William Zabka Reveals His Real-Life ‘Karate Kid’ Mentor

William Zabka

Getty William Zabka talks on a panel during the 2019 San Diego Comic Con.

Cobra Kai stars William “Billy” Zabka and Ralph Macchio were recently interviewed on The View. During the segment, which aired on January 12, Zabka revealed that Pat Morita, who famously played Mr. Miyagi, was his real-life mentor while filming The Karate Kid.

The View‘s co-host Sunny Hostin asked the actors about Morita, who passed away in 2005, and if he shared any attributes with the Okinawa-born sensei.

Macchio first responded to the question, stating that “Miyagi was in [the actor].” He then complimented Morita’s acting abilities and “his dedication to the respect of the Japanese-American community.”


Zabka Explained How Morita Helped Him on Set

Pat Morita

GettyPat Morita strikes a pose at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.

Zabka then said that Morita helped his performance as Johnny Lawrence.

[The] Karate Kid was my first film, and when I walked onto the set, we were doing rehearsals. There’s Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio from The Outsiders, and Pat really took me under his wing. And in a way was kind of my Miyagi, as far as you know helping me feel at place and at home,” explained the 55-year-old. 

He then noted that he asked Morita to give him suggestions on how to improve his portrayal of a karate student. He then shared a story about rehearsing for the scene, in which Johnny beats up Daniel LaRusso after he pours water on him at the Halloween dance. 

“When we did the fence fight with Ralph in The Karate Kid in the skeleton outfit, I remember doing the rehearsals and I was doing it maybe half speed and half energy,” said the actor. “And he pulled me aside and — he called me BZ. He said, ‘BZ, BZ,’ he says, ‘listen, man, listen, man, when you do rehearsals you got to give 110 percent, 110 percent. That way when the cameras are rolling its like bread and butter baby, it’s like bread and butter.'”

Zabka went on to say he took Morita’s advice.

“It was the greatest thing, you know, and that really heightened that scene for me, you know, in the rehearsals and that energy,” stated the father-of-two. 

He proceeded to detail his relationship with the late actor, stating,

He was great. He was super, just a great, fun, beautiful guy. I called him Uncle Pat. He was everyone’s kind of uncle

Zabka also stated that he believed Morita is “looking down… and hopefully, giving us that nod” of approval for Cobra Kai


Macchio & Zabka Have Spoken About How Morita Would Have Reacted To The Acclaimed Series

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio Comic-Con

GettyWilliam Zabka and Ralph Macchio speak at the 2019 Comic-Con in San Diego.

Both Macchio and Zabka had previously shared their opinions on how Morita would have reacted to the acclaimed series in a December 2020 interview with Esquire.

The “Karate Kid” himself noted that “he would love it. He’s shining down on us with a big smile. On top of everything else, he’s our friend, you know? So he’s happy for his friends.”

Zabka agreed with Macchio’s assessment.

“He would be having a blast with this. He’s the soul of Miyagi-do, the wise Yoda that’s maybe not with us, but still with us,” said the actor.

To see more of Zabka and Macchio, be sure to watch Cobra Kai, Season 3, available on Netflix.

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