Elvis Presley: The Karate King

There are quite a few legends circulating around about Elvis Presley, and the most well-known and desired to be true ones are those concerning his death. While these ones are wishful thinking, some of these “rumors” do have a little truth to their core. Just like the rumors concerning the King’s black belt.

Elvis was quite a martial arts aficionado, having been introduced to the Karate phenomenon in 1958, when he was drafted in the army. And while he was serving in Germany, he had 30 days of paid vacation during which he went to Paris and trained with Tetsugio Murakami, a Japanese Shotokan expert that brought this fighting style in Europe.

But this new hobby wasn’t just for when the King was on leave. While stationed in Germany, Elvis would train with a local Shotokan stylist (Juergen Seydel was his name) and practice with Rex Mansfield, another American servicing abroad.

During the time spent in the army, Elvis would collect many Karate books and prepare himself intensely for board-breaking: he literally punished his hands by smashing them into hard surfaces.

As a little side story, the King incorporated his martial arts knowledge in everything he did. For example, while filming GI Blues in 1960, he became so involved in a fighting scene that he ended up with a swollen hand. This swollen hand can be seen on the cover of the soundtrack album.

After leaving the army, Elvis was keen on getting his black belt degree. And back then nobody was cutting any slack to anybody. This was the King’s case also, who had to be examined by Henry “Hammering Hank” Slomanski, one of the hardest Karate instructors of the time. But his name says it all.

However, no matter how hard he tried, the Hammering Hank didn’t manage to break Elvis. So, in 1960, Slomanski said, “The kid ain’t pretty, but he’s tough and he’s a black belt.”

Another very interesting side story would be that of how Elvis trained. We aren’t talking about his Karategi (the Karate uniform which looked like nothing a martial artist would have worn), nor about him wearing sunglasses during training. But we are talking about the fact the he always went commando when practicing. The story says that Elvis was training in front of Master Kang Rhee and he was demonstrating his kicking technique. However, not being too careful, the King ripped his pants: embarrassed, he faced the Master and asked, “Now what do I do?”

Eventually, after gaining the 8th degree black belt in Kenpo, Elvis lost the passion for martial arts. However, he still wanted to make an all Kung-Fu action movie, in which he would be the baddest of the baddest, as he himself said. Of course, after the project reached the planning stages, it was dropped.

Little is known about this project. But we do know how it would have ended.

On the top of a hill the camera zooms out from his face and we see Elvis in a fighting stance. The camera zooms out even more and we see an army of martial artists following the movements of their master, the King himself. Fade. Two words appear on the screen: The Beginning.

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