6 Things I Learned About Exercise from Watching The Karate Kid Films

One of my favorite karate movies of all-time is The Karate Kid, which was released in 1984, and was followed by several sequels and remakes.

karate kidThese beloved movies tell the stories of young people who are facing difficulties in their personal lives. They are subsequently introduced to karate, which helps to provide a positive outcome for them.

The lead character in the original Karate Kid movie is a teenager by the name of Daniel. Daniel moves to a new town with his mom and starts going to a new school. Unfortunately, he immediately makes the acquaintance of the school bullies. But, as luck would have it, Daniel’s next door neighbor is a gentleman by the name of Mr. Miyagi, who comes to his rescue and soon after also becomes his mentor and karate teacher. Not only does Daniel learn from Mr. Miyagi’s wisdom, but there are also lessons all of us who are interested in karate and exercise could learn from him.

Below is a list of some of the lessons I’ve learned about exercise via the teachings of Mr. Miyagi to Daniel.


One of the most important things one learns when starting to exercise is proper breathing techniques. When Daniel comes to Mr. Miyagi and tells him he’s feeling out of focus, Mr. Miyagi instructs him to “inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth”.

As Mr. Miyagi says, “No breath, no life”.

“Wax on, wax off”

Some of you may remember the “Wax on, wax off” scenes from the first Karate Kid movie. Mr. Miyagi assigns several chores to Daniel. Unbeknownst to Daniel, each of these chores given by Mr. Miyagi serve a purpose. In this particular case, the “wax on, wax off”, which consists of circular motions of each hand, is meant to show him how to defend himself by blocking attacks. The benefit of the repetition of these chores is two-fold. Daniel learns this important self-defense move, which also helps him to become more disciplined in his exercises.


Mr. Miyagi takes Daniel out on his boat and has him stand on the edge to do his exercises. As anyone who has been on a boat knows, the movement of the water forces you to try to keep your balance, and this in turn helps to strengthen the core muscles of the body.


One of the first and funniest scenes of this movie, is when Daniel sees Mr. Miyagi trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks. Although not a physical exercise, it is an important mental exercise that helps him to learn how to focus.


One consistent theme in all the Karate Kid movies, is that the stars in the beginning of the stories lack discipline. The lessons that they are taught help them to acquire the discipline that is needed to start and continue a life-long commitment to exercise.

No pain, no gain

In all The Karate Kid movies, the protagonists in the beginning are physically weak individuals who are bullied and beat up by others. One thing that these films show you, is that even though you will sometimes fall down, with enough determination and consistent training, you will eventually become stronger in both body and in mind.