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Page 4

In Memoriam - Maestro Peter G. Urban, Ph.D.

With honor and love of our Maestro, We share our stories...
So that we who were fortunate to know him in "The Then and There"
can share fond memories for those who read this in "The Here and Now".

August 14, 1934 - April 7, 2004
In Memory of O'Sensei Peter G. Urban,
Father of American Goju Ryu Karate


My condolences and deepest sympathy to the Urban family and his followers of the USA Urban Goju.

I am saddened to have learned of the news of the passing of a great man, Grand Master Peter G. Urban. I learned of his passing by my good friend and a brother in the martial arts, Hanshi Steven Malanoski who lives and teaches in Fort Myers, Florida at Goju Hall #280. He was the one who called me to tell me of the news on that Wednesday morning at 10:20 AM. Hanshi Malanoski is one of the TRUE followers of Master Urban.  

Today, I would like to share some of my memories that I can remember about the man and his great Dojo -- The Chinatown Dojo and why he was a special person to me.

He was one my first Karate teachers in my very beginning of my martial arts' career.  I can say that Master Urban was a GREAT MAN, who had a vision. He believed that he can, and had,  made a difference with his Karate in the changing of the martial arts in the USA and the world.   His system of American USA/URBAN Goju, along with his followers and their different off-spring organizations had done just that. To changed the Asian based structure.

Master Urban had a charisma and energy (and with his projection), that is second to none, and what he lacked in the traditional martial arts, his persona and unique abilities would gap the differences, making him the "Patriarch" that he claimed.   He just had a way about himself and with people.

So, how did I come in contact with Master Urban who changed my life?    When I first met him, it was in January 1966, just right after the New Year. At that time, I was 15 years old and was living in the famous area of "The South Bronx - The Fort Apache Area", where I saw the violence, lived it and was a victim.   It was because of these reasons that I had the necessity for training in the martial arts. But,  my parents did not allowed me to study the Chinese martial arts, in fear of the Chinese "underground world" with their influences in the Kung-Fu schools.  My parents didn't want me to get involved in the martial arts to become like my grandfather, who was a notable leader as a "Hatchman" with the big association during the early to mid 1900s Tong Wars in NYC.

I figured that because this was Karate and it is not Chinese Kung-Fu, my parents couldn't reject this choice of mine…Besides, it is a white man, a Low Fon,  that is the teacher - With NO Chinese influences here.

I can remember when Master Urban opened his Chinatown Dojo, at 232 Canal Street in back in 1965/1966. I was walking from the subway station right off Canal Street towards Chinatown were I was going to go to a restaurant named Hong Fat on Mott Street. It was 8:30 PM, I had planned to eat dinner and get back to the South Bronx, for I had just finished one of my bi-weekly classes of astronomy that I enrolled in at the American Museum's Hayden Planetarium.

As I was walking on Canal Street and crossing Centre Street, I heard the many loud "Kiais" coming from this building on the corner.   I have never heard Kias before, and I thought that there were some crazies who were on drugs and they were doing their "thing" -- You see, marijuana and Heroin was an "in thing" and LSD was making the scene in the U.S. at that time.   I was really curious about the loud Kias by the chorus of the masses so I walked upstairs to the second floor and when I saw the class -- IT WAS POWERFUL!   IT WAS AWESOME!  THE ENERGY!   The knuckle push-ups, the leg raises, the Jyu Kumite and the kicking of the "gong" -- It was for me.  I just had to join... Just to be trained by Master Urban. I waited for the class to end and I followed Master Urban to his office on the third floor, as to find out all the particulars in enrolling.   I got my forms to take it home for my parents to sign.

Unfortunately, my parents still did not approve of  me enrolling and I needed their signature on the forms. I bargained with my parent for weeks to no avail. I went back with the forms unsigned and spoke to Master Urban, he understood my predicament,  and my need to study the art, and so he accepted me.

For me, training was on a daily basis on a Mondays to Saturdays, and with work in my family's restaurant every Sunday.   Now to get to the Chinatown Dojo for training, I had to get home right after school pronto!   Home was the laundry that my family lived in. It was also the business that my father had on the corner of Westchester Avenue and Hoe Avenue in the South Bronx.   So, right after school I would quickly head home to grab my Gi and travel downtown by subway by myself, to Canal Street Chinatown and I MUST return home by 10 PM.   I was still responsible for my schoolwork, so I would do my homework on the train rides.   By the way, I was on the Honor Roll all those years.

During those years it was the turbulent times of NYC the Race Riots and the high crime of the South Bronx and at 15 years old in ninth grade junior high school, it did not sit well with my parents. For me, it was no big deal, since many times I had to go to many places in NYC without my parents' knowledge anyway. Several months later in the month of May 1966, my parents sold the laundry and we moved downtown to Little Italy, to Hester Street and Mulberry Street.  That was two blocks north of Canal Street and from The Chinatown Dojo. This move had become a better deal for me. Although I have since moved from Hester Street, I presently today still live two blocks from the two old Chinatown Dojos -- The 232 Canal Street and the Crosby Street Dojos.  Even today, I still walk by both locations on a daily bases.

The Chinatown Dojo... at 232 Canal Street was a two-floor operation on the second and the third floor, about 25' X 75' each floor. The ground floor was an exterminating business, which had chemical odors that permeated the building and it was irritating and obnoxious at times, especially on the humid days.

The Chinatown Dojo started on the Third Floor. To join or to attend training, one had to walk up to the third floor. On the third floor, one half of the floor housed Master Urban's office and the men's changing room and the other half was the women's changing room and with Judo mats.

The second floor was the main training hall/floor with seats for visitors and on lookers located at the rear end of the dojo. The doorway entrance separated the training floor and the spectators' area. All I can remember is that there was not one day that would pass by that the Dojo floor was not cramped with over 30 plus students, as well as with the visitors and other on-lookers. There were little or no heat in the winter and there were no fans to move the humid air in summer.

If you were a student, you headed towards the office and the changing facilities. The changing facility was basically a small area with a heavy large black material curtains hung on a rope that stretched across the main wall towards the bathroom wall to separate it from the rest of the third floor.  Before one went to the changing facilities, one had to place their membership card on his desk and then proceeded to the dressing rooms to get changed into their Gi. Once Gi-ed up, one would go down stairs to the second floor for the class. The Dojo's walls were white and the wooden floor was painted black, with various makiwaras mounted at different locations on the walls, and when we ran around the Dojo doing "laps" during class, we would had to strike them all as we ran by.

I can also remember the many "unforgettable" free fighting matches that took place nightly, as well as some of the winter training, which included running around the block in snow and ice and working out on an open parking lot across the street from the Dojo in just a Gi and bare feet. This parking lot is no longer there for that property is now part of the famous "100 Center Street" complex of the new northern facilities, which is divided into two parts; there are commercial businesses where the parking lot had stood and the other half of the building which houses the inmates to be processed in the criminal judicial system.

In the mid summer of 1966, Urban had headed off to Japan to see the famous Gogen "The Cat" Yamaguchi of the Japanese Goju-Kai.   His primary visit was to be promoted to "GO DAN" (Fifth Degree).  Yamaguchi had denounced Master Urban, stating that: "No American would be promoted to Go Dan."  This prompted Master Urban to start his "URBAN USA GOJU."   In the fall of 1966 he had held the famous "HATCHET MEETING" to inaugurate his desires.

This "Hatchet Meeting" was the great divide for his organization...You were labeled as either a "THEM" or "US."   "Them" were (his ex-students) did not wanted to stay and to abide with his new ways. "Them" was also the people who Master Urban disliked and disdained, such as the Koreans and the players in the Korean martial arts. A story for another time!

Master Urban made a large chart board, which housed the listings of the people of "THEM and US."   It was mounted on the main training hall's wall right opposite where he stood and taught class. On the chart, it showed paired off, "certain martial arts groups" against his "The USA/Urban Organization." Under that chart's listing were the names of many of his famous ex-top students such as "Roy Meyers, Joseph Lopez, Thomas Boddie, etc." which were paired against his committed followers: "Al Goty, Leon Wallace, Padu, Gerald Orange, Frank Ruiz, William Louie, etc." Sad to say, I was on the "THEM" list, and paired off against William Louie, when I had told Master Urban that I decided "to leave and to go and continue to train with Sensei Thomas Boddie, as I had done when he was away in Japan."

Urban really never hated me, and I never hated him.... He always was fond of me as a young kid of 15 years old when I joined his Dojo. I can remember the day when the hard covered book that he wrote, "The Karate Dojo", came off the presses. I brought the book at his third floor office, in which he wrote: "To: The fastest student of my fastest student ...(signed) Peter G. Urban!

I can also remember the Chinatown Dojo when I was there... All the various training that took place in the classes; the jumping and the kicking of the gong at the end of class which was suspended from the ceiling some seven plus feet in air. All the various memories of the nightly free fighting matches with the "sudden death" matches that took place with the top black belts such as Thomas Boddie, Al Gotay, Leon Wallace, Kamfoa Padu and his brother Sekwii Sah, Brian Spitale, Gerald Orange, Louis Delgado etc, etc, etc! I can still see many other faces, but I can't remember all of their names. And,  who can forget the "first time", when he pulled off his "SKEET SHOOTING PUNCHES" by breaking ten boards in secession on each hand!  A first for the modern martial arts world at that time in 1966!

Some time in 1967/68 he then moved his Dojo from Canal Street to Crosby Street and Howard Street, but by then I had left the Chinatown Dojo because of the controversies that was brewing and I had already been attending full time at Uptown Dojo with Sensei Thomas Boddie, who was with Master Urban.

The worst martial arts day in my life brought me close in relationship to Sensei Urban. It was a tournament held by Gary Alexander at the Manhattan Center in March of 1966. I had just turned 16 years old, and was just promoted to Green Belt. I had enrolled in the Kumite contest late, (because my parents resisted signing the consent), and when they did, it was at the last minute. This then had me paired off with another late attendee too. The late attendee was six plus feet tall, a purple belt and much older in his early twenties. He was much heavier in weight, and I was 5' 4' and 110 lbs. Remember, this was the time when there were no gender, weight, or height classes. There was NO protective gears for the body back in those days, except for jock cups. We bowed in, took our Kamie positions, and he shot off a roundhouse kick to my chest to which I tried to block.  I wasn't strong enough or skilled enough, and his kick dropped me to the floor, knocking me out cold. All I can remember, was master Urban attending to me,  and trying to revive me with his famous "Katsu". He gave me words of encouragement: "Don't give up!". From that day on, I promised never to lose again, and I never did!   I placed in every tournament afterwards.

The next tournament was "The First East Coast Goju Tournament" that was held in Town Hall in the Fall of 1966, sponsored by Master Urban. I came in second place, green belt division in Kumite. Master Urban had a video transfer made from a professional filming that documented that event. This transfer was produced about two years ago, where he had praised me for my fighting abilities and called me "Sammy something" for... I guess he forgot my name.

Just as a note of interest.   In November 1967, there was "The East Coast Goju-Kai Tournament" held by Aaron Banks at the Manhattan Center with the famous Gogen "The Cat" Yamaguchi and his sons and daughter in attendance. Uptown Dojo took six of the nine trophies, 1st and 2nd Black, 1st and 2nd Green, and 1st and 3rd Brown. I took the Third Place Brown, losing to one of my classmates due to me not being serious during the bout. After the tournament, I made Black Belt at Joseph Lopez's Dojo (The Goju-Kai East Coast Headquarters) with all of the Yamaguchis in attendance, and with Gogen Yamaguchi presiding over my test. After experiencing the events of the tournament and the grading of my Black Belt test, I also left the Japanese Goju-Kai right afterwards -- I then understood why Master Urban left Yamaguchi. Another story for another time.

Since leaving Master Urban, I have watched his organization grow into something to be reckoned with, and to be respected. Master Urban has touched the masses and he had set many milestones in the martial arts, whether people like his ways or not. He was a tough act to follow.

Again, my leaving of his organization was because of the various politics that surrounded his organization. I never left the man in my heart. Master Urban did set a new way of the martial arts, whether you and I, may or may not, agree with it.

In closing,  I would like to say that, he taught me one thing. How to be an AMERICAN.  The very same attitude that sparked his start of his URBAN USA GOJU.

I have set the time to mourning for him, and I will continue to respect the great man that he was!

Kayo Ong
 


My first meeting with Grand Master Urban was when I was first introduce to the Martial Arts by my instructor Shihan Thomas Bennett 8th Dan, USA GoJu. Shihan Thomas drilled GM Urban into all his student's heads.  The first time I actually met GM Urban was at a tournament in Manhattan N.Y. in the mid 1970's.  I was a young kid who had just won his first few kumite matches. On the next to the last match I was kicked in my private part and saw stars. GM Urban came over to me and worked his magic.  That magic gave me the strength to beat the opponent that I was sparring.  He made the pain go away.  As a young kid in the 1970's he was a Martial arts wizard, right out of a Martial arts movie to me.  That was the same day I met his daughter Julia for the first time.  Many years later I got the chance to perform the Urban Kooroorunfa kata at a tournament where  he awarded me an 8 out of 10 score.  I was very happy.  From short meeting and additional meetings later, GM Urban (both directly and indirectly) had become a very strong influence in my life.  Through out my 30 or more years of training in the Martial Arts/Combative sciences I have met many, but none like GM Urban.
In March 2004 he called me on the phone to talk.  Even on the phone, he was teaching.  It was a great thing. He told me, " Zurriane, GOD willing I will see you at the Annual Gotay Tournament in April, and we will take so pictures."  He said pictures are like time capsules.

The amount of people he has touched is amazing.  All those who he has touched will never forget him and will keep him alive in their hearts and the hearts of there students forever. His passing has been a great loss not just to the martial arts world but to all those that he has touched over the years with his knowledge, wisdom and his wit.

Renshi Zurriane Bennett, 5th Dan - Goju Hall #811
San Yama Bushi & Combination GoJu
School of Self Defense


http://www.sanyamabushi-goju.com/

 
My first recollection of Master Urban was at the 1980 Ying Yee Cup Karate Championship held by my sensei, Hanshi Anthony Lau. I remember that on that day, as soon Master Urban set foot on the grand competition floor, everyone on that floor just dropped whatever they were doing to acknowledge Master Urban's presence. The whole floor remained silence until he was ushered and seated at the head table along with other judges. I had never experience such a awesome site of one person catching and holding the attention of so many. I was speechless. Since that first encounter with Master Urban, I was fortunate to have had many conversations with him, and he never failed to enlighten me.

 

On behalf of Hanshi Anthony Lau and the entire Yoshido Goju Ryu Organization, we say a final prayer and salute to Master Urban. May you rest in eternal peace.
 
Orlando Cabrera, Sensei
Godan, Yoshido Goju Ryu Karate-Do 

 


I have just returned from an extended overseas trip to hear of the passing of Maestro Peter Urban. I have had the opportunity to extend my deepest sympathies to Julia and her family and received a warm letter in return. Please allow me to extend my thoughts to the extended Goju family of Sensei Urban, both recent and past. My own instructor, Bob Jones, was strongly influenced by Maestro Urban in the sixties and seventies (we were also former Yamaguchi Gojukai members...), meeting with him and training under Aaron Banks and others. My organization came under Sensei Urban's mentorship in the seventies and the great man was a source of constant inspiration for me. The tyranny of distance eventually saw us drop out of contact, but I continue to draw that same inspiration when I think of him. He was a true legend of the modern martial arts and I am proud but to have had a moment of his time in that great life.
 
May he live on through his family and his extended USAGA family.
 
Bryson Keenan
Kyoshi, 6th Dan
(USAGA GH #257 - Goju Australia)
Jakarta, Indonesia


My first face to face meeting with Grand Master Urban was at his Fanshua Monastery Dojo in Williamstown, N.J. where he invited me to come and stay with him.  I remember ringing the door bell, and he answered with a beautiful bow and an embrace. After a short rest, he then put me through several katas and Bunkai. It was quite an experience to be in front of the Master himself.  The next day, we sat down to play a game of chess. I had been addressing him as Master Urban. He looked up and said, "From this day forth, you can call me Sensei." And I have ever since.  We had very in depth conversations about the Bible and the art of life.  When the time had come for me to leave, he took off the towel from around his neck and placed it on mine and commissioned me his Chaplain of Martial Arts.
 I  finally had a childhood dream come true.  At the age of 12, I read his book "The Karate Dojo" and trained under one of Sensei's original students who trained in the early 60's. Then in 1989, I began to correspond with Sensei Urban and in 1990, I began what Sensei Urban called my destiny. He accepted me as a student. What an honor. Up until his death we  had many memorable conversations about our Lord and Savior and the Bible. His favorite book of the Bible was the book of Proverbs.  And for you who are young, remember, your dreams can come true. Mine did. I met my Sensei and Mentor and a very special friend.  Sensei Urban was a brilliant man, a man ahead of his time. To me, he was the Einstein, the Picasso, the Beethoven, the Hemingway, the George Washington, and the General Patton of the martial arts, and much more. Yes, he was a man, not perfect in all ways, but Sensei Urban devoted his life to his art, and his students.
 
To his daughter Julia and family, my family will always be there for your family . And remember Julia, there is no love greater than that of a Father's love. For someday your father will embrace you in heaven, just as his mother, your mother, and his sister are embracing him right now.
 
To you Sensei, I say thank you for being you. I will truly miss our talks and your guidance and wisdom in the art of life. As in life or death, my loyalty will always be with the House of Urban Gojudo . I will always stay the loyal course that you asked and commissioned me to do so. To call you Sensei, I count it a great honor. But to have you call me your son, student, friend, and spiritual son, I count it the greatest of honors.  I know I will see you someday in heaven, for sooner or later we all walk that last walk and come face to face with our Maker.  
My fellow Goju brothers, today is truly now. Grab life with your hands and live it as an Urban Gojudo artist of life to the fullest. May God keep you and bless you.
 
 
Hanshi David Box Jr., 10th Dan
"Sharp Shooter Woo"
URBAN GOJU HALL # 016
Box's School of Urban Goju

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