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|“||We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in the streets, in competition, a man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.||„|
|~ John Kreese's "philosophy".|
|“||Congratulations. You did what I always thought you could do. You won. Cobra Kai is back where it belongs. Back on top. Everyone closed the book on us, they thought we were done, but now they see that the real story's only just begun.||„|
|~ John Kreese congratulating Johnny Lawrence for winning the All Valley Karate Tournament at the end of Season 1 of Cobra Kai.|
|“||I founded Cobra Kai. It belongs to me. It always has and it always will. I will never let my students lose. Even if they have to learn the hard way. One day you will thank me for this Johnny.||„|
|~ John Kreese to Johnny Lawrence after taking his Cobra Kai dojo from him at the end of Season 2 of Cobra Kai.|
|“||Cobra Kai never dies.||„|
|~ John Kreese after his return in Cobra Kai.|
John Kreese is the main antagonist of the Karate Kid franchise, serving as the main antagonist of the original The Karate Kid, a minor antagonist in The Karate Kid Part II, and one of the two main antagonists (alongside Terry Silver) of The Karate Kid Part III. He reappears as the main antagonist of the Cobra Kai TV series on YouTube Red/Netflix, serving as the overarching antagonist of Season 1, and the main antagonist of Seasons 2 and 3 (but the main protagonist of his flashback arc). He will also return as one of the main antagonists of Season 4.
He is a deranged karate sensei who founded the Cobra Kai dojo after his experiences during the Vietnam War. However, he taught his students to be merciless and cruel, picking on the weakest. He is the arch-nemesis of Johnny Lawrence (who was also his former best student) and Daniel LaRusso. After being defeated by Daniel and his teacher Mr. Miyagi two times, Kreese retreated into obscurity but resurfaced years later when Lawrence restarts the Cobra Kai dojo, managing to retake it and set his beliefs in a new generation of students.
John Kreese was a vicious and ruthless teacher who taught his students to be ruthless and merciless against their opponents. During the All-Valley Tournament, he showed how low he was willing to stoop in order to win by instructing Bobby to put Daniel out of commission during the semifinals and Johnny to sweep his leg in the finals.
Despite being a soldier like Mr. Miyagi, but unlike him, Kreese sees his students are more like soldiers than martial artists, which caused him to be unforgiving towards his teaching. For him, life is a battlefield and one must fight for its with any means necessary much like a soldier willing to do everything to survive in the battlefield.
Karate Kid 2
Kreese verbally berates Johnny for losing, breaks his trophy and chokes him and even harms his students Bobby and Tommy, thus showing everyone that he is a sore loser. He then attacks Miyagi after the latter stops from seriously injuring Johnny before getting beaten with little effort.
Karate Kid 3
Kreese is still bitter over losing his students' thanks to Miyagi and Daniel, very bent on getting revenge on Daniel and Miyagi, and he enjoys making Daniel suffer.
At the end of the first season, Kreese is still shown bent on getting revenge on Daniel for putting Cobra Kai out of business years ago. He also tells Johnny that he is proud of him and returns his trophy which turns out to be an attempt at using him as a pawn.
Initially, Kreese seems to be seeking redemption, which results in Johnny giving him a second chance. However, overtime it is revealed Kreese truly has not changed. He uses his anger, bitterness, past teachings and experiences to manipulate several of Johnny's students into becoming more vicious and aggressive people under Johnny's nose. He once threatens Daniel with war between the two dojos and claims he wants revenge against Daniel for ruining him. If anything, his methods are even more ruthless this time around given that he is praying on the dojo members' resentment towards being bullied and turning them against Johnny for trying to get to them to stop using under-handed tactics.
After Johnny finds out what Kreese has been doing he angrily kicks him out of the dojo. However, in the end of the season, Kreese reveals to Johnny that he betrayed him while he was away earlier in the summer by secretly striking a deal with the landlord to acquire the dojo. Kreese now owns Cobra Kai again, several of Johnny's students, which include Hawk and Tory, are training with Kreese and under his spell, and Johnny has officially lost the dojo. This, along with everything else he lost as a result of inadvertently making tensions between the two dojos worse, results in Kreese briefly breaking Johnny's spirit.
After retaking Cobra Kai, Kreese begins using even harsher methods such as making his students watch him feed a mouse (that some of his students showed affection to) to a snake as way of "routing out weakness". When a handful of students feel that this is wrong, he kicks them out.
He then continues with his plan to make his students more ruthless by recruiting physically-abled yet more aggressive and violent students like Kyler and Brucks, in spite of the fact that they bullied Miguel and Hawk in the past. After finding out that Daniel and Amanda tried to get them evicted, he places a snake in their dealership, frightening the employees. He manages to corrupt the mind of Johnny's son, Robby Keene, to the point that the latter joins Cobra Kai and is under his evil spell after being released from juvenile hall.
In the finale, he is brutally beaten up by Johnny, but when his former student tends to Robby, Kreese attempts to murder him, only to be stopped and defeated by Daniel. After his defeat, he promises Daniel and Johnny that he will leave Cobra Kai if they lose the All Valley. If he wins, however, he will continue to pass along his teachings.
|“||Are you familiar with brumation? In winter, some animals bury themselves in a hole and sleep there for months. The snake buries himself in a hole... the only difference is the snake doesn't sleep. He stays awake all winter... waiting for the right moment to emerge... and that moment is now.||„|
|~ Kreese after his return in Season 2 of Cobra Kai.|
|“||Our society has gotten weak. Kids today are coddled. They get trophies for just showing up. Something's gotta be done. Someone's gotta step in and stop the ass-kissing, and start the ass-kicking. That's why we're here. The world needs Cobra Kai.||„|
|~ John Kreese in his conversation with Johnny Lawrence at a diner.|
|“||The fight is only over when you say it is.||„|
|~ John Kreese to Hawk.|
|“||When one of you makes a move, you all make a move. You live and you die by the consequences and the spoils, because you are all Cobra Kai.||„|
|~ John Kreese to Johnny's students while teaching them.|
|“||Sometimes the world can be cruel. And that's why you have to learn to be cruel yourselves. Weakness is unacceptable. The figt at the school was an embarrasment. You lost soldiers and you lost the battle. But you will not lose again. Diaz was one of our own. What they did to him, they did to all of us. And it will not go unanswered. We will show no mercy. We will show no weakness. We will strike back we will strike hard!||„|
|~ John Kreese to the Cobra Kai students after the school fight.|
|“||You whole life, you're told to be good. But good is only a matter of perspective. Always remember your enemies think they're doing what's right. They think they're the hero and you're the villain. But now you know the truth. Theres is no good. There is no bad. Only weak... or strong. And now that we've shed our weakness, it's time to show our strength. If you do that, I promise you... you will be unstoppable.||„|
|~ John Kreese to his students.|
- Despite playing a small role in the original Karate Kid, he is the main antagonist of the film as he instructs and influences his students to behave mercilessly and unethically.
- According to Martin Kove in the DVD Documentary, he had gotten a call from director John G. Avildsen stating that they wanted him to audition for Kreese but was then told to wait. Kove wanted the role so much that he turned down other prospects in order to get this part. But when the "waiting" dragged out for a few weeks, Kove became annoyed as he kept turning down parts. Finally, when Avildsen called Kove in to audition, Kove was so annoyed at Avildsen that he berated the director and channeled his anger into an intense audition. Ultimately, that intensity got him the role.
- Martin Kove was rumored to have replaced Chuck Norris, who allegedly turned down the role of Kreese because he didn't want karate trainers to be shown in an unsympathetic light. Norris has since said he was never offered the role in the first place, but if he had been, he would've declined for similar reasons.
- According to Martin Kove, the blood on his hands when he broke the windows was real and was an accident on-set. The footage was left in the final cut.
- Martin Kove has claimed that fans of the original film always tell him, "I love to hate you."
- Kreese and Daniel never once speak directly to each other throughout the entire trilogy. They have a brief interaction in the third film, but Kreese is just yelling gibberish at Daniel and therefore not technically speaking to him. That said, they do interact with each other several times and eventually fight in Cobra Kai.
- Despite not having the most screen-time in Cobra Kai season 2, he is the main antagonist of the season as he corrupts and manipulates the Cobra Kai students into behaving viciously and mercilessly. He was also using Johnny, so he could take back his dojo and went behind his back to take the dojo back by making a deal with Johnny's landlord.
- His counterpart in the 2010 remake is Master Li.