One of the most significant scenes in The Karate Kid occurs midway through the film. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) visits his sensei Mr. Miyagi’s (Pat Morita) apartment. He finds his mentor inebriated, wearing his World War II uniform and singing the “Japanese Blues.”
Miyagi encourages a confused Daniel to drink, telling him that they are celebrating an “anniversary.” Miyagi then reveals to Daniel that he once had a wife who was pregnant with his child. As the scene progresses, Miyagi reenacts the moment a superior officer told him that his wife and son had passed away after they suffered “complications at birth” and there were “no doctor[s] at camp.”
Miyagi goes over to sit on the edge of his bed and Daniel looks at an old newspaper with a headline reading, “Army Moves Japanese To Manzanar,” implying that Miyagi’s family was imprisoned at the Japanese-American internment camp.
In a New Documentary, Ralph Macchio Revealed the Scene Almost Did Not Make the Final Cut
While this moment provides insight to the character who otherwise may have been perceived as one-dimensional, it almost did not make the final cut. In the new documentary, More Than Miyagi, which premieres on February 5, Ralph Macchio noted the studio felt the scene was unnecessary, as it hindered the flow of the movie.
“Initially there was discussion of cutting the drunk scene from the movie… They’re saying this scene just stops the story you are driving forward,” explained Macchio. “You have the protagonist, the antagonist, the mentor, the student, the drama, the set up the lending to the climax, the tournament, the clock is ticking. It’s going to strike midnight, and then we stop, and then we talk about some guy and his World War II connection for five to seven minutes or whatever it is.”
The film’s writer Robert Mark Kamen also stated that he championed for the moment to stay in the movie.
“I lobbied very hard for that scene because I felt it was the emotional heart of the picture it humanized Mr. Miyagi for Daniel,” explained the writer.
During a 2014 panel, held in celebration of The Karate Kid‘s 30th anniversary, the film’s director John Avildsen, who passed away in 2017, shared similar sentiments regarding the poignant scene. He explained that the “editors” wanted to do away with it, but the late director “thought it was the pivotal scene the love scene between these two guys.” He also noted that he felt Pat Morita’s performance in that particular scene was the reason for his 1985 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In 2019 Vanity Fair reported that Macchio had revealed the reason the studio kept the scene in the film while speaking at the YouTube Space located in New York.
“The studio and the editor wanted that scene cut. But they were wrong, and once they tested it, they shut up,” stated the actor.
‘The Karate Kid Part II’ Star Tamlyn Tomita Has Also Publicly Discussed the Scene
During a January 2021 interview with the Los Angeles Times, actress Tamlyn Tomita, who portrayed Daniel’s love interest Kumiko in both The Karate Kid Part II and Cobra Kai, was asked about her preference for the Karate Kid films. She disclosed she believes “the original Karate Kid is the better one.”
“And I think it’s because of the story we didn’t find out about until later, that the studio didn’t want the scene of drunk Mr. Miyagi with his Medal of Honor. Come on! That’s the scene that steals it for everybody,” reasoned the actress.
The Los Angeles Times reporter, Jen Yamato, claimed that “Pat Morita reportedly fought to keep” in the scene, which caused Tomita to state,
Yes! Can you imagine it without it? Some people gloss over it, especially if you’re not Japanese American: ‘This is an American story? This happened?’ Knowing that he fought for that scene to be kept… And that’s what makes the original the best one.