For President’s Day, we wanted to share a list of Presidents who have trained in martial arts.
The term “Martial Arts” is a relatively broad expression that encompasses a
variety of different disciplines. Typically, when we hear the words martial arts,
the first ideas that come to mind are one or more of the techniques that have
developed in Asian countries. However, the martial arts are comprised of most
types of fighting techniques that focus on hand-to-hand combat.
Historically, there have been a number of Commander-in-Chiefs who have
studied at least one of the martial arts. Most often, wrestling has been the
discipline of choice, but there have been a few who’ve gone with disciplines
that originated in Asia.
George Washington’s Defense Against Bullies – Wrestling
Washington was not the type to take an attack lying down, not even at 15. To
deal with bullying at school, He became proficient in an old Irish folk wrestling
art. This art, called “collar and elbow,” involves learning a series of Kicks,
Throws, Trips, Pins, Chokes, and Locks.
Abraham Lincoln – Bully Fighter
Long before he was president, he was known locally for his size and strength.
Also skilled in collar and elbow wrestling, he was once asked by the locals in
Illinois to take on the town bully. Lincoln agreed. It was no contest. Problem
Even after he began his political career, he would intervene if he saw a bully at
work. Once, during his legislative bid, he saw one of his supporters being
roughed up during his speech. He stopped speaking, tossed the guy 10-12 feet,
then went back to his speech.
Ulysses S. Grant – Recreational Wrestler
Also a wrestler, Grant would sometimes let his form of martial arts have an
effect on his work. In fact, during the famous surrender of the Confederates at
Appomattox, it’s said he apologized to General Robert E. Lee for the disarray of
his camp. Apparently several of the “boys” had joined Grant for an evening of
wrestling the previous night.
Theodore Roosevelt Takes on Judo
Teddy Roosevelt took up demanding exercise to help treat the illnesses and
asthma he suffered as a child.
Known to be extremely adventurous, once during his travels he had the
opportunity to see a demonstration of one of the popular martial arts, Judo.
After seeing it performed, he knew he had to give it a try. He eventually
achieved the rank of 3rd Brown in Judo.
Barack Obama Practiced Tae Kwon Do
Barack Obama trained in Tae Kwon Do while still in Chicago, IL when he was
working as a professor and part-time state senator. His instructor was David
Posner, who remembers him as a very diligent and disciplined student.
President Obama eventually earned a green belt for this discipline of the
Then, in 2009, during his presidency, South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak
awarded him an honorary black belt during a visit to South Korea.