Professor Francis Merlin "Bud" Estes

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Prof. Merlin "Bud" Estes, Judan
(1909 - 1981)


Prof. Estes receiving his teaching diploma in 1939 (L) and later in life (R).

Born on October 1, 1909 in Jacksonhole, Wyoming, Francis Merlin "Bud" Estes was the oldest sibling among his brothers Ivan, Burl and his sister Pat. Their parents, James and Olive were migrant workers and most of the children dropped out of school at around age 15 to help support the family. (His brother Burl did go on to graduate from high school at age 21 and had attended 17 different schools.) In the early 1920's the family was snowed in while living in a tent in Kansas and had to spend the entire winter there. This was a pivotal experience for the brothers.

While out hunting with his brother Ivan, their shotgun accidentally discharged and hit Bud in the right forearm. The injury was severe and took out much of the muscle and bone in his wrist and forearm. Ivan immediately drove Bud to the hospital in his Model-T Ford. Spending nearly six months in the hospital recovering from the wound and a new surgical technique called "bone grafting", Bud Estes grew into manhood. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he studied Judo and earned a Black Belt. As the family was unable to cover the costs of his attending college Bud entered the Salvation Army College in San Francisco, studied to be an officer and was assigned as a Captain to a group in Honolulu, in what was then Territory of Hawai'i.

While walking down the streets of Honolulu one evening, Bud observed several young toughs attacking what seemed to be an old Japanese gentleman. Believing in his skills and thinking he should equalize the situation he took on one of the toughs, but found the rest were taken down easily by the old man. Upon witnessing the quick and easy manner this Japanese introduced a "new discipline" to his attackers, young Bud laid aside his black belt, and entered the school where the Japanese American gentleman taught, the Kodenkan, located at 810 S. Hotel Street; Honolulu, Hawaii.

After approximately two years of deep, concentrated study and training, Bud moved to Chico, California, in 1939, and started the Chico Judo and Jujitsu Academy. He and his wife Lucille (Lukie) lived on the Esplanade in Chico. His wife also taught Jujitsu in Chico. They also taught seminars across the country.

Professor Estes was eventually raised to Judan (Tenth Degree Black Belt), which was the highest rank in Jujitsu in the United States at the time. After teaching a seminar in Ithaca, NY Prof. Bud Estes passed away on June 7, 1981. His wife succumbed to cancer shortly thereafter.

Prof. Estes is fondly remembered by his family, friends and students as a kind man and a skilled teacher.

Read UNCLE BUD - an essay by Burl Estes.

Note: The above material was used with permission from the KoDenKai Homepage and the Estes family. Professor Estes studied with Professor Okazaki from late 1936 to 1939. His personal trainer at the Army Navy YMCA dojo in Honolulu was Richard Rickerts. Estes co-founded the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF) with John Cahill, Ray Law and Richard Rickerts in the 1950's. I was fortunate to meet Professor Estes when he taught several seminars in Pennsylvania. One of his most memorable quotes was, "Brotherly love is like a hole in the ground. The more you dig up and give away, the more you have left." - Editor

Additional Images of Prof. Bud Estes

Bud Estes (R) receives his graduation scroll (Mokuroku) from Professor Okazaki (seated), March 9, 1939. Others in this picture are Estes' personal trainer at the Army-Navy YMCA, Richard Rickerts (L) and Estes' brother, Burl. This photo courtesy of Burl Estes.

Bud Estes in the 1940's. He enjoyed many outdoor activities such as camping and fishing.

Bud with his beloved wife, Lucille (Lukie) in the 1940's.

The Estes Men - Behind their father James Estes, are (L to R) brothers Bud, Ivan and Burl.

Bud Estes shows his uncanny ability to interact with animals by feeding a wild bird.

This picture shows all four founders of the AJJF: John Cahill, Bud Estes, Ray Law and Richard Rickerts. Front (L to R): Abigail Cahill, John Cahill, Bud Estes, Richard Rickerts, Ray Law, Glenn Smith. Back (L to R): Lucille Estes, Lamar Fisher, Marie Law. The photo is circa 1959.

The four founders of the AJJF address the first convention in 1959. Shown here (L to R) are Bud Estes, John Cahill, Ray Law, Richard Rickerts and Lucille Estes.

A class (circa 1961) of Bud Estes at the Chapman School in Chico, CA. A young Tom Jenkins is in the back row, far left. Others in the back row are JoAnn Burch and Charles A. Smith ("Little Chuck"). The front row is (L to R) unknown, Shirley Shannon, Nick Labarthe. The writing on the right side of the blackboard says, "Talk very softly in class. Listen very carefully."

Bud Estes (in dark socks) throws student, Tom Jenkins with Hane Goshi.

Bud Estes executes a defense against a gun in the back against student Jim Musselman.

Prof. Bud Estes upon his elevation to Judan, 10th degree black belt.

Professors Bud and Lukie Estes.

Prof. Estes holds the poles as Prof. Lamar Fisher executes a torture stick escape.

Prof. Estes looks on as Prof. Lamar Fisher teaches a technique at the Nibukikan dojo in Chico, CA.


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Businessman Bud Estes driving his Nash Metropolitan out of his driveway in Chico, CA. (Notice the matching trailer.)

New Photos and Text from Burl Estes, Jr.

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Brothers Bud, Ivan and Burl Estes, circa 1919.

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The Estes family lifestyle in 1924.  Their means of transportation was a Model T Ford and they lived in a tent, moving from place to place as they followed the crops.

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Bud Estes arrives in Hawaii on July 10, 1931.  Captain Jack Jones who is wearing the tropical white Salvation Army uniform is greeting him.

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The Estes family home in Chico in 1945.  Burl Estes' 1938 Ford is in the driveway.

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Western Territorial Band, San Francisco in 1929. Sgt M.F. Estes played cornet and is shown here third from the left on the second row.

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Bud Estes with his father in 1940.

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Bud Estes with a girlfriend in 1926.  If you look closely, you can see the brace on his wrist.  The woman in the center in the white dress is his mother.  Estes lost the girl to the guy on the right who owned the car.  Estes didn't have a car then.

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Bud Estes with his guitar in 1939.  He owned it until his death and was a talented musician with an excellent voice.

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Millworker's Union Convention in Hayward.

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Bud Estes cleaning up for his niece Patty's wedding in 1962.

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Bud Estes in a relaxed moment in 1941.

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Profs. Bud Estes and Lamar Fisher attend a ceremony to celebrate and recognize Prof. Florendo Visitacion (seated 2nd from right) as the rank of Judan (10th degree black belt) on December 11, 1971 at the Bay Ridge Dojo in Brooklyn, NY. This photo was submitted by Burl Estes courtesy of Sensei William Manas.

Photos from Sensei Thomas Hill added 3/29/2001

Thanks to Prof. Tom Ball for the background info.

Prof. Bud Estes teaching a seminar in Ithaca, NY, June, 1981. Among this group are Roy Lonnberg, Patrice DuMay and Tom Ball.

Prof. Estes demonstrates a massage technique on Tom Ball as Roy Lonnberg looks on. Prof. Ball remembers this as "the last time he touched me", and it is therefore a very meaningful picture to him.

This page maintained by George Arrington.

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