Community Sports

Local karate team going for world title black belts

During the holidays families gather to spend time together and partake in holiday traditions. For the members of Shayne Simpson’s Martial Arts & Fitness Team Rock Solid, the tradition may end up being competing for a world championship black belt.

Four members of the team have qualified and have been invited to compete in the National Black Belt Leagues World Championships. Tanner Simpson, 16, is ranked first in six divisions in the America West National Conference and will be competing for six world titles. Sid Keene, 14, Kayden Simpson, 9, and Lukas Talbert, 8, are all ranked first in at least one national conference going into the world championships.

“It’s amazing,” Shayne Simpson said in a phone interview.” This team has exploded. It’s been awesome seeing these kids learn about life and learn life skills. For me to be a coach for them is pretty cool.”

Shayne Simpson’s Martial Arts & Fitness has been in Bellingham 12 years now. The school has 325 students and 16 instructors teaching various forms of martial arts.

“The art (Team Rock Solid) is competing in is known as the dessert art, the Jackie Chan style of kicks and flips. The stuff you see in movies but not in UFC,” he said.

The four members of Team Rock Solid will be traveling to Buffalo, N.Y., from Dec. 24-31 to compete for world titles. Competitors all across the United States, Mexico, Canada and other countries will be competing for a NBL World Championship.

Competitors travel to many tournaments throughout the year and compete for points. At the end of the year, contestants are sent a letter informing them of their qualification and invitation to compete at the world level, he said.

Tanner Simpson is ranked number one in the hard creative, hard choreographed musical, hard open musical, hard and soft creative, hard and soft choreographed musical and the hard and soft open musical divisions, giving him the opportunity to return to Bellingham with six world titles.

“Tanner is expected to take at least one, if not two or three world titles,” Shayne said. “A lot of people are predicting he is going to do it.”

Keene is ranked first in the hard creative and the hard and soft creative divisions. He will also be competing in two other divisions for a world title.

“Sid’s strong point is open hand,” Shayne said. “He’s got a good chance to place high in the championships.”

Kayden Simpson, whose strong point is in the open hand category, is ranked number one in the hard creative division and will be competing in three other divisions during the world championships.

“Kayden has a high chance of taking worlds in the open hand, looking back at past competitors and where they’ve placed,” Shayne said.

Talbert is ranked number one in the hard and soft choreographed musical and his strong point is in the weapons category, the nunchucks specifically.

“Lukas is ranked number one in two events at the nine and under division,” Shayne said. “This is the first year he has been able to qualify as a junior black belt. He is pretty impressive at his age and how well he is performing. There is a high chance he will take a world title for weapons.”

Competing and doing well in these Karate competitions have opened more doors than just an opportunity at a world title. It has also landed them opportunities to be in movies as well.

Kayden, Tanner and Lucas were in a short film, “Dead Hearts,” that has been traveling the world and winning awards, Shayne said. The kids have also been in a YouTube video titled “Gritty Korra,” filmed at Mt. Baker, that has gained over 50,000 hits.

It’s at the tournaments where the karate contestants get most film roles. They get contacted by movie directors watching at the tournaments, Shayne said.

Simpson has coached the four kids since the beginning of their karate careers. Tanner and Kayden are two of his four kids and have been doing karate before they could walk. Keene and Talbert have been at Shayne Simpson’s Martial Arts & Fitness for about four years now.

“The kids have worked really hard,” Shayne said. “They sacrifice weekends and Friday nights. They are in here every single day to live their dream, compete and do what they want.”