Apr. 9—WARRENTON — Warren County resident Christian Buffaloe formally received a promotion to a first degree black belt, known as a Shodan, from the International Kyokushin Karate Organization in Tokyo on April 3.
Buffaloe knew from the beginning that reaching black belt in Kyokushin would require a tremendous amount of sacrifice, and he was overwhelmed to finally accomplish his goal after many years of dedication.
"This is a life-long achievement," he said. "Everybody's goal is to reach black belt one day but the requirements in this style are very strict. The process takes a very long time but I tried not to focus on it too much because that would have made the journey seem so much longer."
Buffaloe has been trained in the art of Kyokushin by his father, Sensei Kenny Buffaloe, since he was just 2 years old and has gradually become one of the style's best fighters, with his accomplishments including seven youth titles.
Kenny Buffaloe has observed his son's passion for Kyokushin since he started training him but he fully anticipated Christian to encounter his fair share of struggles when it came to progression, having been down that exact path himself.
"It's really difficult to get ranked in [Kyokushin]," Kenny Buffaloe said. "In a lot of karate styles, 60 or 70 people out of 100 will make black belt. With Kyokushin, only 30 out of 100 make black belt, and a black belt test is way harder than your average tournament."
One of the challenges Christian Buffaloe faced came during the 12th Kyokushin Karate World Open Championships in Tokyo back in 2019. Christian made it to the second day of the tournament, but was eliminated after taking a punch to the liver, which was the first time he had ever gone down in a fight.
Kenny Buffaloe said the loss weighed heavily on Christian for several weeks after he returned home, but he encouraged his son to keep training so that he would be ready for the Kyokushin Karate USWC Championships in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2020.
After more rigorous preparation, Christian Buffaloe set off for Los Angeles by himself while Kenny chose to stay home as a way to further motivate his son. Christian persevered through several injuries to bring home his first Kyokushin title as an adult competitor.
While preparing for the competitions, Christian Buffaloe devoted an equal amount of attention towards training for his Shodan and ended up traveling to Kyokushin Karate New York in Dec. 2020, where he would be supervised by the style's official U.S. representative, Shihan Katsuhito Gorai.
A person who wishes to achieve a blue belt in Kyokushin must fight two people, with that amount being doubled after each belt. A Shodan requires an individual to fight 10 other black belts, while a fifth-degree black belt is obtained after battling 50 other experienced opponents.
Christian Buffaloe received his Shodan after fighting 16 black belts. He added that simply being a good fighter does not automatically result in a promotion and that multiple requirements are needed both physically and mentally for a person to join an exclusive group of people who have a black belt in Kyokushin.
"The test is more for the person taking it," Christian said. "You take the test to prove yourself and not to anyone else. The belt is a symbol of your progress, but I wanted to make sure that I was putting the work in because you have to conquer each part of the test before you're awarded the belt."
Kenny Buffaloe said that Christian's accomplishments both inside and outside tournaments make him a great representative for a style of karate that he believes many people would consider too dangerous, adding that the only protection fighters receive during competitions is a cup to protect the groin.
Kenny does not want the intense nature of Kyokushin to deter anyone from taking it up and encourages any potential participants to follow their own path with the style much like Christian did when he was younger.
"A lot of students in Kyokushin never even think about fighting," Kenny said. "They learn the art for health, self-defense or even spiritual awareness. We never push anyone to fight but if someone shows an interest, we will train them to be fighters and it just so happens that Christian wanted to do that."
Now an assistant instructor at Kyokushin Karate North Carolina, Christian is already passing down his knowledge of the practice to the next generation so that they can embody the necessary traits that could one day enable them to get a black belt of their own.
"I really try to stress patience," Christian said. "That's one thing that both kids and adults can lack, so I try to stress early on how important patience is. You never want to get complacent or comfortable either. You have to find something that keeps pushing you forward."
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Christian from taking part in any Kyokushin tournaments over the past year, but he intends to maintain his training and wear his belt with pride whenever the next one gets announced.