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Daniel LaRusso is the main protagonist of the first three Karate Kid films. He is the son of the widow Lucille LaRusso. This event caused the two to move to Los Angeles. He wanted to learn how to do Karate after he was attacked by a boy named Johnny Lawrence and his Cobra Kai gang, who continually tormented Daniel, savagely beating him up. He later reappears in the YouTube Red TV series Cobra Kai.

He is played by Ralph Macchio, who also played Johnny Cade in the 1983 film The Outsiders.

Biography

Early life

Daniel LaRusso was born on December 18th, 1966, in New Jersey state, the only child of David and Lucille LaRusso. This happy family was shattered when David died, in 1974. At that time, Daniel was eight years old, and his father had been suffering with stomach cancer for two years. Lucille never remarried.

The Karate Kid

In 1984, Lucille accepted a job with a computer firm, in California, forcing her and seventeen-year-old Daniel to leave their native New Jersey for the beehive state. Mother and son settled in the South Seas apartment building in Reseda.

Daniel quickly befriended Freddy Fernandez, and through him, met his future girlfriend, Ali Mills, a beautiful and popular cheerleader. Unfortunately, Ali was the ex-girlfriend of Johnny Lawrence, who, along with his friends Bobby Brown, Tommy, Jimmy and "Dutch", were members of the notorious Cobra Kai karate dojo; through Johnny, they all bullied Daniel during the early part of his new life.

Things finally came to a head on Halloween night, when Daniel soaked Johnny in a bathroom toilet stall, where he was rolling a cannabis joint; enraged, Johnny and his gang pursued Daniel outside and nearly killed him, despite the protests of Bobby. However, Daniel's life was saved by his apartment's maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi, who made short work of the five bullies. Unable to make peace with the Cobra Kai sensei, former US Army Special Forces and Vietnam War veteran Captain John Kreese, Miyagi proposed to settle things peacefully, by having Daniel fight in the upcoming All Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament that December. Overconfident, Kreese agreed, but threatened to have the bullying continue, on a much worse scale, on both Daniel and Miyagi if they quit.

Daniel began to fear for his life, after seemingly being given chores by Miyagi to help him train for the tournament. The chores included waxing all of Miyagi's classic car collection, sanding the wooden floors of his house, painting his garden fence and painting his house's outside walls. Daniel tried to quit, but learned that the chores were training his arms in karate blocks, so didn't quit. The training continued, and Daniel fell for Ali, passed his driving test and celebrated his eighteenth birthday, which was the night before the tournament. As presents/reward for passing his test, Miyagi bought him a karate Gi, and allowed him to pick a classic car; in the end, Daniel chose a yellow 1948 Ford Super De Luxe Convertible.

The Karate Kid Part II

After the events of the tournament, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi come outside to see Kreese battering his top student, Johnny Lawrence. Mr. Miyagi saves Johnny and quietly and simply dodge Kreese's punches and puts kreese on his knees.

After a six month time jump, Daniel Visits Mr. Miyagi and Is irate that Ali dumps him for a Football player at UCLA and that his mother got a Job request in Fresno. Mr. Miyagi Says that he already spoke with Lucille and she decided he could stay with Mr. Miyagi. Mr. Miyagi is alerted that his father is sick and wants to return to Okinawa and brings Daniel with him. Miyagi says he fell in love with a woman named Yukie, Who was going to be married to Mr. Miyagi's best friend, Sato, Sato also Knew the karate that Mr. Miyagi knew. In Okinawa, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are greeted by Chozen Toguchi, who takes them to meet Sato and then says that he is Sato's nephew. Sato demands to fight Mr. Miyagi, Who is then declined. Arriving at the village, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are welcomed by Yukie and her niece Kumiko. They Find that Sato has become a rich man whose father's supertrawlers have destroyed the fish population, Making the other villagers in poverty. Mr. Miyagi's father had found a way to save the village economy by farming vegetables. Yukie reveals that she never married Sato because of her love for Mr. Miyagi. After Mr. Miyagi's father dies, Sato gives him three days to mourn out of respect before their fight. Miyagi shows Daniel the secret to his family's karate, a handheld drum that twists back and forth illustrating the "drum technique", a block-defense karate move that Daniel begins to practice. Mr. Miyagi grieves for his father, with Daniel consoling him and telling him about his own father's death.

Some time later, Daniel accidentally exposes corruption in Chozen's grocery business. Chozen accuses Daniel of insulting his honor and they have a series of Angry Meetings. Their feud comes to a head when Chozen and his cronies attack Daniel and vandalize Miyagi's family property. The group is quickly defeated and runs off after Miyagi arrives. Miyagi and Daniel plan to return to Los Angeles before the situation gets worse. However, Sato shows up with bulldozers and threatens to destroy the village if Miyagi refuses to fight. Forced to comply, Miyagi gives in on the condition that Sato signs the village's land title permanently over to the villagers regardless of the fight's outcome. Sato begrudgingly agrees after Miyagi describes the condition as a small price to pay for his honor.

On the day of the fight, a typhoon arrives. Villagers take cover at a nearby shelter, but Sato is trapped when his family's dojo is leveled by the storm. Miyagi and Daniel rush to rescue him. After carrying Sato to safety, Daniel attempts to rescue a child on top of a nearby bell tower. Sato orders Chozen to help, but when he refuses, Sato rushes to assist Daniel himself. He then disowns his nephew for refusing to assist, and an enraged Chozen runs off into the storm in disgrace. The next morning, as the villagers are rebuilding, Sato returns with his bulldozers only this time to help rebuild the village. Sato hands over the land title to the village and asks for Miyagi's forgiveness, which he accepts. Daniel and Kumiko approach Sato about hosting the upcoming O-bon festival in a nearby ceremonial castle, to which he agrees and invites Daniel to join in the celebration.

While Kumiko is performing a dance at the festival, a now-vengeful Chozen ziplines into the presentation, taking her hostage and demanding to fight Daniel to the death. After a ferocious fight, Daniel is eventually overwhelmed by Chozen. Miyagi, Sato and the crowd respond by twisting handheld drums they brought to the celebration, inspiring Daniel. Seemingly confused, Chozen closes in for the kill, but Daniel is able to deflect Chozen's attacks and land counter-attacks using the drum technique. Daniel grabs the vanquished Chozen, raising his hand and threatening to end Chozen's life saying, "Live or die, man?!". Chozen chooses death, but, remembering the way Miyagi handled Kreese earlier, Daniel honks Chozen's nose and drops him to the ground. Daniel embraces Kumiko, while Miyagi looks on proudly.

The Karate Kid Part III

In September 1985, John Kreese, who is now broke and destitute after the loss of his students, visits his Vietnam War comrade, Terry Silver, a wealthy businessman who founded Cobra Kai and now owns a toxic-waste disposal business. Silver vows to personally help him get revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi and re-establish Cobra Kai, sending Kreese on vacation to Tahiti to rest and recuperate.

Upon returning to Los Angeles from Okinawa, Daniel and Miyagi discover that the South Seas apartment complex is being demolished, leaving Miyagi unemployed and Daniel homeless. They also learn that Daniel's mother, Lucille, is currently in New Jersey taking care of Daniel’s ill Uncle Louie. Miyagi invites Daniel to stay at his house, and Daniel uses his college funds to help finance Miyagi's dream of opening a bonsai shop. As thanks, Miyagi makes him a partner at the business. When Daniel visits a pottery store across the street, he meets Jessica Andrews; though Daniel has a brief crush on her, she tells him that she has a boyfriend back home in Columbus, Ohio but they broke up before she came to L.A., but they still remain friends. Jessica decided to get back together with her boyfriend and go back to Ohio in a few weeks.

Silver hires Mike Barnes, a vicious karate prospect nicknamed "Karate's Badboy", to challenge Daniel at the upcoming All-Valley Karate Tournament. Silver sneaks into Miyagi's house to gather information and overhears Daniel telling Miyagi that he will not defend his title at the tournament. Barnes and his henchmen Snake and Dennis harass Daniel in an attempt to force him to enter the tournament, but Daniel still refuses, and Barnes departs in a rage. The next morning, as Daniel and Miyagi are practicing kata, Silver interrupts their training and lies about John Kreese suffering a fatal heart attack after losing his students, and begs forgiveness for Kreese's behavior. Barnes, Snake and Dennis return to make Daniel sign up for the tournament; when Daniel again refuses, a fight ensues until Miyagi arrives and fends off the three men. After driving Jessica home, Daniel and Miyagi return to find their stock of bonsai trees missing and a tournament application hanging in place. Daniel was going to report the theft to the police, but there is nothing they could do.

To replace the missing trees, Daniel and Jessica decide to dig up and sell a valuable bonsai tree that Miyagi brought from Okinawa, and planted halfway down a cliff. As they retrieve it, Barnes and his henchmen appear and retract their climbing ropes, leaving Daniel no choice but to sign up for the tournament. After pulling them back up, Barnes breaks the tree after Snake forces Daniel to hand it over by threatening to drop Jessica. Daniel returns to the shop with Miyagi's damaged bonsai, which Miyagi attempts to mend. Miyagi tells Daniel that he sold his truck to buy a new stock of trees, and refuses to train him for the tournament.

Silver offers to "train" Daniel for the tournament at the Cobra Kai dojo with a series of brutal, violent, and offensive techniques. He derides Miyagi's kata forms and pressures Daniel to destroy a wooden practice dummy, causing him several injuries in the process. Throughout his training, Daniel's frustration alienates him from Miyagi. While Daniel and Jessica are at a nightclub, Silver bribes a random man into provoking a fight with Daniel, who responds by punching the man and breaking his nose. Shocked by his aggressive behavior, Daniel apologizes and makes amends with Jessica and Miyagi.

Daniel visits Silver to inform him that he will not compete at the tournament, but Silver reveals his true agenda to Daniel as Barnes enters the dojo. Daniel attempts to leave, but Kreese appears to intercept him, revealing himself to have been alive all along. After Barnes viciously attacks Daniel, Miyagi intervenes and easily defeats Kreese, Silver, and Barnes. Miyagi finally agrees to train Daniel after learning of their plot. They replant the healed bonsai and begin training.

At the tournament, Barnes reaches the final round to challenge Daniel. Silver and Kreese instruct Barnes to inflict serious damage on Daniel, keep the score a tie, and finally beat him in the sudden death round. Barnes gains the upper hand during the fight while taunting Daniel relentlessly. When the initial round concludes, Daniel wants to quit, but Mr. Miyagi urges him to continue. In the sudden death round, Daniel performs the kata. When Barnes lunges towards him, Daniel flips him to the ground and strikes him to win the tournament. Silver leaves in disgust while the crowd throws their Cobra Kai merchandise back at Kreese, as Daniel and Miyagi celebrate their victory with a hug.

The Next Karate Kid/The Karate Part IV

Daniel does not appear in The Next Karate Kid. His role here is replaced by Julie Pierce.

The Karate Kid (2010 remake)

For the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, Daniel's counterpart is Dre Parker.

Cobra Kai

In Cobra Kai, Daniel has moved on with his life. He is happily married to his wife, Amanda, and they have two children together, a daughter named Samantha and a son named Anthony. He also runs his own car dealership, the LaRusso Auto Group; as a continuation of the influence of Mr. Miyagi, Daniel gives each client a bonsai tree of their own.

Aside from his work and family, Daniel regularly takes time to visit Mr. Miyagi's grave, to ask for guidance and also to tend to the bonsai tree that grows in front of the headstone.

Season 1

Daniel meets his old frenemy, Johnny Lawrence, after the latter's Pontiac Firebird is impounded following a hit-and-run incident caused by the friends of Samantha, who herself was a passenger in the car. Daniel learns that Johnny has decided to reopen the former Cobra Kai dojo in Reseda, thirty-three years after it was closed down.

Trivia

  • Daniel gives one of these to Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid after having his knee taken out by Bobby, which convinces Mr. Miyagi to use the pressure point healing technique on him to get him back in the tournament.
  • Daniel was born in the 60s, just like his actor, Ralph Macchio, who was born in 1961.
  • Ralph Macchio, his actor, has never aged. Making his appearance the same in the film.
  • Ralph named his son, Daniel, after his character in real life.
  • Sean Penn, Robert Downey Jr. Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, Tom Cruise, Eric Stoltz, Matthew Broderick, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves and John Travolta were all considered for the role of Daniel LaRusso before Ralph Macchio was cast.
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