On an ordinary trip to Target, I stumbled upon three books that caught my eye. One of them was Ralph Macchio’s Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me. I’ve never seen any of The Karate Kid movies in their entirety, except for the 2010 remake with Jaden Smith. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of My Cousin Vinny (1992). I do love The Outsiders (1983), though.
Plus, I always thought that Ralph Macchio was a cool dude, so I decided to take a chance by buying his book. It was only $19.60 because it was 30 percent off at Target.
I started the book on November 14, 2022 and I finished it in a week! It was so good that I didn’t want to put it down. Don’t believe me? Read on to get my full review of Macchio’s Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me!
The biggest reason why I enjoyed the book was because Macchio took me back in time to the 80s. He detailed how he landed the lead role of Daniel LaRusso, how he auditioned for John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles (1984), what he was doing during the 80s, popular films that came out during that decade, and a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for The Karate Kid films. Did you know that no one wanted Pat Morita to portray Mr. Miyagi? I didn’t know that; even Macchio was unsure if Morita was right for the part because of his comedic background.
My favorite behind-the-scenes story from the book would have to be the “catching a fly with a chopstick” story. Back then, there wasn’t any CGI technology, so the film people had to get creative with making the scene look as realistic as possible. The tools used for this process were two sets of chopsticks, one roll of extremely thin monofilament fishing line, one six-foot square pipe frame, one bamboo stick, some glue, three fake flies, and six to eight live ones. There were five attempts to get the scene right, but the fourth one is the best story, in my opinion.
The on-set still photographer would trap a real fly with his bare hands and the prop guy would lasso the fly with the fishing line around its neck. That way, the fly could still fly around while still being secured to the leash. However, every time Macchio grabbed the line with his chopsticks and slid it down to the live fly, it ended up decapitated. Plus, the longer the flies were on the line, they eventually grew tired because of the weight of the fishing line, and the flies died mid-take. It was a fly massacre that would haunt Macchio for the rest of his life!
The more I got into the book, the more I thought to myself, “wow, Macchio really is cool dude!” I loved how honest he was about how the success of The Karate Kid films impacted his life, good and bad. Sure, it was cool being “The Karate Kid” in the 80s, but in the 90s, Macchio found it difficult to break out of that mold and get work. He did stage productions, TV appearances, and indie films here and there, but people only saw him as “The Karate Kid,” and that was frustrating for him. The 90s were the only time when Macchio didn’t want to be associated with that film franchise. It didn’t help that Macchio looked so young for his age too!
There’s this interview that Macchio did with David Letterman in 1992 to promote My Cousin Vinny, where Letterman wouldn’t stop commenting on Macchio’s youthful appearance. Being the mature adult that he is, Macchio played off those comments with his sense of humor. Personally, I found the interview funny, but I can see how frustrating that must’ve been for him at the time. And unfortunately, the youthful appearance comments have not stopped since.
On the more positive side, The Karate Kid movies have had major impacts on people all over the world. They draw comparisons from Daniel LaRusso’s experiences to their own personal lives, they long for a mentor like Mr. Miyagi, and they watch the films as a source of empowerment to get through their struggles. Plus, with the success of the Cobra Kai (2018-present) series, Macchio is even more recognizable today than ever.
In the book, Macchio shares a few encounters he’s had with fans in recent years and you can tell he was genuinely touched by those experiences. He shared a story of when he encountered a little boy named Brian and his mother at an airport; they were dealing with the loss of Brian’s father. The mother said that The Karate Kid (1984) was their source of joy and it meant a lot to her family. Brian was shy at first, but he eventually warmed up to Macchio and they had a sweet conversation together, while remembering Brian’s late father at the same time.
Another reason why I enjoyed Macchio’s book so much was the life lessons. Macchio discussed the importance of finding balance in life, how life is not a dress rehearsal, and owning the choices you make.
The latter one comes from a lesson taught by Mr. Miyagi, and it goes like this:
“Walk on road.
Walk right side, safe.
Walk left side, safe.
Walk middle, sooner or later,
you get squished just like a grape.”
In other words, the only bad choice is no choice. Follow what you believe while being true to yourself. That way, any obstacles you face along the way come from a place of honesty, based on the direction you’ve chosen for yourself. It is better to deal with any missteps knowing that you didn’t wander aimlessly in the middle. I’ve made a lot of bad choices throughout my life and actually throughout these past few months, so this lesson stood out to me greatly. It made me think of that Victorious song called “Here’s 2 Us” because the lyrics represent owning the good and bad times.
I would give Ralph Macchio’s Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me book a rating of 5 out of 5 stars because I was entertained throughout the entire thing! I knew who Macchio was and had some knowledge on The Karate Kid films, so it was easier for me to get into this book. That might be different for someone that’s never heard of The Karate Kid movies. But you never know. If you love the 80s and good storytelling, then I’d say give this book a try!
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