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…)
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.
SHIHAN RIC PASCETTA
…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.
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.
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!
WALK or TALK?
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.”
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade…”
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…)
“The knife cuts but it cannot cut itself; the eye sees, but it cannot see itself.”
As our individual lives unfold we begin to amass a volume of knowledge. This is a combination of “Firsthand Knowledge” along with much “Secondhand Knowledge”. I personally define “firsthand knowledge” as information that we assimilate and process further through personal experience. This is the “been there, done that” type of information that weighs heavily on our overall concept of life.
In contrast, I define “secondhand knowledge” as information we glean from other sources. Those sources begin with our family (mother, father, siblings, etc.) and then friends, associates, and later, teachers/mentors (in a more formal way). Less direct sources may include written, audio, or video material. In my opinion, it is extremely important to accurately and critically identify the source of all secondhand knowledge when weighing its credibility.
When weighing the credibility of firsthand knowledge we each have a greater tendency to give this information automatic credibility. This may well occur because our perspective of life is established on the basis of what is seen through the lens of our own eyes, not through the eyes of others. It is critical to remember that the validity of the conclusions drawn from processing any information is a function of the original and underlying premise or premises. (more…)
After many years with no contact I recently sent a few old photos to a martial arts friend, posting them on his social network page. They were of him in the ring, in a tournament organized by me, where he was in a match against one of my
Black Belt students. The photo was about 25 years old and to me it brought back memories of the ongoing sports rivalry that existed between those two excellent athletes when they were both much younger.
My friend responded graciously and we shared a brief chat online chat with some very positive interaction. It seemed like a breath of fresh air to interact with such an intelligent and accomplished individual.
I knew from other sources that he was quite accomplished in his professional life outside the martial arts. I also knew from observing him so many times in his youth that he was an extremely talented athlete with excellent skills and was a very spirited young man. It was even more encouraging to see that he had kept up with his regular and dedicated martial arts training and activities.
The following day I began receiving notifications from the social website of “comments” added to the photos I had sent. I was quite saddened and disappointed with what I read, by what had been written by him and some of his admirers. The comments were quite negative, quite involved, so I felt motivated to take the time here and address some very relevant issues that he had brought to light.
“….When someone is seeking it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything;
unable to absorb anything because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal.
Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.”
In the above quote the famous philosopher, Siddartha, contrasts “seeking” with “finding” and seems to imply that in some manner the previous cancels the latter.
In my own life I have been inspired to make it a quest to “seek the truth”. Following the logic of Siddhartha, however, would (more…)