Cobra Kai: Ralph Macchio Talks Industry Changes in Fight Choreography

Most people outside of trivia buffs might not realize how Cobra Kai star Ralph Macchio was a trained dancer before taking on the role of Daniel LaRusso in the Karate Kid films. Going from one of the most beloved franchises of the 1980s to making his triumphant return to the role. When YouTube and Sony pitched the revival sequel series, the actor's come full circle reuniting with his rival from the 1984 original film in William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence. Now as middle-aged sensei at their respective dojos, the two stars now lead one of the most popular series on television at a different streaming home in Netflix. Macchio spoke with The Wrap ahead of season four to talk about how his experience as a dancer helped him train in martial arts.

"My main note — the edit was not finished, and everyone agreed, it was not like I was the only one who came up with this — was about letting the action play out before cutting, as long as we can," Macchio said. "There's always that inclination that you've got to cut, or they're going to pick up the remote and they're going to change the channel." The actor believes streamers affected audiences' patience for pacing.

COBRA KAI (L to R) RALPH MACCHIO as DANIEL LARUSSO of COBRA KAI Cr. TINA ROWDEN/NETFLIX © 2020
Cr. TINA ROWDEN/NETFLIX © 2020

How Fight Choreography Sequences Changed for Cobra Kai Star

"There are cuts, certainly, they're not oners," Macchio explained, referring to long, uninterrupted single shots. "Cobra Kai actually has done a decent amount of oners in some of the big sequences where the camera does not cut. It's more of a Steadicam movement, but there's something musical about it." The star broke down how rhythm is everything in fight choreography and action sequences. "Editing is musical," he said. "There is a rhythm and a music to editing, even in scripted and text form. And in action sequences, there really is a music element to it. When you cut as much as you do with all the CGI and the Superman fighting Iron Man fighting Batman fighting whatever — we could go on and on with the superhero movies, which I thoroughly enjoy — but there is an element (where) you're almost blinking so much because you were being shell-shocked with lights and sound and cuts."

Sometimes, the stimuli can overwhelm him. "You're going from tight to wide to tight to shifting so swiftly sometimes you don't even know where you are geographically in the scene," Macchio continued. "And that's what bothers me, old guy. I lose the geography of where I am with stuff that is just so jammed in your face and cut so much. It's nice when you know who's standing on what side of the line and you're watching the fluidity of the movement. It is musical, in a way. It's a dance. When a move is happening, any kind of move, stay with it. When you look at the MGM musicals, watch Fred Astaire. It's like one shot. You're not cutting to a tight shot of his toe and a tight shot of his knee and his shoulder, his arm, and he spins and hits the floor." Season four of Cobra Kai premieres in 2021.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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