Local teen heads to karate world championships


23 Tanner Simpson

Tanner Simpson, 15, practices sports martial arts forms at Shayne Simpson's Martial Arts and Fitness on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 in Bellingham. Simpson will compete in the Super Grands World Games & Amateur Internationals held in Charleston South Carolina later this year.


Tanner Simpson was almost literally born into karate. He learned to punch and kick before he could even walk. So it seems he was destined to one day compete in the National Black Belt League's Super Grands World Championships.

Simpson, who is 15 and lives in Deming, was invited to the Super Grands in Charleston, S.C., to compete in six different divisions. The event takes place from Dec. 26-Jan. 1. He will participate in Musical Open, Musical Choreographed Open and Creative doing all three with weapons and without weapons.

The style of karate Simpson performs is known as XMA, which he refers to as "sports martial arts."

"Think Jackie Chan and then you've got it," Tanner's dad, Shayne Simpson, said in a phone interview.

Shayne Simpson, who is 48 years old, owns Shayne Simpson's Martial Arts and Fitness in Bellingham, which Tanner Simpson said is like a second home for him.

"I pretty much live at the karate school, so I because I have the extra time to train I progressed faster than most people," Tanner Simpson said in a phone interview.

At 9 years old, Tanner Simpson earned the rank of Junior Black Belt and was inducted into the National Black Belt Hall of Fame.

"The National Black Belt Hall of Fame looks at competitors, how often they compete, who has the highest record and who is winning the most," Shayne Simpson said. "Then they take the ones at the top of the list and choose them for the Hall of Fame. Only one kid in the Northwest Region gets it and Tanner got it at 9 years old."

Tanner Simpson got started in XMA after his dad found out about it at a convention in 2005 and bought the program. Now he helps teach it as a supplemental for his dad's karate students.

"I look at traditional karate as the 'meat and potatoes,' and then what Tanner does is the dessert," Shayne Simpson said. "It's not as practical, but it's great for those who are proficient (in the traditional style)."

Tanner Simpson's extracurricular karate has given him the foundation to achieve his dreams. He aspires to become a professional stuntman, and is already dabbling in the profession.

He is working as a stunt double in a Canadian short film, Shayne Simpson said. Some of the people working on the movie found out about Tanner from his Youtube videos of his XMA and he has helped with fight scenes and training other stunt doubles for the film.

The film is also helping Tanner Simpson attend the Super Grands, as it will be costly to attend. He has set up an indiegogo page online to raise money.

Tanner Simpson has been invited to the Super Grands the past four years, but he said the money hasn't been there for him to attend. This year, he had to go.

"This year, he's ranked in so many divisions that we found a way to do it," Shayne Simpson said.

Tanner Simpson is also co-captain of Team Rock Solid Kenpo, a team of other kids who do karate at his dad's school. He's been preparing for the Super Grands since October, putting together his choreography and music. He is limited to just seven tricks in each event and the rest is just punches, strikes and kicks.

He will travel to the event with another student from his dad's school, McKenna Jolly, who is 16 and lives in Ferndale. Jolly is also competing in the Super Grands.

"I'm kind of going to feel it out," Tanner Simpson said. "I'm not sure how the competition is or how hard it will be compared to my skill level. I'm not really nervous. I get stage fright, but I've trained myself to forget about the audience."

To learn more about Tanner Simpson's path to the Super Grands, visit his indiegogo page at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/send-tanner-simpson-to-super-grands-world-championship.


Reach Alex Peterson at 360-715-2285, or at alex.peterson@bellinghamherald.com.

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