Daniel Rand was the son of businessman Wendell Rand, who had once lived in the fabled city of K'un-Lun, which exists in an other dimensional realm. Wendell Rand-K'ai, as he was known there was the eldest son and heir of Lord Tuan, who ruled K'un-Lun, in the guise of the August Personage in Jade. However, Wendell was driven from K'un-Lun by his brother, who not only wanted to rule K'un-Lun himself, but who was Wendell's rival for the love of a woman named Shakirah. It was Wendell that Shakirah chose, and she bore him a daughter, Miranda. Wendell found refuge on Earth and became a successful businessman in the United States. In his absence, Tuan died and Wendell's brother succeeded him as Yu-Ti, the August Personage in Jade. Wendell married a woman named Heather, who bore him a son, Daniel.
Wendell sought to return to K'un-Lun, which ordinarily was only accessible from Earth through an interdimensional nexus that opened once every ten years. When Daniel was nine, his father traveled to Tibet along with Heather and his business partner Harold Meachum in search of the nexus to K'un-Lun. Toppling off a treacherous mountain passage, Daniel dragged his mother and father over the ice shelf with him. While he and his mother landed on a ledge below, his father dangled over the sheer drop of the mountainside and called to his partner for help. Hoping to take over Rand's share of the business, Meachum instead caused him to lose his grip and plunge to his death. Though Meachum offered to help Heather Rand and her son, they spurned him. Attempting to make it back to camp on their own, Heather and her son spied a long suspension bridge as a pack of wolves attacked. Heather tried to hold them off long enough for her son to get to safety and was killed in the effort.
Soon thereafter, denizens of K'un-Lun found the boy and took him to their city. There Daniel was brought before Yu-Ti, who had secretly plotted the murder of both Wendell and Heather. Yu-Ti apprenticed Daniel to the martial arts master Lei Kung the Thunderer.
Rand's training under Lei Kung was rigorous. At age sixteen Rand earned the Crown of Fu-Hsi, king of the vipers, vanquished four foes in the ritualistic Challenge of the Many, and defeated Shu-Hu, a mechanical being whose name means "Lightning." Rand diligently conditioned his hands by thrusting them into tubs of hot sand, then gravel, and finally rock.
At age nineteen Rand was given the opportunity to gain the power of the Iron Fist. He was sent to battle the enormous fire-breathing serpent called Shou-Lao the Undying which lived in a cave outside the city and which ferociously guarded a brazier containing its heart, which had mystically been removed from its body. In their battle Rand grabbed the serpent's body, which bore a scar which imprinted itself upon Rand's chest. Killing the serpent, Rand plunged his hands into the now unguarded brazier containing Shou-Lao's molten heart when he was through his hands shone with a quasi-mystical force and he earned the title "Iron Fist," for he could now summon superhuman energy to reinforce the power of blows struck by his hands.
Declining to stay in K'un-Lun eternally, Rand returned to America when the nexus reopened in order to take vengeance on Meachum for his father’s death. While recovering from severe frostbite in the Himalayas, Meachum learned of Rand's training at K'un-Lun, and returned to America as an invalid to await Rand. Clad in the ceremonial garb of Iron Fist, Rand finally confronted Meachum but took pity on the invalid and spared him. Minutes later, however, a mysterious ninja murdered Meachum. Blamed for the murder, Iron Fist undertook the mission of finding the ninja and clearing his own name. Eventually Iron Fist succeeded in both tasks.