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Greenwood National Guard veteran goes overseas for Jiu-Jitsu tournament

Posted at 11:35 PM, Oct 05, 2017

GREENWOOD, Ind. -- The Center Grove Trojan wrestlers are about to get a little help on the mat from a man who is a world champion in his own right. 

Aaron Johnson is a Staff SGT with the Indiana National Guard.  

“I’ve been in the military since 2009,” said Johnson.  “I kind of wanted to join after 9/11, and I was finishing college.  So, after I finished college, I kind of got sidetracked, had a family.  2008, I lost my job, with all of the stuff going on with the economy.  And I figured it was no better time than to start looking at a career.”

Johnson works as a diesel mechanic down at Stout Field.  

In addition to being National Guard Veteran, he’s also a world jiu-jitsu champion.

“Jiu-jitsu is a submission based sport, and it's also self-defense,” said Johnson.  “I primarily call it self-defense first, competition second."

His origin started with wrestling when he was four years old.

“I wrestled through college and made a couple of attempts at making an Olympic team as a wrestler,” he said.

In 2007, Johnson got sick for a while. After he recovered, he got back into the ring, this time for MMA. Which then led his jiu-jitsu.

"Got with the owner here, James Clingerman, and he kinda talked me into doing jiu-jitsu full time,” Johnson said.

Johnson helps out with the jiu-jitsu training at the Indiana Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy which is located in Greenwood, IN.

"My size is real good for wrestling, and I use that base to adapt to JJ,” said Johnson.  “Basically, I like to attack the head; I'm real good at chokes because I have short arms and I'm able to attack smaller places.”

In 2015, he got a pulmonary embolism.

“They pretty much told me that I wasn’t going to be able to compete anymore,” Johnson said.

He didn't let that keep him down. After several months rest, new medicine, training, and perseverance, Johnson earned himself the title of world champion in California.

“I basically had the tournament of my life,” he said. “I won three matches and won myself a world title in 2015 after being down for a few months, so it was one of the highlights of my career so far as a grappler."

Johnson earned his black belt earlier this year and is heading to Azerbaijan on October 13th to compete for what might be his last time.

“Hopefully this year I can bring back two golds, one in gi and one in no gi,” Johnson said

The first day of the tournament is October 18th and ends on October 21st.

Johnson, who is originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Greenwood, Indiana, back in 1994 and had called it home ever since.

The Center Grove community got together to raise money for Johnson to go and compete in Azerbaijan.

"I owe a lot to the Center Grove wrestling team and the Center Grove parents because they've done wonders for me in just a very short period of time,” said Johnson.

After the competition, Johnson will be more involved with the Center Grove athletics department.

"I'm going to be one of the assistant coaches at the high school and one of the club coaches,” he said.  “We're going to be working towards building champions at the HS; I'm really looking forward to it."

He says his family also supports him 110%.

"It's never too late in life to achieve something you've been looking at your whole life."