|“||You want Cobra Kai? It's yours.||„|
|~ Johnny Lawrence to John Kreese.|
John "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.
Pre Karate Kid
When Johnny was a little kid he was gentle and distant, and often bullied by his stepfather Sid. One day, he came across the Cobra Kai Dojo. Immediately taking an interest, Johnny requested his mother and Sid to enroll him in the dojo. While Sid ridiculed him, Johnny's mother believing that Karate would allow him to make friends convinced Sid to let Johnny join. Johnny enrolled in the Cobra Kai dojo and became the top student. He won the All Valley tournament in 1982 and 1983.
At some point, he started a relationship with Ali Mills. The two dated for two years. However, the summer before the events of the original Karate Kid, the two broke up after having a huge argument. Despite their breakup, Johnny wanted to fix their relationship.
The Karate Kid
Johnny was the best student of John Kreese's Cobra Kai Dojo and the leader of the gang of bullies representing the dojo, as well as the ex-boyfriend of Ali Mills.
Throughout the film, Johnny and his gang torment and bully the protagonist Daniel LaRusso, including when the latter was riding his bike home: During this, Johnny and his gang taunted the latter for visiting the Cobra Kai dojo — and to supposedly "give him his first lesson" — they physically forced Daniel's bike into veering off the path and down the adjacent hill (causing the bike to careen into a few rocks and flip, causing Daniel to fall off and tumble into the ravine, bruised). But when Kreese told Johnny to "sweep the leg" in order to beat Daniel at the All-Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny gives Kreese a frightened glance (while also possibly realizing that Kreese had gone too far, and thinking in his head, "Sweep the leg? What is wrong with you, Sensei Kreese? That is illegal and dirty!").
After he lost to Daniel, Johnny, while in tears (possibly because of his loss and feeling remorseful for his treatment of Daniel), shows respect to Daniel and gives him the first-place trophy. With that, he and Daniel patch things up and become friends.
The Karate Kid Part II
At the beginning of the second film, while Johnny was perfectly fine with winning second-place, Kreese was not as he broke the trophy in two after Johnny called him a sore loser. After an argument between Kreese and Johnny (which Daniel and Miyagi take notice of), Kreese violently berates Johnny (including putting the poor then-17 year old boy in a chokehold), but Miyagi stops him. After that, Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kai students left Kreese in the parking lot, now seeing Kreese for the kind of man he really was.
The Karate Kid Part III
Johnny appears in a montage at the beginning of the movie. It can be implied that Johnny and his friends left Cobra Kai, following Kreese's actions at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II, because in the present day, Kreese does not have any students left.
34 years after losing the tournament, Johnny is down on his luck, drinking beer, watching TV while struggling to work as a home-improvement worker. However, he is fired after an argument with a persnickety customer. When he meets his new neighbor Miguel, he is hostile with him. He later beats up a group of bullies (whose ringleader was Kyler) who were harassing Miguel [as he and they reminded Johnny of him in his younger days] who asks him to teach him karate. At first, Johnny refuses, but then changes his mind and decides to train him. He reopens the Cobra Kai dojo and managed to have it reinstated, which causes his rivalry with Daniel to get reignited (as the latter remembers from personal experience what Cobra Kai is like: the students [except for Bobby Brown and Jimmy] were nothing but aggressive bullies, who seemed to enjoy torturing others into giving them what they wanted). He (Johnny) later gets more students at the Cobra Kai thanks to Miguel, who fended off Kyler and his gang [who were humilating Samantha, Daniel's daughter] in the lunchroom, and this inspired "losers", "nerds", "uncool" people, and bullied students. He teaches all of them to strike first, and act mercilessly to their opponents, just like Kreese taught him in 1984. While Cobra Kai was initially banned from the All-Valley Tournament because of the actions of Kreese, Terry Silver and Mike Barnes in 1985 (Karate Kid 3), Johnny convinces the committee to reinstate Cobra Kai.
During the tournament, his students Miguel and Eli (Hawk) make it to the semifinals, but Johnny's son Robbie also makes it to the semifinals. During the semifinals, Hawk commits an illegal move by kicking Robbie in the shoulder while they were not fighting, which got him disqualified. Johnny got angry at Hawk for what he did and was worried for Robbie. In the final round, Miguel attacks Robby's shoulder which is dislocated thanks to Hawk, and even yanks his shoulder after losing the point. When Johnny tells him not to fight dirty, Miguel said there is nothing dirty about winning, which makes Johnny realize what he has turned Miguel into. While Miguel wins the tournament for Cobra Kai, Johnny is upset at what happened, and even apologizes to Robby for it as well.
While drinking his sorrows upon looking at the winning trophy, Johnny is visited by an arriving Kreese, who has bigger plans of putting Cobra Kai up to the top, by all means, much to Johnny’s distress. (Kreese manipulates Johnny, by claiming to be sorry [maybe faking it] for attacking the latter, for getting second place).
Johnny is shocked that Kreese is alive. However, he is still angry at Kreese and even attacks him. Despite struggling at first he is able to get the better of Kreese, but decides to show him mercy to him as he does not want to be him. At the dojo, he scolds Miguel and Hawk for their cheap moves at the tournament, announces that cheating will no longer be tolerated, and strips all his students to white belts, and ordering Miguel and Hawk to do 50 push ups.
After Kreese fixes his second place trophy from the 1984 All Valley tournament and apologizes to him for the way he acted, Johnny forgives him and allows him to co-teach with him at the dojo.
When Miguel and Hawk find out that Robby is Johnny's son, they believe he is being hard on them because they cheaply attack his son. Johnny reveals that, while Robby is his son, he does not tolerate cheating [possibly ashamed of how Kreese's teachings turned him into an agressive bully, back in 1984] and tells them to mind their own business. However, he soon tells Miguel how badly he screwed up with Robby, and that what he likes the most is training him. He even advises him not to be merciless like him, as he paid the price for that.
Under Johnny's nose, Kreese poisons several of Johnny's students minds, particularly Hawk. When Daniel confronts Johnny about destroying his dojo, Johnny tells him he does not know what he is talking about as he had nothing to do with that, and is unaware Kreese ordered Hawk and some other of his students to do this. Johnny then tries to get one of them to reveal that they destroyed the dojo by punishing them but no one cracks. Johnny, however, gets a phone call, which forces him to leave for the day, but not before telling Kreese to run the dojo [which unbeknowingly allows the latter to turn Cobra Kai into the vicious and ruthless dojo it was in 1984].
Johnny goes to a hospital, where he meets former Cobra Kai friends Bobby and Tommy and soon Jimmy. Tommy has been diagnosed with a terminal illness (likely cancer) and is in hospice. Knowing that Tommy won't live much longer the four spend the day hanging out so Tommy can spend his last day having good memories. Tommy last speaks to Johnny before his death the following morning. Johnny is saddened by Tommy's death.
After discovering that Kreese has been poisoning his students minds and turning them into corrupt and vicious human beings, an angry Johnny forces Kreese to leave the dojo for good.
Johnny develops feelings for Miguel's mom Carmen, but is upset when she is seeing someone else. However, after he notices that her date is both unfaithful and only interested in her physically, he beats him up and forces him not to see her again. He then asks her out and the two go on a date. However, when Daniel and his wife Amanda LaRusso come to the same restaurant and have to sit with Johnny and Carmen both Johnny and Daniel are unhappy. At first they brag about their dojos, but after some time the two bond, joke around and appear to be getting along. When Daniel reveals that Robby, who is staying with him, has enrolled him in school, Johnny appreciates what he did.
After Johnny comes home from his date someone knocks on his door. He thinks it's Carmen at first, but when he opens the door he is surprised to see Robby and a drunk Sam (Daniel's daughter). He allows them to spend the night. He tells Robby the following morning that he will have to tell Daniel what happened, but Robby tells him not to and that he will take the fall. However, when Daniel knocks on Johnny's door, Johnny opens it. Daniel asks if Sam is there to which Johhny replies that both Sam and Robby are there and he tells him to calm down which infuriates Daniel. Unhappy with his attitude Johnny shuts the door. Daniel then kicks the door opened and the two have a brief fight which is stopped by Robby and Sam. Daniel angrily takes Sam home.
Johnny takes Robby to school which the latter appreciates. After Miguel is rushed to the hospital as a result of Robby kicking him off a railing at school Johnny goes to the hospital where Carmen blames him for Miguel's injury and tells him she does not want to see him again, and Johnny himself feels guilty.
Johnny goes back to the dojo where he sees Kreese training several of his students. Kreese tells him he and a landlord made an agreement for him to take full ownership of the dojo. Several of Johnny's students are now training with Kreese, and Hawk blames him for Miguel's injury [as the latter showed mercy to Robby, which inadvertently allowed Robby to kick him off the railing]. Johnny angrily leaves the dojo, but not before saying that if John Kreese wants Cobra Kai, then it's his.
Johnny, upset that Kreese now has the dojo, goes to the beach where he angrily throws his phone and then walks away. Unbeknownst to him Ali whom he sent a Facebook message to has sent him a friend request.
Johnny is the leader of the Cobra Kai and the meanest of them (only second to Dutch). He bullies and harasses Daniel due to the latter becoming friendly with Ali. 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 which shows that Johnny knows that 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.
Karate Kid 2
Johnny defends himself against Kreese when the latter berates him for losing the tournament. He calls Kreese a loser. By this point Johnny knows that Kreese is the true sore loser.
34 years after his defeat (Cobra Kai) Johnny is still bitter. 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.
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 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.
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. 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, 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.
- 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. 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 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.