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.
~ Sensei John Kreese's "philosophy".

John Kreese is the main antagonist of the original The Karate Kid, a minor antagonist in Karate Kid 2 and the secondary antagonist of Karate Kid 3. He reappears in the Cobra Kai TV series on YouTube Red as the possible main antagonist of season 2.

He was portrayed by Martin Kove.

Character Biography

Military Service

Kreese was a Captain in the U.S. Army, where he was part of the Special Forces during the Vietnam War. One of his war buddies was Terry Silver, whom Kreese had allegedly saved the life of on multiple occasions. Kreese initially met Silver when he was a First Lieutenant. Kreese 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. Following Kreese's retirement from the Army, he opened the Cobra Kai Dojo, with Silver's backing.

The Karate Kid (1984)

Kreese is first seen at the Cobra Kai dojo. He instructs his students that mercy is for the weak, and an enemy deserves no mercy. He also orders his students to use illegal strikes to their opponents at the All Valley Tournament. However, his best student, Johnny Lawrence, lost to Daniel Russo in the tournament.

The Karate Kid Part II

Getting angry at Johnny for winning second place and for calling him a sick and sadistic loser (as Johnny now saw him for what he really was), he violently chokes Johnny with his arms, ordered his students to stay back and even hit one of them. However, he was stopped by Miyagi and all his students depart from his dojo, and lost his Dojo.

The Karate Kid Part III

Kreese has fallen on hard times, with the Cobra Kai Dojo bankrupt and empty. He plots revenge against both Daniel and Miyagi, with the help of his old Vietnam War buddy Terry Silver, after listening to his story.

So, Silver hires Mike Barnes to harass and defeat Daniel at the All Valley Tournament. However, Daniel defeats Mike Barnes, while Kreese is disappointed and throws something at the audience for cheering for Daniel. The audience throws back their free T-shirts in disgust at Kreese and Silver, and Cobra Kai is closed down for good.

Other Appearances

He does not appear in the Next Karate Kid; however, a character named Master Li mirrors John Kreese in a 2010 remake.

Cobra Kai


John Kreese's return in Cobra Kai.

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 has only just begun.
~ John to his former pupil, Johnny.

He returns in the final episode of Season 1 in the YouTube Red TV Series, Cobra Kai. Kreese appears in a few flashbacks. He was mentioned several times, revealing that his and Silver's repeated rule-breaking got Cobra Kai permanently disqualified from the All-Valley Karate Tournament. He was long thought to be dead at least according to Johnny, and was ultimately revealed to be alive when Kreese enters the Cobra Kai dojo and congratulates Johnny for winning at any costs during the annual All Valley Karate Tournament. Kreese reveals that this is the beginning for Cobra Kai and that Johnny still has a lot more to learn — something which Johnny is terrified to hear about.


In the original movie, he 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 commisison during the semifinals, and Johnny to sweep his leg in the finals.

In the second movie he verbally berates Johnny for losing, breaks his trophy and chokes him, thus showing everyone that was a very vicious, and sore loser.

In the third movie, still bitter over losing his students thanks to Miyagi and Daniel, he is very bent on getting revenge, and enjoys making Daniel suffer.

At the end of the first season of Cobra Kai, he is still shown bent on getting revenge on Daniel for putting Cobra Kai out of busines years ago.


           KarateKidTitle Villains

The Karate Kid (1984): John Kreese | Johnny Lawrence | Dutch | Bobby Brown | Tommy | Jimmy
The Karate Kid Part II: Chozen Toguchi | Sato Toguchi | Toshio | Taro | John Kreese | Johnny Lawrence
The Karate Kid Part III: Terry Silver | John Kreese | Mike Barnes | Snake | Dennis | Margaret Spencer | Milos Dadok
The Next Karate Kid: Colonel Dugan | Ned Randall | Charlie | Gabe | Morgan
The Karate Kid (2010): Master Li | Cheng | Liang | Zhuang | Song

Cobra Kai: Johnny Lawrence | John Kreese | Eli "Hawk" Moskowitz | Kyler | Brucks | Trey & Cruz | Louie LaRusso Jr. | Tory

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