Urban Sensei was born in Jersey City Medical Center, 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 Jujutsu and American Boxing. He graduated from Emerson High School in Union City, NJ in 1952 and thereafter joined the United States Navy.
US Navy duty in Japan
While stationed in Yokohama, Japan as a decoder for the intelligence division, Urban Sensei discovered his calling, the martial arts. In 1953, Urban began his apprenticeship with Richard Kim Sensei and later became his “Uchi – Deshi” (house student).One year later, he was transferred to Tokyo which was far from Yokohama to continue his training with Kim Sensei, therefore he introduced Urban Senseito teachers Masutatsu Oyama, founder of the Kyokushin-Kaiand Gogen Yamaguchi, founder of Zen Nippon Goju-Kai.This was unheard of for a non-Japanese person at that time.
In 1954, Yamaguchi Sensei accepted Urban as his student. Urban trained with Oyama, Sensei in 1955.
In 1956, Urban’s reputation and knowledge granted him the right to train the 212th Military Police Corps in Tokyo. In 1957, he was chosen by Yamaguchi Sensei to participate in the prestigious 1st all Japan Collegiate Championship.In 1958, Urban marries a lovely Japanese woman, Mieko Ito of Yokohama and leaves Japan in 1959 as a 5th degree black belt which was granted by Yamaguchi, Sensei.
Return to the US
In 1959, Urban Sensei moved to America and opened his first GōJu Ryū DoJo on 13th Street and Summit Avenue in Union City, N.J. At the same time, he also taught at the Hoboken YMCA. He continues to develop and hone his teaching methods and training philosophies and had reasoned that America should have its own karate system much the same way the Japanese have theirs. 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. During the 1960s, Urban Sensei taught at various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the most renowned being the Chinatown Dojo at 213 Canal Street, NY, NY. By 1964, Urban Sensei 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.
1964 visit to Japan
In 1963-64, Urban Sensei traveled back to Japan to seek Yamaguchi Sensei’s consent to create an official GoJu Ryu club in America and planned to remain for several years hoping to obtain higher rank. Yamaguchi Sensei 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 Sensei returned to San Francisco and spent time training with Richard Kim, Sensei; who promoted Urban, Sensei to 6th degree black belt. Due to these circumstances, Urban not out of need for notoriety or arrogance, but for the love of country, proclaimed himself Grandmaster, (10th degree), and founder of his own, “American Goju Karate System.” His contributions to American Martial Arts were monumental in many respects.He dared to break the mystique closely guarded by the Japanese and led America in its abilities to expand, experiment and grow in the world of martial arts, thus this pioneer envisioned and saw through his dream for America to become a land of seekers, not followers.
The next year Sensei Urban, a gifted writer, would self-publish his now famous, "The Karate DoJo," 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.
Back in the US
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 today.
Several students have been given permission by Urban to teach and continue to propagate the Urban System.Sensei 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, Manny Saavedra, founder of Sansei Goju-Ryu, Chaka Zulu, founder of ZuJitsu-Ryu, Carlos Paris, founder of Yoshi 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, Steve Malanoski, founder of Shoru GojuJitsu Kai, Dayton Guinee, founder of American Heritage Goju Karate-Do, James Chellemi, founder of New York Goju Karate Association, Frederick Ingham, founder of Bermuda Goju, Orlando Soto, Sr. founder of Golden Fist Goju-Ryuand more.
Notables who have trained with Sensei are: Khemforia Padu, David McConnell, Gerald Orange, Robert Jones, Edward Verycken, Edward Doyle, Thomas Boddie, Ulysses Edwards, George Mattews,Earl Monroe, Louis Delgado, John Giordano, John Waples, Orlando Soto, Sr., Owen Watson, Earl Woodbury, Hanni Sakas, Gianfranco Giacometti, Walter Parks, John Hooker, Keith Teller, Kevin McGrath, James Price, William Myers, Rick Diaz, Barry Hankerson, Walter Tigner, Shelton Willkerson, Thomas Bennett, James Zeno, Wilfredo Roldan, Michael Robinson, William Grady, Kevin Grady, Henry “Butch” Williams, Balfour Wright, Ray Hermann, Sinclair Throne, Fidel Montalban, Claudio Gonzalez, Joe Lopez, Joe Hess, Garry Gascoyne, Aaron Banks, Chuck Merriman, Walter Platt and more.
Sensei’s undergraduate studies were accomplished through the auspices of the USA Armed Forces Institute through the University of Maryland and Anacostia, Washington, D.C.He also studied at Sophia Jesuit University of Tokyo.He achieved his first doctorate in Metaphysics from Brownell University and a second doctorate in Behavioral Psychology.
In his later years, Urban still was able to privately teach and give valuable advice.His last creation, The Fight Schools Network, was kept together by his monthly newsletters, “Urban Speaks” and his web site www.americangoju.com. As per Sensei Urban's wishes expressed in his last will and testament, dated Tuesday, 1 July 2003, “The question I always get is who takes my place or fills my shoes or takes over when I am gone.I shall give you his name now: ‘MR. NEMO’ will be the supreme founding grand patriarch when my time come.In the ancient Latin language, the word (Nemo) means nobody.Yes, that is correct.I have raised each and everyone of you to be your own person and that your personal dojo and your personal students will always be untouchable but you.They are your life’s work as you are still part of my beloved life’s work……. Only a democracy can follow my work.The College of Hanshis will form the government that follows a founder in this way only: ‘MAJORITY RULES.’”
Sensei’s final location was in Massachusetts where he envisioned what would have been his last dojo to be called: “The Omega Dojo.” Unfortunately, his vision was never realized as he passed away on April 7, 2004, due to heart failure at age 69.