The “PETER URBAN SYNDROME”

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This article is one of a series focused on issues currently challenging those who have benefited from both the multitude of positive Martial Arts contributions of the late Patriarch of USA GoJu, Peter Urban, and also those who have suffered from some of the negative practices and abuses connected with those who have studied, practices, taught, or associated with this MA Pioneer and his followers. This series is not intended to defame or attack anyone personally, but is solely the opinion of the author, based on his personal experiences, observations and conclusion. BE ADVISED, Enter with a critical mind.

Shihan Pascetta & GM Urban revising USA GoJu Curriculum - Padova, Italy _ Circa 1977

Today I responded to a post on the Facebook Page: “U.S.A.G.A. Urban System of America GoJu Association“. This post by a U.S.A.G.A.member stated: “It’s time for you to take over U.S.A.G.A….”. Since I take this subject very seriously, I subsequently wish to share the contents of my response to anyone interested in the subject of USA GoJu. Please read below an edited and more thoroughly revised version.

U.S.A.G.A. Urban System of America GoJu Association: Thank you for the kind compliment and expression of trust. However, USAGA is not mine to “take over”. If I was so foolish to attempt that, I would be no different than those others who seem bent of reliving the past, taking advantage of Peter Urban’s legacy, in the face and on the backs of so many other legitimate USA GoJu Masters, a few Senior to me and many Junior to me.

Peter Urban personally taught me that the first step in organization was to label everything “accurately” and the operative word here is “accurately”. No matter how much we wish to romanticize the past, we can never change reality or re-write history.

I strongly suggest that we apply this principle and apply the most “accurate label” to one of the most significant things Peter Urban dedicated his time and attention to until his death. Before anyone could even consider using U.S.A.G.A. as another martial arts organization, he must first “label it accurately“.

Let’s first examine and acknowledge the irrefutable acts we have been witness too. U.S.A.G.A. belonged to Peter Urban and Peter Urban alone. There will never be another Peter Urban. He left us a wealth of valuable information and ideas if we will have the courage to act on those ideas. He did not leave us an “organization”.

If you knew him, truly listened to him, and even read his last will and testament, you cannot miss coming to the conclusion that U.S.A.G.A. was given to us by Peter Urban as way for “Alumni” to interact in a civil and constructive manner. It was never a structure to award rank, belts, titles, or advancement.

There was no standard curriculum in U.S.A.G.A., and no organizational structure. Many of us, his senior students, tried to establish one, however you judge it, he always undercut and/or disassembled whatever we devised. In the entire history of U.S.A.G.A. Peter Urban only appointed two “Directors” other than himself (they were Shihan William Liquori (Florida) and Shihan Ric Pascetta (New Jersey)). However, even these “Directors” were given limited powers of authority and all efforts to organize U.S.A.G.A. like other martial arts organizations were resisted and/or refused by GM Urban. No one else in the entire history of U.S.A.G.A. has ever been elevated to an executive level.

So, let’s stop pretending that U.S.A.G.A. ever was a martial arts “organization” or ever could be one after the clear and definite precedents set by its creator and founder, GM Peter Urban. Let’s apply Urban’s own principle and “label it accurately”. U.S.A.G.A. was and still is a SOCIAL NETWORK of USA GoJu practitioners established by GM Urban long before “social networks” became popularized by the Internet. Nothing more, nothing less!

Any diplomas, ranks, certificates, titles, or awards have NEVER been issued under the authority of U.S.A.G.A.. They have been issued under the authority, credibility, and reputation of Grand Master Peter Urban, himself. If you have doubt, then examine the multiple names for his school, group, or “association” that he used and changed over and over through the years. It is documented, the list is exhausting, and U.S.A.G.A. was only one of them. All anyone has to do is to look at names on the various certificates and “recognition” awards he regularly sent by mail. Read he many newsletters, “Urban Speaks“. None were never consistently U.S.A.G.A. or any other “organizational” name. The only thing consistent in the formal documents issued by Peter Urban was his signature and thumb print!

The significant point here is for us to stop the abusive use of U.S.A.G.A. for the personal gain of any one individual or faction of USA GoJu. Further, to stop the abusive issuing of rank certification, titles, and appointed positions under the illusion that it is from a structured martial arts organization alleged to be in existence for 40-50 years. That is simply not the truth.

Yes, Peter Urban formed his own unique and constantly version of martial arts beginning years ago. He most consistently called it USA GoJu. Yes, he created a network of students, instructors, associates, friends, and fans that he called U.S.A.G.A., along with multiple other names that came to his imagination at any particular time. Anyone who was there to witness this activity and behavior, and is not afraid to share the truth, will confirm the validity of these statements of fact.

So any attempts to “take over” U.S.A.G.A. by me or anyone else would be to perpetuate a lie and constitute unethical practices. I further suggest that if the self appointed, so called “leaders” who are presently attempting to portray themselves as our “leaders” of U.S.A. GoJu and/or U.S.A.G.A. would form their own legitimate martial arts organization under their own names, rather than attempt to steal Urban’s legacy, we would all see somewhat quickly how adept they actually are at forming, structuring, organizing, and operating a real association.

This legacy called U.S.A.G.A. belongs to each of us who has paid our dues over the years and endured to remain active with our individual versions of what Peter Urban taught. THAT IS U.S.A.G.A., nothing more, nothing less.

I call for all USA GoJu practitioners to assert their rights and refuse to participate in action, or group, or leader that tries to make U.S.A.G.A. anything different than Peter Urban intended. Let us, instead enjoy our social interaction, exchange ideas and even training openly, and support those true USA GoJu leaders who have worked so hard to form legitimate Associations, Dojos, or groups of instructors, set solid standards, and continue to act on and develop the legacy left to us by Peter Urban.

Further, I call upon all USA GoJu Black Belts to refuse any “rank advancement” under the guise of U.S.A.G.A.. Let the value of any certification be judged upon the credibility and reputation of the Master who signed it. Don’t be fooled simply because someone started his martial arts activity many years ago. Seniority can only be a limited measure of a Master’s credibility and is often used to hide the real truth of that person’s limited activity during years of his alleged practice, or even his/her poor to mediocre accomplishments during his alleged long years in martial arts.

If any such issuer of advancement certification has compromised their standards, then let them and their followers personally reap the loss of credibility that results from such unethical activity. If issued under the banner of an organization, I caution all to be prudent, to examine if, in fact, that organization truly exists beyond a fancy facade. Examine closely what is it’s documented history and reputation, (not the solely the self serving propaganda supplied on its website or literature), and that is not simply a scheme to mask the actions of some individuals who may hide behind the facade of a grandiose names and inflated, quasi-fraudulent certifications.

In this way serious students and true “Masters” of USA GoJu may stand together and further “TRUTH, JUSTICE, and THE AMERICAN GOJU WAY!”

“…AND THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT!” ©

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  • Armando Colbourne says:

    Agree, this is the consensus of all American Goju practitioners that I know.

  • Pete Ticali says:

    If I were a man of few words.. I would simply say: Ric you are correct !, but being that it's me…I'll need a add a few (LOL)Ric, you certainly have the time and tenor, there is no question; But anyone who really understands, realizes there are at minimum three evolutions of USA Goju. Ultimately Urban never built an "organization. His was a house of Leaders, not followers! whetger he called it USA Goju, USGA, The college of Senseisl & Dans, LaScala Del Goju, etc. etc. Titles were titles. For three years I was his Consigliare… Yes, officially! In my "official" capacity I tended to a war or two, some "changes" of Goverment…, and had several indepth conversations with him discussing "all of the above". Ultimately, I think he thought himself the swordsmith, and then worked his hardest at burning those he cared for most… just to temper the steel!..
    Good memories, Bad memories it doesn't really matter. Today Is NOW! move on, and tell everyone you meet proudly where you came from! One day, I, (and others) will write the book, but not until all included have ceased to be.

    • rpascetta says:

      Thanks, Master Tacali, for your input and insight. We, and many others, have come to the same or very similar conclusions. The issue at hand is whether a handful of relatively unqualified individuals will continue to capitalize on the charisma and influence of this very unique pioneer or others will see those type of actions for what they actually are.

      I say "unqualified" not because some of them lack "time in grade" or "rank" but because those trying to place this over the rest of us (who were and are a part of the U.S.A.G.A. legacy of Peter Urban) have spent an entire career without ever functioning in any martial arts administrative capacity and barely, if at all, could keep their own tiny dojos up and running. Yet, somehow they portray themselves to the younger generations as "Leaders" destined to "move U.S.A.G.A. and USA GoJu forward". The worse part is the use of exaggerated rank certifications to facilitate this. The last thing we need in USA GoJu or any martial art is more "inflation". Hasn't the value of "Black Belt" been diluted enough????

      Already, there have been exaggerated advancements doled out between "Masters" who have never even met, much less trained together, all under the guise of "U.S.A.G.A.". The sad truth that most of us refrain from speaking openly about is but there probably are more alleged 8th, 9th, and 10th Dans in "USA GoJu" than White Belts. I firmly believe we need to police our own house and openly confront this travesty. What is done in darkness will be exposed in the light.

      We are not children any more and there is no excuse for this. We all have our faults and, GOD knows, Peter Urban had his fair share. But we as men and alleged, "senior Masters" have the responsibility to learn from those faults, not use past errors as an excuse to perpetuate failed practice, failed procedures, and/or failed ethics. For those reasons I am motivated to stay relevant and reach out to all of our GoJu brothers and sisters who have a stake in the credibility of our common system of martial arts, asking them to stand with me and refute this type of nonsense wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head.

  • James Price says:

    Well spoken comments, and so true regarding
    In 1999, shortly after creating his "Fight Schools Network" patch for the new millennium, Maestro told me that he wanted to "phase out" [over time, as our uniforms were replaced] the U.S.A.G.A. back patch as well as his "G" patch that many of us wore on our gi. He felt that his beloved new "Fight Schools Network" patch could stand alone, and was all that was needed on our gi to represent our unity and brotherhood in his USA Goju Karatedo. I thought that he told others about this phasing out the patches and the use of the U.S.A.G.A., but I may be mistaken.
    Keep Punching,
    James Price, Webmaster to Peter Urban's U.S.A. Goju Karate, Fight Schools Network. http://americangoju.com

    • rpascetta says:

      Thank you, James, for your valuable input. Most of us know that you played a significant role in witnessing many of the things Sensei did in the latter years of his career. I think that you will agree though, that he changed his mind quite regularly, in part, evidenced by the numerous name changes of his particular favored group at the moment. Whether any of us liked this behavior or not is less significant at this point than it is to acknowledge this behavior of his in order to truly understand its significance to us today, now that he is gone. We all owe a thank you to you for shouldering the majority of the burden in creating and maintaining a website that preserves at least some of the history of his choices and actions toward the latter part of his martial arts career. If I can be of any assistance to you toward that end, please don't hesitate to reach out. I beleive you have my number and, if not, please send me an email and I will give it to you. GOD bless and keep kicking. 🙂

      PS: Please visit the U.S.A.G.A. URBAN SYSTEM OF AMERICA GOJU ASSOCIATION on Facebook and feel free to add your comments, photos, or any other pertinent information. You will see that this page is set to be used as a SOCIAL NETWORK group, and not a MA "organization" to issue rank, titles, positions, etc. We already have enough of those, some more credible and some less. Please help us to clarify further that U.S.A.G.A. as a typical MA organization is non-existant, no one of us has the right to claim that now. But as a SOCIAL NETWORK is alive and well, and a potentially valuable tool, open to all of us, not limited or controlled by any one "leader" or "faction" of USA GoJu.

  • Pete Ticali says:

    Ric, (and all)… Forgive the italian/american politically incorrectness (lol); but I have always noted Martial Arts (especially ours) is a Family business. We probably should have never let it leave the control of the "made" families. This is my way of being jovial while agreeing that Big networks don't necessarily mean Good networks.

    When its all said and done. Each's reputation preceeds them. There may have been a time when "knowing the Sensei was enough to know the student"; but now a days, "seeing the student, speaks volumes about the Sensei" (assuming the teacher is even a Sensei??)

    A small bit of advice for readers…….Whom you associate speaks volumes about who you are……. I suggest stay solo, unless you are honored to be among the company!
    With Courtesy and Respect….

    • rpascetta says:

      Thank you again, Pete, for you input and insights. It’s no problem from my direction over your choice of not using formal addresses or titles. My take on all those practices has always been that the primary value of being addressed “formally” should only serve to remind the recipient of their position of responsibility and trust, and their obligation to live up to that role.

      I certainly agree with your advice, “Whom you associate speaks volumes about who you are…..”.

      Now concerning, “We probably should have never let it leave the control of the "made" families.” Seriously, WE were never in the position to make the choice who could or could not control USA GoJu. That was a choice made by GrandMaster Urban while he was alive and it seemed he was more interested in his own personal gains, interest, and agenda than how any of it would affect us. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t benefited from his significant contributions, however, many of his choices were “inherited” by those who are the most serious and accomplished of his students and were not beneficial to us. His choices were placed upon us with little or no regard for our input or interests.

      We either accepted those choices or were cast aside and excluded from anything further. During the life of Peter Urban, he never treated USA GoJu as a “Family business”. Although he shared parts with many, some more and some less, he treated it as his own property to be used, and/or disposed of at his any and every whim. Anyone who was close enough for long enough has his/her own version of this same story.

      I also agree that “Big network” does not necessarily equate with “Good network”. The name, U.S.A.G.A. and numerous other names GM Urban assigned to his “network” expanded in numbers, in part because of his charisma, in part because of his knowledge, but to a larger part because he included almost everyone and anyone who he might believe would benefit him, personally, at the moment.
      These individuals included everyone from very serious and loyal martial arts students, those who were there to gain access to easy recognition, those who were there to gain access to easy rank advancement, those who would supply him with food, lodging, or financial support, and to even those who would supply him with alcohol and/or drugs, or merely spend some time playing chess with him. Ultimately, his “reward” to most of them for their contributions was some form of certificate of recognition from the “GrandMaster”. A very few seriously trained with him with any consistency over any long time period, a few more sporadically trained with him, and a large number did little of no training with him of any significance, especially from the 80’s onward. I have personally witnessed and also spoken with numerous others who have verified these relevant truths.

      I certainly appreciate tremendously all the positive methods, ideas, ingenious inventions, sometimes remarkable insights, and much great inspiration that emerged from this remarkable man. However, if we are going to truly learn from this Icon of American Karate and to pay full respect and honor to his legacy, we need to be honest about ALL that he was, not just the romantic tales falsely sweetened by saccharin coated “war stories”.

      It’s long overdue we begin to review the legacy left by the Grand Patriarch through our now, mature and open eyes, not through the rose colored glasses of youth. It’s long overdue we begin to recognize the “family secrets” are not so secret and discuss them openly, intelligently, and fairly to all involved. Only in this manner will the true and full benefit of the life and legacy of the founder be beneficial to those who were touched by his actions. If not, we risk to only perpetuate a bunch of nonsense in place of the things that have been so valuable to so many of us.
      Your comment on “stay solo” is also spot on. However, if one chooses to remain in that capacity then let’s also recognize and call it what it is, specifically with regard to all the high level ranks and status claimed by so many coming from the USA GoJu “network”.

      LET’S BE REAL, my GoJu brothers and sisters. The primary justification for any Dan level above 4th Dan is development, inspiration, and supervision of Black Belt students who are junior. Peter Urban himself stated, “If you want to learn something well, study with a “Master”, if you want to master it, teach it!”
      Fourth Dan represents a junior Master, someone who has enough “mastery” or understanding of the body of information of any particular system along with skills he was taught, in order to teach it. It is the first significant “teaching grade”. Clear evidence of this level is not simply time or personal skills but the proof is in the Black Belt students or students this person has directly produced and their quality level represents his quality level as a teacher.

      Fifth Dan represents a “senior Master”, or seasoned Master who can only have arrived at that after having produced numerous Black Belts students (not adopted them or promoted someone else’s students) and has supervised, motivated them, and mentored them to learn, achieve, and become leaders of those junior to them.

      The primary justification for any Dan levels, 6th Dan, 7th, and 8th Dan is dependent upon the organization, leadership, and development of other Master level teachers who are junior to them. This does not happen overnight and certainly does not legitimately happen as a reward for joining someone else’s network. How can one be a “Captain” in the army then join the Navy as an Admiral???? Purely nonsense and specious logic!!!

      The only justification of Dan levels, 9th and/or 10th Dan are Patriarchal positions arrived at only AFTER one has demonstrated all the prior activities and the subsequent result is an established organization created and/or lead by them that is documented by the lives, skills, and accomplishments of those Black Belt, Master level students who have been mentored by such “Patriarchs”. For most this process takes close to a lifetime. It doesn’t happen because tomorrow one decides to call his activity by some newly created name. It doesn’t happen because 10 comes after 9, or 9 comes after 8, and/or since one hasn’t been promoted for a while he gets pushed to the next belt level.

      Some people will just never become a Vice President or the President of the company he’s worked within most of his career. And if he believes that he should be there after so many years, simply forming his own business may give him the same “title”, however, until he achieves the same level of success as his previous company (if ever and probably many years later), no one would be so foolish to equate the two.
      If anyone of us is unwilling to accept at least these very general, minimum standards, including whatever activities, curriculum, physical accomplishments necessary to achieve those milestones, then we must also admit that the high ranks being claimed are little more than smoke a mirrors, merely inflated illusions based on little more than pieces of inexpensive paper. Without such standards those high ranks simply represent a bunch of “wannabee Generals” with no army, perhaps overseeing a small bunch of “Privates”,… maybe a few “Sergeants”?…. and maybe a “Lieutenant” or two, but no “Captains”, no Colonels much less any 1 Star, 2 Star, or 3 Star “Generals” that legitimately represent a true “Command”.

      Shakespeare once wrote, “There is nothing more common that the wish to be remarkable”. Unfortunately, we must sadly admit that too many of our dear GoJu brothers (and other martial artists) claiming such exalted status are little more than old men now who have began martial arts many years ago but now in the winter of their careers have still not accomplished a fraction of what was listed above.
      They are “remarkable “ in one sense and some to be commended fairly for their long dedication to staying involved with martial arts for so long. GOD bless them and be fair to acknowledge that legitimately remarkable accomplishment not achieved by average effort. Please though, let’s not kid ourselves because a “Private” or “Sergeant” or even a “Lieutenant” who has spent 30 years as soldier in the military (perhaps even was a decorated soldier) is NOT a 4 Star General, and likely never will be.

  • Glenn Perry says:

    Powerful words and stated very well! Hopefully with time enough people will read what is being said here and open up for the "Reality Check". I myself will send this link to a couple dojo leaders I know in the hopes they we reflect as I will be doing over the weekend.

    "Nothing Is Yours If You Can't Give It To Someone Else"

    Chi'en

    • rpascetta says:

      Thank you, Sir.

      I was inspired to write this series in order to bring attention to some very serious mistakes I beleive have been happening in martial arts and even more so in USA GoJu. It is not my intention to contend with other martial artists, however, whenever and wherever honorable men will not stand for truth and integrity, then evil will prevail. Since this series I have been blocked from several Facebook pages and the page on which I first responded to the initial inquiry has been temporarily shut down while I defend my right and all other USA GoJu members to continue to use the U.S.A.G.A. name given to us by GM Urban. On one hand, it is a waste of effort and gives too much attention to the wrong people to make too much fuss, however, since the "leader" of this less than credible group has "registered" the U.S.A.G.A. without the authority of GM Urban, shortly after his death, and under false pretense and inaccurate information submitted on the Trademark application, I feel it is important to shed the light of truth on this travesty before the illegitimate use of this name becomes too rooted to be rescinded.

      This is not simply a problem that exists in USA GoJu, but since this is so close to home for me and so many that I respect, I beleive we must first clean our own house. I have no illusion that we will ever changed the "fakers" or the once legit practitioners who have lowered their ethics in a desperate attempt to inflate their own accomplishments. However, I have found that the best way to expose something that is counterfeit is to place something "real" right next to it. Those who wish to be part of fantasy and are uninterested in seeking the highest standards will easily be swayed towards nonsense. Those who are interested in setting and achieving the highest standards for themselves and their students will always check more critically before involving themselves in substandard and or less than ethical nonsense. Ultimately, each will get what they seek.

      Subsequently, in that spirit I continue to speak with truth and clarity, especially about the issues that affect me, my students, and associates the most. Whenever one of us lowers our standards and accepts less that credible practices, it reflects on the rest. Those who will not compromise their integrity or their standards loose part of what they have worked so hard for and those who function under the principles of "smoke and mirrors" gain, not from their own hard work but from being inaccurately viewed as the same as those who have paid the price to do what is right. I have restrained myself from naming names, however, people are not blind nor stupid, unless they don't want to see or admit the facts.

      I am confident with time that all that is done in darkness will be exposed in the light. Thank you for helping share this vision and contributing toward what, I pray, becomes a grassroots movement to RESTORE INTEGRITY, HONOR and RESPECT to the Martial Arts. Our best influence will be through our own actions first, within our own groups second, and then stand as a testimony to influence the others. For those others reading these words and knowing that this issue points directly to your behavior, change you ways, acknowledge your errors in judgment, and return to the principles that have made Martial Arts so powerful. If not, shame on you.

      Thank you again, Master Perry for your support. Grace and peace to you.