How would it "track" with you if you bought a full price gold chain at the jewelry store and you later found it was copper with thin gold plating? What would your wife or GF say if you got her a "diamond" ring that turned out to be CZ? Or we've all heard of people that claim they are sick with cancer so they can defraud people out of charity. They all point to the same thing: inuring unearned benefits to the person perpetrating the fraud.
Originally Posted by giftedamateur
If this guy has been advertising himself as highly ranked and selling services to military and police, then everyone that's paid taxes to support the agency has been ripped off. No matter how nice a guy he is, he's a fraud. He's used his trophies and bits of paper in furtherance of the fraud. Further, if he gives bad or ineffective instruction to people whose lives are on the line it could have tragic consequences.
So, it is principled and honorable to lie about your rank and certifications?
Originally Posted by giftedamateur
Would you go to a doctor who did that?
I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, or if this reply will appear as a new update to the discussion, but hopefully so. I appreciate and support the intent of this website--identifying fraudsters in martial arts--but I was disappointed to see that my instructor, Lawrence Whitaker, appeared on this thread. I am not a highly trained martial artist--I've been studying for about three years--and I am not a military veteran. I can't claim to have seen real combat experience or to have engaged in countless street fights. Having said this, I in no way believe that Master Whitaker is a fraud, and I'd like to offer a bit more information about his training and (hopefully) to clear his name. As for Eric Golden, I don't know him and won't say anything about him one way or the other.
Let me begin by acknowledging that the Urban Defense website is not well maintained, nor is the Napthali USA website that is linked. Admittedly these websites do look a little "iffy," and if I were just someone investigating this matter through the Internet, I'd probably raise an eyebrow as well.
After being attacked on the way home from work a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to pursue some self-defense training. I live in downtown Philadelphia, and there are a fair number of options out there, many of them good, I'm sure. I stumbled upon the Urban Defense Website, and the philosophy of the training--practical self-defense--seemed attractive to me. I don't know a lot about the history of martial arts, but I do know that there are hundreds of arts out there, and that some are better oriented to real-world defense than others, e.g, some are more tuned for sport. So based on the description of the Urban Defense program, I decided to give it a try.
After visiting the gym, I liked what I saw and decided to pursue training there--that was about three years ago, and I've been very happy with the experience thus far. The martial arts program is very small. Students come and go (as I imagine happens with a lot of programs), but at any given time we have about 3-5 people training regularly in the adult martial arts program. In addition to this program, there are also other workout classes (e.g., Tai Fit) that Master Whitaker offers to people who aren't interested in the intensity of a full-on martial arts program and the commitment required. Contrary to what was implied by another poster, the fact that Lawrence offers such additional classes does not in any way detract from the legitimacy of his MA program; it's just a way to earn some income and offer a service to people. I don't see the problem there.
As for the Urban Defense program itself and the qualifications/training of its instructors:
Master Whitaker grew up in South Philly. He's been studying martial arts for about 25 years. His first black belt was in Mongolian Kempo under Lester Kearney. I am not an avid historian of the martial arts (although I'm learning bits here and there as I go along), but like many of you I was surprised to learn that there is a Mongolian variant of Kempo. Apparently there are not a lot of people schooled in or teaching this variant, but my understanding is that at some point the art spread outward from China into Mongolia (which would make sense). There is no claim being made that Kempo is/was originally a Mongolian art. I don't know a lot about the differences between Mongolian Kempo and other forms, but the little that I know based on conversation with Lawrence and Master Kearney (who I only recently met) is that some of the footwork is a bit different and that some additional grappling elements were incorporated from the Mongols. After training with Master Kearney for a number of years, Lawrence made the acquaintance of Master Robinson, who is affiliated with the Napthali martial art. Lawrence continued his training with Master Robinson for a number of years as well. Napthali is another martial art regarding which very little information is available. Apparently, Master Robinson learned this style from his father, who learned it while being stationed in Africa in WWII. Master Robinson is really the only person teaching Napthali that I am aware of. A short history from his website is copied and pasted below:
"The Place- Tunisia and Algeria Northern Africa during World War ll.
The Person- Sgt. David N. Robinson US Army Transportation Corps Stationed in African Theater
The People- The Hebrew Daneke and Berber Tribesmen serving with the British Forces in Northern Africa
Sgt. Robinson a member of the Red Ball Express transportation corps of the United States Armed Forces while stationed in Africa was taught the basis of the Hebrew fighting style of Naphtali. The Berbers, Daneke and Ebo (of Nigeria) trained together in the military compounds and included US African American soldiers who wished to train with them. Sgt. Robinson brought that and the Pankration (Greek Fighting) which he picked up in Sicily, back to the United States 1945. After teaching the basic principles and combative techniques to his sons it was Master Robinson who took the Judah teachings and principles and combined them with a firm Christian foundation to develope a US version of the ancient African Hebrew Style of Naphtali: thus we have Naphtali USA."
Following his training with Masters Kearney and Robinson, Master Whitaker went on to study a number of additional martial arts, as noted on the Urban Defense website. For a short period of time in the early 1990s, Masters Robinson, Kearney and Whitaker trained together in a small gym in North Philly. (As an aside, apparently there was a Krav Maga program being offered there at the time by some other instructors, while Krav Maga was just gaining a foothold in the U.S. There's apparently some interesting personal history here, which I'm trying to piece together...). Thus, the reason why you see the names of Masters Kearney, Robinson and Whitaker associated with each other is 1) that Master Whitaker trained under them as a student, and 2) that when Master Whitaker had become proficient enough, he began to train students himself under their supervision.
I do not know a lot about Master Kearney's personal history, other than that he is a Vietnam veteran and that he did compete in full-contact martial arts at one point in time and was apparently fairly successful. Given that there is not a good history of the Urban Defense program written down anywhere, one thing that I'd like to do is to try and get this information down in writing. Both Master Kearney and Master Robinson are in the Philadelphia area, so I am hoping to interview them in more depth at some point about their training histories. Both are in their 70s now.
Starting in 1996, Master Whitaker broke off on his own and started his own martial arts program, called "Urban Defense," which he initially taught in Pennsport in South Philly. This is a mixed art: Lawrence took techniques from all of the different arts in which he trained, and selected and further developed those techniques that he thought would be most efficient and useful for a street situation. Yes, I know that "combative" martial arts are now trendy and yes, I recognize that there are a number of fakes and frauds out there. But from everything that I've seen and experienced over the past three years, this training is as far as I can tell "the real deal."
For the present time, I won't go into a lot of nuts-and-bolts detail about the program itself, but it includes striking (a variety of things), stand-up grappling, throws, locks (including a lot of small joint locks), and some trapping techniques that Lawrence developed--as well as some work defending against knife and gun attacks. Later in the program I will get into stick fighting. As we work on techniques, Master Whitaker will often explain the original art from which they are drawn, and/or how he has modified them. We do a little grappling and locking on the mat, but for the most part (for better or worse--I don't want to get into that whole debate) this system does not concentrate on the ground game, since in Lawrence's opinion the idea is to avoid the ground if possible, and if you wind up there, get back on your feet as quickly as you can.
Thus, Urban Defense is a young art, and in a sense it is a proprietary art: Lawrence originated it, although almost all of what's in it comes from other, more traditional arts. There are a small handful of black-belts under this program. One of them, Karin Lange, taught at the gym when I started. Karin recently moved across the country and will likely start training students soon. The other black-belts will join for class here and there but do not teach outside of the core program for now.
Regarding the claim that Masters Whitaker, Kearney and/or Robinson are somehow "frauds": I suppose that anything's possible, and should that turn out to be the case I'd be very disappointed. However, I've known Master Whitaker and Master Robinson for a few years now, and I know both as men of integrity. I have a hard time believing that either one of them would perpetrate any kind of fraud. I've only recently met Master Kearney, but the same applies to him. And, to a certain extent, even as an untrained person you can (I would assert) quickly gain a sense of whether someone knows what they're doing--after training with Lawrence for a very short period of time, and having him demonstrate techniques on me, I became confident that he knows what he is doing.
A lot of the concern about legitimacy here at Bullshido seems to relate to the degree to which an art or instructor is part of an established, well-known, and vetted art and professional organization. I understand this to a point: many people like being part of a long tradition in martial arts, as it gives a sense of identity and belonging. And having that tradition and the associated professional organizations allows one to know that they're receiving training from people who know what they're doing. I get it. But it's possible to go astray in this reasoning by jumping to the conclusion that something is fraudulent--or at least not effective--if you haven't heard of it. Remember: every martial art has to start somewhere. Every "traditional" art was once new. Many "traditional" arts are mixtures of two or more older arts. And every martial arts organization has to start somewhere and at some time. Given that Master Robinson is the only person teaching Napthali that I am aware of, it's not a surprise to me that you can't find a lot of information about the tradition of this art or its associated organizations on the Web. Does that mean that it's fraudulent? It could, but it doesn't have to--it might just mean that it is not a well-known art with few people teaching it. As for the religious parts of the Napthali website and program: yes, Master Robinson is an ordained minister and continues to be very active in the Church. This explains the more obviously spiritual/religious/metaphysical parts of his approach and some of what is listed under his background. That's fine for people who want that religious component, but that's not really my thing. However, Master Whitaker's Urban Defense program is not religious in any way--it's just focused on self-defense.
The same reasoning applies to why there is not a lot of information about the Urban Defense program: Master Whitaker started it himself 20 years ago, and right now he is the only person teaching it. There is no bilking of money going on here. Master Whitaker charges for his instruction--as he should--but his rates are very reasonable. He has always placed more emphasis on training and less on marketing (hence the website needing a little work)--this isn't about parting people from their money. Nor can you "buy" a black-belt from this system. The belt progression system is actually rather slow, and he takes his time in putting you up for tests. There are actually three ranks per belt--I'm on my third orange right now before I can proceed to test for my green. There's no rush here.
When I started training, I spoke with Master Whitaker about his training, history and certifications, just to make sure that I would be paying someone who knew what they were doing. I did not press him for details on each and every aspect of his history, nor did I do a comprehensive background check on each of the individuals and organizations listed. Perhaps some of you would have done that, but what was more important to me was that after a few lessons I enjoyed and had confidence in what I was being taught and what I saw. At some point you either trust the training or you do not. I've been fortunate in not having to put this training to the test since I started, and to a certain extent that means that one will never know whether their MA training really works until they have to prove it. But I personally am very confident in the quality of the instruction that I am receiving. This is an intense program, and we're not just hitting a bag when we go to class (although that's part of it). I've had many techniques demonstrated to (painful) effect on me, and I've had the chance to practice my techniques on others. I come home with bloody lips and callouses and bruised bones, as I'm sure that many of you do as well. This in itself doesn't automatically mean that the training works, but I guess that what I'm saying is that the training is intense enough to make me confident that I am acquiring real skills--or at least as confident as I can be without getting jumped on the street. And on that note, some of Lawrence's other students (people that I personally know) have had to put their training to the test in an actual altercation, and it has worked for them.
One final note: someone erroneously claimed above that Master Whitaker has claimed to train Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten and others. This is not correct. He never claimed to train them. Rather, he trained with them. Big difference. I can't personally verify all of these names, but I do know that the Bas Rutten connection is real--I've seen the pictures on the wall to prove it. But, for the record, other than a name on a website, it's not a connection that he tries to exploit in any way.
Bottom line, guys: I respect what you are trying to do here on this site, and who knows: maybe I'll train for another three years in this system and then suddenly find that it's all fake. But I highly doubt it. Please remember that there are real people who you're going after; people whose reputations and livelihoods are at stake. I think that some of what gets posted on this site has crossed the line over from "due diligence" into "witchhunt."
After getting started in Pennsport, the gym moved to 6th street in Northern Liberties and remained there for many years. That building was just sold, and now we train out of Trainer Hall at 6th and Spring Garden. If anyone reading is local, please stop by and judge for yourself whether the training is legitimate.
Small problem UrbanMA, Pankration was a dead art that was brought back to life in late 1960s, so how does a man learn something that didn't exist for another 25 years??
Also the ORBAT for the British Forces (First Army) within the Tunisia/Algeria campaign doesn't feature any reference to Arab forces, so unless the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had a super secret Arab battalion, I would question the claims to being trained in an indigenous North African MA, especially one which has NO ALTERNATIVE VERIFIED RECORD IN ANY FORMAT!
Btw, you ever heard the expression let sleeping dogs lie?
Good morning, Humbug,
I'm going to reply quickly to your post, but I'm not going to get into a protracted back-and-forth with you or anyone else on this site--partly because I don't have the time, and partly because I get the impression that it wouldn't make a difference what I say. Even though lip service is paid to "clearing" someone's name once it is determined that they are "legitimate" (and who decides this? and on what basis?), just from my brief reading on this site it seems to me that once you all decide that someone is a "fraud" you stick with that judgment no matter what. My post above, which I took the time to write just to provide some additional information to this group, was downvoted--I can only imagine because it doesn't fit with the narrative that you all have decided upon. I'd have you all reflect on the true purpose of this site: is it to save people from falling victims to fraud? To serve as a kind of "quality control" mechanism for the martial arts? Or is it really to feel superior to others by creating an echo chamber for confirmation bias? Something to think about. Now, my brief replies to your post:
"Btw, you ever heard the expression let sleeping dogs lie?"
I sure have, and I considered not writing my post. But there's not a lot of information out there about my instructor, and again, I've been training with him for three years and know him as a man of integrity. I also don't doubt his martial skills (although, apparently, first-hand accounts don't mean much to you guys, since you decide that the "noobs" can't judge skill and/or that they must be too biased to offer any counterpoint. Convenient...). I didn't like the fact that he was being called out as a fraud by people who don't know him, and I decided to add my 2 cents. I've wanted for a little while to try and compile some additional history about this program and its roots--my instructor is more focused on the day-to-day instruction than anything else--and hopefully I can soon answer some of these questions and lay some of these concerns to rest. But to be clear: I have nothing to hide, and I don't think that Lawrence has anything to hide either. And should something surface during my investigation that seems untoward, I would want to be the first one to know. There's a big difference between a partially documented or undocumented history on the one hand, and lies/fraud on the other. If I found that some kind of fraud were being perpetrated, then I would stop training with him on principle, regardless of how useful the techniques seem--but again, I don't think that's what's going on.
Regarding Pankration, I can only assume that you're referring to Jim Arvanitis. My instructor has mentioned him to me and I've read a little about him. Interesting example, this: So Mr. Arvanitis studies a number of different arts, then attempts to resurrect and codify Pankration, in the process utilizing elements from the other arts that he has studied. And now he's regarded as legitimate and a MA "legend" by some. But wait: I thought that someone was a fraud if they couldn't point to a documented and long lineage of "legitimate" training by "legitimate" teachers? So if Arvanitis codified and resurrected this system himself, then shouldn't he and all of his students be regarded as frauds? Do you see the inconsistency in your reasoning here? Documented lineage is one thing; figuring out a system that seems to work and refining it over time is another. The two don't always go together. But to respond to your point directly: I don't know a lot about the Pankration connection with Master Robinson, although both he and Master Whitaker have been transparent about the fact that it was long considered a "dead" art with little documented history. My best guess is that while Pankration was "dead" in an official sense, i.e., wasn't being taught in a recognized way with a paper trail, there were probably people out there who had practiced some of its techniques, which were probably handed down and modified in piecemeal fashion over the years and centuries. It's not like there was any point in time where humans stopped practicing martial arts, right? And who knows whether the "Pankration" taught to Master Robinson's father was the same or similar to the Pankration resurrected by Arvanitis--I'd imagine that there would be numerous differences. But none of this by itself indicates that Master Robinson is a fraud. Again, you shouldn't confuse the lack of a "pedigree" and paper trail with actually having picked up some useful martial arts training at some point in one's life--it's the latter that I care about more than the former. If I get jumped on the street again, I'm not going to ward off an attacker by presenting him with a piece of paper; I'm going to fend him off (or not) using the techniques that I am being taught. Actually being the one who trains with Lawrence, I've placed my confidence in him to teach me some useful skills for self-defense. That's why I'm doing this.
Regarding the WWII part of the history: again, I don't know a lot at the present time, and so I cannot answer your concern in detail right now. But I can say a couple of things: first, I didn't claim--nor did Master Robinson's short biosketch--that the British forces had an official (or "super-secret", as you joke) battalion of indigenous north African soldiers. You're setting up a straw-man argument. Rather, what he has stated is that when his father was stationed in North Africa, some of the indigenous population there was involved in the fighting, and that his father learned his techniques from them. Many sources speak to the involvement of north African soldiers in the campaigns there--and this would make sense. It's not like people didn't live there when the Allied and Axis powers started fighting over it. Were they an "official" part of the British Forces? Perhaps not, but that's not the same thing as serving alongside of them. And I do know that the French forces officially incorporated many north African soldiers. (As an aside, there's an ugly history of racism tied up in all of that, but that's another discussion.) Further, the term "Napthali" is, to the best of my knowledge, one that was applied by Master Robinson's father once he returned to the U.S. I don't think that the people he learned his techniques from used that term. There are a bunch of martial arts that are indigenous to Africa and north Africa more specifically. I don't know how well documented or named all of these are/were. My understanding, again based on the small amount of historical reading that I've done, is that the African arts, while longstanding, have not historically been studied and codified to nearly the extent that the Asian arts have. But that doesn't mean that they don't exist or that all of this is somehow being made up. Again, the proof is ultimately in the pudding. I would imagine that expertise in self-defense is difficult to fake. Maybe you guys disagree. But having been studying now for three years, everything that I'm being taught makes sense and seems to work from what I can see. Ultimately it's my time and money on the line, right?
I just think that you guys should err on the side of caution and withhold judgment when you're not sure about something. There are many arts out there being taught for a very long time before the advent of the Internet. I imagine that in many cases it was a story of "here's what I learned from this man/woman, now I'll teach it to you." And that's all I'm looking for--something that I think will help me to defend myself.
A final note about Eric Golden: again, I don't know him and won't say anything positive or negative about him. I have occasionally heard my instructor reference a person named "Eric" who trained with him and with Master Robinson years ago--maybe it's the same person. But Mr. Golden (if, in fact, that's who he's referring to) no longer trains with us, and we have no connection with him. Further, it sounds like he did some training on his own before he studied with my instructor (again, if in fact it's the same person). You all seem not to think that named references count for anything, and that only documented lineage counts. I'm not sure that I agree with you, but I'd ask you to be consistent then: if someone cannot achieve legitimacy by association, then they also should not be subject to guilt by association--particularly when the association in question is tenuous. If ever there were a connection between Mr. Golden and my instructor, it has not existed for years. I agree that some of the claims posted to Mr. Golden's website and reproduced above seem extreme and improbable. I don't want to disparage him since I don't know him, but neither do I associate him in any way with my instructor, Lawrence Whitaker. And Master Whitaker has never made claims like that as pertains to himself.
Signing off for now.
2 walls of text in as many days - seems like you do have the time.
Originally Posted by urbanMA
Noobs to the site frequently can judge skill; noobs to the art, or martial arts in general, cannot. You admitted this shortcoming in your first post:
Originally Posted by urbanMA
Originally Posted by urbanMA
I've never understood the 'witch-hunt' critisicm of this site.
Good martial artists who train and fight well and use that experience to train others are openly lauded here, we can go back as far as the Internet will let us and the website's history will reflect this.
Bullshitters are outed and often ridiculed.
It's the nature of the web and dealing with people who generally like fighting. Big boys games, big boys rules.
Dude, I wrote a wall of text going point by point demonstrating the issues with your post, but you said you don't want back an forth, so here is my question:
Tell me the name of the people/group/formation/organisation he gained tuition from, it will be easy to put it against anthropological works and if it checks out it will supports his claim to tuition in an indigenous North African MA.
Nice an simple to start off with
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