Theidire Roosevelt - Promotion to 8th Degree Black Belt in Judo

Oyster Bay Guardian, November 23, 2007

USJA Honors Theodore Roosevelt with Black Belt

James Webb, President, (left) and Gary Goltz, Chief Operating Officer, (right) of the USJA present Jim Bruns, President of the TRA, (center) with an honorary judo gi and black belt for President Theodore Roosevelt

by David J. Criblez

The United States Judo Association (USJA) posthumously presented 26th President Theodore Roosevelt with an honorary black belt for embracing the sport of Judo at a special ceremony at Sagamore Hill in Cove Neck on Saturday, November 17th. TR admired judo’s ability to build character, promote confidence and teach fair play and sportsmanship. 

He also invited Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo to dispatch one of his high-ranking, top disciples, Yoshiaki Yamashita to come and set up a Dojo in the White House.The USJA made Roosevelt an 8th Degree Black Belt, an honor usually bestowed on those who have been doing Judo over 50 years and occasionally on those of distinguished leadership who have bought Judo into the international limelight. “As a little boy growing up I remember seeing a picture of the postcard that Roosevelt sent to Yamashita in my Kodokan book. 


I always wondered why Roosevelt was never made a black belt*,” said Gary Goltz, USJA Chief Operating Officer. “When I became the COO of the USJA, I asked our board of director’s to honor Roosevelt with an 8th Dan and they unanimously approved it. In the spirit of President Roosevelt, I really felt this honor suited such a robust and innovative leader who set the course to make America a great world power and today, leader of the free world. He embraced Japan just as it was becoming a modern country and when Judo was invented. We now have a President who is one rank higher than Russian President Vladimir Putin who’s a 7th Degree Black Belt!”

Goltz along with Jim Webb, USJA President (who is a West Point graduate), presented Jim Bruns, President of the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) a judo gi with a presidential seal and black belt plus a framed award featuring a red and white paneled belt (which is given to high ranking black belts) and certificate. 

“On behalf of the TRA, I want to thank the United States Judo Association for an honor that is so long overdue.” Said Bruns. “TR was a man who was bigger than life in everything he did. He died in 1919 and at his funeral they said it was good that death took him in his sleep because if he was awake it would have been one hell of fight. That’s the kind of man he was. TR is to the only president to have a Medal of Honor, a Nobel Peace Price, and now an 8th Degree Black Belt.”

* Actually, Roosevelt was made a shodan (1st degree black belt) along with his daughter by Yamashita.

Red & White Belt & Certificate, (in the frame)

Roosevelt's Man in the Arena Speech is on every USJA Membership card

"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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Read more about Roosevelt's Judo

Read more about Professor Yamashita

Read more the Theodore Roosevelt Association

Hear Gary Goltz in a BBC Interview on the Presidents

Newsweek article - Judo the Key to Putin, June 15, 2014