From: The Karate Kid (1984)
Who said it?: Mr. Miyagi
The story behind the quote: The Karate Kid is actually one of the quintessential geek movies since it seems to be written like a piece of wish-fulfillment of a geek. A new kid named Daniel (played by Ralph Macchio) moves into a new town and is picked on by a bunch of bullies. He then finds out that the groundskeeper of the building he lives in, Mr. Miyagi (portrayed by Pat Morita), actually knows karate. Daniel manages to convince Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate to defend himself. If you were a nerd back in school, you do know the feeling of being bullied and dream of actually being strong enough to defend yourself. So, this movie sort of touches on this dream. More than that, however, the film itself has a lot of memorable scenes like the crane kick and the karate tournament.
This movie is also remembered because of the unconventional way Mr. Miyagi would train Daniel. Mr. Miyagi had Daniel do a lot of chores, such as painting a fence, sanding the floor and, of course, the memorable “Wax on. Wax off” scene where he tells Daniel that he has to wax and shine a bunch of cars. While all of what Daniel may have seemed to be useless, Mr. Miyagi actually shows him (and the audience) that it all had a purpose.
Geek wisdom: There are actually two bits of wisdom we can get from this quote. One, practicing something really pays off. The more you do something, the better you become at it. Daniel probably had to do the same circular motions more than a million times on that one day! Because of this, he was able to perform the right and proper motions on instinct. Great martial artists do amazing things, such as breaking boards or performing triple kicks. They probably weren’t able to do these things their first go at it, but they kept on trying until they actually could do it consistently.
The second thing we can learn from this is that, while something may seem useless when we learn something, it can prove to be very useful later on. Take the “Wax on. Wax off” part. Daniel (and the viewer) had no idea that there was an actual reason why the motions had to be circular. By the end, we all knew that Mr. Miyagi knew what he was doing. This happens when we study in school. We have subject that we don’t care about and we question why we have to learn it. Still, its best to learn it because we don’t know if it may wind up being useful in the future.