I was probably 24 or 25 years old and was doing graduate work at the University of Memphis (then called Memphis State University) in Tennessee. I was already the national champion, and my kickboxing career hadn’t started yet. One of the reasons I’d gone to Tennessee to open a martial arts school for somebody else, but the school had closed. So I went over to Kang Rhee, who ran a large school in Memphis, and introduced myself. He recognized me and offered me a teaching position. Thank God he was there because otherwise I’d have been hurting. In addition to showing his students how to fight, I had to learn all his forms and techniques, but I didn’t mind because I really enjoyed teaching. One evening when I was working out, in walked Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Kang Rhee stopped the class and asked everybody to sit down, then introduced me to Elvis Presley. He said he’d seen me win the U.S. championships in Dallas, where I knocked out Skipper Mullins, and complimented me on my kicking. We talked for about 10 minutes and I thought, Wow, that was fun, thank you very much. Elvis Presley just dropped by to say hello and didn’t work out or demonstrate anything. It wound up being the easiest job interview I ever had.


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Not long after that, Elvis Presley asked me to come work for him. About two years later, he said he wanted to open a karate school in Memphis and would like me to run it. Also wanting a place to train, he said he’d stop in once in a while and work out—with me. Basically, Elvis Presley was doing self-defense techniques because he couldn’t spar—it was simply too dangerous. He had to preserve his looks and voice, so contact to the face or neck was out. He also didn’t want to risk breaking any bones, so he’d just demonstrate self-defense moves and some Ed Parker stuff like taking full-power shots to the stomach. I’d throw kicks at him, but I knew I couldn’t hit him. Elvis Presley was a fine athlete, but he wasn’t a fighter because of all the restrictions that came with his career. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t able to fight, though. His technique—his side kick and his punches—looked as good as anybody else’s. He wanted to do karate because he’d learned a bit of it in the Army and really liked it. When he came back, he got with Ed Parker because he was the big name in the late 1960s. With his fame, Elvis could go right to the top guy. The best part for me was beating up all of Elvis Presley’s people. I just relegated them to pulp. I sparred with Red West, Sonny West, Jerry Shilling and others. They worked out with us, but they only trained because Elvis Presley did. Red West made black belt under Ed Parker, so he was more serious. It was fun kicking Red West. When I won the championship in September 1974, Elvis Presley presented me with a motorcycle and did some really nice things. I worked at the school until 1977 when he died. Then I was hired to start a new program at the University of Memphis. I taught karate, judo, wrestling and helped out with boxing. Just before I retired from competition, I went to a party at Mick Fleetwood’s place in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day in 1980. I met John Belushi there, and we became instant friends. He’d also seen me fight and asked what I was doing during the summer. I confessed that I didn’t have any plans except for my retirement fight on June 15. He said: “We’re going to do the Blues Brothers tour. Would you like to come with us?” I said, “Sure, I’d love to.” In the first week of June, John Belushi called and asked whether I was still up for it. He sent me a ticket, and I flew to Chicago after my last fight. He wanted to start learning karate that day, so I worked on his flexibility. He didn’t want to lose any weight yet because he still had to look like a roly-poly Jake Blues. John Belushi had no prior training in the martial arts, but he’d wrestled in high school and college a little. He liked one-on-one competition. Ironically enough, he was more flexible than Dan Aykroyd, who had trouble kicking you in the knee. We had a ball. I taught John Belushi how to kick and punch, how to move. We’d spar, and I’d kick him at will. It’s funny when somebody has no speed at all. He really started enjoying it, though. Dan Aykroyd loved it, too. Both of them did a good job, as did the members of the Blues Brothers band that I worked with. We did three things together: the Blues Brothers tour, then John Belushi and I did Continental Divide and then the three of us were together again for Neighbors. We were working on another film called Noble Rot when John Belushi died. After what happened with Elvis Presley and him, I didn’t want to train stars anymore. Money’s not that important. (Bill Wallace is a former kickboxing champion and a Black Belt Hall of Fame member who now teaches seminars around the world.)
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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