Peter Urban (karate)

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Peter Urban
Born (1934-08-14)August 14, 1934
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Died April 7, 2004(2004-04-07) (aged 69)
Massachusetts, United States
Style Gōjū-ryū Karate
Teacher(s) Richard Kim, Gogen Yamaguchi, Masutatsu Oyama
Rank 6th Dan Japanese Gōjū-ryū Karate; 10th Dan Founder of American Gōjū-ryū Karate

Peter George Urban (Aug 14, 1934 - Apr 7, 2004) was an American martial artist. He is considered the father of the Karate styles American Gōjū-ryū and U.S.A. Gōjū-ryū. Urban was one of only a small number of white students under Gōgen Yamaguchi. Controversially, he created an American Style of Gōjū-ryū without the permission of Yamaguchi.

I was the only one fortunate enough to train under Japan’s big three: Oyama, Yamaguchi and my sensei, Richard Kim[1]

—Peter Urban

Early life[edit]

Urban was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on August 14, 1934. He lived a short while in Altoona, Pennsylvania then was raised and educated in Union City, New Jersey where he graduated from Emerson High School in 1952.[2]

US Navy duty in Japan[edit]

Urban joined the United States Navy in 1952 and was stationed in Yokohama, Japan. He became a Karate student of Richard Kim, in 1953. One year later, Urban was transferred to Tokyo which was too far from Yokohama to continue his training with Kim, so Kim introduced Urban to teachers Masutatsu Oyama and Gogen Yamaguchi. In 1954, Yamaguchi accepted Urban as his student. Urban trained with Oyama, in 1955.[3] In 1957, Peter Urban opened a small dojo in Tokyo, Japan, he then became the first occidental to compete in the All Japan College Karate Championships. In 1958, Urban met and married Mieko Ito.[2][3]

Return to the US[edit]

In 1959, Urban moved to America and opened his first Gōjū-ryū dojo in Union City, N.J. The following year he opened a school in Manhattan. Urban was responsible for establishing structured tournaments with the use of a point system in America. The first of these was the 1st North American Karate Championships held at Madison Square Garden in 1962.[4]

1964 Visit to Japan[edit]

In 1966, Urban traveled back to Japan to ask Yamaguchi for permission to create an official GoJu club in America. Yamaguchi told him "no" stating that "according to Bushi-Do that no white man can achieve nirvana".[2] This response angered Urban who also quoted Bushi-do relaying "that according to Bushi-do Japan can never lose a war". This statement offended Yamaguchi. Realizing this and not meaning any disrespect, Urban prepared to cut off his pinky finger in apology to his sensei. Yamaguchi's oldest son stopped him from doing this; however, the damage was done.[4] Urban returned to America and incorporated himself as the founder of American Goju.

Back in the US[edit]

Urban continued to work under Richard Kim[5] and the ButokuKai but later went on to form the U.S.A. Goju Association (U.S.A.G.A) which is still in operation today.

Several students have been given permission by Peter Urban to teach. However, the USA GoJu Organization has been fragmented into many factions and divisions due to infighting.


Urban died naturally on April 7, 2004 at the age of 69. At the time of his death he was working on opening a new karate dojo in Massachusetts.


External links[edit]