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Alberto Crane: Gracie Barra's First American Black Belt FeaturedWritten by Jose Vera
Born July 14, 1976 in Santa Fe, New Mexico is Gracie Barra’s first American Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Alberto Crane. As a kid Alberto traveled and lived not just in America, he spent seven years of his youth living in Germany with his parents and two sisters. His first actual grappling partner was his older sister. He attended High School in New York, but his heart has always belonged to Santa Fe, New Mexico, that is the town he calls his home and its where his family resides.
Alberto did not begin Jiu Jitsu at an early age like many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts have, he actually played soccer, he did a little boxing and wrestling when he was in elementary school. It was not until he was 18 years old and after some friends who had been bugging him for six months to go attend a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, that he finally got his first taste of Jiu Jitsu. “Once I did one class I was hooked! Then after I saw Royce Gracie, I saw the mixed martial arts, the vale tudo fighting and of course it pumped me up even more you know that I was doing something that really worked, that was really effective,” said Alberto Crane.
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During that time there were not many people outside of Brazil that were training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, let alone traveling to the home of Jiu Jitsu to learn the art directly from the source. Rio de Janeiro was and still is a city that attracts lots of tourist and foreigners, but for a young man looking to make Brazil his new home and place of learning Rio was not that appealing for Alberto. “I think in Rio de Janeiro where there is a lot of foreigners that go there, I think that was one of the things that attracted me to Belo Horizante
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That feeling of family really helped Alberto in his journey, as he would embrace the Brazilian culture to its full capacity. “I got so immersed in the culture that I really feel, I really felt like I was Brazilian. I spoke fluent Portuguese, you know I was so immersed into Jiu Jitsu that I knew the referees, I knew everybody, that for a while I was really Brazilian,” says Alberto.
Alberto truly embraced the life of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as he would enter every tournament that was around during that time, back then there were not as many tournaments as there are now. . Back then there were only four major tournaments the Brazileiros, the Worlds, the Brazileiros Equipe and the Pan Ams. Even so Alberto would seek out other tournaments to compete in, no matter how small, no matter how far he had to travel, Alberto would compete in all of them. This helped keep him sharp and focused in becoming the best seasoned competitor.
In 2001 after 5 ½ years of training Alberto received his black belt under Vinicius Magalhaes and Master Carlos Gracie Jr. This was a dream come true for Alberto, it was also a very emotional moment for him. “I couldn’t even talk, I was just trying to hold myself back from just balling, crying you know. You think about all the hours and years of hard work, not that it was hard, you love it you know, but just all the hours and years, the ups and downs, all those moments kind of just flash when you finally receive your black belt, it was an amazing experience and I hope all my students get to feel that same experience,” says Alberto.
One of the biggest moments of his Jiu Jitsu career would come in his first major tournament as a black belt at the 2002 Worlds where he got to close out his bracket with Marcio Feitosa. But that would not be his proudest moment, his proudest moment is a moment he shared with Eduardo de Lima at the 2002 Worlds. “I got a nice compliment from Eduardo de Lima, one of the guys that taught me when I first went to Gracie Barra in Rio. He called me little gringo, gringinho, he was like gringinho you’ve come a long way and he gave me respect,” says Alberto.
While still competing and training in Belo Horizante, Brazil, in 2000 Alberto opened his first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After finding success not only as a competitor, but as a teacher he would go on to open his 2nd school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After many years of living in New Mexico and having two successful academies, I asked Alberto why the move to California?
“I met my wife and she is Armenian and we made a deal, when we would have kids that because of the culture it was real important for her to have her kids grow up around that culture, that Armenian culture and so we made a deal. She moved out there to New Mexico, but then when she got pregnant, I followed through with my end and it was very hard for me, but I had great guys to take over there and continue the schools,” says Alberto.
On January 2009 he would go on to open Gracie Barra Encino, located in the center of the Southern San Fernando Valley. He had a few students from teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a Muay Thai school in Glendale, CA. Then it just happened to work out that he found a great location in Encino not too far from Glendale and 17263 Ventura Boulevard, Encino CA became the home for his first school in California. The school was a huge success, so much so that he has students coming in from everywhere. After only a year, Alberto opened his 2nd academy in Pasadena, CA, home to the Rose Parade.
Many of his students were traveling from Pasadena to Encino and Alberto does a lot of his training out in Pasadena. He was able to find an amazing space and in January 2010 Gracie Barra Pasadena was opened. Located at 2560 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA, Gracie Barra Pasadena has become a powerhouse for producing future Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champions for Alberto. You would think running two schools was enough, but not for this Champion as he opening up his third school, Gracie Barra Burbank. It his undying loves, passion and belief in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that pushes him and motivates to teach.
“I have been doing it for a while and I really believe in what the art does for people. It changes people lives and I know its made my life, its changed my life. I want to do as much as I can with the time that I have and the two that I have are doing great, why nod do a third,” says Alberto.
He mentors himself after his own professor, Vinicius Magalhaes, he believes like his professor in showing everything, give everything to make his students all they can be. That is whether they want to be a World Champion, an MMA fighter or just to get into better shape, Alberto believes in giving them everything to achieve that goal. “I just try to give everything I can to make them reach their potential. That’s my goal everyday to give the best class I can, to give everything I have and we will what happens,” says Alberto.
But don’t think this Champion has hung up his gi or gloves up yet, Alberto is planning a return to the cage in December for an organization out of the U.S. He is then planning on competing in King of The Cage in 2011 for their first trip to the San Fernando Valley, just down the road from his Encino Academy. He has been keeping his skill sharp by training with the likes of former WEC lightweight contender Karen Darabedyan and TUF 12 cast member Sevak Magakian. Alberto is also planning on dawning the gi again, as he plans to compete in all the major Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments of 2011. If you want more information on Alberto Crane’s Grace Barra schools you can go towww.gbencino.com, www.graciebarrapasadena.com or www.graciebarraburbank.com.
Graduated from Cal State University Northridge with a degree in Journalism.