Jiu Jitsu is one of the most popular forms of combat sports, and Red Lodge resident Tim Ellinger is driving up popularity of the sport in the town.
Ellinger owns Grindhouse Jiu Jitsu, located on 111 Broadway Ave. S. in Red Lodge. He lives and breathes the sport but his focus wasn't originally on Jiu Jitsu.
"I got picked on a lot when I was a kid and in high school, I got beat up in front of God and everybody else in the art room. I started wrestling because I wanted a leg up, I wanted to learn how to defend myself," said Ellinger.
That moment lit a fire in Ellinger and set him on the path he's on today. Wrestling led Ellinger to try his hand in mixed martial arts, but when he was 20, a tragedy changed the trajectory of his life.
"In college, I went blind in my left eye. I was in a shooting accident and went blind. So, I had to quit doing MMA, and I really started to get into Jiu Jitsu because it was really my only outlet," Ellinger said.
Losing vision in an eye is a challenge most can’t comprehend but Ellinger says "he wouldn’t change a thing."
"It came with its challenges, but it also made me stronger because I know I can get through something as difficult as losing an eye and come out the other side and still do what I love and teach my students," Ellinger added.
Teaching and competing, that’s currently Ellinger’s focus and devotion. That devotion has allowed him to represent his gym and his town in Las Vegas at the Submission Fighting Championship.
"The tournament is submission grappling and because submission grappling isn’t in the Olympics, these guys came around and (they) hold submission grappling ADCC tournament every couple years. You have to be invited to it so, if you’re invited to this tournament, it means you’re one of the best in the world. So, part of the tournament for me was in pursuit of being best in the world so I could get invited to the big tournament and really represent Red Lodge, represent myself, and Grindhouse and just try to conquer my dreams," said Ellinger.
Ellinger won three of his four matches and placed eighth out of over 70 competitors in his weight class. He says the journey was great, but his goal remains to "continue to improve and place higher next time."
For now, his focus is on his students and to spread the importance of self-defense.
"The more people that know how to defend themselves, the less bullying we have, the less violence we have. And I couldn’t imagine myself in any other circumstance in life. This is what I want to do for sure," Ellinger said.