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Celebrity Martial Artists
Part 2: Torts and taekwondo.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Gung Fu on the Gridiron
• Part 2: Torts and Taekwondo
• Part 3: This Skater Ain't No Sissy

Besides being popular on the playing field, the martial arts are also popular in congressional chambers. The popularity of the martial arts among U.S. lawmakers is largely due to the teaching of famed tae kwon do pioneer Jhoon Rhee, who has taught for decades at the Congressional Gym, in between running his chain of schools and inventing foam sparring gear.

Congressmen Get Their Kicks

Rhee's students include state representatives and senators from both political parties. Back in the karate-crazed 1970's, Rhee staged the "Capital Hill Grudge Bout", pitting Democrats versus Republicans in a semi-contact tournament with each party fielding a team of two congressmen and one senator. One of Rhee's students, Senator Milton Young of North Dakota, even used his tae kwon do training to help get himself reelected. Thought too old at 77, Young proved his vitality during his campaign by publicly demonstrating his kicking and punching skills. And yes, he did get reelected. Among more recent members of Congress, former Speaker-of-the-House candidate Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana, resigned) is a black belt in tae kwon do.

Don't Tread on Teddy Roosevelt

The list of martial artist politicians isn't limited to just kickers, either. U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, after watching judo pioneer Yoshiaki Yamashita defeat the Navy wrestling coach, began judo studies, eventually earning a brown belt. In the modern era, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell now serves the constituents of Colorado in the Senate after a three-term stint in the House of Representatives. Campbell was U. S. National Judo Champion three times, was captain of the first U.S. Olympic judo team in 1964, and won the gold medal in judo at the 1963 Pan-American Games.

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