Surely not everyone was Kung-Fu fighting, but the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself certainly was.
The “Burning Love” singer was quite the fighter himself. He had a passion for karate that extended through the majority of his life.
The Elvis Presley estate Twitter account even shared an image of The King all dressed up in his all-white karate uniform, also known as a Karategi, and donning a black belt. The caption reads, “In 1960, Elvis received his black belt in karate. Years later, he was promoted to the eighth degree!”
Elvis Presley History with Karate
Elvis has a decades-long history with the sport. He got into it when he was stationed in Germany after being enlisted into the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960. Eventually, he came back to the U.S. and met a man named Ed Parker at a karate demonstration at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He was a Kenpo master that would soon turn into a close friend of Presley.
He would show him karate moves all the way up until Elvis Presley passed away in 1977.
According to Mental Floss, he got his first-degree black belt in 1960 from Chito-Ryu stylist Hank Slemansky. He also trained in a popular Memphis dojo with the one-and-only Master Kang Rhee. He would be the person to bestow a seventh-degree black belt on the “Jailhouse Rock” singer.
As of today, the karate institute that Presley opened is still up and running. It’s a true testament to his love of karate.
Over the years, people have questioned if The King was really a fighting pro or if he just had a lot of powerful people in his corner. Those who trained with him or watched him in the midst of a karate lesson swear up and down that he was a 15-year karate master. Al Tracy, a friend of Presley’s, claimed that Slemansky really pushed Presley to earn that black belt because several celebrities were being given hand-out black belts back in the ’50s.
Elvis even tried to launch a documentary about karate in 1974 called “The New Gladiator,” alongside Kang Rhee and Wayne Carman. It was never released, although parts of it are open to public viewing. It is one of the few recordings of Elvis Presley doing karate.
Ed Parker and Presley Relationship
As stated before, Parker and Presley were close friends throughout the duration of the musician’s life.
Ed Parker, like many others, went on a talk-show circuit to talk about what it was like to know the cultural icon. He even wrote a memoir about him called “Inside Elvis” after his death. Parker believed firmly that Elvis Presley’s connection to karate helped shape who he was and his relationship with the world.
“He was insecure. He’d been a mother’s boy, in a way, and when he went into the service and learned the martial arts, they helped to build his character, his confidence, and his image . . . His karate motions helped him to radiate a vibrance to the audience, and they stimulated a vibrancy in himself,” Ed Parker said to The Washington Post in 1978.
He said he wrote the books for fans of Elvis to “know him as I knew him.” He even called the late icon a “brother” to him.