My former martial arts and fencing teacher taught me an important lesson:
“You will learn or receive feedback from every action— it won’t matter if you fail or prevail.”
He was right. When “Cobra Kai” came out on Netflix — I remembered his words and felt the strong urge to watch one of my favorite movies of the eighties again: Karate Kid.
After watching the movie, I have to admit that I had a completely different film in mind.
I could not believe how many valuable and hidden life lessons were in the movie.
#1. don’t judge an older man by his weakness for bonsai trees.
As with great books, you should never only read the headline or spend too much time analyzing the cover. Take your time to dig deeper.
Every person can teach you if you ask the right questions and start listening.
Daniel-san did not expect Mister Miyagi to be more than a housekeeper or an expert for bonsai trees. The only thing that Daniel saw was the outer appearance.
He did not ask any questions. Mister Miyagi was a karate master and a war hero who received the highest honor — the medal of honor.
- Be careful when you meet people who share interests in bonsai trees — you might underestimate their true potential.
- Start asking questions — you will get interesting yourself if you start getting interested in other people!
- Life often hands you the most unexpected teachers.
#2. all dots will add up to a bigger picture.
One primary task for Daniel-san was the renovation of Mister Miyagi’s house. And as a teacher of mine often says:
“Life is lived forward and understood backward.”
Daniel-san saw it when he thought he would only be a “slave” for Mister Miyagi. But Mister Miyagi taught him valuable (karate) lessons on how to hold his hands by implementing karate movement structures deeply into his subconscious mind.
It did not only prove beneficial for the tournament. It laid the foundation for Daniel-san’s later life, as you can see in Cobra Kai.
Often in life, some painful tasks only reveal their rewards a considerable time later. It is valid for almost every area. If you start sports, a creative hobby, a new job, or begin a career as a writer.
Besides, it would be wise to look for tasks that grant you great feelings on your way or are beneficial to others. Otherwise, the heavy focus on results can sometimes be counterproductive.
- There is the guarantee that you will learn something if you get into massive action — either it will be beneficial for your development, or you will find out what you don’t want at all.
- The latter is also beneficial.
#3. learn a secured stand before doing a crane kick.
Whenever you enter a new playground, it would be best if you learn the rules first. You don’t always have to stick to them (mostly if you work in the creative area).
But before you try to run like Usain Bolt — it would be wise to set one foot in front of the other.
And by practicing these small steps, you are ready for more significant challenges.
A friend once told me that life always hands you the challenges you can barely master.
Daniel-san gathered all his strengths through mastering the karate basics, so-called katas, and when the opportunity came, he was ready to drop the crane kick.
- Take your time to master the basics, and play by the rules until you find the opportunity to show all your strengths.
- Have great goals but don’t forget the necessary small steps.
#4. it does not matter where you come from.
Daniel-san moved together with his mother to a less fortunate area of Los Angeles. His mother drove an old and almost broken car.
While other kids had the luxury to drive beautiful cars and were allowed to go to a country club, Daniel-san had to make the best out of his situation.
And the movie “A Knight’s Tale” presents a perfectly fitting phrase here:
“A (hu-)man can rearrange his stars.”
And the same does not only apply to Daniel-san’s situation as he found a girl and reasons to meet his challenges.
It does not matter where you come from — your actions speak louder than your passport or the hood you come from. You will find millions of examples that support this assumption.
Also, it does not matter what others think about you. And Mister Miyagi went even further — it does not even matter what your teacher thinks about you.
“The only opinion that counts is the one you have about yourself.”
You are allowed (and have) to prove what is within yourself.
- Spare your breath for your training: less talking equals more training equals more possibilities.
- Don’t spend too much time in country clubs.
#5. find your balance.
It is all about Balance. If you have the balance — everything will fall into its place.
Often in life, we seem to be overconfident (which is probably better than being too anxious), lack motivation, or are simply unhappy with the overall situation.
There is a reason for valleys — they only exist because of the hills around them.
You don’t have to treat your life like a carate movie by going full force into it.
Sometimes it is better to find the right balance in life like a pendulum. A pendulum appears to move faster when the amplitudes are lower.
- There is a time for everything in life. It would be best if you could find the right balance for your fit.
- Don’t focus on one book alone as life has more to offer — it is a library.
#6. perspective is key.
As with all great movies, sometimes the hero comes a bit too early or a bit too late to a scene to grasp all relevant data.
Therefore, it is wise to change the perspective and hear what others have to say. Their view of the world is different from yours. If you think yourself into their positions, the picture becomes more holistic.
And Daniel-san received interesting feedback on his primary assumption:
All women are superficial.
Boy — he was and still is wrong. It is wonderfully displayed when it’s the eve of his fight. Daniel-san believes that he will lose the karate fight anyway.
And the girl brilliantly answers: this is excellent news — then we can go earlier (and focus on what is truly important).
As you probably know: the map is not the territory.
- Don't underestimate the true feelings of the other sex.
- Give others a second chance — you primarily see the world through your eyes. There are 8 billion people globally, and it would be wise not to be arrogant: these others have brilliant opinions and ideas too.
#7. don’t cheat.
After suffering significant injuries through illegal techniques by his opponents, Mister Miyagi treated Daniel-san with his magic. After an almost-full recovery, Daniel-san still wins the championship title.
It proves the old rule: you won’t walk home with the ball queen by being the biggest a**hole or by mere fighting. At least not in the long run.
Cheating won’t give you respect or the overall win.
In the long run, the truth will prevail. It applies to all areas of life. Lies are like untreated cancer — they grow and infect the healthy parts of your life too.
- Find your truths in all your actions, and don’t be afraid to speak out your true beliefs.
- Having a small healer up your sleeve is always helpful — especially if this person knows ancient healing techniques.
As with all great movies or outstanding literature, the real strengths lie in applying the acquired wisdom. It is helpful to start slow by:
- Asking more questions,
- Believing in the “everything will fall in the correct place”-universe,
- Doing the small necessary steps,
- Focusing on massive actions,
- Finding your balance,
- Changing your perspective on situations, and
- Reducing the lies you tell yourself and others.
I wish you an incredible journey.
Bansai! And as always — please enjoy the ride! If you want to join the ride — please subscribe to my newsletter on substack!