Get Him a Body Bag: Remembering the 1984 All-Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament

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Though Now Playing Podcast built its brand reviewing classic slashers and comic book franchises, we've been known to venture into the realm of sports entertainment.

Today (December 19) marks the 36th anniversary of the famed All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship. Hosted at the All Valley Sports Arena, the 1984 tournament is globally recognized as a turning point for regional karate, thanks to the emergence of then-unknown competitor Daniel LaRusso and his controversial victory over defending champion Johnny Lawrence.

As even non-karate fans know, LaRusso's story has been chronicled in The Karate Kid film franchise, which Arnie, Brock, and Jakob back in 2010. Even ESPN covered the fallout from LaRusso and Lawrence's match for one of its 30 for 30 segments.

Decades later, many fans are still debating whether Johnny Lawrence is the best around, if Daniel LaRusso's "crane kick" was illegal, and who was the real bully.

We asked our hosts to weigh in on the debate, here's what they had to say:

Jakob: Perhaps the 1984 All Valley Karate Championship was the most corrupt Karate championship ever. However, there was no evidence of a widespread attack on the integrity of its scoring system, nor fraudulent activity found with its referees. 

Arnie: Totally legal. Ali [Mills-Schwarber] tells Daniel LaRusso, and I quote, ‘You can hit the head, sternum, kidney, ribs.’

Brock: While I recall the dialogue about no kicks to the face, that may have been only for the lower rounds, not the championship round. And if not, neither [Cobra Kai Sensei] Kreese nor Johnny called for a foul - so live with it, Lawrence!

Jakob: The dishonorable Cobra Kai accepted the results from the officials and conceded the trophy to Daniel LaRusso immediately. 

Arnie: Plus Johnny swept the leg. He deserves a good kick to the face.

Brock: Furthermore, Cobra Kai was unsportsmanlike in their attempt to take Daniel out, so if the crane kick was indeed illegal it was clearly overlooked by the judges in the spirit of deserving a taste of your own medicine.

Arnie: There is no Karate move that is considered illegal in a Karate tournament. If anything, Cobra Kai should have been penalized repeatedly for unsportsmanlike conduct (which IS actually a rule in non-fictional Karate tournaments). 

Jakob: If Johnny had a proper sensei, I would put my money on him beating LaRusso in their prime. Just think of how much more rad it would have been to get dirt-biking Johnny Lawrence, dressed as a skeleton, kicking and punching his way through the sequels!

Johnny Lawrence went on to become a successful small business owner in Reseda and recently received some long overdue recognition. But the debate never ends. If you want to weigh in, drop us a line at