Photo by Joel Irwin.
Photo by Joel Irwin.

Don’t let anyone tell Josh Brown he can’t fight a god; he’s already tried.

Competing at 132 pounds, the smallest men’s judo weight class, Brown, 21, trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., from four to five hours a day. Strength training, conditioning and regular practice ready the CIRI shareholder to fight his way into the top 22 ranked judo athletes in the world-that’s what it takes to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

“I’ve held my own against plenty of people bigger than me,” said the Olympic hopeful, who was gifted CIRI shares from his father, Howdice Brown. “I went from fighting kids and high schoolers to basically gods. When you fight an Olympian, it’s like they’re not even trying.”

Brown grew up in Wasilla, hanging out at his father’s club, Mat-Su Judo. He quickly fell in love with the sport, which involves throwing, pinning or forcing an opponent to submit to achieve a win. “I wrestled and did a little Brazilian jujitsu, but judo was my first love,” he said. “I can’t live without it.

Though he spends much of his time in Colorado, Brown frequently comes back home to Alaska. One of only a few Alaska Native people seeking a spot at either the 2016 or 2020 Olympics, he strives to set an example for other Native athletes. “There needs to be a role model. I don’t think I’m the perfect person for that, but I think I can help.”

More than anything, he’d like to medal at the 2020 Olympics, then return to Alaska to run his own club or help with his father’s. “Once you’re an Olympian, you’re part of a community that’s so different from professional athletes,” he said. “Olympians, when they retire, they don’t stop. They’re giving back.”

In the meantime, Brown works to bring attention to the sport of judo. “It’s the number two or three sport in the world,” he said. “But in the U.S., everybody says, ‘What do you mean, judo? Like karate?'”

His answer? There’s more strategy to judo. “If the opponent is good on the ground, I’ll keep them on their feet. If they’re a righty or a lefty, that tells me what throws I’m going to try. It’s like playing chess,” Brown clarifies. “But a lot faster.”

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