Sticking together: Sequim mother-son duo to compete in international martial arts event

The first time she saw it, Kathrin Sumpter recalls, was during a martial arts exhibition — likely a black belt karate showcase — about a dozen years ago.

“All of a sudden, she breaks out these sticks,” she says.

Something clicked for Sumpter, a Sequim resident and owner/instructor of Sequim Martial Arts and the newly-designated Cacoy Cañete Doce Pares-Sequim Club, where she teaches the Doce Pares, a Filipino martial art.

Now, the Doce Pares fourth-degree black belt and her son Sam Manders are in training to take part in the Cacoy Cañete Doce Pares World Invitational Tournament & Gathering in Cebu City, Philippines, in August.

“It’s exciting — it’s kind of like going to the motherland,” Sumpter says. “The best in the world will be there.”

Sumpter and Manders join a six-person team representing the United States for a tournament, seminars and a training camp along with other events catering to stick fighters from all disciplines across the globe.

In preparation, the Sequim duo train with fellow team members and others at a facility in Portland, Ore. — the closest Sumpter says she can go to get this kind of training.

“I have to got to Portland to find people I can learn from; here I’m the only game in town,” she says.

Family inspiration

Sumpter holds experience with Tae Kwon Do since the early 1990s and is now a 5th degree black belt in the discipline. An unexpected family connection broadened her repertoire, however.

Gail Sumpter, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, said she’d visit her sister-in-law Kathrin in Sequim.

“She said something about sticks. (I said), ‘That’s what I do,” Gail Sumpter recalls.

Since 1996 Gail Sumpter had been well-versed in Eskrima, the national sport and martial art of the Philippines that focuses primarily on stick fighting, knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat but also covers grappling and other weapons.

Doce Pares, Spanish for 12 peers or 12 equals, is a form of Eskrima.

“When I moved up here I started teaching her; she got way into it,” Gail says.

“I just started doing it with no form; (Gail) really helped me get into it,” Kathrin says.

While martial arts like Tae Kwon Do tend to be more sport-oriented and good for fun and getting fit, Gail Sumpter says, Eskrima is more focused on combat and self defense. A 3rd degree black belt in the discipline, she says she took to Eskrima in particular with her role as a reserve law enforcement deputy.

“It ties into wanting to defend yourself,” Gail Sumpter says. “It’s really versatile. You can use a stick, and open hand, a knife and a stick. (And) you really have to focus if you are training.”

While Gail Sumpter doesn’t practice Eskrima too much anymore — “I’m just so involved teaching lifeguards and CPR,” she says — her sister-in-law and her son are taking to the international stage soon with a crew of other Americans led by Team USA Captain and Master Dan Haney.

International stage

In an article Kathrin Sumpter wrote for the TaeKwonDo Times — she’s a correspondent, columnist and contributor for the publication — Haney notes, “It’s inspiring to witness and compete against such a high caliber of competitors. The thing I look forward to the most is the camaraderie and bonding with participants from all over the world. I’ve met some incredible people and I cherish these experiences. Spear-headed by our coach (Anthony Kleeman), we have a strong team … I’m excited for all of us to meet, share, and learn from the top grandmasters and world champions in the Filipino Arts.”

A relatively late addition to the team is Manders, 23, a 2014 Sequim High graduate about to complete a theology degree at Northwest University in Kirkland.

Manders got his start in martial arts at age 7.

“I had to do something after school,” Manders remembers. “I decided to do what she was doing.”

Manders earned black belts in 2011 and 2012. When the chance came to join his mom on the trip to the Philippines, he jumped.

“I’m glad Sam is coming to the event,” Kathrin Sumpter says. And not just for a bit of tourist picture-taking: he joins other U.S. team members for a tournament that will last at least a couple of days of the team’s two-week trip.

Sumpter says says she’s been training since October and is the lone woman on the team.

Held in Cebu City, headquarters for Doce Pares, the World Invitational Tournament & Gathering is also a centennial birthday celebration of Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete. Born on Aug. 8, 1919, Cacoy, revered as a founder of the discipline and last surviving member of the Doce Pares Eskrima Club founded in January 1932, died at age of 95 on Feb. 5, 2016.

“It will be an honor for us all to attend and pay tribute to the founder of Cacoy Cañete Doce Pares,” Haney said.

For more about Cacoy Cañete Doce Pares-Sequim Club, call Kathrin Sumpter at 360-775-0542.

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