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  1. #141

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by giftedamateur View Post
    So again, I really don't care about the paperwork- I care about what I'm being taught and the principles and honor that are being upheld. I've had the opportunity to be in the company of a few highly ranked and well-known martial artists, and while their skills may be beyond reproach, I do not care for them as people. Those who have let celebrity and money become the most important things and forgotten about honor, and the bogus "Halls Of Fame" are the real problems in martial arts.
    I consider myself a "newbie"...hey, as far as belts go, black is the new white, and it's just a piece of cloth. If my black belt doesn't "track" with anyone, I don't care. I didn't start this journey for trophies and bits of paper. I was seeking knowledge and I'm getting it. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. It's not what I see today.
    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.

    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.

  2. #142
    DerAuslander's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
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    BJJ/C-JKD/KAAALIII!!!!!!!
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by giftedamateur View Post
    I care about what I'm being taught and the principles and honor that are being upheld.
    So, it is principled and honorable to lie about your rank and certifications?

    Would you go to a doctor who did that?

  3. #143

    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Urban Defense
    -1
    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Hi, everyone,

    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.

  4. #144

    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Cold, Wet and Miserable
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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    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?

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