Pat Morita passed away in November, 2005 of natural causes. He left a tremendous legacy behind, having impacted countless individuals through his work on screen and his efforts as an Asian-American in the film industry. One of his most profound impacts, however, was likely on Ralph Macchio.
In The Karate Kid Macchio and Morita’s characters of Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi form a nearly inseparable bond between student and teacher. Cobra Kai displays how heavily Daniel relied on Mr. Miyagi for advice and guidance, and how losing him impacted his life. The close on-screen bond between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi led to Macchio and Morita forming a bond of their own.
They became close personal friends, both acting together and training together. When talking about their relationship in an interview with BlackBelt Magazine, their trainer Pat Johnson said “I trained both of them until they were unable to move, and they would share their aches and pains like two little old men and they built camaraderie through the training.”
Ralph Macchio Spoke at Morita’s Funeral
Their bond ran deep. Macchio said in an interview with the Guardian that reprising his role as Daniel in Cobra Kai without Morita by his side has been difficult.
“That’s been tough,” says Macchio, who spoke at Morita’s funeral. “There’s a montage scene in series two in which I’m teaching a younger kid, just as Miyagi taught LaRusso, and that brought a real rush of emotion for me. Every time we shoot I hearken back to those early days of rehearsal with Pat.”
Macchio Says Their Chemistry Was Natural
In an interview with USA Today talking about The Karate Kid 30 years later Macchio spoke about the unique chemistry he and Morita had on screen.
What I did feel when we were making the movie is that Pat Morita and I had a natural organic ease in our acting styles. Those scenes just really – I don’t know how to describe it. If there was anything evident on that set, it was evident that relationship was very natural and real. It seemed like it had a shot of being that once it got on the screen.
It seems like, in Macchio’s opinion, the pair was a match made in heaven. The two had a natural chemistry and fit the roles in a way that was difficult to find. He mentioned that “I was just the right kid at the right time and Pat was the right actor at the right time. Basically you could argue there’s nobody else.”
How Mr. Miyagi’s Death has Impacted ‘Cobra Kai’
Cobra Kai picks up around 7 years after Mr. Miyagi’s death, as his tombstone reveals in season one. After Mr. Miyagi died Daniel was left without his spiritual guide. He struggles with this loss throughout the show.
In season one Daniel decides to reopen his dojo and get back into Karate training in an effort to find balance in his life and reconnect with Mr. Miyagi. It works temporarily, but as things with Cobra Kai get more tense he loses control.
Later Daniel takes a trip to Okinawa and reconnects with Kumiko. Kumiko reads him one of Mr. Miyagi’s old letters, and Daniel is able to pull one more lesson from Mr. Miyagi to help get his life back in balance.