Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. 1919.

On Counting Days and Wrestling

White House, Feb. 24, 1905.

I puzzled a good deal over your marks. I am inclined to think that one explanation is that you have thought so much of home as to prevent your really putting your whole strength into your studies. It is most natural that you should count the days before coming home, and write as you do that it will only be 33 days, only 26 days, only 19 days, etc., but at the same time it seems to me that perhaps this means that you do not really put all your heart and all your head effort into your work; and that if you are able to, it would be far better to think just as little as possible about coming home and resolutely set yourself to putting your best thought into your work. It is an illustration of the old adage about putting your hand to the plow and then looking back. In after life, of course, it is always possible that at some time you may have to go away for a year or two from home to do some piece of work. If during that whole time you only thought day after day of how soon you would get home I think you would find it difficult to do your best work; and maybe this feeling may be partly responsible for the trouble with the lessons at school.

Wednesday, Washington’s Birthday, I went to Philadelphia and made a speech at the University of Pennsylvania, took lunch with the Philadelphia City Troop and came home the same afternoon with less fatigue than most of my trips cost me; for I was able to dodge the awful evening banquet and the night on the train which taken together drive me nearly melancholy mad. Since Sunday we have not been able to ride. I still box with Grant, who has now become the champion middleweight wrestler of the United States. Yesterday afternoon we had Professor Yamashita up here to wrestle with Grant. It was very interesting, but of course jiu jitsu and our wrestling are so far apart that it is difficult to make any comparison between them. Wrestling is simply a sport with rules almost as conventional as those of tennis, while jiu jitsu is really meant for practice in killing or disabling our adversary. In consequence, Grant did not know what to do except to put Yamashita on his back, and Yamashita was perfectly content to be on his back. Inside of a minute Yamashita had choked Grant, and inside of two minutes more he got an elbow hold on him that would have enabled him to break his arm; so that there is no question but that he could have put Grant out. So far this made it evident that the jiu jitsu man could handle the ordinary wrestler. But Grant, in the actual wrestling and throwing was about as good as the Japanese, and he was so much stronger that he evidently hurt and wore out the Japanese. With a little practice in the art I am sure that one of our big wrestlers or boxers, simply because of his greatly superior strength, would be able to kill any of those Japanese, who though very good men for their inches and pounds are altogether too small to hold their own against big, powerful, quick men who are as well trained.