One day, the history books will read: do you remember the 80s…0r do you wish to forget them? For Sensei John Kreese, the 80s will always live in infamy. The Cobra Kai Dojo will never lose zest, or spunk, albeit they will never be the same after Daniel Laruso defeated their key students in back to back All-Valley tournaments. Nonetheless, John Kreese is one of film’s most influential and tumultuous villains ever.
So, what exactly makes Kreese ‘pop’? While his background is shrouded in mystery, a few key facts are divulged about the villain. His general age remains obscure, but Kreese was a Special Forces Captain in Vietnam. He won the 1972 US Army Karate Champion, and only grew into a more well rounded karate expert. It is also known that his ferocity and diligence was renowned on the battlefield of ‘Nam, as he had saved many soldiers lives. He is a trained and practiced martial artist, studying under the famed sensei Kim San Jang of South Korea. But what makes him tick?
Imagine, if you will, that Kreese is an American hero, and not the underhanded villain he is portrayed as in Karate Kid and Karate Kid 3. Much like Detective John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop, Kreese runs his dojo like a military establishment. He isn’t filling his students with thoughts of merciless beatings and unwarranted bullying. Instead, he is instilling the basic structures of passion, discipline, and determination. Cobra Kai was in the lime light until Laruso negatively exposed the school. Their mantra was direct, and applied to the dojo and beyond. Cobra Kai is a way of life, not just a vacation.
Now, we know that Kreese is a loner, but he does rely on his BFF Terry Silver for support. We can assume he is not gay, as he enjoys his massage from Mimona in Tahiti, and is encouraging of Johnny Lawrence’s lewd behavior. So, essentially what we have is a Travis Bickle type character, fruitful in his practice and passionate about his student’s success. War clearly had an impact on his perception of mercy and grace, because as we know, war changes a man.
Is war hero John Kreese a cowardly villain, or a victim of American post-war propaganda? I’m sure that today, Kreese would still be running the Cobra Kai dojo, and producing more champions than any other sensei in the valley.