Is Thomas Ian Griffith a Real Martial Artist?

Thomas Ian Griffith

Getty Thomas Ian Griffith and his wife Mary Page Keller pose together in 2005.

As fans of the “Karate Kid” film franchise are aware, Thomas Ian Griffith portrayed Terry Silver, a billionaire who assists his friend John Kreese (Martin Kove) with harming Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in “The Karate Kid Part III.” The unhinged Vietnam veteran manages to manipulate Daniel after he replaces Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) as his karate instructor. Due to the fact that Griffith convincingly played a karate master, some fans may be curious if the actor had a background in martial arts. 

According to Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote the first three “Karate Kid” films, Griffith is no stranger to the martial arts. While speaking on the “Karate Kid” reunion panel in December 2020, alongside the films’ cast and crew, the screenwriter shared that “out of everyone in the cast [Griffith] was the only guy outside of [himself] who knew any martial arts.” He went on to say that the actor “was a black belt in Taekwondo,” which Griffith confirmed. 

“Thomas was a legitimate martial artist,” asserted Kamen. 

Thomas Ian Griffith Discussed His Martial Arts Background in a Recent Interview

In a recent interview on the “Cobra Kai Kompanion” podcast, Griffith also discussed his background in martial arts. He shared that he “got into the martial arts young” and “went to a local Kenpo school for a while.” He soon met “a kid who was a Taekwondo artist” and was impressed by his “amazing spinning hook kick.” The actor asked about the move, and the martial arts student introduced him to “a very very traditional Taekwondo school.”

“The instructors and the masters spoke very little English but they were just incredible teachers and I begged my parents saying, ‘please just let me go there.’ So I started just right before high school there. It was my life through high school, it was my sport through high school,” said the Connecticut native. “I just loved it. And it gave me a sense of purpose and a place to go after school and like I said I owe so much to the whole training and the whole world that I think taught me so many things I still, you know, value in my life today.”

The 59-year-old continued to practice martial arts throughout his adulthood. 

Griffith Also Discussed the Audition Process for ‘The Karate Kid Part III’

While speaking on the “Cobra Kai Kompanion” podcast, Griffith discussed the audition process for “The Karate Kid Part III.” He explained that he had been “Christmas shopping” with his wife Mary Page Keller and realized that he “missed an audition.”

“I was supposed to be there by five at the latest and it was 10 after five and I’m going I’m gonna go, so we drove to the casting person’s office,” recalled the actor. 

He noted that the film’s casting director Caro Jones took a liking to him despite his tardiness. After giving him a few pages of the script, she asked if he “[knew] anything about karate” to which he responded that “this is [his] world.” 

“I’m sure that every actor that walked in the room said the exact same thing so she’s just looking at me but somehow I convinced her,” said Griffith. 

The actor eventually “met with John [Avildsen],” the film’s director, for a screen test. Griffith impressed the director and secured the role without showing off his martial arts skills. He went on to say that he visited the set and ran into the film’s stunt coordinator, martial artist Pat Johnson. 

“We have so much in common with all the karate tournaments and everything, he’s like you got to show John that you really do this. And then there wasn’t much karate for Terry’s character in the original script and the next thing I know it’s like I’m doing katas and I’m breaking boards and it was fantastic, you know,” said Griffith. 

Fans will be able to see Griffith during the upcoming season of “Cobra Kai,” which will debut in December 2021.

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