Former President Teddy Roosevelt is widely known to have coined the famous axiom “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Take a visit to the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank, however, and you’ll learn he didn’t need one. Roosevelt was one of America’s first non-Asian Judo students.
“He was quite skilled,” says Michael Matsuda, the museum’s owner and founder. “He wouldn’t have had much trouble throwing you around.”
It’s little historical tidbits like this that make Matsuda’s museum — billed as the first and only one of its kind in the world — a fascinating visit.
The museum’s scope covers the origins of the martial arts nearly 4,000 years ago in China, its subsequent spread through Asia and the Pacific Islands, to its popular dissemination around the world through Hollywood efforts like the original “Green Hornet” series and movies like “Enter the Dragon.”
The idea is to provide the historical context for martial arts enthusiasts — and to celebrate the culture of the Asian nations who brought these arts to the world. Chinese opera and Japanese Kabuki theater are given equal billing alongside the history of Asian weaponized farm tools.