Pat E. Johnson, ‘Karate Kid’ Trainer, Dies at 84

Pat E. Johnson, known for choreographing fights and training actors for “The Karate Kid” films, has died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home. He was 84.

Johnson’s niece Colleen Mary Johnson Summerville confirmed the news on Facebook, writing, “It is with a sad heart I’m sharing my Uncle Pat has passed this Sunday morning.”

Johnson held the title of ninth-degree black belt, putting his martial arts skills to use on the set of the beloved coming-of-age film “The Karate Kid” (1984), training actors including Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio. Morita’s Mr. Miyagi trains Macchio’s Daniel Larusso in the art of karate after bullies begin antagonizing him at his new school in Los Angeles.

Johnson taught Macchio the now-iconic crane kick which won Daniel the championship at the All Valley karate tournament in the first film. He also acted as referee in the film.

Johnson was born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1939. He was introduced to karate while serving as a U.S. army chaplain in Korea in 1963. He first learned Tang Soo Do, an ancient form of karate, and earned his black belt in a span of only 13 months.

William Zabka, who returned to the role of Johnny Lawrence alongside Ralph Macchio for the spinoff series “Cobra Kai,” spoke to Men’s Health in 2019 about Johnson’s impact on him.

“I didn’t know anything about [karate] when I first started,” he said. “I was a wrestler in high school and very limber and athletic. The discipline that he gave physically, mentally and technically was incredible; so much so, that I trained with him after the film was over. It’s amazing how his teaching has stayed with me all these years.”

Johnson returned to the franchise to work on the “Karate Kid” sequels that released in 1986 and 1989, as well as “The Next Karate Kid” with Hilary Swank in 1994. He also served as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, working on a number of other films including “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992) and “Mortal Kombat” (1995).

Additionally, Johnson was one of the lead instructors of Chuck Norris’ karate schools, teaching at his Sherman Oaks location.

In 1993, Johnson was honored with an induction into the North American Sport Karate Association Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife Sue of over 50 years; his sons Brett, Garth, Larry and Erik; and his siblings Richard and Cindy.

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