In March 1902, in effort to get into shape by dropping excess weight, President Theodore
Roosevelt brought a Boston jiu-jitsu master to the White House to learn the Japanese
self-defense art. Professor John J. O'Brien, said to be 27 years of age in 1903, and
living at 92 Gladstone Street in East Boston, went to Washington, D.C. and trained
Roosevelt in jiu-jitsu twice a day. Addtionally, O'Brien gave instruction to the youngsters
of the White House in physical culture, and this may have extended to members of
O'Brien was the "Inspector of Police" while in Nagasaki, Japan, and was the man who
brought jiu-jitsu to America.
John J. O'Brien of Boston should not be confused with James J. "Jack" O'Brien of
Philadelphia, a policeman and trainer.
John O'Brien worked as an instructor at the Paris Street Gymnasium in Boston.
Roosevelt was unsuccessful in using jiu-jitsu training to lose weight, according to the
Seattle Daily Times, and O'Brien returned to Boston.
Boston Globe newspaper; March 19, 1902
Seattle Daily Times newspaper; March 30, 1902
Sedan Lance newspaper; April 3, 1902
Research by Tim Hornbaker