Author: Tom Bleecker, Gene LeBell
Publisher: Gilderoy Publications
Sensei Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, is an American kickboxer, fight choreographer and Hollywood actor. Born into an athletic family; his mother was a wrestler and his father a boxer, he got his first taste of competition when he was just 5 years old.
Over the last 6 decades, he not only trained in multiple martial arts’ styles (such as: Judo, Kajukenbo, Shotokan, Taekwondo, Lima Lama, Kung fu, Jujitsu, Aikido, and Karate) but he also fought and defeated some of the most formidable fighters in the world, evolving his own style aptly called “Ukidokan” in the process.
I first saw Benny ‘The Jet’ in action in Jackie Chan’s wild, wacky kung-fu action comedy “Wheels on Meals” in 1984 (you can read our review here: http://kungfukingdom.com/wheels-on-meals-movie-review/). The Urquidez vs Chan fights, with their energy, speed, power, the impact of the blows traded and the sheer all-out bravado displayed made an indelible impression on countless viewers including myself and continues to this day. I for one never tire of rewatching those scenes which are reckoned to be some of movie martial arts’ finest hours. In the book Jackie says this: “Benny Urquidez is one of the finest martial artists I’ve worked with. Because of our efforts, we brought out the best in each other in our memorable fight scenes in Wheels on Meals”.
This compact book (about 200 pages) opens out with several tributes to Sensei Benny from the likes of martial arts virtuosos, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Al Dacascos, Cynthia Rothrock, Mike Stone, Phillip Rhee, Richard Norton and many others.
Then follows an attractive emblem of the style Benny himself originated: Ukidokan, with a breakdown of its meaning. Following the customary dedication, we come to a symbol and explanation of the Blackfoot Eagle nation, (to which he and his wife Sara belong) detailing its significance . Next, the list of chapters which cover such topics as his Childhood and Early Years, his challenges and how he ultimately overcame them, Kickboxing, The Jet Center, Hollywood and more.
Next is a refreshingly thoughtful foreward by Gene LeBell (often referred to as the ‘toughest man on the planet’) who has known Benny since he was a child in the mid 60’s. Here are noted some valuable glimpses into the Urquidez fighting clan, Benny’s early years, personality, as well as his devastating, innate fighting ability, being the greatest pound-for-pound kickboxer of all time. LeBell talks about Benny’s tireless and pioneering efforts that opened doors for countless other fighters down the years, many of whom have been trained by Benny himself and have since become champions in their own right.
As we move into the main contents of the book, we gain a detailed view of Benny’s life and modest upbringing at the onset of the Rock ‘n’ Roll years in the mid 50’s and early 60’s living in downtown Los Angeles. From fighting for donuts to the smell of his mother’s homemade tortillas, to earning five dollars a week as a street hustler, we are treated to a nostalgic trip through Benny’s amusing, somewhat rough, tumble and humble beginnings.
There are a lot of colourful, yet trialsome anecdotes shared from his early formative training years under his first Sensei (Bill Ryusaki) covering his entry into and combative domination of the fight tournaments (and even cha cha dance contests, not unlike the late Bruce Lee) he entered. In those years, his energy and confidence were so high that it literally ‘spooked’ his peers into submission.
The account of the first full-on Muay Thai fight he had against Narongnoi Kiatbandit is graphic and brutal as he realizes he has to revert back to his street fighting days and skills. An adrenalin junkie’s delight no less, you’re put smack bang in the heart of the scene!
His fierce bout with Japan’s reigning kickboxing champ Katsuyuki Suzuki in 1977 is enthralling as he describes using his explosive, spinning back kick (a move which incidentally gave him the nickname “The Jet”) in addition to taking out his ‘axe’ to chop him down.
This match caused retired champ Kunimatsu Okao, to return to the ring with a vendetta of honour as we’re treated to another gripping contest of epic proportions. Again, the reader gets an intimate feel of what happened as he is put square in the midst of the action.
Just when you might have thought those hard hitting clashes were enough to be content with, think again; the chilling ‘death match’ that Benny got involved in (detailed in chapter 7) makes you realize the impact his ‘open challenge’ offer had on fighters from around the globe.
His last fight, described in chapter 8 against the Japanese kickboxer Yoshihisa Tagami; an undefeated kickboxer with 100 matches under his belt and 17 years Benny’s junior, is as staggering as it is electrifying, truly the stuff of legends.
His relationships to people are deservedly given attention with several poignant, endearing references expressing his boundless love and gratitude to his wife Sara with whom he has been married for over 40 years. He openly confesses that she has been an instrumental pillar of strength throughout the trials, ordeals and challenges of his intense, iconic, competitive warrior lifestyle. Sara “Eaglewoman” Urquidez is a direct descendent herself of the leader of the Apache Nation (War Shaman Chief Geronimo).
Other later chapters deal with The Jet’s world renown gym, (“The Jet Center”) his stunt and choreography work in Hollywood, his widening and deepening studies of spirtuality including the connection with his Native ancestral heritage, his wife and soulmate Sara, daughter Monique and grandson Levi.
Nearing the end, the book takes an esoterically adventurous turn as Sensei Benny talks about his world travels, observations, teachings, the healing arts and how he feels privileged to share with everyone he meets, students and laymen alike, of his special gifts. He says: “I came into this world as a teacher. I love teaching. I love helping someone become a better person.”
The book rounds off with lists of Sensei Benny’s kickboxing instructors, blackbelt martial artists and the martial artists that have influenced him; among them, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Bill Ryusaki, Masutatsu Oyama, Ed Parker, Al Dacascos, Dan Inosanto and more.
After three nights, (to my dismay!), I had finished reading this vivid, fascinating account of a charismastic champion. I think it will appeal to several types of reader including practitioners of the martial arts and those who are drawn to the magnetism of real-life heroes and warriors.
If you like the idea of being transported into the world of the squared jungle in the company of an innovative, visionary powerhouse, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. Thumbs up to the author Tom Bleecker, who has done a fine job of capturing and portraying the essence of Benny’s story with a frank, down-to-earth candour.
The last chapters on the universal message of Ukidokan and the future are some of the most gut-intutive and heart warming inspiration I’ve ever come across in print. Recently, upon re-reading, I have come to the realization that this is no ordinary book; it has that rare quality to stimulate, provoke, uplift, and even perhaps serve as a catalyst to transform its reader. It’s like a wise teacher and personal guide from down the ages speaks to you through these pages.
If you have dreams and aspire to realize your potential in the martial arts and in life then read this book -even though it’s a biography about Benny- it’s actually more about you than you might realize.
Book Rating: 10/10
Did you know…
- The ritual of touching gloves at the start of the first round was started by Sensei Benny
- Earned his blackbelt in 1966 at age 14 (a notable feat as the traditional minimum age was 18 back in those days)
- Was the first to make an open challenge on TV: challenging any fighter from any country, under any rules
- Had his first Harley Davidson motorcycle when he was 18
- Won the 1973 Long Beach Internationals Grand Championship with his first proper pay cheque -a prize of $2500 at 21 years of age.
- Worked on over 50 movies, 24 as an actor and 28 as a stuntman and fight coordinator
- Trained hundreds of actors over the years including Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Juliette Lewis, Mark Wahlberg, Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, the late Patrick Swayze (RIP) Woody Harrelson, David Lee Roth from rock group Van Halen (their song “Jump” was actually inspired by Benny and his teachings) amongst many others.
Sensei Benny Urquidez’s 5 Rules of Fighting:
- NEVER MOVE BACK IN A STRAIGHT LINE -Always move side to side
- NEVER SET -Long enough for my opponent to think about what to do
- REDIRECT -Never take my opponent’s energy head on
- FIGHT YOUR OPPONENT AS HE FIGHTS YOU -Take his confidence away from his weapons
- PLACE YOUR OPPONENT WHERE YOU WANT HIM -Discover my opponent’s habits by testing his reactions under pressure
If you’re looking around for a New Year’s gift, this would be ideal for martial artists, action fans, and those into legendary personalities alike. You can even get your copy personally signed by Sensei Benny The Jet himself! You can find out more and order his book here: http://goo.gl/D2huWN
His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/BennyTheJetUrquidez