Elvis Presley: Graceland Celebrates the King’s Love for Karate with New Exhibit

by Emily Morgan
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To celebrate the 39th anniversary since Graceland first opened its gates for tours, the historic site is offering fans a chance to see a one-of-a-kind exhibit from Elvis Presley’s past.

Earlier in the week, Graceland announced the new exhibit in an Instagram post. “To celebrate the 39th anniversary of the opening of Graceland to tours, Graceland is opening a new POP-UP exhibit on Monday, June 7th!”

They added, “The King of Karate exhibit will highlight Elvis’ lifelong passion of karate. [It] features artifacts from the Graceland Archives such as his personal Karate Gi’s, Testatkarte Karate card, his 7th and 8th Degree Kenpo Karate Black Belt Certificates, the original handwritten script for his 1974 Karate documentary the New Gladiators and many more rarely seen items.”

Elvis Presley’s Hidden Hobby

Graceland first opened to the public for tours in 1982, yet the tour never included an inside look into the King’s karate obsession. Now, decades later, fans are getting a chance to see where Elvis practiced his martial arts. Down the road from Graceland is the Dojo, where Elvis practiced karate. It has since been restored privately and reopened as Tigerman Karate Dojo and Museum. Elvis expert Billy Stallings worked to open the attraction and karate school to the public.

Long before Elvis found stardom, he was first introduced to karate while on his military service in Germany. He took lessons under Jürgen Seydel and later incorporated karate moves into his live performances. Additionally, his bedazzled jumpsuits were inspired by his karategi, the traditional uniform worn when practicing karate.

After training for several years, Elvis received his first-degree black belt in 1960. He would continue to train at that Memphis Dojo under Kang Rhee.

At Graceland, Elvis Presley would show off his karate skills at home and would show off in front of guests. According to Graceland officials, under the chandelier, you can see one of the links is missing due to damage he caused during one of his demonstrations.

In the living room, there’s also a Japanese samurai sword tucked away into a drawer. A Japanese World War II veteran gifted the sword to Elvis Presley. The veteran had heard that Elvis had been professionally trained by Ed Parker, a champion from Japan.

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