After seeing Daniel LaRusso take home the trophy last year at the All Valley Tournament, I am inspired to switch dojos so I can train with Mr. Miyagi. Previously, I was a member at Cobra Kai Karate. While there, I earned my purple belt.

I am in dojo shock when I discover that Mr. Miyagi does not use colored belts to mark advanced levels of study. His training is also vastly different from the training I received at Cobra Kai. During the first few weeks, Mr. Miyagi has me wax his classic cars, paint his house, sand his porch, and mend his fence. I am suspicious, to say the least. However, when I challenge him about his methods, he attacks me. As I fend off his blows, I discover I have gained blocking skills I was not even aware of.

Mr. Miyagi tells me to withdraw $1,000 from my bank account and arrive early the next morning. I show up, and he instructs me to take each $20 bill, thrust it forward, and place it in his palm. If I do not perform the motion to his liking, he makes me take the 20 back and repeat the motion until I execute it perfectly. After five minutes, all the money is in his palm. He asks if he can borrow it. I agree, partly because I am grateful for what he has taught me, and partly because he has already placed the money in his pocket and walked away. After that morning, I do not see Mr. Miyagi for a week, but he left a detailed list of chores for me to do, such as mowing his yard, weeding his garden, reshingling his roof, and building him a gazebo.

When he returns, he informs me that he went to Cancún for spring break. I ask him to help me with some new moves I was learning during his absence. He vomits into his shrubs, which I had just spent hours trimming, and passes out under the California sun.

I show up to his house the next day. He still looks hung-over. I ask him if he can return the money he borrowed. He tells me he will fix my bike for me. “Then we even, Ricky san.” I tell him I just want the money back.

I think about returning to Cobra Kai. I have mixed emotions about their “no mercy” policy. At least Sensei John Kreese never borrowed money from me, except that time he needed 15 cents for a Snickers out of the vending machine in the Cobra Kai locker room.

I tell Miyagi I want to win the next All Valley Tournament. He laughs and pokes me with a chopstick. When he sees I am serious, he tells me karate is not for winning trophies, it is for defending one’s life. I say fine, and ask him to pay me back the money I gave him. He mentions fixing my bicycle again. I tell him I don’t have a damn bike. He is adamant, though: “I make any bike Miyagi Turbo.” Finally, after I hammer home the idea that no bike bartering is going to happen here, he agrees to coach me in the All Valley.

The day of the tournament, he doesn’t show. In my first fight, I try to wax on, wax off. That doesn’t help when the guy is roundhouse-kick-onning and roundhouse-kick-offing my face. I am down and out. I spot Miyagi in the crowd; his lips are around a bottle of sake. I learn that no motion you do while building an English-garden-style gazebo will help you score a point in a karate match.

In my next match, I am seriously injured by my opponent. I can barely move my left leg. Miyagi comes to my side, smelling of booze and suntan lotion. “Rest, Ricky san,” he says. He starts to massage my leg, but I soon realize he is just patting me down for money. He gets nervous and tells me to “always look eye.” I push him away and tell him he’s an idiot for thinking I’d keep my wallet in my gi while fighting a karate match. He asks me where my real pants are, and then, after a minute of silence, walks off. As I get dressed, I can see him peeking over the lockers, watching for where I have stowed my wallet.