INTERVIEW: Stunt Coordinator Hiro Koda On Meeting Idols And Making Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai is a hit series first presented by YouTube, which continues the story of the heroes and villains from 1984s The Karate Kid, and amid all the high-flying action is Emmy award-winning stunt coordinator Hiro Koda.

You see them in just about every TV show and film in some form or another. Stunt actors seamlessly replace actors in perfectly edited sequences in heart-stopping action sequences or even the simplest of prat falls. Hiro’s work appears in Cobra Kai starring William Zabka (The Karate Kid) and Ralph Macchio (My Counsin Vinny). Hiro’s action-packed work also appears in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things and Ozark plus Big Little Lies and The Outsider on HBO.

PopAxiom put on a harness for no reason because we spoke to Hiro on the phone regarding his decades in the stunt business, transitioning to directing, and more!

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Hiro’s Journey

We’re familiar with child actors, but there are also child stunt actors. Hiro started faux fighting and falling at a young age. “I got my SAG card when I was twelve-years-old. Between the age of 12 and 16, I had a family friend, that my father trained, a martial artist and kickboxer, she was a Hollywood stunt woman, and she took me to sets to watch her stunt rehearsals.”

Young Hiro, simply put, fell in love. “That’s what I want to do. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

From there, Hiro’s story is a movie waiting to happen. “I moved out to LA at 16 years old, trying to figure out how to be a stuntman. I got one of my earlier jobs doing a few Roger Corman (Galaxy of Terror) films, and then I did the first seven seasons of Power Rangers.”

The happy ending to the Hiro film: “I performed for many years … “ But the story continues, “… I started fight coordinating and moved into stunt coordinating.”

Hiro’s also done a lot of second-unit directing, including on the series Stranger Things. “I’m a filmmaker; that’s my passion. I want to direct. I got my DGA card in 2000. I have a short film that made it into the Arizona International Film Festival. I’ve directed one feature, some television shows as well, and looking forward to more.”

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About Cobra Kai

Hiro’s decades of experience brought him to Hurwitz & Schlossberg Productions and Overbrook Entertainment’s series Cobra Kai. The half-hour episodes are ambitious and stuffed with comedy, drama, and increasing levels of action with every episode. “We never have enough time. There’s so much action. Season two had more action than season one, and season three has even more action.”

If you haven’t watched Cobra Kai, you’re missing out on a show that delivers quality on many levels. [SPOILER ALERT] Season two ends with an epic fight scene in a high school. “It was very complicated. We were shooting at a college that was not allowing us to shoot on weekdays. So we had four days to shoot that sequence. One full day was shooting scenes that didn’t require stunts. So we had that day to practice on location.”

“We shot the action of that sequence,” Hiro says of the well-executed twisting and turning melee, “… in about two days.”

Before those two days, there was a lot of practice. “Rehearsal time, we did several rehearsals prior. There was a lot of planning going into it because we didn’t have a lot of time, and we were working with young adults who have a time limit on set.”

Without a doubt, Hiro asserts, “It was a tough shoot, but we got through it.”

Any show with a great cast involved in fight sequences and stunts begs the question: How much of the stunts do the actors do themselves? “Every sequence that we do, the actors come in and rehearse all their fights. I’m able to use them as much as I can according to their ability and what they are comfortable doing. Stunt doubles will take the hard hits and falls.”

About working on Cobra Kai, Hiro says, “It’s a fun show to be on. The cast is incredible.”

Wrapping Up

Hiro started young in the filmmaking business and shares a bit of movie magic that surprised him. “Early in the business, it was learning the ‘Texas Switch’

As a young stunt actor turned coordinator turned director, who inspired Hiro growing up? “I’ve been a huge fan of Jackie Chan my entire life and Sammo Hung. Those two guys. Jet Li is another one. But Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan are two of my idols.”

Hiro’s admiration and dedication to the stunt craft brought him face-to-face with his idols. “If you remember, Sammo Hung did a TV show called Martial Law. I ended up on season two and three as a double for Hung, which is interesting because he’s a much bigger person than I am. I didn’t have to do too much. That guy’s incredible fight-wise. He did all of his fights. But I did do quite a bit of stuff for him like falls and flips.”

A few years later, Hiro met idol number two. “I got to work on Rush Hour 3 and got into a huge fight with Jackie Chan. It was such an honor.”

It’s easy to think a stunt coordinator turning director would want to do action movies. Hiro’s undoubtedly an action fan, but says, “I would love to do a thriller or something stripped down from action.”

Cobra Kai season three is wrapped up, and it was recently announced that the series would be moving to Netflix. The season three premiere date has not been announced yet. Hiro’s excited about viewers watching the continued story. So, what’s next? “Nothing for now as we figure out how to deal with the pandemic. Eventually, more work on Stranger Things season four.”

Is Cobra Kai on your watch list?

Thanks to Hiro and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.