A ‘Kick’ above

Published 11:33 am Monday, December 19, 2011

TOKYO, Japan – It’s not often that a 12-year-old has a career history.

Christian Buffaloe, however, is not an average 12-year-old; nor even an average Kyokushin Karate student.

That fact was recently recognized by Japanese legend Toshio Fujiwara, who is considered the greatest Muay-Thai (kickboxing) Champion in Japanese history.

In November, Buffaloe went to Tokyo to compete in the Karate Youth Olympics which is sponsored by the International Kyokushin Karate Organization. Competitors came from throughout the world; extending across 126 countries to compete for the top spot.

Buffaloe won his first match against an experienced fighter, but suffered an injury in the process. Late in the match, he used a Middle Round Kick, but his foot connected with his opponent’s elbow.

Despite the extensive damage caused to Buffaloe’s foot, he continued to fight and won a 5-0 decision from the judges.

“The tournament officials saw he was limping and they told me it would be no disgrace for him to withdraw or forfeit,” said Kenny Buffaloe, Christian’s father and trainer. “I told them that we came here from the USA to fight and he would be ready by the next round.”

Christian said he wasn’t thinking about the injury.

“I was just thinking about the next fight,” he said. “We had to work on the foot.”

After extensive work, Buffaloe did indeed compete in the second round and drew a former All-Japan Youth Champion who was taller and heavier. The competitor came right at Buffaloe and tried to overpower him, but the younger and lighter fighter didn’t back down.

The two were fighting toe-to-toe when Buffaloe kicked his opponent and reinjured the foot. His opponent came after him again after seeing the injury, but Buffaloe continued to fight.

Even though he was knocked down, Buffaloe got up immediately showing he was not hurt so no point was awarded. Despite the gutsy battle, Buffaloe lost in a decision.

There were six foreigners in the 97-person field and four of them lost in the first round by knockout. Only Buffaloe and one Russian made it to the second round.

“I did the best I could,” he said. “Even though I lost, I learned a lot and gained experience.”

Despite the loss, Buffaloe received thunderous applause from the mostly Japanese crowd.

“That was really surprising since he lost the round,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “In Japan, people always admire a person who fights through adversity bravely and with spirit.”

If that was surprising to Christian and his father, the next thing that happened was downright shocking.

Fujiwara was at the event and heard about the display of courage and was impressed. He personally invited Christian to train at his gym two days later.

“In terms of American boxing, it is the equivalent of Muhammad Ali agreeing to train a rural boxer from North Carolina,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “It was amazing. He doesn’t just train anyone.”

Kenny Buffaloe said Fujiwara was one of his heroes growing up and that he was completely in awe when he agreed to train his son.

Christian said he was excited.

“I was very honored and excited,” he stressed.

The training in the gym was something that couldn’t have been better for Christian.

“It was a great and rare opportunity and Christian learned many things from this living legend,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “Mr. Furiwara was very surprised by Christian’s power and techniques and personally worked with him one-on-one.”

In fact, Christian got the rare privilege of sparring with the Japanese legend. He also suggested Christian return to Japan next summer and train to fight in the Muay-Thai youth division.

“We still can’t believe this happened; it is unreal,” Kenny Buffaloe said. “I always told Christian that if he is honest and works hard, great things and great opportunities will come his way. We are very humbled by this great offer and opportunity.”

The goal for the training would eventually be for Christian to turn pro at his 18th birthday.

“I think it would be really helpful and a really good experience,” Christian said of the training.

Kenny Buffaloe said he intends to take his son back to Japan for three weeks this summer to let him benefit from the training.

Christian began his formal training at two years old under his father in their home Dojo. He moved on to a high level training seminar in New York by September of 2006 and took part in a minicamp in New York in May of 2007.

In September of 2008, Buffaloe competed in and won the 2008 Kyokushin Karate Youth Tournament in New York City. He was the first American in the 14-year history of the tournament to win. He repeated his victory in June of 2009.

In August of 2009, he became the first American fighter to qualify for the World Kyokushin Karate Championships.

Christian said he plans to keep working and perfecting his craft so he has options in the future and his new training will only add to those.

“I’m excited and honored,” he said. “I will train as hard as I can and be prepared.”