Karate: the King's favorite sport

Karate will make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. This is one of the five types offered by the hosts of the 2020 Games. Not only the Japanese are in awe of this martial art – it turns out that his main fan was the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley.

In 1958, Presley was drafted into the army – his career on the stage had already begun, but the singer still went to serve at the Fort Hood base. There, for the first time, he saw the demonstration performances of jiu-jitsu masters and admired the soft technique of the fighters. Later, he was transferred to Germany, where he got acquainted with karate.

“He was insecure. In a way, he was a mama’s boy. And when he joined the service and got acquainted with martial arts, it helped him develop character, self – confidence, create an image,” said Presley’s long-term teacher Ed Parker.

The first coach of the singer was Jurgen Seidel, who practiced the setokan style – one of the main ones in Japanese karate. Presley enthusiastically took up the study of technology, practiced and after training, read literature. And during a 30-day vacation, he went to Paris, where he took several lessons from Tetsugi Murakami – a famous teacher who developed karate in post-war Europe.

In 1960, Elvis was discharged and returned to the United States, but did not give up training. In two years, he received the first dan – that is, a black belt.

A belt in karate is not just an element of clothing, but also a testimony to the level of skill. Colored belts correspond to student degrees, black belts correspond to master’s degrees. At the same time, master degrees – given-have a gradation from 1 to 10.

The 10th dan is awarded for great merits in the development of karate – only a few receive it, sometimes posthumously.

Before receiving the first dan, Presley trained with the American Hunk Slemansky. At that time, stars often received black belts only because of their popularity. To prevent such rumors from arising around Elvis, Slemansky developed a tough 6-week training program for the singer.

A few months later, Presley met the creator of the American karate style (kenpo) By Ed Parker. The master promoted traditional karate, avoiding cruelty and sudden movements.

Elvis was so imbued with the aesthetics of karate that during concerts he repeated some elements on stage, organically fitting them into the dance. Presley was fanatical about sports – he honed his movements behind the scenes, looked for objects to hit, and pasted the karate school logo on his guitar.

To some extent, Elvis was ahead of Bruce Lee – it was he who showed the American audience the elements of karate from the screen. He even conceived a film about martial arts and began shooting a documentary “New Gladiators”. But illness and death in 1977 did not allow the shooting to be completed.

The singer infected everyone around with a love of martial art – he sent bodyguards to training (they later opened a karate school), and also found a teacher for his wife, Priscilla. She studied with Parker, and then with Chuck Norris, in 1972, Elvis introduced her to the karate player Mike Stone. Between Priscilla and Stone, an affair began, which largely led to her divorce from Presley.

Elvis trained with Ed Parker until his death, but it was geographically inconvenient for him to meet with the teacher – he lived in California, and Presley lived in Tennessee. Ed recommended the karate master Kang Ri. Under his guidance, the singer was engaged in the early 1970s.

In 1973, Presley received the 7th dan. Until now, experts are arguing whether the singer deserved such a high rank. It is believed that masters from the 6th dan and above are already less focused on physical development, and pay more attention to philosophy. Usually, mature masters receive the 7th dan, but Elvis was only 38 years old.

Initially, Kang Ri could not award Presley with such a high rank, since he himself was the owner of the 7th dan-a disciple and a master should not be on the same level. Just a few weeks before the singer’s status was raised, Ri was awarded the 8th dan. Elvis was very superstitious and believed that the number 7 was lucky for him. This is probably why the karate community met the person who made a significant contribution to the development of this sport in the United States.

Master Ri received an unprecedented gift from the singer – a Cadillac, which Elvis drove himself. The singer really did not like to part with personal cars, but made an exception for the teacher.

Every year in August, Elvis Presley Memorial Week is held. Fans of the singer come to Memphis, where they remember the idol. Since 1983, the program includes a karate tournament – on August 16, famous champions and judges present the winners with memorable prizes with the initials of the king of rock and roll.

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