World champion fighter
When 13-year-old Christian Buffaloe spars with his karate opponents, he uses his bare knuckles.
In this Kyokushin or full-contact style Japanese karate, he has to knock out his opponents right away. “It is real fighting,” says Christian, a Warren County resident. Unlike boxing, there are no weight divisions for youth competitors, he adds. Instead, the youngsters are matched by age.
Even though Christian is only 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighs around 104 pounds, he has developed a powerful punch that is feared by his competitors.
In 2011 and 2012, Christian won the youth division of the Kyokushin USWC Championships, beating opponents from Japan, Russia and other places around the world. Recently, he placed 2nd in the same competition, qualifying for an international tournament.
“I like competing because it keeps me healthy and in good physical shape,” Christian says. “The philosophy behind this style of martial arts teaches me to be patient, kind and respect others.”
To prepare for tournaments, Christian works out with his dad and trainer, Kenny Buffaloe, two and a half hours a day six days a week at the traditional Japanese-style dojo or training center next to his home. The small building has no heat or air conditioning. “You don’t want to train in a comfortable place because you need to have a strong spirit,” says Christian’s dad, a member of Halifax EMC. “You have to stay focused and not get relaxed.”
It’s OK to punch and kick Dad
As part of his training, Christian uses a punching bag, runs, jumps rope and does countless sit-ups. He also spars with his dad, punching and kicking his Dad’s padded armguard. “His kick is powerful,” says the elder Buffaloe, a veteran of karate competitions. “He can kick 150 pounds of pressure. He often shocks the Japanese at competitions.”
Early on, Christian got hooked on this grueling style of karate. “At 2½, I was trying to copy what Dad was doing,” he says.
Right away, Buffaloe saw his son’s potential. “When he was still in diapers, he could kick and not lose his balance,” Christian’s dad says. “He also didn’t cry or quit. I knew then he had something special.”
Along the way, Christian showed his determination and strength in this demanding style of martial arts, earning his green belt. “Kyokushin karate has the highest dropout rate in martial arts,” his dad says, noting that only three out of 100 people earn a black belt because of the high standards.
Over the years, Christian has won numerous international tournaments. In 2008, he won the Kyokushin Karate Youth Tournament, becoming the first American to win the title.
After that, he began competing internationally, even going to Tokyo to compete in the 2011 International Kyokushin Youth Championships. Near the end of one match, Christian injured his right foot, but he didn’t let the injury deter him. After his dad iced and massaged his foot, Christian fought his next opponent, who was both heavier and taller than he was.
Although Christian didn’t win, he caught the attention of Toshio Fujiwara, a Japanese champion in Muay-Thai fighting, a type of martial arts that shares some techniques with Kyokushin karate. Fujiwara was so impressed that he invited Christian to his gym to train. “It was quite an honor,” his dad says.
Amid the training, Christian keeps a busy schedule, including being home schooled by his mother, Zenia Buffaloe, playing sports and video games and hanging out with friends. As a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe, he also participates in pow-wows. In addition, he and his dad conduct karate demonstrations throughout North Carolina. “Other children can relate to me because I’m one of their peers,” Christian says. “It is important to give back to North Carolina.”