Ed Parker

A bit more on Ed Parker, one of my karate ancestors.

Besides the Tracys, another of Parker’s students was a guy named Elvis Presley. Al Tracy says Presley started studying karate while in the Army, continuing after his army stint with various instructors until he met Parker [not, to my knowledge, any relation to “Colonel” Tom Parker] in 1960 by which time he was close to being ready for the black belt. But Parker was understandably reluctant to elevate Presley to shodan: if Elvis was to get his black belt without his instructor’s becoming a laughing stock, he’d have to earn it without question. So Elvis was sent to Hank Slomanski, a truly ass-kicking sergeant-major and jump master in the 101st Airborne Division. Quoting Tracy,

Almost all of Hank’s students were military, which meant they were airborne undergoing typical airborne training. They started the day at first light by running 10 miles, after which they were allowed a little time to recover from the dry heaves. That out of the way, they ran another ten miles with Hank leading the pack!

All before breakfast.

So began a typical day. At the end of it, if you were so inclined, you could study karate with the man who had been putting you through hell all day.

Elvis spent six weeks at the hands of Hank Slomanski, at the end of which he got his black belt.

After that, Parker continued to train Elvis, and apparently was his bodyguard for some time. Priscilla Presley trained with Parker too. Then, according to Tracy, something happened… a sequence of events starting with the Presleys’ preference for black gis, and ending with their divorce! An interesting story, but I won’t summarize it here. Go read it as Tracy tells it.


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