In Hollywood, there are actors who play a character, and for the rest of their careers, that’s what they’re known for. They could go on to play fifty more roles after that specific movie or show, but ultimately, people know them for that one iconic character. This is the case for William Zabka who played Johnny Lawrence in the Karate Kid movies.
He was portrayed as the ultimate villain when, in reality, he was a misguided teenager who was practically raised by the movie’s real villain, Kreese. Johnny’s story seemed to come to an end at the beginning of the Karate Kid II, when Kreese tried to kill him after Johnny came in second at the All Valley tournament.
However, we caught up with him in 2018 when Cobra Kai was released, and it’s a mix of sadness and relief as you quickly realize that Johnny didn’t change. He’s a mess, he’s quick to anger; he’s politically incorrect, doesn’t have a filter, and doesn’t know how to properly work through his past trauma and baggage. And yet, he often carries the show and is one of the best characters, leading to much excitement for the sixth and final season of Cobra Kai coming at some point in the future. Johnny says a lot of unsavory things, but there are a few gems in the mix. Let’s take a look at his top ten quotes from Cobra Kai.
It’s no secret that Johnny is majorly out of touch with just about everything, but it’s proven even more as he buys a laptop for the first time. He’s aggressive with the pawn shop owner because he has no idea how to even turn the computer on, and he thought it was broken. Then, when he finally gets it on, he doesn’t know a single thing about the internet, and especially Wi-Fi. The way he asks, “What’s Wi-Fi?” is so deadpan and funny, and shows how much he was stuck in the ’80s.
9“Makes me feel like a virgin, just looking at you.”
Johnny clearly doesn’t have a filter in life, especially when it comes to his students. Whenever he gets new recruits, he’s merciless in picking them apart and making them feel terrible about themselves, only to eventually build them back up as they start training. In the first season, Johnny was at his worst, as a group of Miguel’s friends wanted to join Cobra Kai, and Johnny was less than impressed with the roster.
He walks through the group and makes offensive comments, one of the funniest being when he stands in front of a small kid who can’t be more than thirteen and says, “Makes me feel like a virgin, just looking at you.” Johnny often brings up his memories of being surrounded by “chicks” and “babes” so it’s no surprise that he uses this kind of language with kids.
8“You should all be proud of yourselves. I know I’m proud. Your parents would be too, if you told them what we did today… which we won’t!”
This quote comes from season two when Johnny regrettably brings Kreese on as a sensei in Cobra Kai. Kreese puts it in Johnny’s head that the kids need more discipline and a more intense way of training. Johnny takes his words to heart and rents a cement truck for the day, ordering his students to climb inside and make it manually spin. It’s incredibly dangerous since there’s still cement inside, but Miguel, Hawk, and a few others are brave enough for the challenge.
Johnny says this quote as he’s hosing the boys off from the cement that’s just about everywhere on them, the boys proud for completing this outrageous task that even Kreese was hesitant about. The exercise was stupid and risky, but also prompted weird teamwork and bonding, and the quote serves as Johnny’s acknowledgment of his teaching ways to be not the safest or smartest.
7“That’s just black paint on a wall.”
When Johnny re-opened Cobra Kai, he originally did it out of spite to get back at his childhood rival, Daniel Larusso. He didn’t work at all through his past trauma regarding what he went through with his own sensei, Kreese, and instead implemented that way of teaching in his dojo. The words, “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy” are painted on the back wall and become a mantra for his students as they learn from Johnny that the enemy doesn’t deserve mercy, ever.
However, Johnny starts to have a change of heart after the first All Valley tournament, rethinking what those words really mean and how his students should go about defeating their opponents. It’s a great character arc as Johnny gestures to the back wall, and says, “That’s just black paint on a wall.”
6“If I’m extra hard on you, it’s only because you have the potential to be better than I ever was.”
As you watch Johnny and Miguel become closer and start to act more like father and son, rather than student and sensei, you begin to unpack why Johnny immediately took a liking to him. After the All Valley tournament in the first season and Johnny punished both Miguel and Hawk for how they acquired the win, Johnny pulls Miguel aside to give him some insight.
Johnny sees himself in Miguel and recognizes that he can be the next big thing when it comes to karate, so he wants him to be better than Johnny ever was. He doesn’t want him to make the same mistakes or mess up his life, and it’s a sweet moment as you realize how their relationship is growing and is way healthier than Johnny and Kreese’s was.
5“Change that ringtone, get some Guns N’ Roses, or something.”
Since Johnny thrived so much in the ’80s, and really didn’t change a bit as he got older, one of the things that stuck with him the most is his choice of music. Throughout all the seasons, he’s seen wearing different shirts with bands on them, most of them rock or metal, and it seems to be all that he listens to. When Johnny first starts to train Miguel, things are new between them and a bit awkward as Johnny tries to find his footing with being a sensei, but over time, they fall into a routine.
Miguel’s phone rings and Johnny visibly cringes at the rap that comes from the phone, quickly telling him to change it, and it doesn’t take long before Miguel starts to adapt his love for the ’80s, just like Johnny.
4“Two cobras in the jungle. One kills the strongest lion, the other kills a crippled monkey. Which cobra do you want to be?”
This quote comes after the first All Valley tournament that Cobra Kai participated in, and Johnny starts to realize that his way of teaching, the points he adapted from Kreese as a kid, isn’t the right way to do it. At the tournament, Hawk and Miguel both go after Robby in ways that are unfair and merciless; two points that they learned from Johnny. Once the tournament is over and the second season premieres, Johnny berates the two boys for how they achieved the win, even though they did it exactly how he told them to.
It’s character development for Johnny, as he relays this quote and makes them think about their actions, but also a learning experience for his students as well. One can’t help but think if Johnny had started to re-think his teaching ways if Robby, his son, wasn’t the target of Hawk and Miguel’s attacks. The cobra analogy is specific, but proves to be useful as “No Mercy” is challenged.
One of the quotes that is used several times throughout the series and said in just about every episode, is “Quiet!” It quickly becomes Johnny’s catchphrase as he raises his voice to the perfect octave and effectively shuts down the entire room, every single time. It’s most effective when he’s dealing with his students, and they’re just hanging out, all of them quickly falling into line as their sensei shouts this singular word.
Not only that, but it’s hilarious when he uses it on random people, such as in the gas station that’s located in the same plaza as the dojo. Who knew one word could hold so much power when Johnny Lawrence shouts it?
2“I’ll always be by your side, and I’ll always have your best interests at heart.”
There are a few moments in this show that are real tearjerkers, hitting you unexpectedly, and this scene is one of those times. After Miguel finds out that Robby is Johnny’s son, he confronts his sensei about it, hurt and confused as he was berated for what happened at the tournament. Instead of brushing Miguel’s feelings off, like you might expect, Johnny takes him to a burger joint to explain everything.
He recounts to Miguel about how he was never the dad he should have been for Robby, how he wasn’t even at the hospital when he was born. He apologizes to Miguel for keeping it a secret, and then vows to never leave his side and always help him when he needs it, just like a father would. It’s heartbreaking, since Robby was the one who needed that support from Johnny and never received it; but on the other hand, Miguel never had a father either, so it’s heartwarming at the same time, as you see him begin to cling to Johnny, who reciprocates it.
1“You want something, you’ll have to crawl across the floor. Use your damn teeth if you have to.”
After the intense season two finale that landed Miguel in the hospital after Robby pushed him over a flight of stairs, Miguel has to learn how to walk again. Johnny’s way of teaching is abrasive, and he’s not one for a gentle approach, so when he visits him at the hospital and finds Miguel feeling sorry for himself, he won’t let it slide. Miguel’s phone is just out of reach, and after Johnny refuses to hand it to him, he says this quote.
Miguel stares at his sensei and father figure before he pushes himself up, and then ultimately falls to the floor because he was nowhere near ready to try and walk by himself. However, this quote proves that Johnny will always keep his word and be there for Miguel through everything, even something as daunting as learning how to walk again.