Teddy Roosevelt Held Secret Judo Matches in The White House Basement


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Theodore Roosevelt was a fighter through and through. When he wasn’t taking on the big banks and corporations, he would be throwing foreign ministers to the ground, sparring with boxing champions, and even showing off his judo skills on his sister-in-law.


Young Theodore was a target for bullies because he had asthma and he was weak. He begged his dad for boxing lessons after getting his ass kicked at Moosehead Lake at the age of 14.

“Having been a sickly boy, with no natural bodily prowess and having lived much at home, I was at first quite unable to hold my own when thrown into contact with other boys of rougher antecedents.” wrote Theodore Roosevelt in his autobiography.


Not the face of a man you want to mess with.

Do you need proof of just how tough Teddy Roosevelt grew up to become? He was shot during a speech in 1912. He said, “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,” then continued his speech for another 90 minutes in front of a horrified audience.

It's not like he was shot in the foot, either. Here's Teddy's shirt after he was shot.

It’s not like he was shot in the foot, either. Here’s Teddy’s shirt after he was shot.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first American to earn a brown belt in Judo. It would be a century later until another world leader would match his martial arts prowess, because Vladimir Putin is an 8th degree black belt in karate. Still, our money’s on Teddy if the two were to throwdown.

He's not afraid of a 2 vs 1.

Putin’s not afraid of a 2 vs 1.

President Roosevelt lined the floors of the Whitehouse basement with training mats and was always down to roll or spar with anyone who was willing, including his wife and her sister (Editor’s note: Sounds like a party.) At a boring state luncheon, he even went as far as to throw a Swiss minister to the ground to show off his Judo. He’d call on world-class prizefighters to come train with him. He held secret fights in the Whitehouse basement, where he’d test himself against the best fighters he could find.


Teddy was a member of the Harvard Boxing Club, where he was left virtually blind in one eye.

Teddy was also huge into Jiu-Jitsu…

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