver also had a taste for fine clothes, cigars, champagne, and women, becoming an international playboy. It was also during this time in Europe that he met Margaret Spencer, a middle-aged receptionist at an energy company’s London office, and Milos Dadok, a Czech hotel concierge in Prague. The two eventually became Silver’s personal assistants and he arranged for them to travel back with him to the United States so they could work with him full-time. In the early 1980s, Terry Silver was one of the most successful businessmen in the energy industry, and in 1982 Forbes Magazine listed DynaTox among the 500 richest companies in America however as said above rather than safely dispose of nuclear waste as before DynaTox now illegally dumped nuclear waste instead and Silver began bribing jury people and DA who were investigating DynaTox is illegal activities.
Career in Karate
As he had amassed a vast fortune, Silver now had the freedom to concentrate on his first love, which was Karate. Silver spent most of his time in his palatial Beverly Hills estate, studying Karate. He assigned the majority of responsibility for DynaTox to his vice presidents and secretary, and his own involvement in the day-to-day business of nuclear waste disposal is limited to the signing of contracts and telephone conversations with the international branches of his company. He founded the Cobra Kai Karate Academy, which had locations throughout the San Fernando Valley, and he contacted his old friend John Kreese with the opportunity to serve as the head instructor at the academy’s flagship dojo. Kreese, with his lifetime of leadership skills and his commitment to the teaching of martial arts, jumped at the chance, and the two war buddies resumed their partnership. Unlike other Karate dojos which presented the sport as a “fun” and recreational hobby, Silver and Kreese placed a heavy emphasis on Karate as a deadly art, to be practiced only by the fiercest, bravest and most honorable students. Silver developed an innovative teaching technique called “QuickSilver”, consisting of three basic rules. One: If an enemy can’t stand, he can’t fight. Two: If an enemy can’t see, he can’t fight. Three: If an enemy can’t breathe, he can’t fight. The QuickSilver method efficiently singles out the most vital areas of an opponent’s body to ensure maximum damage, and is best practiced on a dummy in the shape of a human, made from pipes and wooden boards.
When Kreese is financially ruined, due to the Cobra Kai’s defeat at the hands of Daniel and Miyagi, Silver makes it a personal mission to help Kreese recover and avenge him. To this end, he has his thugs force Daniel to enter the All Valley Karate Tournament and recruits “Bad Boy” Mike Barnes to compete against Daniel. He also pretends to train Daniel for the tournament, after Miyagi refuses to do so however his motives are later revealed to be part of an elaborate plan to have Daniel perform acts that directly conflict with every value he learned from Miyagi’s training. Silver hired two Los Angeles teenagers – the cocky and arrogant Snake, and the strong, silent Dennis – to be his personal training partners, as well as general household assistants. Snake and Dennis live with Silver in his colossal mansion, considering him to be the father figure they never had, and are fiercely loyal to him. He spars with them on a daily basis in the vestibule of his home, making sure that they are fully clad in protective gear so as to minimize any chances of injury.
When his best friend John Kreese is financially ruined, due to the Cobra Kai’s defeat at the hands of Daniel, Terry Silver makes it a personal mission to help Kreese recover. He buys him twenty new dojos all over the Valley, and sends him to Tahiti to recover from the severe hand wounds inflicted by Mr. Miyagi following Kreese's unprovoked assault on Miyagi. He also vows to reclaim the glory of the Cobra Kai name by winning the All Valley Tournament. Silver also attempts to help Daniel improve his Karate skills for the tournament, secretly planning to trick Daniel into a false sense of security when he goes up against the far more experienced Barnes. He effectively gains Daniel’s interest in the Cobra Kai training method, using such tactics as driving a convertible blue Ford pickup truck and wearing a shirt with an altered collar to appear “humble.” However, Daniel’s weak body and spirit prove a poor fit for the “QuickSilver” method, and his deficient technique causes Daniel to injure himself despite fulfilling Kreese's wish to make Daniel suffer and amusing Silver who laughs at Daniel injuring himself. When Silver reveals his true motives to Daniel and orders Barnes to assault him, while he and Kreese starts taunting Daniel. Suddenly, Mr. Miyagi arrives and easily beats both Barnes and Kreese, then challenges Silver, who starts showing off his insolated moves, to a fight and is thrown into the Cobra Kai dojo wall mirror causing white paint to fall over him. However, Silver, unafraid at his defeat, continues to taunt Daniel and Miyagi by claiming that Kreese's karate forms and Cobra Kai dojo will one day rule the All Valley.
At the climactic All Valley Tournament, Silver, dressed in a stylish suit and a red ascot tie, gives a inspirational and hypocritical speech to the crowd in which he highlights the importance of giving back to the community through the self-confidence and inner peace instilled by Karate, and the virtues of "honesty, compassion, and fair play." which he is lying about because he does not believe in those virtues. When the fight begins, Silver orders Barnes to make Daniel suffer and lose points deliberately with a tied score to the sudden death round while he evilly tells Daniel that the real pain begins as his plans appears to work. However, Daniel via encouragement from Miyagi uses the kata he was taught to defeat Mike in the sudden death match to score the point and winning the championship. While Daniel's final point are scored, a disgusted Silver walks away and leave the scene, humiliated.
Terry's fate after the events of the 1985 All-Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament is currently unknown but Daniel remains wary of him. It is likely that Silver's defeat by LaRusso and Miyagi caused him to abandon the Cobra Kai brand and resume his career in toxic waste disposal. It is ultimately unclear what happened next, it is possible that Silver was finally arrested and imprisoned for his criminal activity or he was never caught and began plotting another revenge against Daniel with Kreese. It is also possible that he is dead.
Silver has the potential to make an appearance in Cobra Kai in the future, as Kreese is still alive and Terry, if still alive, could still be the legal owner of the Cobra Kai name, which should still have its copyright.
The board of the All Valley Karate Tournament tells Johnny Lawrence, a former Cobra Kai student who is currently the sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo that the unethical actions of Silver, Kreese, and Barnes at the 1985 All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament got the Cobra Kai Dojo banned for life. The board asks Johnny what is his relationship with Terry Silver, to which Johnny replies that he doesn't even know who that is. Johnny is unaware of Silver's actions, as everything the latter did took place about a year after Johnny left Cobra Kai.
Terry is not mentioned by name, but his presence is felt to a much greater extent than it is in Season 1. When Kreese is telling Johnny about what he's been up to, he reveals that an old war buddy (almost certainly Silver) offered him a job, but he didn't take it because he considered it a "handout". He is shown in a flashback when Daniel is talking to his students about the time he joined Cobra Kai and the negative effect it had on his personality. At the Cobra Kai Dojo, Kreese tells Johnny that "a buddy of [his]" took the 1970-1972 U.S. Army Karate Champion photo that Kreese has kept hanging in the dojo ever since it was opened. Kreese then looks upset when Johnny does not bother to ask more about his friend, further implying that Terry was likely the friend in question.
Since Terry founded Cobra Kai and the copyright is likely still in his name, it is possible that Terry had a role in John getting back Cobra Kai, though Kreese did not mention him having any factor in that happening at the time. It has also been theorized that Kreese learned from Terry how to deceive Johnny in order to serve his own ends.
With one of the plots being Kreese's past in Vietnam it is possible that Terry will be seen in flashbacks. With the copyright of the Cobra Kai Dojo likely still being in his name, it is possible that Terry can make an appearance (in the present time). In December 2019, Martin Kove (Kreese's actor) mentioned that Kreese could see his old war buddy soon, which is likely another indication that Silver will appear.
During Terry's younger days, he is a smart person with morals, and he wants to be a good example, unlike his father. Terry genuinely believed in safe toxic waste disposal when he was in college. However, he eventually lost all of his morals and became a corrupt businessman. Terry's indifference for dumping toxic waste in third world countries was likely fueled by his experiences in the Vietnam War, which also had a very negative impact on his best friend, John Kreese.
Terry Silver is likely a sociopath or psychopath based on his indifference to other people, especially people he believes have wronged him or his friend, John Kreese, such as Kesuke Miyagi or Daniel LaRusso. Silver was spectacularly malicious and unforgiving, going to elaborate lengths to get revenge on people that really didn't even do anything wrong in the first place. It is worth noting that to achieve his revenge on Miyagi-Do, he pretended to be Daniel's friend and got Daniel to trust him and choose him over Mr. Miyagi, which made the deception that much worse and shocking. Terry's actions show that he's a cruel, immoral and merciless human being, and possibly one of the most evil people in the franchise's history.
However, despite Terry's many severe character flaws, he was a genuinely good and loyal friend to Kreese, believing that he owed him his life for the many times that Kreese saved his life in Vietnam.