Peter George Urban was an American martial artist. He is considered the father of the Karate styles American Gōjū-ryū and U.S.A. Gōjū-ryū. Urban was one of only a small number of white students under Gōgen Yamaguchi. Controversially, he created an American Style of Gōjū-ryū without the permission of Yamaguchi.
Urban joined the United States Navy in 1952 and was stationed in Yokohama, Japan. He became a Karate student of Richard Kim, in 1953 at the Black Friars Gym where Kim was teaching.
One year later, Urban was transferred to Tokyo which was too far from Yokohama to continue his training with Kim, so Kim introduced Urban to teachers Masutatsu Oyama and Gogen Yamaguchi. In 1954, Yamaguchi accepted Urban as his student. Urban trained with Oyama, in 1955. In 1957, Peter Urban opened a small dojo in Tokyo, Japan, he then became the first occidental to compete in the All Japan College Karate Championships.
In 1959, Urban moved to America and opened his first Gōjū-ryū dojo in Union City, N.J. The following year he opened a school in Manhattan. Urban was responsible for establishing structured tournaments the first of these was the 1st North American Karate Championships held at Madison Square Garden in 1962.
In 1966, Urban traveled back to Japan to ask Yamaguchi for permission to create an official Goju club in America. Yamaguchi told him “no” stating that “according to Bushi-Do that no white man can achieve nirvana”. This angered Urban who also quoted Bushi-do relaying “that according to Bushi-do Japan can never lose a war”. Urban returned to America and incorporated himself as the founder of American Goju. He declared himself America’s first 10th Dan.
Urban continued to work under Richard Kim and the ButokuKai but later went on to form the U.S.A. Goju Association (U.S.A.G.A) which is still in operation today.
Peter Urban was also referred to with affection as “The Man Who Knew No Fear”. He introduced the black gi, the iron-wall defense, and the famous grab and punch attack. He introduced the American Taikyoku, the American Empi-Ha, and the Urban Kurunfa to the Goju-Ryu curriculum.
He also published many books. The most famous and world known is The Karate Dojo. He dedicated the book to Sensei Richard Kim.
I was the only one fortunate enough to train under Japan’s
big three: Oyama, Yamaguchi, and my sensei, Richard Kim