Embok Kwai: The Secret Martial Arts Society of President Teddy Roosevelt

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Bill Mattocks, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0wsuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=00gDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1607,470101&dq=jiujitsu&hl=en

    President Teddy Roosevelt was a student of Jui-Jitsu, and a member of the mysterious Japanese society, known as "Embok Kwai," which meant "To Kill Without a Mark."

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/...on+Daily+Globe&desc=FEARFUL+ART.&pqatl=google

    The President was instructed by one Professor J.J. O'Brien, who claimed to have been inducted into the Embok Kwai while living for ten years in Nagasaki, Japan.

    When this mysterious man returned to the USA, he not only taught jiu-jitsu to the President and members of his cabinet, he also coached the American Catch-Wrestler who beat a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu expert in a demonstration match that had much to do with the eventual loss of interest in Jiu-Jitsu in the USA (at that time).

    http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_leonard_0802.htm

    The question remains; what is or was Embok Kwai?
     
  2. k_raben

    k_raben White Belt

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    Based solely on the name, it's not Japanese. Both of those words are not in the Japanese language as written.

    I tried variations of Kwai, "Kawai", "Kiwai", "Kuwai", "Kewai" and "Kowai" just incase the reporter messed up the transliteration, and as I thought there is nothing that would correspond to Kwai.

    Same with Embok. Nothing.

    Ken
     
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  3. David43515

    David43515 Master Black Belt

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    It should probably be "kai" which means "group, association,club, board etc". I`ve got no clue about embok though. Unless it ends in "N", all Japanese words end in a vowel. So I`m guessing that the report just gets a rough aproximation of what O`Brian said or thought the Japanese were saying.
     
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  4. Blade96

    Blade96 Senior Master

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    I didnt know theodore roosevelt was a MA.

    Feh....learn something new every day. :)
     
  5. Gordon Nore

    Gordon Nore Senior Master

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    On a related note, I recall seeing in a documentary that detainees at a US interment camp for Japanese Americans were used for a martial arts scene in a Charlie Chan movie. They helped to choreograph the fight, coached the actors in ju jitsu technique and appeared as stunt people or extras in the fight scene.
     
  6. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    He also boxed and wrestled. TR was probably one of the few US Presidents you might wager on in a fight. Him, Andrew Jackson, maybe Eisenhower... Not sure about US Grant, even if he was the winning general in the US Civil War. Kennedy was supposed to be an athlete...
     
  7. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Don't forget Abe Lincoln, who, as I recall, had a reputation as a wrestler and in some other strength contests...
     
  8. David43515

    David43515 Master Black Belt

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    Lincoln actually won command of his Illinois Millitia unit in a wrestling match. And I recall hearing that Teddy Roosavelt was the one who made it manditory for all cadets at West Point to participate in either boxing, wrestluing, or judo. (I don`t know if they still have that rule in place though.)
     
  9. Randy Strausbaugh

    Randy Strausbaugh Master Black Belt

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    As I recall, something similar was done for a James Cagney movie, "Blood on the Sun".
     
  10. Guardian

    Guardian Black Belt

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    Knowledge is good folks. I love to learn new things if it's about people who have long passed from our lives. It could always come up on a game show worth thousands!:)
     
  11. Devon

    Devon Orange Belt

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    • Informative Informative x 2
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  12. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Fascinating read. It would appear that the individual teaching Teddy Rosevelt wanted to increase his standing so he made up the "secret society" of Embok Kwai. Instead what we can understand from the Bartitsu article is that several Judo Embu's were held in Europe and someone butchered the name into Embok Kwai and then Mr. J.J. O'Brien must have heard the name and decided to create it into some super secret society. Very sad!
     
  13. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    I'm not sure the blame should be placed on JJ O'Brien. I used to have a copy of his book in my collection, along with a fascinating pamphlet of newspaper articles written about Mr. O'Brien, which was used for promotional purposes. I don't recall a reference to the Embok Kwai. O'Brien definitely was not afraid of self promotion, but I think the blame falls on the reporter. If anyone would like to purchase my old book and the pamphlet, they can do so here A Course of Jiu-Jitsu and Physical Culture (+ Rare O'Brien Ephemera) by O'Brien, John.: Self Preservation League, Chicago, 1912, Chicago Hard Cover, First Edition - Inno Dubelaar Books
     
  14. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Frank, someone along the way screwed that up big time and used it as promotion. Hard not to imagine that O'Brien didn't do this and probably knew he was not in some secret society. I mean if you were in a secret society wouldn't you actually have attended a group meeting or been inducted some how? However, maybe it was the reporter embellishing. Always a possibility!
     
  15. Devon

    Devon Orange Belt

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    Given that O'Brien himself didn't use the term Embok Kwai in his book, I'd say it's quite likely a reporter's or promoter's embellishment inspired by the short story referred to in the Bartitsu Society article.
     
  16. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    It certainly could be but we don't know and probably never will. However, so many people through the years have done this kind of stupid stuff and rarely was it a reporter. So, who knows!
     
  17. Devon

    Devon Orange Belt

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    Depending on the paper, standards of journalistic ethics, etc. were pretty lax around 1900, especially in writing "puff piece" stories like this one.
     
  18. wingerjim

    wingerjim Green Belt

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    You are not alone...for that matter I know of no US President that studied MA.
     
  19. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    Cuz fake news is never the reporter's fault? ;)
     
  20. frank raud

    frank raud Master Black Belt

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    As O'Brien was very proud to promote his certificate in jiu jitsu given to him by the Japanese government, and to push being Roosevelt's jiu jitsu instructor( despite Roosevelt not finishing his lessons with him, and hiring Yamashita in his place), in only one article is there a mention of the Embok Kwai. I could point out much more obvious puffery from early pioneers, claiming to be in organizations that don't exist.123
     

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