Review | Elvis Presley: Gladiators DVD

By: Geoffrey Mc Donnell
Source: Elvis Australia
September 1, 2015


This is the long-awaited DVD officially released by Elvis Presley Enterprises. After watching this I found it 'worthwhile' and in understanding Elvis an essential purchase, especially when you understand the man studied several styles for two decades and took it VERY seriously from 1960-1974.

Elvis Presley Video View Elvis practicing Karate (From the Gladiators DVD) (05:43)

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I found 8 chapters and an easy to navigate menu choice of:-

1.) 49 minutes of footage narrated by Wayne Carmen
2.) Raw footage with Elvis (somewhat easier to 'strain' to attempt to hear what Elvis is saying 'off mike')
3.) 1968 'It Hurts Me' Karate footage takes
4.) Interview about Elvis' Karate with Wayne Carmen who spent 3 years working with him
5.) Photo gallery

TCB Patch
TCB Patch
Master Kang Rhee & Elvis Presley
Master Kang Rhee & Elvis Presley

Inside the DVD are 6 large postcards of Elvis in Karate gear in the 70's and a 16 page booklet giving the background to the New Gladiators project.

The footage is filmed from 2 places (mostly) at the Tennessee Karate Institute which resided above a drug store in Memphis and a smaller amount is also filmed at Khan Rhee's own studio. The footage opens up showing a 1974 Elvis in mid-September a bit paunchy and sounding slightly slurred.

However despite this 'shock' you can hear and see his enthusiasm for promoting the mental, physical & spiritual side of martial arts as he's having demonstrated and explaining.

First you see Al Hokum 'demo' followed by Bill Wallace looking very, VERY impressive alongside Red West. Then Elvis with Dave Hebler and Red West. The best most interesting footage is when Red West attacks Elvis with a Gun.

When Khan Rhee is introduced he is immediately very difficult to understand but shows the very high kicking that Elvis so much admired. Then we move to filming at Khan Rhee's place and this is where the footage gets disturbing. After meditating Khan takes off Elvis' right sock and bandage off from his hand and shows where a scratch infected Elvis' hand and where Elvis ripped off his ingrown toenail. This explains why we don't see any Karate kicking from Elvis – obviously he wasn't well enough to do that.

Elvis liked Ed Parkers Kempo style which is the very fast arm movements and Elvis and David Stanley demonstrate. Then we see the whole Gladiators team promote Bill Wallace to an 8th degree black belt - and finally we see Bill Wallace solo limbering up and doing stretches.

Then the footage repeats itself from a different Camera angle. In fact 3 cameras were used to film this and Elvis makes it clear he wants to promote ALL styles of Karate. Its explained how Elvis' original name of 'Black Panther' couldn't be accepted by Elvis due to political reasons and why he ended up known as 'Tiger'. Ed Parker doesn't feature at all because of a falling out Elvis had with him when Ed Parker put his name up as headliner for a Karate Tournament.

As well as the footage listening to Elvis' Karate Kata and monologue from the 30.8.74 M/S adds extra interest and understanding to this footage. By the end of 1974 this whole project was shut down, but you can see here how it could have developed into a documentary by Elvis about martial arts.

I rate this presentation 8/10 and only knock a couple of marks off for not being able to hear Elvis speak properly and wondering also if the good footage could have been presented even clearer?

Unfortunately we see a picture of Elvis in his Black Karate outfit from 4th July 1974-looking trimmer and 'straight as an arrow', but the footage HERE comes from mid-September instead, never the less its fascinating to see Elvis arrive, perform and instruct about his love of Karate.

Buy Elvis Presley: Gladiators DVD
Buy an original TCB patch made for Khan Rhee

Elvis' 'New Gladiators' DVD

Elvis' 'New Gladiators' DVD

Buy Elvis Presley: Gladiators DVD

Elvis receives his 7th degree black belt from Kang Rhee.
Elvis receives his honorary
8th degree black belt from Kang Rhee

Elvis Presley with certificate for his honorary 8th degree black belt from Kang Rhee
Elvis Presley with certificate for his 8th degree black belt from Kang Rhee

note to Charlie Hodge from Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley receiving his 8th Degree San Black Belt certificate from Master Rhee, at a private ceremony. The presentation took place on September 16, 1974 at Master Rhee's studio in Memphis.

Elvis Presley's 8th Degree San Black Belt certificate
Elvis Presley's 8th Degree San Black Belt certificate

To Master Kang Rhee with great respect - Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley Photos July 4, 1974, Elvis gives a karate demonstration with Ed Parker in Memphis
Articles about Elvis Presley Elvis Presley Karate Black Belt
Buy Elvis Presley: Gladiators DVD

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Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.