Have you ever taken karate lessons
I first met Elvis in 1972. I went to university in Memphis and Elvis went to Kang Rhee karate school, where I taught. I was an American master at the time, and I suppose that's why he wanted to get to know me. Our first meeting was very nice, very friendly. I then left town to pursue my career, but in 1974 Elvis contacted me and asked me to return. He wanted to set up the Tennessee Karate Institute and have me with him. I followed his request, and from 1974 we set up the institute in Memphis. There Elvis could practice karate whenever he wanted, and he often came there with his boys like Red West, Sonny West, Jerry Schilling and Dave Hebler.
There may be people who say that Elvis received high accolades in karate just because he was Elvis Presley, but not because he was really that good. From your professional point of view: how good was it really?
It was really that good! He mastered the technique. Of course, he didn't have the time to train every day like someone who competes in karate. But he worked hard and purposefully whenever he could and really worked out the techniques. He was strong, he was powerful, and he enjoyed it.
You probably know that Elvis had a lot of karate moves built into his stage shows. Have you ever seen an Elvis concert?
Oh yeah! I've seen him four times. The first time was in Bloomington in my home in Indiana, then in Atlanta / Georgia and in ... wait, let me think ..., yes, in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles. I particularly remember the Atlanta concert.
Why this? And which of Elvis' Atlanta concerts was that?
That was on May 2, 1975. I remember it so clearly because Elvis and I performed one after the other in the Omni Coliseum, that huge hall there. I had a World Championship title defense there on May 3, 1975, and he was there the night before. I didn't let the opportunity pass up and went there. That was actually very unprofessional and completely stupid of me! I would have better stayed at the hotel and rested for the fight the next day instead of going to an Elvis concert. But I didn't want to miss it. The concert was fantastic! You know, Elvis was a southerner, and Atlanta is in the middle of the south. People celebrated it madly, and after the `` American Trilogy '' there was the longest standing ovation I've ever had.
And your fight?
Hahaha, I won!
Do you have a favorite Elvis song?
Yes: `` American Trilogy ''!
What was your impression of Elvis as a person? I don't mean the entertainer, not the karate fighter. I mean the person himself.
Elvis the person was fantastic. You know, at the beginning of my career I suffered a serious knee injury that continued to plague me later on. When Elvis found out about this, he spared no expense to bring a specialist from California to Memphis who treated my knee very well. Without that I would probably never have become world champion. Elvis was a wonderful person.
Finally, I would like to ask you a question that I ask anyone who has ever had anything to do with Elvis: Where were you on the day that the terrible news spread that Elvis had died, and what was your reaction?
I was on vacation in Oklahoma with my wife. I turned on the radio and they played an Elvis song. In all honesty, I've heard so much Elvis in my life that at that moment I wanted something different. I switched on another station and Elvis was on. I switched again, and the station also brought Elvis. I knew then that something could not be right. So I called Graceland. I got Charlie Hodge on the line and asked him what was going on. He replied: `` Elvis will never come back. '' I asked what had happened. Charlie replied, `` He died today at noon. '' I just got one `` Whaaas ?! '' and couldn't say anything else. I was speechless, just stunned. Well, that's how it was ...
Have you ever been to Graceland and visited the grave?
Yes. And I took friends there too. But the most important thing for me are my personal memories of Elvis, of training with him and of the fun we had together.
This interview will be published on our website. Do you have a message for the German Elvis fans?
Stay upright! Elvis was a wonderful, very wonderful entertainer! He was a great personality and his music will live on forever!
That's the best ending you could find! Thank you very much for this extraordinary conversation and for taking the time to do it.
I was happy to do it, and I thank you.
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