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Exclusive: 'Cobra Kai' star William Zabka on his martial arts history and more

"Cobra Kai" stars William Zabka and Ralph Macchio at a private party for YouTube Originals

Written and executive produced by Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine), Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar, American Reunion), Cobra Kai was one of the surprise hits of 2018.

A continuation of the Karate Kid series, Cobra Kai picks up decades after the original film starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka ends. The second season of Cobra Kai -- which scored a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- is set to premiere via YouTube Premium on April 24th.

I had the pleasure of interviewing William Zabka -- an Oscar-nominated director, producer and actor who you also may remember from his roles within How I Met Your Mother, Back To School, National Lampoon's European Vacation and Just One Of The Guys -- by phone about Cobra Kai and more. Highlights from that chat are below, while the full interview will be broadcast next month via the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz podcast.

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I'm curious how much of a refresher was needed for you get to get back into shape to do martial arts and all that?

William Zabka: Well I've been training on and off for all this time since the film, but it was a quick turnaround. By the time we sold this show to production wasn't much time; a few months.

So I got back into it hard right away and had a great trainer, Hiro Koda and his wife Jahnel were amazing and they got me back into fighting shape fast and of course with my workout program... and my diet and all that. It took a couple of months to get ready for the show, especially for that first opening fight scene at the outside the mini-mart.

Did you get into martial arts in the first place because something inspired you? Or was it from a fitness angle? What got you into it in the first place?

William Zabka: Well the film, The Karate Kid. When I got cast I didn't know any karate, I was a wrestler. I suppose that's about it, but that's the extent of my combat skills. So when they cast me for the film I was blown away that I would have chosen to play the All Valley Champion because I didn't know any karate. So I started on the film and had an amazing teacher Pat [E.] Johnson, who was the referee in The Karate Kid with the moustache. He's the one that trained both Ralph and I and just a grandmaster legend martial artist. He trained me and he trained me the right way. He would treat you the way [Coach] Kreese would have trained me, and so I got a crash course in it...

These guys, these martial artists that could tear you apart with their pinky, are the nicest guys on the planet. You would never know what they can do, what they're carrying and what they kind of punch they pack, so to speak... I was instantly taken into it... I stayed with it for a number of years after the film... I can't imagine my life without martial arts and the discipline, in that it gives you the sense of yourself and all the confidence and being in touch with your body, which is really what it is. It's like a dancer, an athlete has that. It's just to be in control of your center and to have a balance in your life. It's an incredible, incredible art form.

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Edited by Kingshuk Kusari
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