This is the second in a series of articles titled, “The Peter Urban Syndrome”.
The late GrandMaster Peter Urban was not only a Pioneer originating one of the 1st Martial Arts schools in the USA in 1959 but he was an innovator and somewhat eccentric, eclectic propagator of newer and more modern approaches to the Martial Arts.
During a period when most martial arts teachers were enamored with “tradition” and committed to following established “traditions” of their oriental predecessors, Master Urban initiated what many considered a “Sacrilege” as he began to openly deviate from much of the “traditional” mindset and practices that where at the heart of oriental culture, society, and previously had formed a major part of the foundation of oriental martial arts.
To this day, the results of this “Rebellion” are still lauded by some, lamented and criticized by others. However, this PARADIGM CHANGE began a transition in martial arts that is still in progress today; reflected later in many of the “radical” anti-tradition concepts presented by the late Bruce Lee in the 70’s, exemplified in the multiple variations of the USA GoJu style initiated by GM Urban and further advanced by his most prominent students, and has become part of the mantra that helps fuel the present “Mixed Martial Arts” phenomenon currently popular today. In contrast, many of Urban’s more radical practices have served to set problematic precedents that have resulted in serious questions concerning credibility in the MA belt ranking system.
As with any prominent figure in history, Grand Master Urban had his remarkable accomplishments along with his “demons”. With the greatest respect for his many accomplishments, and as one of his closest, long term Senior Students, I have no illusion that this man was a Saint or was without fault. It is the opinion of this author that only through candid, honest, and critical examination of history will we best move our martial arts forward. As Winston Churchill stated, “Those who do not learn from the history are destined to repeat it.”
It is not my intention to dwell on the past whether by romanticizing “war stories” and/or “heroes” or by condemning questionable past actions and activities. It is, however, our responsibility as adults, as Senior Masters, and present leaders of the martial arts to view all with a “critical mind”, a mind open to all possibilities but cognizant that not everything is probable, and/or profitable. Ultimately, I wish to honor one of the valuable principles taught to me by this great martial artist, “KEEP THE GOOD and DISGARD THE BAD”. It is in this spirit that I continue to examine and share, in humility and truth, “THE PETER URBAN SYNDROME”. (more…)