The Untold Story of Mr. Miyagi
Things you may have missed from The Karate Kid that make him even more legendary.
I wanted to be Ralph Macchio when I was a kid. I wanted to be The Karate Kid. I wanted Mr. Miyagi to train me.
My childhood best-friend was a blackbelt and I admired that so much. We must have watched The Karate Kid a thousand times. This was in the 80s, when I was a child.
Recently I revisited the film with my own children, who are 6 and 8 years old.
We watch all films in subtitles so they can learn English idiomatically. I do the same in Spanish, and it works well.
You won’t believe what you can find this way.
I learned something so profound about the film that seemed to be waiting for me to discover for 30+ years, that I glossed over this entire time.
But first, let’s introduce the man, the myth. Mr. Miyagi.
Mr. Miyagi was a Japanese-American US Veteran who Fought against the Axis Powers in WWII
And he did this while he was married to a Japanese woman, who he loved so dearly.
When the war broke out, America put Japanese immigrants in concentration camps, where many died because of poor treatment, and negligence.
Miyagi’s wife was one of them
And she was pregnant with their child. Mr. Miyagi would have to find this out via a letter from the US Army.
The following is a transcription from the end of the scene, after he speaks in a drunken stupor. His speech is very slurred, and Pat Morita’s performance is heart wrenchingly real, which I’m sure in part earned him an Oscar nomination.
“Yes, Sir!” Miyagi said. “Sergeant Miyagi reporting to kill many Jerry Germans, Sir!”
“We regret to inform you that your wife died from complications at birth. No doctor came to help.”
“Nobody comes.” Miyagi said. “Land of the free. Home of the brave. No doctor comes!”
Daniel LaRusso (played by Macchio) sees a newspaper on the table where Mr. Miyagi was drinking. He picks it up, and this is what we see:
If you read carefully, you will see on the front page — Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry Report to The Following Areas.
The scene continues to where Daniel finds this letter in Miyagi’s hands. He removes it, and reads it aloud:
“We regret to inform you that on November 2nd, 1944 at Manzanar Relocation Center, your wife and newborn son died, due to complications arising from childbirth.”
Fact: November 2nd just so happens to be the Day of the Dead
Daniel places the letter back into a keepsake box on Miyagi’s bed stand. It sits next to a patch made by Miyagi’s late wife, and his Congressional Medal of Honor for service in World War II.
Mr. Miyagi will later give this headband and Gi to Daniel LaRusso. It was originally intended for Miyagi’s son who died at childbirth.
Daniel Larusso had no father figure until Mr. Miyagi
Miyagi took him in and defended Daniel, an American from New Jersey. A new kid living in California. Miyagi embraced him as his own.
Even after all that had been done to him and his family. After his wife and newborn child were left to die in an American concentration camp while Miyagi fought for the Americans. He had the heart left to care for Daniel, and train him in Karate.
He makes Daniel a champion, against all odds. He builds up his character, and breaks it down, just to build it up again, until nothing can stop him.
He even gives Daniel his choice of one of his classic cars that he bought from a scrapyard in Detroit, and fixed up like new.
It is a story of redemption. It is a story of the paternal presence. And it is a tragic story of a man who lost everything. As he continued to be discriminated against after all of this shit happened to him, he remained strong, yet peaceful. Non-violent, and good.
Think Well. Feel Well. Live Well.