Elvis’ Karate Gi — Pictures and Stories

Elvis Pose Used in McCormick Decanter

Elvis auctions often lead to some interesting, but generally unknown, tid-bits. Sometimes it is contained in an item description, and sometimes my curiosity is inspired, leading to a Google search. And, sometimes these lead to a discovery like this.

McCormick Distilleries Elvis Decanter

This is a McCormick Distilleries commemorative Elvis decanter. There are dozens of different Elvis whisky decanters on eBay, but I couldn’t find this one. If you see it at a flea market, snap it up.


Posing for McCormick Decanter

Based on the first two pictures, you’d think the decanter was designed using the Elvis photograph. Nope, they had another guy model the Gi so they could get the depth, side, and back design right.

That’s three pictures in a row that are pretty much the same, so here’s a change of pace.

Back of McCormick Elvis Decanter

The back of the decanter makes it look like Elvis is sitting on a drum. The tax seal is pretty ugly, too.

There are two different circular images on the decanter. These are reproductions of embroidered patches that Elvis had on his Karate Gi.

Elvis' TCB Patch on his Karate Gi

This Elvis-designed TCB emblem adorned the left chest side of his Gi jacket.

Elvis' Karate Gi Crown-Fist Patch

Elvis had this so-called crown/fist patch on his lower left sleeve. Here’s a good look at their placement

Elvis and Karate Gi withTwo Patches


Elvis had a few other designer elements personalizing his Karate outfit. Much like a jumpsuit, the flared legs are secured with three braided buttons in red, black, and white (not visable). Flare vents are visible when the buttons are unhooked.

Side View of Elvis in Karate Gi


But the belt is especially interesting. It is cotton with a satin overlay. The end of the sash changed as Elvis advanced through the progression of Black Belt degrees.

Elvis Presley's 7th Degree Black Belt

There are seven red tabs indicating that Elvis had achieved 7th degree Black Belt. His Karate nickname was Tiger. It started out as Panther, but there was some bad stuff going on back then with the Black Panthers, so Elvis changed it.


Elvis Outside in his Karate Gi

This is a rare view of Elvis outside wearing his Karate Gi. They were stored at the training facility. Here Elvis is heading to a Karate demonstration he held for teenagers.


Elvis Presley's 7th Degree Black Belt Card

Elvis received this card when he achieved the 7th degree mark in August 1974.

He also received certificates for each new degree.

Elvis Presley with 7th Degree Certificate


8th Degree San Black Belt certificate

This one is for 8th degree, and it is dated just a month later than the 7th degree card. It is interesting that somehow Elvis managed to have his TCB logo incorporated into the certificate design.


Elvis With Kang Rhee

The name on the card is Ed Parker and the name on the certificate is Kang Rhee. Elvis started Karate training while stationed in Germany during his time in the U.S. Army. After completing his service and returning to the United States, he began to study with Grand Master of American Kenpo Karate, Ed Parker. In 1970, Parker suggested Elvis train with Rhee, a martial arts instructor of great reputation. Elvis trained under Rhee for the next four years.

Kang Rhee Patch

Elvis had six of his white sailcloth cotton Karate Gi’s with red satin trim on the lapels and hems, but there were slight variations. This Kang Rhee patch appeared on the back of some.

EP Back of Elvis' Karate Gi

At least one jacket had the letters E P on the back.


Elvis' Karate Gi that did not sell at June 2016 Heritage Auction

This is the photo of the Elvis Karate Gi that started me on my rambling Google search. It was part of the June 2016 Heritage Music Memorabilia Auction, but it failed to generate the minimum bid of $10,000 ($12,500 with auction house premium). This surprised me because I remembered some of the other versions selling at other auctions.

Here’s what I found:

Julien’s Auctions, May 2015 — $23,125
Gotta Have Rock and Roll Auctions, August 2012 — $7,986
Julien’s Auctions, December 2011 — $15,300
Guerney’s Auctions, May 2008 – 15,000

I studied these results trying to understand why there was such divergence. All I can conclude is that the winning bidder last year at Julien’s paid way too much.


Now, we’ll have fun looking at some of the stuff inspired by Elvis’ Karate Gi.

Karate Elvis figurine

Yes, sir. A Karate Elvis figurine. There’s even a button on the back of the stage which turns on a light at the top.

Elvis Presley Karate Figurine

To me, this figurine wins the award for the little plastic head that looks the most like Elvis. There are some crummy ones out there.


Liam Ghallager with Elvis' TCB Logo

This is a guy named Liam Gallagher from the rock band Oasis. He had Patsy tattooed on his arm until he got divorced from her. Then he covered it with Elvis’ TCB Karate design.


Elvis Karate T-Shirt

This looks like a kid T-Shirt sporting a cartoon Elvis doing a Karate kick. Actually, it’s an adult size large. Here’s another shirt that is obviously for adults.


Elvis Kicked My Ass T-Shirt

Elvis Kicked My Ass Back in ’72.         Great shirt.


© 2016 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net


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13 responses to “Elvis’ Karate Gi — Pictures and Stories

  1. Hi guys some years ago we visited Graceland next to the karate GI was a certificate of honour it shows Elvis tiger Presley the is two flags backed by a sun burst and center circle with fist my photo not very clear karate institute flags left one unknown right american I’ve not seen it anywhere else any help would like a better picture cheers

  2. Does anyone know what the Chinese character is on the TCB patch? I am guessing the 7 stars are for Elvis 7th degree bb achievement?

  3. Phil, One last footnote on the 8th degree belt, there might be a black version form Ed Parker out there, but have yet to see. As for Kang Ree, if there is one it’s the posthumous version on the post 1977 dedication version ( never worn by Elvis ) with the Kang Rhee big patch on the back with the Ronin brand tag, simply a copy/reproduction of whats the real version, Many Regards, Brian

  4. Hi Phil, Just PSS, the above comment i made about the 8th degree belt is true to my knowledge, BUT Parker DID give E a 8 th degree gold metal card on Sept, 5 1974, Apollo trophy’s out of California made them, he had several to hand out to family and friends, as for the 8 stripes on any belt from Kang Rhee I have yet to see one pop up, only the certificate from Parker from the Alden sale (certificate only), and the gold 8th degree gold cards from Apollo (gold colored metal, authenticate from Apollo), Many Regards to you and the family! Brian

    • Hi Brian: You are certainly a font of knowledge on Elvis’ GIs and related things. very impressive.


  5. Phil, just a quick PS, Elvis karate Gi’s (white one’s, Rhee) authenic one’s are Tiger Claw size 5 ONLY, The NON REAL dedication one’s have the Kang Rhee big patch sewn on the back AND are Ronin brand size 5, The eighth degree belt was NEVER SEEN, Kang Rhee gave it to Elvis out of sympathy ( I believe ) in LATE 76, it NEVER would have even been known if not for Ginger Alden selling the certificate recently at auction, Merry Christmas! B.

  6. Hi ya Phil, been awhile! The truth on the Gi’s is that Elvis WASN’T an eighth degree until 76′! The real ones out there indeed do NOT have the Kang Rhee patch on the back, BUT the real ones out there are only 7th degree, up to 76′, also, you see pics of E’s Gi with the white shirt sleeves showing white past the red trim on the arms, WHY? Because he always wore a white shirt with a collar underneath the Gi! Look at any picture and you will see the semi high white collar over the Gi, so it’s simply the white shirt going past the arm red trim, and the white collar above the Gi area around his neck! Nor an eighth stripe, Simple! Regards Brian

    • Hi Brian: Good to hear from you. The details you present sure represent your wealth of knowledge. Keep in touch.

      Phil Arnold

  7. Hi Phil,
    An interesting post! The gi is probably made after Elvis death as there is a considerable mistake in the belt. It should be 8 bars as he received 8th dan in August from Parker! Kang Rhee gave him the original suit for the filming on the 16th of September with 8 bars (taking into account Parkers ranking) and a certificate from him of 7th dan. There are at least 3 versions of the belt now in existence: The one Elvis is wearing originally in the footage on the 16th. It is for his 8th degree black belt that he was awarded by Parker one month earlier! Not 7th. The original belt had on the front side 8 bars with his name underneath, back side you see 7 bars but that is because it goes all the way through. You see the same with Elvis name in mirror. Then you have the belt offered with lot 165 yesterday. The back side is now the front side with only 7 bars!!! Then there is another one, according to Kang Rhee an except copy of the original, it has 8 bars but the lowest left Korean sign is different, perhaps it means Pasyru instead of Tennesse Karate Institute as according to Rhee he made a mistake when ordering the belt and suit in Korea. This version you can still buy from Rhee. Another thing is that i strongly doubt that elvis would wear a gi with Kang Rhee on the back. In the original one there is nothing there and 0n another it says EP.

    • Hi NieK: You are the second ElvisBlog reader to express considerable doubt about the Elvis Gis for sale out there. I wonder how common this Elvis counterfeiting is.

      Phil Arnold, Original ElvisBlogmeister

  8. Phil…..thorough and very enjoyable post on Elvis and his love of ‘Kenpo Karate’! He would definitely give you a ‘Thumbs Up’ for the post! TCB Clementine

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