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"First Learn Stand, Then Learn Fly" :: 10 Wise Mr. Miyagi Quotes to Live By

By The Hundreds Staff

The Hundreds X The Karate Kid releases Friday, April 27.

If you’re a millennial who’s unfamiliar with Mr. Miyagi, we are extremely sorry for the directionless life you must’ve lived ‘til this point. Must’ve been tough. See, Mr. Miyagi’s one of the greatest cinematic teachers in history—a wise old sage for wayward kids through four installments of The Karate Kid franchise. Played by the late Pat Morita, Miyagi served as the martial arts mentor to the titular character (played Ralph Macchio, and succeeded by Hilary Swank), a bullied teenager in need of some guidance and discipline.

In addition to coaching his young mentees through the karate practice, he’d pepper in enlightened gems to connect the art to actual life lessons. With Miyagi, martial arts was never about breaking boards and bones—it was about personal breakthroughs. Want to see what we mean? Here are 10 influential Mr. Miyagi quotes that shaped the lives of young fans everywhere.

The Karate Kid (1984)

1. “You trust the quality of what you know, not quantity.”

The hustle to acquire more to be able to show off more never stops. Our ego is always hungry. This quote served as a nod to nurture what you know—that above all is more powerful than fleeting facts.

2. “Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.”

Miyagi’s most famous quote is also his most important. It was a constant reminder to move carefully, thoughtfully, and with immense patience (perhaps the greatest lesson you can teach children used to chasing everything from ice cream trucks to idealist daydreams). By practicing the correct way to polish a car (wax on, wax off), Daniel-san was actually learning about the patience and diligence it takes to train karate.

3. “Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything.”

Let’s be real: this probably had you and your friends actually attempting to cop a fly with a chopstick. But more than just a frustrating summer vacay pastime, this quote was a lesson in stillness and focus. As we get older, with the overstimulation of the everyday muddling our senses, needs, and desires, centeredness—i.e. the ability to make decisions from a grounded place—has never been more crucial.

4. “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.”

The only thing worse than feeling impatient is someone telling you to be patient. We get it. But Miyagi, ever the master at maximizing time by taking time, reminded us of the significance of taking things step by step. You couldn’t learn to multiply without learning how to count, just like you couldn’t learn to show up for someone else if you don’t even understand what it means to show up for yourself. Get rooted, nurture your knowing, and grow from there.

The Karate Kid Part II (1986)

5. “Never put passion in front of principle, even if win, you’ll lose.”

A reminder that that Razor scooter you were throwing a temper tantrum about at the toy store was absolutely not worth it. Miyagi taught us that feelings can deceive you, and more often than not the negative ones are triggered by blows to our ego that we don’t want to admit. When a moment challenges you, choose the action that maintains your dignity.

6. “For person with no forgiveness in heart, living even worse punishment than death.”

Even if you wanted to murk that little boy who stole your Charizard card in third grade, you probably didn’t. Which is exactly what Miyagi advised here. For someone so full of anger even capable of doing that, being in their own body is already hell on Earth. Imagine the weight of negativity they must feel as you elevate higher, with your own innate goodness levitating you from base situations.

7. “Daniel-San, lie become truth only if person wanna believe it.”

After childhood, this became more about imaginary friends. It becomes about Snapchat filters making people forget what they look like. Kidding, kind of. Miyagi’s lesson is even more pronounced in adulthood: we tell ourselves lies to get by in the world everyday, whether that’s sticking it out in a toxic relationship, dead end job, or any other unhealthy situation. At the end of the day, the truth you’re convincing yourself of is built on a lie, and lies have no foundation in reality. When an earthquake hits, that tower will fall.

The Karate Kid Part III (1989)

8. “It’s OK to lose to opponent. Must not lose to fear!”

The Miyagi version of “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” This quote was the go-to for anyone who hesitated signing up for the spelling bee, trying out for the basketball team, or asking that girl out to prom. To this day, it’s still a reminder that the big boss at the end of the video game isn’t an external force, it’s the ultimate you challenging yourself to get out of your own way.

The Next Karate Kid (1994)

9. “The sun is warm, the grass is green. If today Julie-san get angry, just you repeat those words.”

Julie was an aggro one, and for any angsty teen girl, this was advice was perfect for puberty. Miyagi here reminded us to count our blessings and connect with what’s real, what’s here right now in the physical, tangible, grounded world. Emotions like anger live in our head; this is a reminder to set take a breath, feel yourself setting that feeling down, and embracing the simplicity and purity of the now.

10. “Ambition without knowledge is like a boat on dry land.”

Miyagi was all about grounding fantasy in reality. Could you have won class president if you didn’t know how to connect to your constituents? Could you have copped the championship if you didn’t know the fundamentals of the game? No. You let your knowledge–your practical application of your vision–set sail to your goals. It’s that simple.

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