The Karate Kid: Mr. Miyagi's Best Quotes on Life
With many of us tuning into the newer Cobra Kai TV Show on Netflix, it seemed apt to re-watch the original movie which started the franchise back in 1984. The Karate Kid follows the coming-of-age story of the young Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) who learns karate from the mysterious and wise Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) as a way to defend himself against a cruel group of high school bullies.
Along the way, Miyagi teaches Daniel a series of lessons about life which ultimately help him achieve the balance mindset needed to compete and win in the finale’s karate tournament.
The movie is full of little nuggets of truth. Conversations between Miyagi and Daniel which lay bare ideas and philosophies which we could all take to heart. As a way to inspire you to think more on Miyagi’s teachings, here are some of the best Mr. Miyagi Quotes from The Karate Kid.
Concentrate & Trust Your Inner Vision
When Daniel first meets Mr. Miyagi, he stumbles upon him clipping away at his bonsai tree. Miyagi asks Daniel to try working on his own tree:
Miyagi: Close eye. Trust. Concentrate. Think only tree. Make a perfect picture down to last pine needle. Wipe your mind clean everything but tree. Nothing exists whole world. Only tree. Just trust picture.
There are two themes here: concentration and inner trust. Miyagi preaches how focus and utmost concentration on the simplest of things can bring us a sense of peace and tranquility that in modern days seems unattainable. He also explains that we need to listen to and trust our innermost feelings. Don’t let your accomplishments and vision be dictated by what you think the rest of the world is looking for. If you can satisfy yourself, your own vision, you’ll achieve far more contentment.
After Miyagi saves Daniel from an attack by high school bullies during a Halloween party, Daniel asks Miyagi to teach him karate so he can have revenge on them. Miyagi responds:
No one wins from revenge. By stooping down to the level of those who have hurt or offended you, you end up hurting yourself further. Miyagi only agrees to teach Daniel if he can understand that karate is a tool for self-defense, not something to be used for revenge or actively hurting others.
Teachers & Students
When Daniel explains to Miyagi how his bullies all train at the same karate dojo, Miyagi explains
No such thing bad student. Only bad teacher
Recognize that typically the behavior displayed by others was taught by someone or something. Very rarely is someone inherently good or evil, and you need to look at every one with a sense of compassion and understanding. You may not know where they came from or who shaped them into what they present to you. By asking questions and keeping an open mind, you can avoid negative desires like revenge and fighting and focus on ways to reconcile or at least show sympathy.
When Daniel first hears about Miyagi’s karate practice, he asks him “what kind of belt do you have?”. Daniel was trying to gauge Miyagi’s skill by the color of his belt, but Miyagi laughs and explains:
Karate here (points to head), Karate here (points to heart), Karate never here (points to belt)
External trappings and status symbols do not and should not define who we are and what we can do. Those who are truly confident in themselves do not need any one or any thing to remind them of their abilities. Our mindset and our actions speak for themselves.
During their first karate lesson, Daniel tells Miyagi that he “guesses so” when asked if he was ready to start. Miyagi responds:
This quote is very similar to Yoda’s famous saying in Star Wars: “do or do not, there is no try.” Miyagi is telling Daniel that failing to commit to a path can only lead to failure. Even if you are uncertain about where your choice may take you, you have to be certain in the taking of that choice. Step forward. Take action. Don’t second guess yourself until you have a real reason to.
The Power of Concentration
One of the more famous scenes in the movie is Miyagi attempting to catch a buzzing fly with his chopsticks. Daniel of course casually catches one on his first try (“beginners luck!”). Miyagi explains to Daniel:
Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything.
This goes back to what Miyagi taught about focusing on the bonsai tree and breathing throughout the movie. Concentration is a powerful tool to drown out the external noise and focus our inner will and power. If you have the concentration to catch a small insect with two wooden sticks, you have the concentration to achieve anything.
Build A Foundation
When Daniel sees Miyagi performing the famed crane kick on the beach, he begs Miyagi to teach him the move. Miyagi chuckles and explains:
First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.
While the kick is an impressive move, Miyagi wants Daniel to master the basics first. Things like balance, concentration, and breathing will form a powerful foundation for Daniel to build on. Just like life, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk and to walk before you can run. If you don’t take time to learn and build foundational skills, you’ll have no chance of performing at the best levels.
Balance is Key
One of Daniel’s lessons involves him trying to balance while standing on the prow of a rocking boat. When Daniel complains and asks when he’ll learn how to punch instead, Miyagi counters:
Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good, everything good. Balance bad, better pack up and go home.
Later during the final tournament, Miyagi encourages a frightened Daniel with the same thought:
You remember lesson about balance? Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better.
Miyagi zeros in on how balance is essential to everything we do in life. If you are out of balance, everything else will be out of balance as well. We all need to learn how to balance our emotions, our actions, and our activities to get the most out of life.
Wrapping It Up!
Hopefully Mr. Miyagi's quotes from the Karate Kid help to inspire you to new thoughts and actions after reading this. Is there another book or movie you think we should dive into? Shoot us an email and let us know!
p.s. Want to know what I learned as a startup founder in 2019 and 2020? Check out my posts: Lessons Learned from Year One and 2020 In Review: 10 Lessons Learned from a Specialty Food Entrepreneur