A month ago, on March 3, the world of literature was in mourning after the death of Kenzaburō Ōefamous Japanese writer laureate with the most prestigious art award: the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he received in 1994. Among his work we find stories, novels… and an amazing fact: a story that inspired ‘Karate Kid’.
Published in 1982 under the title of ‘Sometimes the heart of the turtle‘, a story that narrates a fight between a certain Johnnya certain Daniel and the meeting with an oriental named miyagi. A story that seems to put all the elements of the film saga on paper a couple of years before the first film came out.
In the eyes of anyone who came across that story, this would be the great source of inspiration they used Robert G. Avildsen and Robert Mark Kamen to create the movie. That is why it is strange that during the credits there is not a single mention of the story or its author. Is it blatant plagiarism? No: the story never existed.
Give wax, fake wax
Or, at least, it did not exist before 2008 when an Internet user “found” and translated this rare text from Japanesewhich introduced it as follows:
“I was able to snag an old Japanese copy of Sometimes the Heart of a Turtle by Kenzaburō Ōe. This short story was later expanded into a novel after winning several awards, similar to the Flowers for Algernon story by Daniel Keyes. ‘Karate Kid’ is based on this novelization. This is one of the few examples of a Japanese author writing magical realism.”
This text should already have set off alarm bells. A short story may have been lost in an author’s bibliography… but if it has been turned into a novel after winning awards it should be noted. Well no. At least in no serious site references to the work appear.
Neither does it seem clear about its original name (Gendai gemu? Ume no chiri?) nor the year of publication: 1980? 1982? That and the more than dubious quality of the text (let’s see, it’s true that sometimes writers lose it a bit, but not that much). make it clear that everything is a fake.
The boy who became a karate fighter
So what is the actual inspiration for ‘Karate Kid’? Sometimes the reality is rather more prosaic: on the one hand we have Kamen’s own experiences as a teenage karate fighter and his peculiar teachers (one would inspire Miyagi) and, on the other, a piece of news that had excited producer Jerry Weintraub, who hired the screenwriter to tell that story.
The story revolved around a kid from the San Fernando Valley who suffered bullying and that he did not know very well how to respond. However, his mother suggested that she do karate and she became a black belt. In the words of the producer:
«He was not a very well endowed boy. He wasn’t particularly athletic and every day on the way home from school the other boys beat him up. As soon as the other boys found out that he did karate, no one bothered him again. He was the real karate kid. »
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