The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club next door: Summit house doubles as martial arts gym

No matter what your fitness goals may be, chances are that Capitol Hill has your fix. With options from yoga and cross training to boring old treadmills, you may never run out of options. But if working on your tree pose just isn’t high intensity enough for you, a local fitness club specializing in martial arts may offer the edge you’re looking for.

Summit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a submission wrestling club located at 711 Bellevue Ave. in a residential house between Bellevue Ave. and E. Roy St. There is no indication from the outside of the ceiling to floor wrestling mats – a living room wrestling wring – within.

“Anyone can do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu regardless of gender, size, or shape. I have seen females under 5 feet tall be just as effective at Jiu-Jitsu as men that were former collegiate football players,” said Summit BJJ instructor George Watkins. “Because Jiu-Jitsu is a game of kinetic chess, it is more about outsmarting your opponent then out-muscling them.”

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, was developed in the early 1900s and is a blend of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo techniques. The combination of submission and take-down make it popular training for UFC and mixed martial arts fighters. But, unlike those contact arts, BJJ focuses on technique and balance, rather than strength and agility. It’s a great self-defense tool, because the techniques can help a smaller or weaker person bring down a much larger assailant.

It’s an affordable workout. Summit BJJ members only pay $35 a month. Since the club doesn’t have a full time black belt, they cannot call themselves an Academy or School. So, Summit BJJ keeps it chill, and the members learn the sport together.

“The only qualification for membership is a genuine interest in BJJ. We consider it to be a club, as we are not a business,” said Watkins. “Summit BJJ is more than just a place to train Jiu-Jitsu, it is a family.”

The members are throwing a family-style BBQ and open house this Saturday, July 24 with the money they’ve raised from water bottles sales at the practices. There will be open mat wrestling from 12 – 1 p.m., and the BBQ goes 1:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. Anyone interested in learning more about BJJ or the club is encouraged to join and meet the other members.

Phil Anderson, bike messenger and former head coach of the Roosevelt High School wrestling team, transformed his living room into a training gym and officially opened Summit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in March of 2007.  While he doesn’t own the house, Anderson is on the master lease and splits the rent between Summit BJJ, two tenants who live upstairs, and Summit BJJ mascot Spike the cat.  

While Summit BJJ doesn’t have a sign on the outside, it does have a bright yellow sign on the front lawn that sticks out like a sore thumb. The Land Action Notice sign details plans to remove the existing structures on that property and replace them with – what else – condominiums. There are five houses, including Summit BJJ, slated for demolition on that block to prepare for construction. Residents in the area have fought the development, according to Anderson. The application for the plan was accepted by DPD in December, but no construction has commenced. 

“The project has been stalled multiple times due to the economy as well as adjacent neighbors petitioning to keep the property as is,” said Watkins. “At this point we do not know when or if the project will commence, but will be given adequate notice when a decision is made.”

As of now, Anderson and Watkins don’t know for sure what will happen to Summit BJJ once they get their three months notice. But until then, Summit BJJ meets several times each week to push each other to the next level in their training.

“The skill level of our group continues to improve with every class. We are a very young Jiu-Jitsu club that is growing at an amazing rate,” said Watkins. “It is every Jiu-Jitsu club’s instructors’ dream to have a room full of black belts to mentor incoming students and hope to some day see this dream materialize. Until then, we’ll be on the mats getting better every day.”

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