Of all our favorite 80’s flicks, few are as quintessentially L.A. (specifically, L.A.’s San Fernando Valley) as The Karate Kid. But how much of it was actually shot in the Valley?!
As it turns out, a heck of a lot!: Director John G. Avildsen’s location crew managed to capture just the right settings for most of the key moments in Daniel LaRusso’s climb from awkward out of towner to karate champion right in the old SFV, with a few exceptions. (One of these is listed below; the other being Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu because, duh, ain’t no coastal part of the Valley, folks.) For today’s Friday Five!: If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area and you’re a massive Karate Kid fan, here’s your guide to some of the most important locations in the movie. Miyagi-Do check them out! (I’ll get my coat…)
Daniel’s Apartment Building
(19223 Saticoy Street, Reseda) “This place is a dump. You should go back to New Jersey!” The little lady in the courtyard advises Daniel that he and his mom surely could have picked better on their big move out west, though truth be told the South Seas apartments are pretty stereotypical of mid-century multi-unit dwellings in L.A. (I’ve had British friends remark on my own courtyard building w/ a pool by saying “It’s so Karate Kid!”) What’s more, this complex purported to be in the town of Reseda in the movie actually is in Reseda! Right next to a garden-variety strip mall with a 7-Eleven and a nail place. Tubular, man. The South Seas is definitely in need of some major landscaping work these days – most of the palms that decorated the exterior in the mid-80’s are now gone – and maybe a good paint job, but it’s still standing. (p.s. if you visit this one, be respectful, people do live here!) It made a brief appearance in the YouTube follow-up series Cobra Kai, too!
The High School
(Hughes Adult Learning Center (Formerly Hughes Junior High School), 5607 Capistrano Avenue, Woodland Hills) In The Karate Kid it’s the fictional West Valley High School, where Daniel first locks eyes with and falls head over heels with the lovely Ali Mills, not to mention piques the ire of Johnny Lawrence. (Zabkaaa!) In real life, this very SoCal-designed school with the wide open, breezy hallway structure that lets the sun shine right onto your locker was once a junior high school, but it’s now a multi-use location for the LA Unified School District’s adult learning and vocational programs, offering courses in English, GED academic degrees, parenting classes and even personal interest stuff like ceramics, Tai-Chi and gardening. (Those last two would totally be up Mr. Miyagi’s alley, if he had more spare time to teach…)
Cobra Kai Dojo
(5223 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood) Ah, the toughest corner dojo in all of the Valley, where sensei Kreese molds impressionable young men with bad attitudes into karate villains worthy of a boo and, indeed, a hiss. (Snake puns totally accepted.) The location of Cobra Kai HQ is in North Hollywood, on a drag of Lankershim Boulevard called the NoHo Arts District that in recent years has exploded into a hub of restaurants, bars, clubs, and theaters; it looks quite different today! Not to mention, this exact location has been sitting vacant for some time now; hey, anybody in the market for a perfect dojo space that is movie theater adjacent?! (Fun fact!: Johnny Lawrence’s all-new dojo space isn’t even in the same state; though some Cobra Kai exterior shots were captured in LA, the dojo and most other locations were filmed in and around Atlanta, GA.)
Golf N’ Stuff
(10555 Firestone Boulevard, Norwalk) When Avildsen & Co. were looking for the ideal place for Daniel to take Ali on their first date (Miniature golf! Arcade games! Go-karts!), well it turns out the most picture-perfect family fun center he could find was not in the San Fernando Valley. Golf N’ Stuff sits right off the 605 freeway – over 40 miles away from Daniel’s apartment building – in the town of Norwalk, south-east of downtown Los Angeles. Now while this location may not be in the same region of the city as the rest, it has stood the test of time and looks remarkably the same as it did when they shot The Karate Kid, from the lush banks of palm trees to the big neon-backed sign above the door! (But is “Pizza N’ Stuff” still serving? That’s what we want to know. We’re hungry…) Golf N’ Stuff also turned up on Cobra Kai‘s first season.
All Valley Karate Championship
(Matadome @ Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge) This is the place! The big match! When Daniel gets to prove that he’s the best!… arooo-ooound!… nothing’s ever gonna keep him down! Virtually every part of the All Valley Karate Championship meet – including the front concourse, the locker rooms and of course that action-packed arena where the crane kick heard ’round the world went down – were filmed at the Northridge location of California’s state university, home of the Matadors. It’s a decent-sized campus, so bear in mind that the main address on Nordhoff Street isn’t the closest reference point for this location; if you want to get that shot hoisting your championship trophy in the parking lot, head to the northeastern corner of campus, just off of Matador Road.