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5 Teddy Roosevelt Quotes for Martial Wisdom

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(Theodore Roosevelt-campaigning to be president in 1904, photo via theguardian.com/AP)

If your Teddy Bear could talk like Teddy Roosevelt, it’d tell you to burn your snuggie and tie on the gloves. The 26th president is known for being one of the most rough and tumble of them all. Between trust busting, rough riding, and exploring, he couldn’t have been more of a man’s man if he filled his cereal bowl with nails and protein powder. Roosevelt is also well-remembered as a martial arts practitioner, sparring in boxing several times a week as Governor of New York and earning a third degree brown belt in Judo. These 5 Teddy Roosevelt quotes have applications to many different aspects of life, but have a particular inspirational quality for attaining a more complete martial arts mindest.

(Add moose-rider to the list of accomplishments. Photo via dailymail.co.uk)
(Add moose-riding to the list of accomplishments. Photo via dailymail.co.uk)
#5- “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Every competitive martial arts contest is made up of hundreds of decisions. Will you land a double jab? Do you try for the single leg takedown? You can’t be sure if your technique will be successful without trying to execute it. What you can be absolutely sure of is the absence of success if you never try to go for it.

#4- “Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”

The humbleness learned in the process of becoming a martial artist applies on and off the mat. Courtesy may not be as celebrated or revered as courage, but it is equally indicative of a quality character. Common courtesy can say a lot, if not more, than a courageous pursuit.

#3- It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.

It’s not easy to look past the hot wings on a menu and choose the house salad. It’s not easy to get up for a morning run in the cold before work. However, with each labor and pain taken to become a little bit better everyday, you can achieve martial arts mastery.

#2- The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.

There have been many similar quotes about overcoming failure and defeat. Adversity and hardship in the effort to accomplish anything great are a certainty. To press on in spite of “a thousand repulses and defeats” is key to remember.

#1- Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This quote largely speaks for itself. You don’t have to read too many comment sections on the internet to see that it’s never been easier to be a critic. MMA athletes in particular face many armchair critics in the face of defeat. It takes a lot of courage to put on your best competitive effort in front of millions of people. Despite what anyone says against the athletes, the credit is ultimately their own.

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Kurt Tellez
Kurt Tellez is a Southern California-based writer and musician. He first developed a passion for writing and literature in high school that carried through to the completion of a B.A. in English from Cal State Fullerton in 2013. Inspired by Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson, he has pursued a career in writing through contributions to online magazine publications, blogging, and social media management. His musical studies began at thirteen, and has since played in garage bands, concert bands and jazz bands everywhere from Honolulu to The Matthew Street Beatles Festival in Liverpool. Kurt has followed MMA since becoming an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Inspired by Eddie Bravo's appearances on the show, he became a member of Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu in 2014.