How Elvis Presley’s Bodyguard Helped Launch One Icon’s Career

Elvis Presley was the biggest rock star of his era. As a result, he found himself connected to some of the biggest names in the industry. However, there was more to Presley than his musical career. He was also an actor and avid martial artist. He started training while stationed in Germany. Then, when he came back to the states, he continued his training with a man named Ed Parker. Parker founded the American Kenpo style of fighting. Additionally, he became Presley’s bodyguard as well as his connection to one of the most famous martial artists of the modern era – Bruce Lee.

Ed Parker created and popularized American Kenpo. His fighting style is a westernized version of karate that he developed especially for street fighting, according to Screen Rant. Over the years, several celebrity students entered his dojo. Among those big names was Robert Wagner, Audie Murphy, Warren
Beatty, and, of course, Elvis.

Ed Parker Introduces a Legend to the World

However, before Ed Parker became Presley’s trainer and, later, bodyguard, he focused on growing his school. With that goal in mind, Parker hosted the First International Karate Tournament in Long Beach, California in 1964. He invited martial artists from all around the world. Among those was the now-legendary Bruce Lee. However, Lee didn’t compete. Instead, Parker was so impressed with Lee’s talent that he asked him to do a demonstration for the crowd. Bruce Lee agreed and changed his destiny forever.

During the demonstration, Bruce Lee demonstrated Wing Chun, his legendary one-inch punch, and several other feats of strength and skill. Jay Sebring, a hairstylist to the stars, saw this and was blown away. So, Sebring acquired a tape of Lee’s demonstration from Ed Parker.

The Rise of Bruce Lee

Later, Jay Sebring showed the footage that he got from Ed Parker to TV producer William Dozier. The producer was impressed as well. He knew he was seeing more than an expert martial artist. Dozier was looking at a future movie star. So, he set to work on making Bruce Lee a star.

First, Dozier attempted to get Lee the starring role in a series called Charlie Chan’s Number One Son. However, that series didn’t work out. Dozier didn’t give up, though. Finally, he got Bruce Lee the role of Kato in The Green Hornet. This role kicked off Lee’s American film career. Soon, he was the most famous martial artist in the world. None of that would have happened without Ed Parker and his karate tournament.

Before landing the role of Kato, Bruce Lee appeared in several films and TV shows. However, none of those made it to America. The Green Hornet led the way to his iconic American martial arts films like Fists of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon.

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