The Forgotten Half of the Quote

February 17, 2019

"Speak Softly..."
-Theodore Roosevelt
Police Commissioner

Naval Secretary
3rd Degree Brown Belt


There is, of course, more to the above quote from our 26th President, who in the same breath advised us to also “carry a big stick.”  I don’t leave out that second part because I don’t think it’s important. On the contrary-- in matters of potential conflict, it is the “big stick” that gives us the opportunity to speak softly and still be listened to.  I just like to focus on the “speak softly” part because it seems to have been completely forgotten by a lot of people these days who imagine themselves to be tough guys.


Teddy Roosevelt was the real deal.  A lot of attention has been given to his various positions in the military, his numerous feats in battle and his enthusiasm for boxing and wrestling.  What fewer people know, though, is that during his time in the White House, Roosevelt became an avid student of the fighting styles of the Far East, and achieved his Brown Belt in the Jiu Jitsu.  Teddy was a warrior.


The above quote, perhaps the most famous from that pugnacious president, is to me a quintessential martial arts philosophy.  True warriors devote themselves to mastery of violence not to perpetuate it, but to defeat it. As such, the warrior understands just how crucial softly-spoken words are.  When voices are raised, so are tensions. Conflicts escalate quickly.


There is something more, though. There is already too much screaming in today's society.  In an environment when it sometimes seems like everyone is yelling, it is actually the whispers that stand out.  When a line must be drawn, I have come to learn, warnings issued in measured tones carry a lot more weight than hysterical yelling, and get a lot more attention.  That's why it is so important that our training as martial artists focuses every bit as much on calm and confident demeanor as it does on a powerful swing.


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