On November 25, 2005, Pat Morita died at the age of 73. While not a Martial Artist by trade, he will forever by remembered at the lovable Miyagi in The Karate Kid series of movies.
Born in California in 1932, he spent much of his younger life fighting spinal tuberculosis. Just as he was recovering, America entered World War II and all Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps. He and his family were relocated to Arizona until after the war.
While Mr. Morita’s passion was always in acting and comedy, it took some time before he found his way to stardom. He starred in many small roles on various TV sitcoms like M*A*S*H and Happy Days.
But when he landed the role of Kesuke Miyagi in the 1984 blockbuster, The Karate Kid, he was launched into the hearts and minds of many young Martial Artists around the world. He was the wise, old teacher that found lessons in every thing he did and passion for many things in life. The character’s compassion and discipline exemplified what a “good” Martial Arts teacher should be like. He went on to star in four parts of the movie franchise, binding the storylines together.
In his lifetime, he has started in over 100 movies and televison shows. His roles have ranged from a taxi driver all the way up to the Emperor of China. He was even the voice of Master Udon in the popular cartoon Sponge Bob, Square Pants. He was nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy and 2 Golden Globes, but never won. In 1995, he received his star on the walk of fame in Hollywood. His smile and mannerism made him an icon easily recognized and much loved.
Though Pat Morita was never a Martial Artist himself, he helped to inspire many young potential students to take up the Art. His laughter and image will be preserved forever on the silver screen. Who can forget him trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks or the way he told young Daniel to "wax on, wax off." He will be missed in the world of acting, comdey, and even Martial Arts.