Benny Urquidez is a renowned American martial artist, stunt choreographer, and actor, primarily known for his exploits in the kickboxing arena. He is trained in nine disciplines of martial arts, namely, ‘American Kenpo,’ ‘Jujutsu,’ ‘Judo,’ ‘Taekwondo,’ ‘White Crane Kung Fu,’ ‘Kajukenbo,’ ‘Shotokan,’ ‘Lima Lama,’ and ‘Aikido.’ He has earned many titles, including the ‘World Championship’ organized by different martial arts organizations. He is the inventor of ‘Ukidokan Kickboxing.’ Artists such as John Cusack and David Lee Roth are his former students. In the early 1980s, he became active in the movie industry. He made a lot of cameo appearances, particularly in martial arts movies. He has collaborated with Jackie Chan and Cusack multiple times. He continues to serve as a trainer and has released many instructional books and videos.
Childhood & Early Life
Benny was born on June 20, 1952, in Tarzana, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
His mother was a wrestler, and his father was a boxer. He is of Spanish, Mexican, and Blackfoot American Indian descent.
In 1958, at the age of 5, Benny started competing in “peewee” boxing and wrestling in Los Angeles.
At 7, he began learning martial arts under Bill Ryusaki, the pioneer of ‘Kenpo’ in the U.S.A.
He earned his black belt when he was 14, a rare achievement back in the 1960s.
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Martial Arts Career
In 1964, he debuted in the point circuit and became known as a colorful fighter.
At the ‘Santa Monica Kempo Open’ in 1972, he was defeated by Brian Strian.
At the 1973 ‘Long Beach International Karate Championships,’ he lost to John Natividad, in a closely fought match, with a score of 12–13.
He lost a 4-1 decision to Joe Lewis at the 1974 ‘PAWAK Tournament.’ The same year, he was part of famous American martial artist and “Senior Grandmaster” Ed Parker’s U.S. team, which competed in Belgium and England. That year, he also gradually moved to the non-contact style of the game and won the ‘World Series of Martial Arts Championship.’
He began participating in the tournaments held by other organizations, such as the ‘WPKO’ the ‘NKL,’ the ‘Professional Karate Association (PKA),’ the ‘All-Japan Kickboxing Federation (AJKF),’ the World Kickboxing Association (WKA),’ the ‘Shin-Kakutojutsu Federation,’ the ‘MTN,’ and the ‘NJPW.’
Benny was stripped of his ‘PKA’ lightweight title in the mid-1970s, which prevented him from participating in contests in the U.S.A. Hence, he began participating in fights outside the U.S.A.
In 1977, he went to Japan to participate in the ‘WKA’s compromise Japan-US rules, and he knocked out Katsuyuki Suzuki in the sixth round. Benny’s victory startled the Japanese. Although he was never recognized by any of the martial arts organizations in Japan, he began calling himself “sensei,” which means “teacher” in Japanese.
The ‘AJKF’ decided to hold a contest of mixed-rules drawn from the American full-contact karate and Japanese kickboxing. The first such event was conducted on November 14, 1977, in which Benny fought and won against Kunimitsu Okao. His performance impressed Japanese fans of martial arts. He also became a pivotal character of what was eventually to be the documentary comic book titled ‘The Square Ring,’ until he refused to avenge his defeat against Prayout Sittiboonlert, a Thai opponent.
In August 1980, he was knocked out by American Billye Jackson in Florida. Benny protested the result and appealed to Howard Hansen of the ‘WKA’ to annul the contest.
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From 1980, his appearances in the fighting ring became irregular. In 1984, he won against Ivan Sprang in Amsterdam, under renewed Muay Thai rules.
After 1985, his career virtually ended. At the age of 41, he retired from competing after contesting against Yoshihisa Tagami.
On April 24, 1989, he appeared in an exhibition match against Nobuya Asuka, which ended without a result.
He won ‘The Legend’s Final Challenge’ on December 4, 1993, against Yoshihisa Tagami and earned the ‘WKA Super Welterweight World’ title.
Championships, Titles, & Awards
He was the ‘National Karate League Lightweight World Champion’ in 1974–1975. In 1974, he also became the ‘Standardized Tournaments And Rating Systems’ (STAR) Undisputed Super-welterweight World Champion.’
From 1974 to 1976, he was the ‘World Champion’ in the open weight category of the ‘World Series of Martial Arts Championships’ (WSMAC).
In 1975–1976, he was the lightweight ‘World Champion’ at the ‘WSMAC.’ In 1975, he also became the ‘World Champion’ in the contests held by the ‘World Professional Karate Organization (WPKO).’
From 1976 to 1977, he was the ‘Professional Karate Association’s’ lightweight world champion.
He also became the ‘World Kickboxing Association’s’ super-lightweight ‘World Champion’ (1977–1985).
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In 1978, he earned the super-lightweight ‘World Champion’ title at the combats organized by the ‘KATOGI.’ The same year, American magazine ‘Black Belt’ (which covers martial arts and combat sports) named him the “Competitor of the Year.”
He earned the ‘World Champion’ title at the fights held by the ‘Muay Thai Bond Nederland’ in 1984. The same year, David Lee Roth, the lead singer of the American rock band ‘Van Halen,’ who was also a student of Benny’s, dedicated one of the band’s greatest hit singles, ‘Jump,’ to him.The next year, he became the ‘Undisputed Welterweight World Champion’ at the ‘STAR’ contests.
In 1993, he became the ‘WKA’ super-welterweight ‘World Champion.’
He was inducted into the ‘World Kickboxing League Hall of Fame’ in 2013.
He was cast in a lot of martial-arts-themed movies. In 1981, he debuted with the film ‘Force: Five.’ The following year, he was featured in a martial arts training video. He later created many videos himself.
In 1984, he acted alongside superstar Jackie Chan in the movie ‘Wheels on Meals.’ The two appeared together again in the 1988 film ‘Dragons Forever.’
The last action sequence in the movie ‘Wheels on Meals,’ involving him and Chan, is regarded as one of the best fight scenes ever filmed.
He played a minor role in the 1991-released movie named ‘Ragin’ Cajun,’ which incorrectly claimed that it was his debut movie. A lot of cameo appearances followed, in films such as ‘Roadhouse’ (in which he also trained the lead actor, Patrick Swayze) in 1989, ‘Blood Match’ in 1991, ‘Diggstown’ in 1992, and ‘Street Fighter’ (in which he trained most of the cast) in 1994.
In 1997, he portrayed a hitman in the film ‘Grosse Pointe Blank,’ one of his many collaborations with John Cusack, his long-time kickboxing trainee and friend.
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He acted in the 2002 superhero movie ‘Spider-Man,’ the first of the trilogy directed by Sam Raimi.
He was the stunt coordinator in one of the episodes of the American police-procedural TV series ‘Criminal Minds,’ titled ‘The Bittersweet Science.’ He also played a cameo role in the episode.
He was a trainer at ‘The Jets Gym’ until it closed down in 2007.
He is the co-founder of the ‘Los Angeles Film Fighting Institute.’
He has written several instructional books.
He currently trains students in ‘Ukidokan Kickboxing’ at the ‘Team Karate Center.’
His records are still disputed by various organizations.
Some of his fights were deemed “no-contests.” He also withdrew from certain contests, including the rematch against Sittiboonlert, and refused the challenge thrown by Rorion Gracie.
Family & Personal Life
Benny’s siblings, too, have earned black belts. His sister, Lilly Rodriguez, was one of the earliest women to master kickboxing.
He and his wife belong to the Blackfoot American Indian tribe.