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Peter Urban (karate)

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Peter Urban
Born(1934-08-14)August 14, 1934
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
DiedApril 7, 2004(2004-04-07) (aged 69)
Massachusetts, United States
StyleGōjū-ryū Father of American Goju Karate
Teacher(s)Richard Kim, Gogen Yamaguchi, Masutatsu Oyama
Rank6th Dan Japanese Gōjū-ryū Karate; 10th Dan Founder of American Gōjū-ryū Karate

Peter George Urban (August 14, 1934 – April 7, 2004) was an American martial artist. Called "The George Washington of American Karate" by Kick Illustrated magazine,[1][2] and "The Godfather of American Goju" by Official Karate magazine.[3] Urban was the founder of the karate style known as American GōJū Ryū Karate Do (USA GoJu Karate). He was one of only a small number of white students under Gōgen Yamaguchi, an early Japanese GōJū Ryū Sensei, Practitioner, and Instructor as well as the head of the style's organization, The GoJu Kai. Controversially, Urban created an American style of Gōjū-ryū without the permission of Yamaguchi who would not allow Urban to represent Japanese Karate in America as head representative for the GoJu Kai.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Urban was born in Jersey City Medical Center 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 as a boy he shined shoes and delivered the local newspaper, The Hudson Dispatch. At this point in his life he had shown an acute interest in the Martial Art Science of JiuJitsu and American boxing. He graduated from Emerson High School in Union City in 1952 and thereafter joined the United States Navy.[citation needed]

US Navy duty in Japan[edit]

Urban began studying the martial arts while serving in the US Navy in Yokohama, Japan. He apprenticed with Richard Kim in 1953 and became his Uchideshi (house student). He was transferred to Tokyo in 1954 to continue his training with Kim, who introduced Urban to teachers Masutatsu Oyama, founder of the Kyokushin Kai and Gogen Yamaguchi, founder of Zen Nippon GoJu Kai. In 1954, Yamaguchi accepted Urban as his student. Urban trained with Oyama in 1955. When he left Japan in 1959 he had advanced to 5th degree black belt, which was granted by Yamaguchi.[4][5]

Return to the US[edit]

In 1959, Urban moved to America and introduced GōJu Ryū to the east coast of U.S.[6][7] He opened his first GōJu Ryū DoJo on 14th Street and Summit Avenue in Union City, N.J.[5] The following year he shared a school in Manhattan which was owned and operated by the Lephofker brothers before moving his classes to 20 E. 17th street in NYC. By 1964, Urban relocated to downtown locations in NYC's Chinatown; Canal Street, Crosby Street, Wooster Street and Williams Street in the Financial District, respectively. Urban was also 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.[8]

1964 visit to Japan[edit]

In 1963–64, Urban traveled back to Japan to seek Yamaguchi's consent to create an official GoJu Ryu club in America and planned to remain for several years hoping to obtain higher rank. Yamaguchi refused his request and the relationship between the men fell apart. Urban quoted: “The feudal system still exists in Japan, they have lost the true spirit, their system builds blind followers and I believe karate should build seekers not followers.” Urban returned to San Francisco and spent time training with Richard Kim; who promoted Urban to 6th degree black belt.[citation needed]

in 1967, Peter Urban published his now famous, "The Karate DoJo: Traditions and Tales of a Martial Art,"[9] and by the beginning of the following year he would incorporate as, "Peter Urban Karate Inc." and would establish "USA GoJu Karate," as his DBA.[citation needed]

Back in the US[edit]

Urban continued to work under Richard Kim and the BuTokuKai but later went on to form his own U.S.A. GoJu Association (U.S.A.G.A) which is still in operation. Several students have been given permission by Urban to teach and continue to propagate the Urban System. Urban trained hundreds of well-known martial artists such as: Frank Ruiz, founder of Nisei GoJu-Ryu, Alberto Gotay, founder of World Goju, Sekwii Sha, founder of Goju Shanando, William Louie, founder of Chinese American Goju, Leon Wallace, founder of Harlem Goju, John Kuhl, founder of Combat Karate, Ron Van Clief, founder of Chinese Goju, Harry Rosenstein, founder of Kanzen Goju-Ryu, Ronald Taganashi, founder of American-Te Goju-Ryu, Manny Saavedra, founder of Sansei Goju-Ryu, Chaka Zulu, founder of ZuJitsu-Ryu, Carlos Paris, founder of Yosei Goju-Ryu, Anthony Lau, founder of Ying Yee Kwoon, Arcelio Rullan, founder of Rullan Goju-Ryu, Raymond A. Fitzpatrick, founder of Nisei Goju-Jitsu, Lou Angel, founder of Tenshi Goju-Ryu, Ric Pascetta, founder of American Goju Karate Association International, Joseph Hess, founder of Tactical GoJu, Dayton Guinee, founder of American Heritage Goju Karate-Do, James Chellemi, founder of New York Goju Karate Association, Frederick "Skipper" Ingham, founder of Bermuda Goju, Orlando Soto, Sr. founder of Golden Fist Goju-Ryu, Joseph Kelljchian, founder of USA GoJu Federation; Thomas Bennett, founder of American Reality Ryu and more.[4]


Urban received several awards, including Black Belt Magazines 2003 Hall of Fame Man of the Year.[10]


  1. ^ Kick Illustrated. October 1981. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Kick Illustrated. November 1981. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Petras, Herman (Spring 1982). "Peter Urban: The Godfather of American Goju". Official Karate Annual: 26–30.
  4. ^ a b Urban-Kimmerley, Julia L. "Grandmaster, Peter George Urban, PhD" (PDF). Nisei GoJu-Jitsu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  5. ^ a b "History of GoJu". Archived from the original on 2018-10-05. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  6. ^ Warrener, Don (2009). Goju Ryu Dictionary. Masters Martial Arts Productions. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-897307-37-3.
  7. ^ "Personal Profile of Peter Urban, The Founder of American Style Goju Ryu". Official Karate. 1969.
  8. ^ GoJu Ryu History
  9. ^ Urban, Peter (1991). The Karate Dojo: Traditions and Tales of a Martial Art (reprint ed.). Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0804817035.
  10. ^ Morse, Ella (January 2004). "Man of the Year". Black Belt: 146.

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