What Is the Background Behind Daniel LaRusso’s Headband?

Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso in "Cobra Kai"

YouTube Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) puts on his headband for the first time since the 80s in season 1 of "Cobra Kai."

Any fan of the 1984 classic “The Karate Kid” would instantly recognize the legendary headband Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) wore throughout his time training with Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). The headband journeys with him through the film, with its most notable inclusion being at the All Valley Karate Tournament in the film’s climax. But many fans may not know its exact origins, or how it came to be such a symbolic element of the film and its franchise.

Here’s what you need to know about Daniel LaRusso’s iconic headband.

The Headband Was Included By Accident

As explained by Ralph Macchio in a 2014 video with OWN, the headband was not originally in the script. In fact, it wasn’t even a headband at all, but simply one of Pat Morita’s handkerchiefs. Morita, thinking it would work, improvised by turning it into a headband and placing it on Macchio’s head. As Macchio described it, “Pat Morita had this as a handkerchief in his pocket, and he just took it out to pat his brow, and so then he just decided to put it on me. But it was never in the script, and so it’s become a little bit of pop culture right there.”

Macchio also revealed that the headband, which at that point was in his possession, was not the only artifact from the film he got to keep. In the video, Macchio showcases the legendary trophy won by Daniel after the climactic fight (fans might remember Daniel shouting to Mr. Miyagi, “We did it!” as he held up the trophy while being embraced by the crowd).

However, the trophy’s engraving might not be what you’d expect: instead of honoring Daniel LaRusso, it actually honors Macchio himself. The engraving reads:

Ralph Macchio

All Valley Karate Tournament


The Karate Kid

Although the film was released in 1984, “1983” is a reference to when the film (and the scene) was shot.

“I’m feelin’ pretty old right now,” said Macchio as he reflected on the 30 years it had been since the film’s shooting.

Macchio Reflected on the Hardships He Faced After ‘The Karate Kid’

Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso in "The Karate Kid"

YouTubeDaniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) sporting his headband during the All Valley Karate Tournament in “The Karate Kid” (1984).

Later in the interview (several years before “Cobra Kai” had even started production), Macchio also discussed the impact “The Karate Kid” had on him after the film’s release. He said that although Daniel LaRusso “was a big part of who I was,” the character had much more “chutzpah” than Macchio did. “If I were confronted by bullies,” the actor said, “I would normally tap-dance my way out of that scenario.”

He said that in 1986, after the New York Mets had won the World Series, and “The Karate Kid Part II” was in the theaters, he thought, “What could go wrong from here? I figure I’ll work on and off for the most part until I’m about 30, maybe 35, and then I’ll kick back and just enjoy life.” He said of himself at that stage of life:

What an idiot. You know, it’s just youth. It just seems so easy. But that wasn’t the case, it was a struggle, being someone who was now 26 and still able to play a high school student, that created certain issues for me graduating in the roles that might’ve been richer next.

The famous headband, which features a blue lotus flower design against a white background, returned in episode 5 of season 1 of “Cobra Kai,” which was dedicated to the late Pat Morita’s memory. It is near the end of the episode, right after Daniel puts on the headband, that he decides to resume his old practice of karate, after consulting with Mr. Miyagi’s grave earlier.

The headband was so legendary it has created fan-made reaction videos and replicas of it are even being sold online, on Amazon and other sites.

In order to catch more of “Cobra Kai,” be sure to tune into Netflix when it is released December 31.