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This was a mistake. You want Cobra Kai? It's yours.
~ Johnny Lawrence to John Kreese.

Jonathan "Johnny" Lawrence is a recurring character of The Karate Kid series. He serves as the central antagonist of the 1984 film The Karate Kid, a minor character in The Karate Kid Part II, and the anti-heroic protagonist of the YouTube Red/Netflix TV series Cobra Kai.

He is portrayed by William Zabka.

Personality

The Karate Kid

Johnny is the leader of the Cobra Kai and the second meanest of them (only second to Dutch). He bullies and harasses Daniel due to the latter becoming friendly with Ali and getting involved when he and Ali were having an argument. He does not show the enemy any mercy, which is what Kreese has taught him to do.

In the final round of the tournament, however, when Kreese tells him to sweep Daniel's leg, Johnny is shocked, and he expresses reluctance to do so, demonstrating that Johnny knows when things are going too far. After Daniel defeats Johnny, the latter shows respect to Daniel by handing him the trophy and saying he was all right.

The Karate Kid Part II

Johnny defends himself against Kreese when the latter berates him for losing the tournament. He calls Kreese a loser, knowing Kreese is the true sore loser. However, as shown by the events of Cobra Kai, Johnny himself still remained bitter over his loss 34 years later.

Cobra Kai

Season 1

Thirty-four years after his defeat (Cobra Kai) Johnny is still bitter and for the the most part, hostile towards those around them. After he begins training his neighbor Miguel he teaches him to be merciless. Over the course of the first season of Cobra Kai, he begins to care for Miguel and realize that he is the only person that has not given up on him and starts treating the rest of the students better after Miguel called him out for being too harsh on them. He lied to Miguel that Daniel was the bully and he stole his girlfriend Ali from him. But it was untrue, Johnny started the fight and he was an even bigger bully than the guys who harassed Miguel. Ali broke up with Johnny way before Daniel asked her out.

His relationship with his son Robby is strained due to Johnny neglecting him his whole life, which has made Robbie resentful towards his father and bent on doing everything he can to make Johnny suffer. While Johnny has expressed desire to make amends with Robby as well as become a better role model towards him and Robby himself did seem to want to work things out with Johnny after Shannon tells him Johnny wanted Robby to live with him, Robby goes back to disliking him after seeing Johnny hugging Miguel, though Johnny was unaware that Robby saw him. Despite their failed relationship, Johnny does care about Robby, and Robby, in turn, does show that he does care for Johnny by accepting his apology following his loss in the All-Valley Tournament.

In the 6th episode of the first season of The Cobra Kai, it is revealed that when Johnny was a young kid he was nice and caring but was often bullied and ridiculed by his stepfather Sid. In the ninth episode of the first season of The Cobra Kai Johhny tells Daniel that he was often bullied by Sid. It is possible that Sid's poor treatment played a role in Johnny becoming an aggressive bully.

Following the Cobra Kai winning the All Valley tournament, Johnny begins to feel guilty that his karate lessons have turned Miguel into a vicious and dirty fighter like him and Kreese.

Season 2

Johnny tries his best to be a better human being. He disallows his students from cheating and fighting dirty, advises Miguel not to be merciless like him, and gives his former sensei Kreese a second chance, beats up Miguel's mom Carmen's date who is unfaithful and an opportunity to teach with him as he believes he has changed.

Unfortunately, things start to take a turn when Kreese corrupts the minds of several of Johnny's students, which makes them vicious and ruthless. Like Kreese did to him. After Johnny finds out he kicks Kreese out, but things only get worse. Miguel is admitted to the hospital after his decision to show mercy to Robby resulted in him being kicked off a railing at school by the latter, which makes Johnny feel guilty, Carmen lashes out against him as she blamed him for Miguel's injures and for getting into fights, Kreese has taken full ownership of the dojo, and a handful of his students have betrayed him and blamed him for Miguel's injury. In the end, it appears that he has lost everything, which makes him angry and feel very guilty as he is well aware that he and Daniel's feud made them inadvertently responsible for the brawl.

Season 3

Here, Daniel and Johnny reconciled and merged those two dojo’s against Kreese.

Trivia

  • Johnny's actor, William Zabka, is notable for playing villains in various 1980s movies (with another one of his roles being Greg Tolan from the 1985 coming-of-age high-school comedy-drama film Just One of The Guys). However, he played a good guy in a 1980s sitcom To Protect & Surf, as well as being featured in The Equalizer. Out of homage to his 1980s villainous roles, Zabka was cast as Rick Steelman in the 2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine.
  • Johnny Lawrence returns in Cobra Kai and resurrects Cobra Kai from his former sensei. He is an anti-hero and protagonist of the series. Johnny was a minor antagonist and anti-hero from season 1. From season 2-3 he will become an anti-hero to tragic hero. Ironically, Johnny seems to have changed to be less villainous while Daniel becomes more of a villain due to his past grudge against Johnny and Cobra Kai as Johnny and his gang nearly killed him in the past for dousing one of them. Except Daniel was not the villain in the series. He still teaching the same methods that made him and Daniel's enemies that made him a villain in the series that Daniel was trying to prevent. Despite this, Daniel seems to be an anti-villain or non-villain while Johnny is the anti-hero, though the former's daughter Samantha is caught in the middle of the conflict and is trying to stop it.
  • His counterpart in the 2010 remake is Cheng.

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           KarateKidTitle.png Villains

The Karate Kid (1984)
Cobra Kai
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
Cobra Kai
Terry Silver | John Kreese | Mike Barnes | Snake | Dennis

DynaTox Industries
Margaret Spencer | Milos Dadok

The Next Karate Kid
Alpha Elite
Colonel Dugan | Ned Randall | Charlie | Gabe | Morgan

The Karate Kid (2010)
Master Li | Cheng | Liang | Zhuang | Song

Cobra Kai
Cobra Kai
John Kreese | Eli "Hawk" Moskowitz | Tory Nichols | Chris | Mitch | Doug Rickenburger | Mikey | Raymond "Stingray" | Kyler | Brucks | Robby Keene | Edwin | Big Red | Paul | Dieter

Others
Trey & Cruz | Louie LaRusso Jr. | Captain Turner | Shawn Payne | Yasmine | Bert | Tom Cole