About Sensei Benny Urquidez
Born into a family of athletes - his mother a professional wrestler and his father a professional boxer - Benny "the Jet" Urquidez became a sports icon almost immediately. At the age of five, Sensei Benny was already competing in boxing events at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. But two years later Sensei Benny found his life"s work when he began studying martial arts under his brother Arnold: his first and to this date most influential instructor.
More instructors followed, however, and Sense Benny could soon be found studying under martial arts legends such as Ed Parker, Tak Kubota, Billy Ryuisaki, and Clarence Akuda. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable, and so at age 14 - a full four years earlier than was generally permitted - Sensei Benny had already earned the first of what would be nine black belts. At the same time, Sensei Benny was already hard at work formulating a new style of martial arts - termed Free Form martial arts - that would be the genesis for the full contact karate now practiced in events the world over.
Now, however, as one of the youngest black belts in modern martial arts history, he was also facing men twice his age and size. Undaunted, Sensei Benny quickly became a crowd favorite due to his colorful fighting style, capturing the hearts and imagination of audiences throughout the United States and Europe.
He was soon sponsored by Elvis Presley and asked to fight as a member of the Los Angeles All Stars, the Chuck Norris United States Karate Team. It was literally the pinnacle of success, with nowhere left to go. Undaunted, however, instead of settling for what would be the end of the road for most, Sensei Benny turned away from professional boxing and instead accepted an offer to compete in Hawaii in the first ever World Series of Martial Arts World Championship. This meant that Sensei Benny - weighing in at only 145 pounds - would now be fighting in a no-holds-barred contest against challengers from all weight classes.
After fighting seven different opponents over two grueling days, Sensei Benny achieved the impossible: he defeated Challenger Dana Goodson, the 225 pound challenger for the World Championship title.
There was only one world champion, across all weight classes and in all styles of the martial arts: Benny "the Jet" Urquidez.
Again, most men would have stopped here, content to rest. But not Sensei Benny. By 1977 he had traveled the world and systematically defeated every world champion from Japan, won the P.K.A. and W.K.A. World Kickboxing Championships, and had become a national hero in the process.
At last, after winning five World Championships in four separate weight divisions, Sense Benny retired in 1989, undefeated with an unduplicated ring record of 62 winds (57 of which were knockouts), and ZERO LOSSES.
Once again, though, Sensei Benny could not quit: he came out of retirement in 1993 (at the "old" age of 42) to seal his legendary status. He challenged and defeated the 25-year-old reigning world champion from Japan, victorious now in six world championships in five different weight divisions - a feat never seen before or since.
Since then, Sense Benny retired from professional competition, remaining undefeated for 27 years - the longest reigning World Champion in the history not just of modern martial arts, but in any sport on the earth.
However, "retired" does not mean for Sensei Benny what it does for most. Since retirement he has re-developed his original system of Free Form martial arts, combining nine different styles to create Ukidokan karate. Ukidokan means "a way of life" and is also commonly referred to as Internal Training; and it is a unique system designed to help its students control their emotions and responses under pressure. Under his competition-tested and battle -proven technique, Sensei Benny"s students are taught to discard inferior techniques and apply only those that function under any kind of situation or pressure. Not only is this martial art incredibly effective, it also bears the distinction of being the only New Age System of martial arts recognized by the governing bodies of Japan as an official martial art.
And again, instead of resting on his laurels, Sensei Benny is pushing forward with the newest and greatest phase of his life as a martial artist: that of a full-time teacher. Teaching seminars and classes the world over, Sensei Benny has combined with numerous other internationally recognized masters of the martial arts to provide visitors of bennythejet.com with thousands of hours of training, tips, and the invitation to "Forget what you know and remember what you have learned," an invitation to discard the useless, and become an effective user of what remains.
Benny (the Jet) Urquidezs eyes nearly shot out of their sockets when he heard the words. Foam collected on his lips and sweat slipped off his chin. Across a dark, dingy ring without ropes in Hong Kong, a squared jawed Chinese champion kick boxer had his arms thrust upward as he slowly approached Urquidez.
Above the spirited banter of hundreds ,of onlookers, most of them wielding handfuls of cash, and music sounding like a thousand screeching cats, Urquidez heard his opponent scream again, To the death! Bits and pieces of my life flashed before my eyes, recalls Urquidez, 33, a World Karate Assn. champion kick boxer..
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Urquidez often had to fight his way out of fixes. Half-Spanish, half-Mexican and all-American in a martial arts world dominated by Asians, having defended world titles in four continents, he was accustomed to being in strange places.
But this was different. He was alone in Hong Kong in November, 1980, only to promote a karate movie on a talk show. Look what had transpired in 24 hours, he thought. Someone in the TV studio audience had stood up and called him nothing but an actor, a sham of a fighter. The man-who turned out to be a Hong Kong kick boxing champion challenged Urquidez to a death match.
Urquidez demanded $20,000 and a mink coat, calling the mans bluff. The challengers promoter met Urquidez the next day, however, handed over the cash and the coat and drove him to the noisy warehouse. A horn sounded, the opponent shouted and Urquidez sprang out of his corner. He sent a shin kick to the cheekbone, another to the ribs. Spinning 360 degrees, Urquidez then landed a backfist to the face.
By the third round, he looked like the Elephant Man, says Urquidez, who declines to reveal the opponents name.
In Round 4, repeated rib shots laid the guy on his back, wheezing for air. The crowd clamored around the ring, shouting and whistling.
Says Urquidez: I was confused. They wanted a kill and I wouldnt give it to them. The promoter pulled me into an adjoining room, where ~I stood for four hours waiting for the riot to end.
Although Urquidezs death match didnt follow the form of most of his fights in the Far East, Europe and North and South America, the outcome was the same. This modern-day conquistador claims never to have been defeated in battle.
I have traveled to many lands, fought the best men, eaten the best food and returned with riches, he states softly with a characteristic chop of his hand.
Comparing Urquidezs exploits to those of early Spanish conquistadores Hernando Cortes or Francisco Pizarro-who are remembered as much for spilled guts as glory is not completely fair to the Jet, however. His machismo is tempered with the discipline required in the martial arts.
Control is the key to understanding, Urquidez says. Control of the body, of the mind, of the spirit and of the heart.
I dont fight out of anger. I am a sportsman. Through my sport I have learned self -respect and discipline.
He speaks of spiritual understanding in the same controlled cadence that he tells of his grandmother riding with Pancho Villaand of his Valley upbringing.
Urquidez roamed the streets of Van Nuys, San Fernando and North Hollywood as a youngster along with four brothers and four sisters, fighters all. Bennys mother supported the family with work as a professional wrestler at venues like the Olympic Auditorium; his father, who left the household when Benny was 8, was a professional boxer.
Bennys sister, Lilly, 37, has been a world champion super bantamweight kick boxer. At 21, she married Bennys 15-year-old friend, Blinky Rodriguez, who has been a super middleweight kick boxing champion. When we fought in the street, we fought for real, Urquidez says. We didnt believe in leaving the other guy standing, because he might come back with a 2-by-4 and cave in our skulls.
We owned the Valley. We would walk the streets and a hundred kids would follow behind.
Urquidez, in turn, followed the teachings of North Hollywood-based karate and judo instructor Bill Ryusaki from ages 9 to 13. Ryusaki remembers Benny as a born brawler.
Benny was from a bad area and he had a bad attitude, said Ryusaki. He had a complex about being small and felt he had to prove himself by fighting. I wouldnt let him fight. I made him work on form and learn discipline.
Urquidez attended Grant and Polytechnic high schools before graduating from North Hollywood High in 1969. He wrestled at Poly and played football at North Hollywood.
My football coach would tell me, See that guy, put him out of business. Urquidezi says, I was a hyper little defensive back.
Now, Benny, all 145 pounds of him, commands the rapture of the martial arts world. In Japan, he is the great Yukiide-san, and is claimed to be half Japanese.
The Japanese are a proud people and there is no other acceptable explanation to them for my domination over their best martial artists, Urquidez says.
Urquidezs exploits are chronicled in Japanese Benny the Jet comic strips. Art imitates life; The Jet always wins.
He has been named Full-Contact Fighter of the Year five times by the Standardized Tournaments and Ratings Service (STAR) and is listed by STAR as having a 56-1 record, although the Urquidez camp vehemently disputes the loss.
Currently, he holds the super lightweight (140 pounds) title and is planning to fight for the welter- weight (147 pounds) title against No. 1 contender Tom LaRoche in October.
Says Paul Maslak, a kick boxing authority who heads STAR: Benny Urquidez is the only active great from the early days of full-contact karate. He is unquestionably a legend in the Orient, and in parts of South America and Europe. Bennys stature is similar to that of Muhammad Ali about the time he fought Joe Frazier in Manila-still the greatest, but perhaps slipping a bit.
In the late 1970s, Urquidez fought six to 10 times a year. He has cut down to two bouts a year since 1980, and his last fight was a fifth-round technical knockout over European Muay-Thai Neder- landimiddleweight champion Iwan Sprang on Jan. 15, 1984.
Despite its popularity abroad, kick boxing has mostly drawn yawns in the United States. Cable network ESPN broadcasts Professional Karate Assn. bouts.
Similarly, Urquidez hasnt been able to capture the imagination of American sports fans. You wont see him in a breakfast cereal ad like Mary Lou Rattan. or Pele Rose, smiling over a bowl of Urquidez. Only four of Urquidezs fights have been broadcast on network TV, and his purses have rarely exceeded $10,000 in the United States. He has earned as much as $50,000 for bouts in Japan, Canada and Holland. Yet Urquidez, who lives in Tarzana, says that he is not rich, not poor, but very comfortable.
So, while the Jet has kept his spinning kicks and backfists flying, Lick boxing promoters have spun their wheels. And one of the worlds most colorful sportsmen is virtually anonymous in his homeland.
Urquidezs greatest recognition 11 the United States came while delivering a barrage of leaping leg kicks during a WKA lightweight title bout at Madison Square Garden in 1975. A spectator stood and screamed, He looks like a Jet! Whereupon the crowd stomped its feet and chanted, Jet, Jet, Jet. Urquidez won the title and thanked the crowd for its rousing support by doing a back flip in the center of the ring.
The nickname and back flip have remained Urquidez trademarks.
Benny Urquidez has become Benny the Jet, Benny says. In other countries, my wife and I are addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Jet. The Jet moniker was a play on the popular 1974 Elton John song, Benny and the Jets. A Benny the Jet Theme was released as a single in Japan in 1978, a song Urquidezs manager Stuart Sobel says sounds like the theme from Rocky.
I should have gotten residuals from the Elton John song, too, Urquidez says. Ive signed thousands of those records.
Life has been weird and wonderful for Urquidez ever since he donned the traditional karate gi and earned his black belt at 14.
My oldest brother, Arnold, would send the family out to seek new fighting techniques, Urquidez says. We would return and share our knowledge with others others. Judo, karate, kick-boxing, western boxing-we blended them into a family style.
Benny was the runt of the family (at 5-6, he is still shorter than his brothers) and was often challenged. Guys would always fight Benny because of his baby face, says Rodriguez, Bennys brother-in-law. They would all end up in I the same position-on their heads.
Says Urquidez, I developed spinning kicks and back knuckles in elementary school. Soon, my reputation preceded me. The biggest kids would stand aside.
In 1974, the Urquidezes rose from the Valley and went nationwide.
Chuck Norris, a pioneer of full contact karate, had begun the National Karate League. His team, the Los Angeles Stars, included 22-year-old lightweight Benny Urquidez and middleweight Blinky Rodriguez. Two of Bennys brothers, Adam and Manuel, were alternates and two others, Arnold and Ruben, were trainers.
Bennys first five professional full-contact karate bouts came later that year, in the World Series of Martial Arts, a two-day extravaganza held in Honolulu.
Recalls ,Urquidez There were street fighters, boxers, every kind of martial artist, sumo wrestlers, western wrestlers-about 200 in all. There were no rules and no Weight divisions. I won my three fights the first day and my first fight the second day by knockout. I had to beat Dana Goodson for the title. Goodson was a 6-1, 225-pound Hawaiian heavyweight kick boxing champion. Urquidez knocked him out in the third round.
I attacked him like a leech sucking blood, Urquidez says. I am a stone survivor and that day I proved it to the martial arts. world.
With the WSMA title under his black belt, the J ets career took off. He captured the NKL lightweight title in 1976. I Urquidezs most discussed fight, of course, is the purported loss. When a fighter is 56-1, attention is focused on the defeat. Did the Jet really lose?
That depends on who you believe. Benny scowls at the mention of the August night in 1980 in West Palm Beach, Fla. when a virtual unknown from Texas named Billye Jackson took a seven-round decision.
Stuart Sobel, Bennys manager, offers this version: Thirty minutes before the fight, Jackson said he wouldnt get in the ring unless Urquidez agreed not to use leg kicks-Bennys specialty. I told Benny, This is ridiculous, we can walk. There were 6,000 people in the stands and the promoter nearly fainted. Benny agreed to the change, but without leg kicks his rhythm was off. The last couple of rounds; Benny pummeled the guy. If the fight would have went one more round, Jackson wouldnt have been standing. Jackson wouldnt fight with leg kicks because of a leg injury, Jacksons manager told Official Karate magazine in February. Jackson retired from kick boxing last year with a 22-2 record. WKA President Howard Hanson denied Sobels formal appeal for a no-contest ruling. He says the Jet was grounded fair and square, but adds that the loss revealed more about Urquidezs integrity than any win. Benny lost the fight, Hanson says. Sobels version is essentially correct, but a loss is a loss. Benny proved what kind of gentleman he is, though. When Jackson requested no leg kicks, rather than leave the promoter with as riot on his hands, Benny stepped in the ring. The calm in Urquidezs voice and the dignity in his demeanor leave a deep first impression on a visitor. His tone is a decibel above a whisper and conversation invariably steers to his family.
My family is the source of my strength, says Urquidez, looking at photos of Sara, his wife of 11 years, and Monique, his 7-year-old daughter. My wife and daughter, my brothers and sisters, my parents-We are a strong tribe.
Urquidez returned two years ago to his birthplace, Ban Nuys, to build what he beleves is the consummate martial arts facility. He, Rodriguez and Jan Sirchuk, a contractor and friend, are partners in Benny the Jets Jet Center. Similar Jet Centers have opened in Japan, Canada and Holland.
The Urquidez family remains deeply involved in the Valley community. Project Heavy brings local toughs off the street into the Jet Center, where they are taught Ukidokan-Bennys personal blend of martial arts and philosophy.
The Jet Center has dormitories where kick boxers from around the world stay for month long internships under Benny. They emerge as Jet fighters.
My fighting career may be near its end, but I will never stop fighting through my students, Urquidez says, his face unmarked by more than a decade of kick boxing competition. I will teach honor, discipline and respect throughout the world.
lts going to be hard to get rid of me.
Benny the Jet will create an empire.
6 X 9 softcover and limited hardcover editions
208 pages / 100 photos
Softcover perfect bound binding with high gloss UV veneer cover
Hardcover Sierra book cloth binding with gold foil stamping and high gloss dust jacket
Hardcover $49.95 - all hardcover copies are personally inscribed by Sensei Benny Urquidez
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