top of page

System Founder /

Sr. Master Instructor

Mr. Buck Cunningham

Mr. Buck Cunningham, (Robert E. "Buck" Cunningham), has achieved much success during his lifetime (... "so far"... he hastily adds whenever asked about his many accomplishments and his success both in the Martial Arts and in life in general. (..."so far"... meaning that he is neither dead nor done just yet ;-)

While justifiably proud of his success, Mr. Cunningham remains mindful of his strong personal belief that a wise and enthusiastic self-defense oriented Martial Artist will do well to remember the Black Belt tenet of "humility" and continually allow himself to be both humbled and motivated by the many dangerous and unpredictable variables in real personal protection/self-defense scenarios and by the many things that he envisions in life that could and should yet be done.

Consequently, while Mr. Cunningham respects other Martial Arts instructors' desires to have their students and peers use "traditional" prefixes, titles and rank designations, etc. (i.e. Soke, Hanshi, Shihan, Grandmaster, etc)when addressing themselves and others, he prefers to be known by his students as simply "Mr. C." This is consistent with his upbringing, his strong American heritage, his growth as a human being, his notion of "black belt humility" and with the structured but relatively informal manner in which he has ultimately envisioned that the System and programs he has founded would be delivered and developed now and into the future.

Buck Cunningham was born and raised in the country just outside of Pekin, IL., which has a history of being a typically "rough" river town. He developed an interest in the martial arts at a very early age, and his dad, Gene Cunningham, fostered his interest by getting him involved in boxing (his Grandfather, Robert E. was also an accomplished boxer) His dad also taught him some effective "combatives" he had learned in the armed services as he impressed upon his son the need to be able to effectively defend himself. It would later become evident that these were the early steps in the long evolution of Mr. Cunningham's American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu (AFFKbJ) Hybrid Mixed Martial Arts System.

With his dad's help, a young Mr. Cunningham erected a ring in the backyard (as the boxing gym alone was not open enough hours to satisfy his desire to spar). There, he would invite friends and those who were not necessarily friends to come play and learn and test their skills. What he found was that he was handily "beating" his friends who had trained in "traditional" martial arts and who had shown him often the many trophies they had won.

Mr. Cunningham would continue to develop his martial arts skills as he grew older by training with karate and tae kwon do students and black belts whenever he could and would seriously continue to pursue the Western Martial Art of Boxing with what would become an almost consuming passion. He had a great appreciation for and became a serious student of the history, art and style of Boxing. He greatly enjoyed being able to express himself in this "art" and honed his skills to eventually earn the nickname, Buck "The Cobra" Cunningham, and achieve the impressive accomplishment of winning Championship Boxing Titles in two different weight divisions. Mr. Cunningham compiled a very impressive 57-2 record in sanctioned Boxing matches (and many still believe that he only lost in one of those :-). Importantly, he also fought countless rounds in preparation for these matches (and also just because he liked it) with bigger boxers, karate stylists, tae kwon do practitioners, wrestlers and self-described "street-fighters"), many of whom left with a real appreciation for how he was able to adapt his "style" to make himself effective against their "style". These would all prove to be valuable and important steps in the long evolution of the AFFKbJ System. Mr. Cunningham's continued personal growth, his thirst for knowledge and his passion for the study of fighting systems would lead him to eventual submersion into and exploration of many different "traditional" martial arts styles. His achievement of advanced Black Belt rank in numerous of these "styles" and his continual, thoughtful and purposeful examination, assessment and evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of different fighting systems and methods of teaching, which began in the early 1960's, eventually led to the formalization of his own creative thoughts and energies and ultimately to his founding of the revolutionary American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu (AFFKbJ) Hybrid Mixed Martial Arts System. (See other pages on "History of the AFFKbJ System").

Mr. Cunningham and the AFFKbJ System and the American Freedom Form Hybrid Combative Arts Association (AFFHCAA)welcome all non-political martial artists of all ranks and style. Mr. Cunningham continues to maintain an open mind and a strong desire to learn from and share with martial artists from around the world via any medium available.

While "Mr. C." prefered that we not show a long list of "accomplishments", we have compiled a short synopsis which will tell you a little more about our Founder / Head Instructor:

Mr. Buck Cunningham

  • is the Founder of the Cunningham's Ugottawanna Martial Arts Schools
  • is the Founder of the revolutionary American Freedom Form Kenbo-Jitsu Hybrid Mixed Martial Arts System
  • is the Founder of the exciting RIPSTRAKE Personal Protection Self-Defense Programs
  • is the Founder of the American Freedom Form Hybrid Combative Arts Association
  • holds advanced Black Belt rank in numerous Martial Arts "styles"
  • has promoted a "Way of the Ugottawanna Warrior" with a unique Creed and a set of Esoteric Principles
  • won custody of and raised a son as a single father
  • Has received awards from multiple pro-family and Christian organizations
  • had an enjoyable and meaningful career as a highly respected, professional Wildlife Biologist
  • has authored articles, editorials, manuals, music and poetry
  • was the head coach of the National Champion Springfield Flame baseball team
  • has coached and mentored youth in athletics and in life since his early teens
  • has enjoyed hunting, fishing, and training and field trialing Field Champion bird dogs
  • used to race "moto-cross" motorcycles, can play the guitar and holds a pilot's license

When asked to talk about his success in the Martial Arts and in life in general, Mr. Cunningham challenges each of us to define "success" for ourselves. While many people might be inclined to measure success in terms of monetary wealth, the kind of car you drive, etc., Mr. Cunningham says he has borrowed from a popular quotation and adapted it to make the following his own, succinct "Personal Model of Success":

"To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of genuine people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty wherever it occurs; to find the best in others and give the best of yourself; to contribute to the world's being a better place, whether by a healthy, talented and compassionate child or a modeled "Way of the Ugottawanna Warrior"; to have your life and the memory of time with you serve as an inspiration and to know that others lives have somehow been made better and happier because of you. This is to know success !"

The life of Mr. Buck Cunningham has been marked by uncommon effort, excellence and achievement. We are thankful for his willingness to share with us and appreciative of the knowledge that he wants for each of his students everywhere to truly know "success" in their lives.

bottom of page