The third season of Cobra Kai is now streaming on Netflix, delivering yet more elaborate, high-octane fight scenes and karate training montages. But would this stuff actually work in real life? In a new YouTube video, martial arts YouTuber Sensei Seth breaks down the fighting style of Cobra Kai, and explains how its fighting stances, kicks, punches, and defensive tactics all work.
“This is a lower-handed stance, with their head a little bit higher,” he says. “Usually this is frowned-upon in martial arts, but they do it for a very specific reason, or set of reasons.” This makes sense given that Cobra Kai karate is bare-knuckle, unlike other forms of martial arts like muy tai or kickboxing. “Because we don’t have the luxury of wraps or anything, you have to be more offensive in your defense and your counters,” Seth adds.
This stance also has some benefits in terms of mobility. “A lower guard makes for better movement and better counters,” he says. “Being able to move your weight in different ways because of the spread-out hands gives you a slight speed and balance advantage.”
They don’t just throw the typical turning-the-knee-over roundhouse kick that is prevalent in martial arts right now. They throw inside-outside crescent kicks. What Cobra Kai does is they keep their toes up… They fight very square, and their kicks come up and in, or up and out.” This style works especially well on TV, Seth explains, as it means the actors can keep their face in full view of the camera while performing the kicks.
The rapid, vertical style punches practiced in Cobra Kai, as opposed to wider, overhead punches, mean that viewers generally get more action in a shorter length of time when coupled with the kicks, which is basically what we’re all here for.
Cobra Kai incorporates parries and strikes into its lower-guard stance, but somewhat surprisingly for a TV show, Seth explains that the fighters don’t actually move that much. “A lot of their stuff, defensively, is based on parries and catches, or parries and counters, so usually moving stuff around in a very karate-esque way, wanting to parry, trap, catch, and then fire back.”
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