The Karate Kid actor Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi, explained how a Catholic priest inspired him to adopt the name of Pat or Patrick.

Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi and Ralph Macchio as Daniel in The Karate Kid: Part II (1986), Columbia Pictures

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation before his passing, Morita broached the topic saying, “My name at birth was Noriyuki Morita and people ask me often how did I come by the way of Pat or Patrick.”

He then explained, “I started in show business as a stand-up comedian and most of the comics were named either Jackie this or Pat that. [There] was Pat Henry, and Pat Cooper, and Pat… There was Jackie Mason, and Jackie Gayle, and Jack Carter, and Jackie… So I decided I wanted to be a Pat.”

“But that comes from another place in its origin as far as my life is concerned,” he relayed. “I spent nine years in a hospital from ages 2 to 11. I had contracted spinal tuberculosis and for the most part was immobilized for seven of those nine years with a cast from shoulder to knee.”

Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Next Karate Kid (1994), Columbia Pictures

He then shared, “During that stay there was a priest used to come visit the wards and there would be a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest. And over the years Father O’Connor, Father Cornelius O’Connor, you see, would come to visit all the children in the ward. And I always felt envious because the only Catholics in the ward were Hispanic and I think a couple of Native American kids and some Irish, but these were all my buddies, and I used to feel very envious that every Friday they’d get to have Confession and they’d have Holy Communion and Mass on Sunday etc…”

“And I was kind of left out there with knowing nothing about religion, but Father O’Connor befriended me, long story short, and he said — I’ll never forget his wonderful quotation. He says, ‘And if one day I ever convert you, you little heathen your name will be Patrick Aloysius Ignatius Xavier Noriyuki Mortia,” he recalled.

Morita then explained the use of heathen, “I know heathen seems like a harsh word, but that means unbeliever. Had nothing to do with my ethnicity or whatever negative. It was a phrase used from Biblical times.”

Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984), Columbia Pictures

And so when I decided to go into show business I decided I wanted to use the name Pat Morita,” he explained. “I began to use the name Pat after high school. I spent the years chronologically if we go through there from the hospital into an internment camp and I was still Noriyuki or Nori for short Morita. The war ended, I went to high school in Fairfield, California.

“And there’s something beautiful about the young people in any generation,” he reminisced. “And while their parents were on a hate the Jap campaign because of the war hysteria and what-have-you and having given up sons and daughters to the war effort etc… When I became a teenager and went to high school these young kids didn’t carry that kind of baggage with them. I was just a Nori and a classmate and they gave me a sense of self for the first time in my life.”

“So when I hear someone holler, ‘Hey, Nori!’ I know right away it’s from before I was 18 years old. And then I graduated high school and settled into real life and I became a Pat,” he concluded.

Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid: Part III (1989), Columbia Pictures

Morita passed away in 2005 at the age of 73. He was best known for his roles as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid series, Matsuo “Arnold” Takahashi on Happy Days and Captain Sam Pak on M*A*S*H. He also voiced the Emperor of China in Mulan and Mulan II.

What do you make of Morita’s explanation on why he chose to adopt the name of Pat or Patrick?


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    John F. Trent
    Founder and Editor-in-Chief

    John is the Editor-in-Chief here at Bounding Into Comics. He is a massive Washington Capitals fan, lover of history, and likes to dabble in economics and philosophy.

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