Links to Web resources related to Elvis Presley, the martial artist

Overviews and a martial miscellany

Elvis and Karate, by Master Kang Rhee
A series of very nice new Web pages, with lots of photographs, the document Elvis' long-term immersion in the martial arts. Master Rhee was Elvis' teacher in Memphis and still heads the Pasa Ryu school there.

Celebrity Martial Artists, Part 2: The King of Rock 'N Roll -- Just a Hunka Hunka Burnin' Karate-Kickin' Love
This page is an excellent resource for those interested in Elvis and the martial arts and, like the author's other contributions regarding martial arts topics, is well written and insightful within a concise structure.

Love of the Arts
A nice overview of Elvis' martial-arts background by Neil Hourston a 5th-degree kempo black belt based in Scotland.

Karate chop Elvis
A 1999 article that explores Elvis' love of the martial arts.

Kenpo Utah - Elvis Presley
A kenpo Web page that provides a capsule description of Elvis' martial arts history.

Who's Who in Kenpo: Elvis Presley
Another kenpo-oriented page that focuses on Elvis' practice of the style.

Karate King
A brief description of Elvis' karate story.

Elvis Presley - 8th Degree Black Belt
More information about Elvis' martial background, illustrated by still photos and video/film stills from the September 16, 1974 Memphis training session.

Elvis and his passion for karate
A similar page.

Revealed: Elvis, the king of karate
A piece that talks about the upcoming premiere of The New Gladiators (or, at least, the footage of Elvis shot in 1974 for that never-completed martial arts film project). The premiere didn't happen and release of the footage awaits legal untangling.

Elvis y las artes marciales
A 1998 Spanish translation (by Yolanda Quintanilla Aparicio) of my original Elvis-and-the-martial-arts Web page. This is part of the Kenpo en España site, so if Spanish is your first language, here you go.

Elvis y las artes marciales
The same translation, though I'm a bit less excited about this one. The purveyors of this Web page have inexplicably credited Bryan Zarnett and Paul Seaby as the original creators. I'd never heard of either person. They've also credited Mark Urbin as the person who did the HTML, so I figured that maybe they got the article from Mark's excellent kenpo site (linked below, where my 1995 e-mail sat in HTML form until I created my own page). To add to the confusion, they retained by name at the bottom of the piece, though they have the nerve to claim copyright for the piece. It turns out that Messrs Zarnett and Seaby are kenpo practitioners and that the credit tagline was lifted intact from their Kenpo FAQ on Mark's site (also linked below). That original e-mail about Elvis and the martial arts (that I will perhaps one day even actually update!) has also appeared in at least two fan club magazines that I know of, and I'm kind of peeved that neither had the grace to send me a copy. After all, writing is automatically copyrighted by the writer and I'm not sure how 'fair use' exceptions would apply to such cases -- even if it does, it'd have been nice to get a copy. Oh well, two separate bozos have directly copied my entire barracuda web site over the past few years, so I guess that this sort of thing happens.

Elvis Presley: su vida, obra y su gran pasión: "las artes marciales"
A Web page produced by an Argentina-based kenpo organization that discusses Elvis' martial arts background. The pages are in Spanish but, if you can't read the language, you can translate them via the Web if you want (sometimes these translators work better than at others: my attempt included such pearls as "To the young person but timid taxi driver of Tennessee it was called on his turn to change history to him," for example...I was also interested to find that Elvis "was certified with black tape when he returned to America in 1960"). Something of an update: the translation that I got back of this page was so weird that it took me a while to realize that this was another (uncredited) translation of my page. At least you've got your choice of outlets if you're Spanish speaking.

Karate Elvis
Another summation of Elvis' martial arts career, this one in Swedish.

Elvis Presley Karate
An Elvis karate action figure! I wish that I'd picked one of these up when they came out a few years ago -- they have Elvis dressed in his custom 1974 gi.


Was Elvis really a Black Belt?
This recent contribution from veteran kenpo master, Al Tracy, fills in a lot of the gaps about Elvis' early training and gives Hank Slemansky -- who we're assured was actually Hank Slomanski -- his due. Some accounts also credit Hank Slomanski as Dan Inosanto's chito-ryu sensei (Guru Inosanto later became well known as one of Bruce Lee's most accomplished students) but I've never read anything as detailed as this Web page. Hank Slomanski sounds like he was a hard man -- the kind of military person that various Hollywood action stars have tried to portray with differing degrees of success -- and there's no question that Elvis EARNED that black belt, to a degree (no pun intended) not recognizable by most practitioners today. This is a very interesting piece. As for Sensei Slomanski's fate, the article leaves me with the impression that he was, unfortunately, killed in Vietnam, though my search of the Web-based Vietnam Memorial yielded no matches for either name.

Letter to Mr Seydel
Thanks to Willem Kaauw's ,a href=>excellent Web site, we can read a letter that Elvis wrote to his shotokan sensei, Jurgen Seydel, in March, 1960, upon his return to the United States. Elvis wrote very few personal letters and was very appreciative in this one.

Elvis letter to his karate teacher Jürgen Seydel
Willem's site has another letter from Elvis to Jurgen Seydel, written while Elvis was filming Flaming Star in the summer of 1960 (still titled Black Star at the time that Elvis wrote the letter).

Letter to Mr Seydel
Willem Kaauw's Web site has a copy of yet another letter from Elvis to his Army-days instructor, Jurgen Seydel -- this one written in early 1962.

Bill Belew, the man who dressed the King
The story behind Elvis' karate-inspired stage costumes and the unique look that he cultivated and popularized in the early '70s.

How a Black Gi brought about Elvis Presley's divorce
Al Tracy writes about Elvis, Priscilla, the black kenpo gi, and Elvis' separation and divorce.

Killer Concert -- February 18, 1973 Midnight Show
Many different versions of what happened during this show -- the concert at which multiple male assailants jumped on to the Las Vegas Hilton's main showroom stage and headed for Elvis -- have been circulated and few have much in common. Some are obviously in line with the agenda of the person relating the tale, typically downplaying Elvis' involvement in the scuffle. This is a detailed review of the event, by noted Elvis photographer and fan Sean Shaver, that relies not upon imperfect memory but upon an eyewitness account from the audience and a behind-the-scenes account from one of Elvis' insiders (a few days after the incident). This may be the closest that we'll ever get to knowing what happened that night and it makes for quite enlightening reading.

Elvis in Las Vegas, February, 1973
A "Picture of the Week" page from that includes information about the same concert.

Vegas '74 revisited
Nice article by British superfan and writer, Anne E. Nixon, focusing on Elvis' final performances of the summer Vegas season in 1974.

Elvis Presley and kenpo
This kenpo school's page has a sound file that includes Elvis talking about his martial arts rank early on in his turbulent September 2, 1974 closing show in Las Vegas.

September 2, 1974
A transcription of Elvis' infamous 'strung out' monolog from his 1974 summer season's closing show in Vegas. This concert, minus a few portions, was a few years ago released as a bootleg with its high-quality source a tape made from the showroom's soundboard.

Elvis In Late Summer And Autumn 1974
A succinct analysis of Elvis Las Vegas and tour concerts during the August-October, 1974 period that saw some of his most agitated and erratic public behavior. Elvis produced some excellent performances during this period, along with some that were obviously affected by whatever was preying on his mind at the time, and indulged in his most protracted and detailed displays of karate expertise and evangelism. We may never know what was eating at Elvis in late 1974, but this page describes some of what we can glean from surviving recordings and written accounts.

Elvis in his karate class
Another "Picture of the Week" offering from that includes information about the 1974 The New Gladiators film project.


Shotokan Planet
Shotokan was the style that first got Elvis hooked on the martial arts, and he'd worked his way to brown belt (one level below black belt) by the time he had returned from Germany in 1960. Shotokan, a very widely-practiced style, is the system founded by the legendary Gichin Funakoshi, who introduced Okinawan karate to Japan in the early part of the Twentieth Century (yes, karate is not of Japanese origin and it originally traveled to Okinawa from China's storied Shaolin Temple). I have relatively little personal interest in Japanese or Okinawan 'karate' -- Chinese martial arts have always appealed far more for a variety of reasons -- but this very well-executed Web site is an extremely interesting one and well worth a good browse even if you are basically clueless about the derivation and meaning of martial arts.

Chito-ryu diversity
Chito-ryu was one of Elvis' earliest styles of karate -- this page has interesting information about the style's lineage and hints that Elvis' chito-ryu instructor, Hank Slemansky, was not killed in Vietnam as I'd always believed (update: check out Al Tracy's page, linked above, to find out more about this instructor).

The history of Chito-Ryu karate
Another chito-ryu site, this one stating that Hank Slemansky was killed in Vietnam. Confused? Welcome to the world of Elvis. Again, Al Tracy's page (linked above) on Elvis and his black belt sorts the issues out pretty well.

Kenpo Karate
A very nice site that includes information on the techniques and forms ('kata' or sequences) of Ed Parker's American kenpo.

American Kenpo Karate
Shows the original kenpo patch designed for Ed Parker's system. After Mr Parker died, on December 15, 1990, his system shattered into many rival schools, many of them claiming to be the sole legitimate heirs to his legacy.

Kempo/kenpo FAQ
Maintained by Mark Urbin, these pages will tell you much about the eclectic and effective style that so fascinated Elvis.

Kang Rhee Institute
Elvis trained with Master Kang Rhee at this Memphis school from 1970 to 1974. Kang Rhee is of Korean origin and his system is an eclectic blend of martial arts with (I believe) a heavy Korean influence from such styles as Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido.


American Kenpo and Ed Parker
A nice analysis of Ed Parker's heritage and legacy.

Life and times of Ed Parker -- the controversial kenpo master revolutionized the martial arts in America
A Black Belt magazine retrospective on the life and times of the 'Father of American Karate.'

Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate, Part III: Benefits of the Kenpo Lifestyle
This Black Belt article includes a photograph that shows Ed Parker (with Elvis fan Billy Idol who, like Van Halen's David Lee Roth, trained under Mr Parker) posing in front of a display case that includes one of the capes created for Elvis' spectacular 1973 Aloha from Hawaii satellite-broadcast concert.

Bill 'Superfoot' Wallace
Learn more about the fast-kicking tournament legend who credits Elvis with saving his impressive career.

Bill "Superfoot" Wallace: The Man, The Martial Artist, The Teacher
An essay by Dr William Durbin that outlines Bill Wallace's background and influence and includes information about the karate champion's relationship with Elvis Presley.

Joe Lewis and Bill Wallace -- The Immortal Dynamic Duo of the Martial Arts
A 1997 retrospective of two of the most phenomenal full-contact martial arts tournament competitors that have ever competed, both with an Elvis connection.

Wayne Carman Interview
A 1999 interview with Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis and produced a book about Elvis' connection with the martial arts. Mr Carman also currently owns the reels of film shot in 1974 of Elvis in martial action.

Elvis' Karate Legacy -- Elvis Presley Bookshelf
A review of the book by Wayne Carman that details Elvis' martial connection.

Elvis' Karate Legacy
Also about the Wayne Carman book, but written in Dutch.

Karate King
Information about The New Gladiators.

"Tiger" -- Mike Stone's formula in winning tournaments
A 1970 Black Belt article about the man that Elvis and his wife, Priscilla, first met in Hawaii, in 1968, and who would late get to know Priscilla Presley rather more intimately than Elvis would have liked. Interestingly, 'Tiger' was Elvis' Pasa Ryu karate nickname and, indeed, famous golfer Tiger Woods is named in honor of Elvis' karate name.

Mike Stone: 1971 Karate Player Award
A brief profile from Black Belt magazine.

A Stone's Throw from Reality? -- The Making of Ninja Movies
A 1986 Black Belt piece on Mike Stone.

Mike Stone: 1994 Instructor of the Year
Another profile of Mike Stone from Black Belt.

Red West interview
From the Elvis Presley News site -- this interview includes material relevant to Elvis' martial arts and the job of protecting the King.

Sonny West interview #1
The other West, Delbert, has his turn.

Sonny West interview #2
More from the same source.

Dave Hebler -- Master of the Arts
An accomplished martial artist, Hebler and the West boys were fired by Elvis in 1976 and set about crucifying him -- the backstabbing was and is inexcusable but this page puts a positive spin on it in terms of how many copies the book sold upon release.

Dave Hebler's Original American Kenpo Karate Association
Dave Hebler's current kenpo organization, one of many spin-offs from Ed Parker's parent group. This site includes a scan of Mr Hebler's 7th-degree IKKA kenpo certificate signed on September 5, 1974 by Ed Parker, Elvis, and others. Hebler was (and is) a very experienced martial artists who ranked highly in Ed Parker's organization and esteem -- Ed Parker, who recommended that Hebler be hired as Elvis' bodyguard, was supposedly shattered by what he perceived as his student's betrayal of Elvis.

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