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.

GrandMaster Peter Urban, ICMA Convention, NYC


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…)


Where do we go from here?

The following is an article submitted by a guest author, Manny Saavedra, Hanshi. He is the HeadMaster and Founder of the World Sansei GoJu organization, headquartered in Miami, Florida. He is one of the Senior Masters who’s roots began in USA GoJu as a student of GrandMaster Peter Urban. He founded the Sansei GoJu organization in 1979 at the same time I began my work on A.G.K.A.I. and has established one of the most credible GoJu-ryu international organizations in the world. I am blessed to call  him my friend and GoJu brother.

We are honored to have him as a guest author at MARTIAL ARTS INSIDER, and I am blessed to benefit from the wisdom of his counsel. Please enjoy the article and feel free to comment and/or pose questions at the end in the comment section after this article. Our BLOG is set up to be interactive and he will be able to respond directly to any inquiry as his busy schedule permits.


Hanshi Manny Saavedra - WORLD SANSEI

…the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.

As a visual reference, a family tree is an excellent way to think about the connections between individuals, especially in large families. Historians often create a family tree, especially when they are looking at the history of royal dynasties, to follow the paths of allegiance and relation between various nations. A family tree can illustrate what exactly a second cousin is, for example, or show you the precise relationship between yourself and your step-great-aunt. In historical situations where families have tended to intermarry, a family tree can sometimes get confusing, and the linear nature is corrupted by lines which appear to sprout in all directions. So it is that we do the same in Karate.

For us in karate, a family tree showcases the connections and history of a family system. Most of us are proud of their relationships to famous these figures, and are delighted to have a family tree illustrating that point. The family tree can serve as a small history lesson of the family, showing the various origins of different members of the family, along with the children (students) they had and when they lived. It can also serve as a memory prompt, because seeing the family member’s name can bring out other pieces of the individual’s history, such as what he or she did that was distinctive or remarkable.

The Art above the Artist

For a tree to proliferate the branches must grow to gather nutrients for the trunk. There are no favorite branches and all are loved, all are part of the living tree. Some branches will survive the winter, some the rain, some will bend with the wind and some will break. Some of the branches will plant seeds. All are needed and are viewed as part of the one, part of the Toa, the natural order of life. It is within this natural order of life that all things must follow, and we as USA Goju lineage must learn to work together one way or another. (more…)



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.



A CALL to ARMS to all Martial Artists

This post is the first in a series of articles under the topic; “Restoring INTEGRITY, HONOR, and RESPECT to the Martial Arts”. Nothing written here is intended as an indictment against any particular individual and/or organization. It is simply an effort to shed the light of truth on some very significant practices and emerging “norms’ that appear to have begun to undermine many of the most positive benefits of martial arts activity. If we, the passionate practitioners and alleged “LEADERS” of the Martial Arts do no stand together for TRUTH, JUSTICE, and INTEGRITY, then we will continue to see the degradation of those things which have benefited us greatly and the subsequent disappearance of the fruits of those noble predecessors who sacrificed much so that we can enjoy what we have today. Please join in the discussion, constructively, and positively. There can be strength in numbers, however, history has shown us that even a few passionate and determined patriots can ignite the brushfires of a justifiable revolution. Let us work together to establish and maintain Might for Right!

Shihan Pascetta - training at traditional GoJu-ryu Dojo, Okinawa - Circa 1987


As I have previously contended, the difference between Martial “Technique” and Martial “Art” is that with Martial Arts training there exists the uniquely specific opportunity for the inclusion of all areas of development of the full human potential: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual.  The hypothetical search for balance and harmony between these human aspects and the noble principles learned are implied by the term “DO” (DAO), sometimes translated/interpreted as the “WAY” or “PATH”. (Please do not confuse this “Philosophy” with the “Religion” named, “Daoism”, although there may exist some parallels.)

We, however, as martial arts practitioners and alleged leaders have a much greater responsibility to “WALK the  WALK”, not just “TALK the TALK”. As with many other human endeavors, our flowery words sound wonderful and can be inspiring to many. The primary issue presented along with these “ethics” is the challenge to each of us to put our high sounding words and philosophy into ACTION.  “Congruous ACTION forms the substance of any alleged philosophy.”



MMA – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Part 2

The following article (Part 2 of a 2 part series) was inspired by a number of comments posted by a serious Black Belt instructor who studied with one of my direct students and then expanded the ground aspect of his own MA experience by studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I have slightly modified some of the excerpts from my responding comments in order to share the content of our discussion with our general readers.

This instructor explained the challenges he endured when he attempted to add an MMA program to his curriculum, subsequently resulting in a significant degree of dissatisfaction. You can find his original comments written at the end of my previous article titled, “MMA vs. Tradition – Part 4“.

In these comments submitted by my second generation student, he included the “lessons” he had learned from not so positive experience. Part 2 of this series, written below, is a continuation of my responses and remains in context with his comments.

Shihan Pascetta & Grandmaster Urban, circa 1977


Many years ago, as a young Sensei and long before the recent MMA popularity, I also made some mistakes similar to those lamented by my student’s student in Part 1 of this series. In a sincere attempt to remove what I mistook for “egoism” from my teaching I began to replace the somewhat formal structure in my dojo and began to run it more like a “coach” in a “gym”.

I became lax with dojo protocol such as exchanging courtesies (bowing, etc.) We called each other by first name and even socialized outside the dojo more like “peers”. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how significantly this began “blurring the lines” separating student and Master teacher, particularly, the responsibility to “set the example” that any strong leader and/or mentor must do and not allow himself to become “one of the boys”. (more…)


MMA – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Part 1

The following article (Part 1 of a 2 part series) was inspired by a number of comments posted by a serious Black Belt instructor who studied with one of my direct students and then expanded the ground aspect of his own MA experience by studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I have slightly modified some of the excerpts from my responding comments order to share the content of our discussion with our general readers.

This instructor explained the challenges he endured when he attempted to add an MMA program to his curriculum, subsequently resulting in a significant degree of dissatisfaction. You can find his original comments written under my previous article titled, “MMA vs. Tradition – Part 4“.

In these comments submitted by my second generation student, he began his discourse using the term “Traditional” when referring to the his use of the USA GoJu system of Martial Arts. My responses began in that context.

Shihan Pascetta - Okinawa 1987

What is “Traditional”?

The issue that I would like to point out first is a discrepancy. I am suggesting a more accurate use of the term, “traditional”. First, USA GoJu has been anything but “traditional”. It has been a hybrid system since Grand Master Peter Urban broke from Yamaguchi’s GoJu-Kai in the early 60’s. Remember that he studied under three very accomplished Masters, Richard Kim (Okinawan Shorinji-Ryu Kempo), Gogen Yamaguchi (Japanese Goju-ryu). and Masatatsu Oyama (Kyokushin, which included elements of Shotokan, GoJu-ryu, and Thai boxing).

In reality, the MA taught by GM Urban was a hybrid system. It was based on the primary and foundational concepts, principles, and kata of GoJu-ryu, yet included pertinent elements that he learned from GM Kim and GM Oyama. In addition, GM Urban was very innovative, adding his own unique flair, some that came from his own creative mind and much that resulted from some very practical research and study.

The 1st MMA

The above description is the heritage of what some presently call, USA GoJu. It was arguably one of the first real “Mixed Martial Arts” in the USA. The most profound difference, however, was this system was truly taught as a Martial “ART”, not simply a conglomeration of Martial “TECHNIQUES”. (more…)


Announcement – Site Upgrades

MAI Team

Thank you for your patience over the last few days as we have added some significant upgrades to help make our site more user friendly.

We have added an upgraded Comment system. This allows Comments and responses to remain posted together when replying directly to any comment. The Comment box will now expand as you write. There is now a feature that allows Comments to be posted directly from Facebook. It also allows for photos to be added with your Comments.

At the top right on the Side Panel you can select either English or Italian translations of our site content. Our site content is now fully bilingual with the Italian translation of each Page and Article (Post) on its own separate pages, all grouped together under the Italian section. In this way the “Comments” in Italian will also match the translated articles. (more…)


The “Street Fighter” vs. the Martial Artist

Shihan Pascetta

Have you ever been presented the question, “What would be the results in a confrontation between a “street fighter” and a martial artist?” I have been challenged with this question on many occasions along with the subsequent debate that typically follows. In the following discussion, perhaps we can shed some light on this age-old question.

Throughout my career functioning in roles as a Martial Artist, Security Operative/Consultant, as a Police Officer, and as a private citizen, I have had the opportunity to observe, experience, and record various situations which have given me a perspective that is beyond simple speculation and theory.

In any thorough discussion of this subject we must begin with the following fact of reality. First, any real life confrontation is primarily a matter between the specific individuals participating along with the logistical factors that may influence the results.

When we begin to change these variables, then the result is also likely to change. Therefore, it is important to begin with the realization that our conclusions are more a matter of probability rather than a concrete reality. We would be in error to assume that, hypothetically, such results would remain the same in any or every occurrence.



“Secrets of the Masters” – the Three Primary Conditions

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade…”

Shihan Pascetta

As we proceed through life, each of us passes through similar stages of development. We can further subdivide each of these stages to examine Physical Development, Intellectual Development, Emotional development, and Spiritual development. These four “pillars” are the figurative “legs” that support the particular “table” that constitutes each of our lives.

For the serious Martial Artists, the overall journey ultimately becomes a quest to achieve “balance” in each area of development. This “quest” particularly distinguishes the difference between a “Martial Artist” and a “Martial Technician”.  A Martial Artist must also be a Martial Technician, however, a Martial Technician is not necessarily a Martial Artist.

This concept of balance is pursued further by the contrasting and integration between all four of these interdependent facets. The role of the MA Master is to create an atmosphere in the Dojo, along with pertinent activities, that provide a fertile environment for development of each of these four pillars. (more…)


Law Enforcement and Martial Arts – the “Best” Connection? – Part 3

…this is PART 3 and the final article of this 3 part series.

Shihan Pascetta - circa 1975

Liability Issues

A significant issue that has come to the forefront concerning LE physical encounters is that of both Criminal and Civil Liability. The proper “Use of Force” has advanced “front and center” as a primary concern. Along with other changes in the society where we presently live, this new “information age” presents unique challenges where any of us could be taped on a video with a cell phone and end up on “You Tube” within minutes of the occurrence.

Changing Society

The United States has become an ever increasing litigious society with less and less respect and consideration for the LE officer.  Many times the officer has only seconds to make a decision that may affect his safety and/or of that of others while the news media and even the courts have days, weeks, and months to scrutinize every little nuance of those decisions. Although some laws and precedents exist that provide some support for the officer who acts within the law, the experience of enduring all the public and legal scrutiny following any questionable encounter can be career changing for many officers. It can also quickly and easily undermine the credibility and effectiveness of any given LE agency. (more…)


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