A Day in the Life

Elvis Presley was a legend, even in my homeland of Korea. When I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Elvis Presley and told me that he was interested in continuing his studies in the martial arts under my direction, it occurred to me that this was most probably someone's idea of a joke. However, several hours later, I found myself seated behind my desk with the legend, Elvis Presley, seated across from me.

In this meeting, Elvis explained to me that he had begun training in the martial arts because he was fascinated with the movements. He found the movements graceful as well as artistic and had the idea to incorporate them to make his stage performances more exciting. He first began training while stationed in Europe during his time in the U.S. Army. After completing his service and returning to the United States, he began to study with Master Ed Parker. Elvis told me that it was at Master Parker's suggestion that he contacted me. I was more than flattered... I was overwhelmed.

Elvis was very humble. In many ways, Elvis taught me more than I taught him. He insisted on training and teaching in regular classes with other students. He quickly realized that students were watching him rather than paying attention in the class. He asked me to arrange a demonstration which would allow the students to view his technique and see that he was attending class as a martial artist, not as an entertainer. I selected a day when a promotion (rank advancement) test was already scheduled and combined the two events. I selected this day because Elvis particularly enjoyed working with children and the student to be tested was a boy (See photo).

Elvis, who normally trained in a traditional uniform, considered the demonstration a type of performance. Therefore, I designed for him a special uniform and belt , as a sort of costume. The uniform is trimmed in red satin, has the TCB patch which Elvis and I designed together, on the left chest and the Crown Fist patch on the left sleeve cuff. The belt is a black belt, embroidered with Elvis personal information, with all but the embroidered ends covered in the same red satin in which the uniform is trimmed.

In the early part of the demonstration, Elvis was demonstrating a kicking technique, when his pants ripped. Embarrassed, Elvis explained to me and the class that he did not wear any underwear, and asked me "Now, what do I do?" ( See photo #15). The rip can be seen very clearly in photos 24 , 16 , 22 and a few others.

Realizing that the demonstration of further kicking techniques was out, Elvis proceeded to demonstrate a variety of self-defense techniques, including defense against an attacker armed with a hand-gun. He demonstrated several defenses at close range and then stepped back. He pretended to demonstrate a defense against a gun technique from more than five feet away. He then dropped to his knees, explaining that the only defense from that distance is to "pray." ( See photo #29). This was very entertaining. Myself, the students and all spectators laughed and clapped. Elvis also demonstrated his fighting stance and jokingly challenged me to a fight (See photo #24 ), which everyone also found entertaining.

As well as demonstrating, Elvis participated in the testing of the student by being part of the Black Belt judging panel. Elvis watched intently as the student worked for his promotion and as others, myself included, demonstrated.

Normally, in a traditional martial arts school, no one is allowed to train while wearing shoes or socks; however, on this particular day, I made an exception for Elvis. I made this exception because only a few days before Elvis had surgery to correct an in grown toenail and I did not want his foot to become infected. Elvis also had an injury to his hand. A fan, in reaching out to touch him, had inadvertently scratched the back of his hand and Elvis had not gotten treatment for the scratch, which subsequently became infected. Elvis said that his hand looked "much worse than it was."

Elvis was a deeply religious person, having presented me with a bible as a gift.

Toward the end of the demonstration, I requested that Elvis offer a prayer for the students. Elvis' prayer was very moving and beautiful.

Elvis Karate at the Kang Rhee Institute, Inc.
3238 Players Club Circle
Memphis, TN 38125 • USA
(901) 757-5000