30 Years After 'Karate Kid,' Billy Zabka Says Cobra Kais Are Still Best Friends

Billy Zabka on how the movie still affects his life today.

ByMICHAEL ROTHMAN
October 09, 2014, 3:08 PM

— -- "Sweep the leg!"

Everyone has their favorite line from the movie "Karate Kid," in which Daniel LaRusso fights back against bad boy and bully Johnny Lawrence to win the All-Valley Karate Tournament in the thrilling end to the 1984 film.

And of course, everyone remembers, "Put him in a body bag, Johnny! Yeah!"

In the movie, Billy Zabka played Johnny and was part of the villain gang known as the Cobra Kais -- you know the group of mean high schoolers that repeatedly beat up LaRusso and even chased him wearing skeleton costumes at the Halloween dance.

USA Today Sports' For the Win caught up with Zabka, 48, to chat about how the film affected his life and continues to do so to this very day.

In fact, he said he's still close to his "no mercy" Cobra Kais from the movie.

"The guys that played all the Cobra Kais are some of my best friends," he told USA Today, while catching up for the film's 30th anniversary. "Marty Kove [who played sensei John Kreese] I see all the time. Rob Garrison, [famous for "put him in a body bag"] he just came and stayed at my house for a week. Bobby and Jimmy (Ron Thomas and Tony O’Dell) live around the corner from me. I reconnected with Ralph about ten years ago."

Zabka admitted that just now, he's realizing the affect the movie has had on pop culture and a certain generation.

"It took 25 years," he said, to realize "Karate Kid" was an iconic movie. "We did the DVD, a special edition, I think it was 25, where we did the special features on the DVD. Ralph and I did a picture-in-picture commentary during the film and stuff. It snuck up on us. The movie was out in theaters for six months back in the '80s, which films don’t do these days. They’re in and out in a weekend. It just started to graft into pop culture language in a way. I think it takes this long to realize that it’s here to stay."

The movie has had such an impact that Zabka said he's not only stopped by fans on the street, but at the airport by security.

"The TSA is always fun. Going through the airport a lot of times they’ll recognize me. I've had quite a few encounters," he admitted.

While Zabka said there were years when he resented people and fans for always bringing up his cult classic, he's learned to let that go.

"You can be that artist –- I know a lot of them –- that are in a crystallized moment in time and they’re resentful of it. I’m not," he said. "I think it’s fun. It doesn't affect my life either way. I’m doing what I want to do and I’m happy with where my life and my career’s gone. I kind of embrace it loosely."

As for what he thinks his character Johnny is up to now, "I think he’s a real estate agent. He’s flipping houses somewhere."

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