Buffaloe learning championship martial arts

Published 4:23 pm Wednesday, April 14, 2010

His roots can be traced to the Roanoke-Chowan region, but his success is known worldwide.

That’s quite a statement when you’re talking about a 10-year-old boy, but it’s true when it concerns Christian Buffaloe.

Trained by his father, local Kyokushin Karate expert Kenny Buffaloe, Christian has already put his mark on full-contact karate championships the world over.

Christian Buffaloe recently finished third in a Japanese-sponsored Kyokushin Karate Tournament. That follows his first-place finish just over a year ago in a worldwide tournament held in New York City.

Kenny Buffaloe said his son’s work in the full-contact karate championships has been something that he never saw coming, but that he was proud of.

“I’m honored to train my son,” Buffaloe said. “It surprised me because I never imagined he would have his much interest. I never forced him, but he has done well.”

The older Buffaloe said his son began imitating his work when he was younger than two years old.

“He imitated me when he was a child and I thought it was cute, but by the time he was two and a half, I had started formal training because he really liked it,” Buffaloe said. “By three, he was training in my regular classes.”

Kenny Buffaloe said one of the reasons he had been pleasantly surprised with Christian’s dedication is that Kyokushin Karate has the highest dropout rate of any martial art form.

“We only keep three of 100 students,” Buffaloe said, adding that it was a tough regiment and that those who competed in tournaments did so at full speed and full contact with no padding.

Christian began learning about the competitive side of Kyokushin Karate when he traveled to New York for a mini-camp on the sport.

“The Japanese sensei’s noticed his abilities and complimented his work,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “They said they would like to see him compete. I had never thought about that.”

While the Japanese sensei’s were pleased, Kenny Buffaloe wasn’t ready to let him compete without more extensive training. That meant 10 months of hard work as Christian prepared for his first time in a competition.

That competition was a worldwide event held in New York City and Buffaloe was one of few American fighters who was to compete in any of the four divisions – Youth, Teen, Men and Women.

Buffaloe won that competition and became the first American-born fighter to win at any level.

“It’s a good experience,” Christian Buffaloe said of the competitions. “I get a lot of experience and learn a lot of things. Tournaments are not the only training I do. I like to do anything that I can learn.”

After competing in New York and winning, Buffaloe still had to earn a shot to compete in the 2009 tournament. He did so and then went on to finish third at the Full Contact Tournament held in Los Angeles, California.

The style of Kyokushin Karate is much different from many of the others in that tournaments such as the ones Christian Buffaloe has fought in are full-contact. Fighters have to clearly show their superiority by knock out, knockdown or a technique powerful enough to stun an opponent.

For those under 17, however, any strong blow to the head automatically scores for safety reasons.

“Kyokushin is very famous and popular worldwide, but is virtually unknown here in the U.S.,” Kenny Buffaloe said.

Kenny Buffaloe learned the art while visiting family in New York City as a youngster. Some cousins were taking classes and he decided to join them.

“They were showing what they had learned and I asked if I could go with them the next week,” Buffaloe said. “They eventually quit, but I fell in love and I still am.”

Buffaloe began by doing Kyokushin Karate demonstrations in the area to get more interest and then started teaching classes in 1977. His first class was held in Halifax County and he has since taught in most of the counties of the region. He currently has classes at the Jenkins Center in Murfreesboro.

He said that over those years, he has had several people decide to compete in events, but had never had anyone last more than one week in training.

“I have always made training for competition available to any of the students in my classes,” he said. “I would love to be taken up on it.”

Buffaloe said the training for competition was much tougher than normal karate instruction.

“It’s kind of like playing football,” he said. “People like to play football, but they don’t want to be in the NFL so they play touch football in the back yard. It’s the same principal.

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t want those who are playing touch football to enjoy the sport,” he added. “We want everyone to enjoy Kyokushin at whatever level they want to participate in.”

Thus far his best student for competition training has been his own son, Christian, who said he is pleased to be learning from his father.

“It’s a good experience,” Christian Buffaloe said of training under his father. “I’m glad to have someone with his experience training with me full time. Many people don’t have that chance.”

Christian Buffaloe will now take the next year to spend mostly training before trying to earn a spot back in Japan in 2011.

“We want to get in more training and let him learn more before we go back again,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “We’re looking at him returning to Japan in 2011.”

Christian Buffaloe is the son of Kenny and Zenia Buffaloe.