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Ralph Macchio feels like ‘Kid’ again in ‘Cobra Kai’

Ralph Macchio still has a baby face and a lethal leg. At an age when some men count walking to the couch as a cardio workout, the 60-year-old can still crane-kick or leg-sweep with the best of them.

“I’ve been in constant training,” Macchio acknowledges with a mock wince. “I used to be able to snap right back in … now things just snap.”

No pain, no hit series.

In Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” returning Sept. 9, Macchio reprises his “Karate Kid” character, Daniel LaRusso. Now middle-aged, he’s a husband, dad and car dealership owner who loves to teach kids how to fight with honor. It’s not the same chill vibe at the villainous Cobra Kai school, a place that teaches how to inflict maximum pain to bring down rivals.

Season 5 features LaRusso teaming up with his former rival, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), to bring down the ultimate bad guy, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who will stop at nothing to win. New episodes have Silver working his plan to franchise his evil dojo while bringing LaRusso/Lawrence down for the count. “He’s a massive villain who really throws a wrench into both Daniel and Johnny’s lives,” Macchio says.

The series has led to other creative projects for Macchio, including a new memoir called “Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me,” due out Oct. 18.

As for the massive success of the series, the actor is the first one to shake his head.

“It’s such an amazing mind trip to be here,” says Macchio, who is married and the father of two children, Julia and Daniel.

Review-Journal: When you first played Daniel, did you ever imagine him down the road with a family and real-life struggles beyond the dojo?

Ralph Macchio: Aging is odd. It was so weird the first day I was called Mr. LaRusso on the “Cobra Kai” set. Not Daniel, but mister. It was one of those moments when you say to yourself, “I’m not that kid anymore.” But imagining Daniel LaRusso’s future? Did I ever think he would be an auto dealer giant in California? Probably not. Would I imagine him raising kids who were a bit entitled? Maybe not. This has pushed me to think outside the box and really see him having a regular life with all the messy moments.

What did you think five years ago when the idea of revamping “The Karate Kid” was presented to you?

I heard it was going to be a bit of a karate soap opera. From there I had questions, like, “Where is the funny and the drama and the heart in it?” All of the answers were good ones, and you see them on the screen.

Wasn’t the internet part of the reason why the “Karate Kid” remained in the public’s consciousness over the years?

I have a book coming out soon, and in one of the chapters, I touch on the idea that the internet became a place where people could share their opinions on this movie. People were really into the layers of those “Karate Kid” movies all those years later. I saw that there were people starting the hashtag #AndJusticeforJohnny. At first, I was like, “What?” Then you start breaking it all down and opening up the gray areas for these characters. It was fascinating.

How do you stay in shape to do intense karate scenes?

It was certainly a lot easier to train back in the day. For the “Karate Kid” films, we would train a solid two months before cameras rolled. And then throughout the film, we would keep at it between scenes. I’ve never been an athlete, but I have stayed physically active my entire life. I do a lot of strength conditioning and stretching. It’s all about avoiding injury, but there are some days and nights when everything hurts.

Is returning to the moves like riding a bike?

The important thing here is we can’t fight like teenagers. We have to be two guys in our 50s having a fight. But the actual moves never change. They’re like a ballet. And your body remembers them. They’re stored. You still have welts because even though we know it’s coming, you still get surprised by a partner’s move.

Do you still enjoy a good crane kick all of these years later?

Everyone talks about the crane kick. It’s part of pop culture. I must have done it 70 times to find that low and wide shot. We didn’t even know if it would work, but it really worked. It’s still magic.

What do you make of the popularity of these characters all of these years later?

There is hope inside of these characters, which is why people relate. It’s about honor, family, love, kids and old foes who might be friends. It’s about taking responsibility for the train wreck moments in your life. It’s also about light at the end of the tunnel and what’s really important. Mostly, it’s about relationships because you can’t do it alone.

What did Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi teach you about life and acting?

He felt this great responsibility playing this character because of his Japanese American heritage. He wanted to be true to that and honest. I saw his dedication to being honest with the audience on screen. I try to be that way, too. And now, suddenly being the older guy, I want to be that inspiration to the younger cast.

What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?

Family. Warm smiles and big laughs. And maybe a little karate training thrown in there, too.

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