To celebrate the 39th anniversary of the opening of Graceland to tours on June 7th , 1982, Graceland is opening a new POP-UP exhibit inside the Graceland Archives Experience in Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Elvis was first exposed to Karate in 1958 after he was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany. His first instructor was a German shotokan stylist named Juergen Seydel who taught Elvis at his off-base housing in Nauheim until 1958. Elvis developed a passion for Karate which continued throughout his life.
When he returned to Memphis, Elvis earned his first-degree black belt in 1960 under Chito-Ryu stylist Hank Slemansky. Later, he trained in a Memphis dojo under Master Kang Rhee, who bestowed upon him a seventhdegree black belt in March of 1973 and his eighth in September of 1974. Kang Rhee was also one of the people who Elvis gave a custom Cadillac to as a gift in 1973. Elvis would open his own center, the Tennessee Karate Institute in the Crosstown area of Memphis in 1974.
Throughout his post Army career, he spent hours studying and developing his karate skills. When it came to karate, Elvis was not “Elvis the Entertainer,” he became “Elvis the Martial Artist.”
The exhibit documents Elvis’ love for karate and features artifacts from the Graceland archives including his personal Karate Gi’s, Testatkarte Karate card and Honorary Membership Certificate, which shows karate classes that he took while he was in the army in Germany at the Kang Rhee Institute Pasawon Headquarters. Among the other artifacts on display will be Elvis’ 7th and 8th Degree Kenpo Karate Black Belt Certificates, and the original handwritten script for his 1974 Karate documentary the “New Gladiators” as well as many more rarely seen items.
The exhibit will open on Monday, June 7. Graceland continually adds new exhibits so there’s always something new for visitors to see.