Mary Mouser

'Cobra Kai' Actress Mary Mouser Is Skilled In Martial Arts and Confident About Her Gray Hairs at 26

Find out how she learned to love exercise in order to play a karate champion in the hit Netflix series.

Mary Mouser "knew nothing" about karate before she signed on to play Samantha LaRusso, daughter of the original Karate Kid himself, Daniel LaRusso, in the hit Netflix series, Cobra Kai (season five dropped on September 9). "I notoriously hated exercise [prior to landing the part]," she tells Shape, sharing that she was always the kid with notes excusing her from gym class in school.

To prepare for the physically demanding role of a karate champion, Mouser had to find a new way to approach exercise. When it came time to train for the show, she was "very nervous about it," she admits. "But I was like, you know, this is something that's worth it. [Martial arts training] looks fun and exciting and this is something that...doesn't feel like exercise."

Nearly six years since landing the part (which she almost missed out on by sleeping through her initial audition), Mouser has an entirely different outlook on both karate and fitness in general. Ahead, find out how the 26-year-old shifted her mindset about working out and how she takes care of herself outside of the dojo, including her minimalistic skin-care routine and her refreshing perspective on getting gray hairs at a young age.

Learning the Fundamentals

To begin her fitness journey, Mouser took up Muay Thai before official training for Cobra Kai kicked off. Once things got real, she and her cast mates would spend a few hours conditioning every other day. They focused on martial arts training and did "a ton of stretching," which is important for nailing those high kicks.

"For me, especially, a lot of it was learning the foundations of how to throw a punch, how to make a fist, how to turn my hip over, where the power for a kick comes from," she says. "[We] were basically starting at ground zero for me."

Today, Mouser is far from a novice fighter. "Now, I like to think that I walk around feeling pretty tough," she says. "Originally, throwing one kick was a challenge...Now that I have that foundation and that knowledge...It's just constantly kind of seeing what else I can teach my body how to do."

Falling In Love with Exercise

Mary Mouser
Courtesy of Mary Mouser

When Mouser isn't filming or training for a new season Cobra Kai, she now enjoys exercise on her own time. "I truly fell so in love with martial arts," she says. "That's been the thing that I stick with even in my off-season...It's fun and it's therapeutic for me at this point."

It's clear the actress has discovered a drive to work out that was missing before — one that's just as mental as it is physical. "As somebody who never found gratitude in the sweat alone, it feels like [exercise] needed to have a purpose for me," she explains. That's exactly what she's found in martial arts, which teaches her about inner strength and empowers her to feel like she can protect herself and others, says Mouser.

"I have now gotten to a point where I do enjoy exercise in other ways that I didn't anticipate," she says. "Now, it feels more like, these are things that I am doing to strengthen my body so that I can throw a higher kick, so that I can jump higher."

Mary Mouser on learning to enjoy exercise

I truly fell so in love with martial arts...It's therapeutic for me at this point.

— Mary Mouser on learning to enjoy exercise

As for workouts that don't involve kicking and punching? She's recently gotten into SoulCycle and is trying out pole dancing — or "ballet on a metal bar" as she calls it. "I have always shied away from dance in general, but I am determined to get over my aversion to dance like I got over my aversion to exercise," says Mouser. "[Pole dancing has] been my kind of backward way into it because...I'll think of it as acrobatics, or I'll think of it as stretching techniques and gymnastics and other things that are applicable to my martial arts."

Prioritizing Rest and Self Care

Mary Mouser
Courtesy of Mary Mouser

Despite her newfound love of working out, Mouser's favorite place may very well be her bed, she says, explaining that her astrological sign is likely why. "I'm a Taurus through and through, and I do love my bed," she says, admitting that she struggles to get up in the morning and is "a bit of a night owl." Now, her earlier anecdote about sleeping through her Cobra Kai audition makes total sense. "I love exciting experiences. I just wish they would happen closer to the bed," she says with a laugh.

When she's not working or taking a nap, Mouser enjoys posting up with a good book. "That's always been my home base," she says of reading. "When everything else starts to feel chaotic, I'm like, I need something in my routine that feels stable."

Using skin-care products that have a particularly pleasing scent is another way Mouser chills out. "I am all about good smells," she says, adding that her approach to skin care, in general, is "pretty simplistic." She typically sticks with a gentle face wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen. (She's a fan of the brand, First Aid Beauty, as it's easy on her sensitive skin.)

While she did once give in to a complete beauty overhaul after discovering new products on TikTok, she immediately broke out, leading her back to her trusty go-to's. "Well, that was a bad idea," she says. "Perhaps it's not one size fits all."

Embracing Her Hair

Mary Mouser
Courtesy of Mary Mouser

Although Mouser keeps her skin-care routine simple, she puts more effort into maintaining her naturally curly hair. In fact, she's the leader of what she calls her "curly cult." The actress is known among her close friends for not only taking special care of her own curls but helping others bring out their natural coils. "This is truly my hobby," she says enthusiastically, taking credit for helping at least five close friends reveal more defined curls.

Quick to acknowledge that her routine is still quite "chill," Mouser focuses on spending more time caring for her hair in the shower so she doesn't have to do as much later. She has cut out silicons and sulfate and she co-washes her hair (meaning she uses conditioner instead of shampoo). Mouser is also a fan of brands Curlsmith, Not Your Mother's Curl Talk, Pattern, and Shea Moisture, pointing out that she's figured out what works for her hair, but everyone's texture and porosity is different and needs an individualized approach.

Mary Mouser on getting gray hair at 26

When I see a new gray hair coming on my, I'm like, oh my God, I'm feeling myself today.

— Mary Mouser on getting gray hair at 26

Mouser also avoids styling her hair with heat "as much as humanly possible," she explains. Although, as an actress, how her hair is styled isn't always up to her. "Sometimes I don't get a choice in that matter," she says, adding that she has "a lot of gray hair" she has to cover up to believably play a 17-year-old.

Contrary to what the beauty industry would have you believe, Mouser loves her gray hair and doesn't see it as an element of aging. "This is just genetically how my hair is supposed to be," she says. "I love them [my gray hairs]. I think that they're just gorgeous. I think they're so sexy. I find it so hot," she continues. "When I see a new gray hair coming on me, I'm like, oh my God, I'm feeling myself today."

Skilled in martial arts and confident about her gray hairs, Mouser has a lot under her belt at just 26 years old.

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