Don Buck

People who learn Karate today should learn the basics better.

Don Buck

Probably not as well known as he should be, Don Buck was a pioneer of Kyokushin Karate in the United States. Described as a physically strong man, he was one of the first non-Japanese Kyokushin instructors in the world.

Donald Buck was born in San Jose, California on 2 September 1926. He and his family moved to San Francisco, where he grew up.

Growing up, Buck was very athletic and spent a lot of time practising gymnastics

On 7 December 1941, Japan launched an unprovoked attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, in Honolulu, Hawaii. This brought the United States onto the side of the Allies in World War II. Buck attempted to join the army, but at 15 was too young. When he turned 16 in 1942 he joined the navy.

Buck was a model recruit finishing at the top of his boot camp. He was selected to join a commando unit. He was stationed in the Admiralty Islands in the Pacific.

While stationed, Buck boxed for the Navy and had an outstanding record of 70-1. He also practised Judo and was exposed to some Kung Fu

In 1946, Buck was honourably discharged from the Navy. He returned home to San Francisco.

After the war, Buck began weight training and powerlifting. In the 1950s, he won the Mr California title.

Buck also began training at Duke Moores Judo and Jujitsu School. He also visited San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he practised Hung Gar Kung Fu, under Y.C. Wong. He eventually practised Tai Chi under Siufan Chan in Shanghai.

In 1950, Buck’s son, Fred, was born.

Buck met Mas Oyama in 1955. Oyama first heard about Buck’s naval boxing career and was interested in meeting him.

Always looking to challenge himself, Oyama sought out Buck and when he met him, he was impressed by his strong physique.

Oyama eventually travelled to the United States, where he lived with Buck for three years. Oyama taught Buck Oyama Karate during this time. The two men formed a strong friendship that was forged in their tough training sessions. Both men were physically strong and aggressive. Their training sessions usually lasted for several hours a day and included Karate, Boxing, Judo, and Jujitsu. The friendship between both men meant that Oyama would make it a point to visit Buck whenever he visited the United States.

After Oyama’s year-long visit, he awarded Buck with a black belt. He also encouraged him to grow Oyama Karate in the United States.

In 1957, Buck opened his first Oyama Karate dojo in San Francisco. This dojo would eventually become the first mainland Kyokushin dojo in the United States. Another of Oyama’s students, Bobby Lowe had opened a dojo in Hawaii.

Some years later, Buck renamed his dojo the School of the Tiger

On 8 September 1960, Oyama visited the United States, where he awarded Buck his 4th Dan.

In San Francisco Buck worked as a police officer. He was known as being a strong officer. However, in 1961, he was injured in the line of duty. He had been searching a suspect when he was hit from behind with a tyre iron. He still managed to stop his assailant with a strong punch. The attack damage his shoulder and brought his law enforcement career to an end.

1961 saw the 1st North American Tournament held at Madison Square Garden. Oyama attended the event and was the Chief Judge.

Buck opened his second dojo in San Francisco, in 1961 with Birney Jarvis.

By 1964 interest in Kyokushin Karate had grown. That year Buck opened another three dojos across California

By 1972 it was estimated that they were over 500 Kyokushin dojos in the United States. Several of Oyama’s top students had relocated to the United States to spread his style of Karate.

In 1973 a meeting was held a Buck’s San Francisco dojo, with Oyama in attendance. Branch Managers from the various dojos were also in attendance. This included Shigru Oyama, Yasuhiko, Oyama, and Tadashi Nakamura. Mas Oyama encouraged the men to prepare and send their best fighters to the 1st World Karate Open Tournament which was due to take place in Tokyo.

Between 1-3 November 1975, the 1st World Open Tournament was held in Japan. 128, competitors from 32 countries competed in front of a crowd of 13,000. Japan had a very good showing, with Katsuaki Sato, Hatsuo Royama, Joko, Ninomiya, Daigo Oishi, Toshikazu Sato, and Takashi Azuma, finishing in the first six places. Americans, Charles, W. Martin and Frank Clark finished in seventh and eighth respectively.

In 1989, Buck was promoted to 7th Dan by Oyama. This was the last grade he received from him. Buck was also appointed IKO (International Karate Organisation) Branch chief of the United States.

On 26 April 1994, Buck’s, longtime friend and teacher Mas Oyama died from lung cancer.

Buck founded the AKKO (American Kyokushin Karate Organisation) in 1997.

By 1998 Buck’s health had begun to deteriorate

On 11 September 1998, Donald Buck died at home in Benicia, California, with his wife, Alice, and son Fred at his side. He was aged 72 and was survived by his wife, Alice and Sons, Don Jr and Fred.

Don Buck was one of the founding fathers of Kyokushin Karate in the United States. Many practitioners can trace their karate lineage back to him. Both his sons were Kyokushin practitioners and were successful competitors.

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