Peter Urban was born in Jersey City NJ. On August 14, 1934. Peter was raised and educated in Union City NJ. In 1952 he joined the United States Navy to be stationed in Japan, where he met Master Richard Kim, who took him on as a student and introduce him to his other two teachers Gogen Yamaguchi and Masutatsu Oyama. Urban spent 8 years in Japan training with all three teachers. He was the first American to compete in the All Japan College Karate Championships.
Upon his return to the US and civilian life, Urban opened his first dojo in Union City NJ. Later to move his operation across the Hudson River to New York City, to a popular dojo called Judo Twins, which was owned and operated by the Lepkofker brothers of Judo fame. His dojo locations from 17th street to Chinatown began leaving a trail that would be followed by some of the most accomplished karateka in American Karate history.
Originally promoting the names and styles of his three teachers in the US, and even bringing them to the states so that the populous could see them for themselves. Urban would eventually wind up focusing on his duties as representative for Gogen Yamaguchi’s Goju Kai.
It was later, while returning to Japan to attend a Goju Kai seminar, that he asked his teacher’s permission to form an American Goju organization. In answer to Urban’s request, Yamaguchi quoted Bushido, saying that, “No white man can ever achieve nirvana.” Being that his teacher sited Bushido as the source of his answer, Urban rebutted by saying “But Sensei, according to Bushido, Japan can never lose a war,” referring to Japans defeat in World War 2.
Needless to say, this resulted in an uncomfortable situation, Yamaguchi very angry, and Urban feeling dejected. Later Urban came back to Yamaguchi’s table with a knife, and began to perform the archaic customary ritual of apology in which one cuts off the little finger of the left hand. Yamaguchi’s sons wrestled the knife from Urban to prevent him from doing so, and Urban left the dwelling keeping his finger, but loosing his teacher.
The next day, Urban was visited at his hotel by Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi explained to Urban that he had no choice but to think the way he did, because of the way he was raised and educated. The two parted ways as friends knowing that they would never see each other again.
Upon his return to the US, Urban called an emergency meeting of his people, and announced that he was severing his relationship with the Goju Kai, and was founding USA Goju. Urban received a thunderous standing ovation by the crowd. Urban advanced in rank under Richard Kim for a while before founding his own USA Goju Association.
Over the years, many additions were made by Urban to the system. Most had to do with modern application of classical technology, to include the use of all sorts of clandestine weaponry, which included the use of objects easily, found in modern day America.
Of course the Kumite technique that was gleaned from Urban’s experience with Oyama, Yamaguchi and Kim took on a unique form of its own. Urban used traditional and modern innovations such as the Iron Wall, the Shanghai Sweep, and the Screened Back Fist.
Urban was a firm believer that “Kata is the Literacy, and Fighting is the Industry of the martial arts.” There were at one time, as many as 56 katas in the curriculum. Over time, this was narrowed down to necessity. Three katas that were developed by Urban that to this day are the signatures of the system are The Urban Taikyoku, The Empi Ha, and the Urban Kururunfa.
As a young man of only 25 years old, Urban wrote his now famous book The Karate Dojo. It was published internationally, when he was 31 years old. His 2nd book Karate Psychology later to be mass-produced as The Karate Sensei, was written years later in the late 70s.
His final dwelling was at his new home in Massachusetts. He was only there for a few days before he became ill for the final time. Up until his final day, if you asked him how he was doing, he would say “Better than ever!” Grand Master Peter Urban Died on April 7th 2004. The last thing that he did was Roar like a lion to let the masters before him know he was coming.
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