There’s an air about him. It’s a statement he makes the moment he walks into a room. Without uttering a word, he surveys his environment and moves throughout with calm assertiveness.
Whether you are a student of his on the mat, a student of life, or in my case, an observer; his presence emanates and evokes respect. The Alpha I’m depicting is 4th Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and MMA fighter, Alberto Crane.
I met Professor Alberto (as my son Anthony refers to him) a few months ago. My son and I were having an Açaí Bowl when Professor Alberto (I’m compelled to address him in this fashion) walked in, greeted my son and we were introduced. I felt my posture straighten slightly and my curiosity unfold. His demeanor echoed that of his children. By children, I mean students, a group of men that my son invited to our home for a viewing of a UFC fight a few years ago. With my chef hat on (synonymous for Mom hat) and my sous chefs at my side, we, (my daughter Priscilla and her dear friend Tania or Tañita as we refer to her) whipped up dishes as if it were the lunch rush.
While prepping the food, there was a continuous flow that ensued…a knock at the door; the greeting; the gentleman wiped their feet prior to entering; made their way to the kitchen; waited to be introduced, greeted me while folding their hands, and bowed slightly. Every single one of them performed the exact routine; a beautiful dance that displayed character featuring respect. They ate, cheered, laughed; ate, cheered and laughed all like brothers. The fight was over and they performed their exit the same way they entered. In my life, I have never been in the company of a more respectful group of men and it is a memory my family and I hold in high esteem.
When I met Professor Alberto, it all made sense; like when you meet a friend’s family members. There are similarities and subtle nuances that tie the individual to the whole. When I was given the opportunity to observe Professor Alberto teach, (and my son train) I did not hesitate.
Seated on a bench towards the corner of the room, I witnessed that old familiar dance; each student entered the studio, bowed before their feet touched the mat, greeted each other with a handshake, a one arm hug/pat on the back, and a slight bow. They each smiled, engaged in conversation and treated each other like family. As they prepared for class, they formed a semi-circle against the wall as Professor Alberto walked towards each student to greet them; not rushing, not with a high five or yelling, “Are you ready?!!!” but with a handshake, a few words; a bow. It was a beautiful sight to behold, like the viewing of a cherished relic.
As the class unfolded, first they warmed up with jumping jacks while counting off each repetition in Portuguese, “um, dois, três…” (I totally just Googled the spelling and had to read the transliteration, “oohm, dois, trey-z” in order to attempt the pronunciation) then, the class was separated into two groups and the instruction began.
Professor Alberto demonstrated with another instructor a new lesson a few times, and then the students paired up with their partners and practiced.
I watched Professor Alberto as he weaved about the mat, keeping his dark eyes affixed to each student, monitoring their technique, explaining the process if needed; engaging with them; completely present.
My son was privy to that guidance and because I am a constant cheerleader for my son, my eyes kept bouncing between Professor Alberto and my son Anthony. At times I felt nervous, especially when I saw my son and his partner training with force, flipping, pulling; there was a moment my son did some kind of jump wrap around the legs to the neck of his partner and I gasped!
An immediate flashback came to mind of some kid running into the house while yelling and crying, “Anthony me pego!” (Anthony hit me!) and my son looking at me with his messy drenched hair, as perspiration ran down his flushed face with a bewildered gaze, like he didn’t have a clue what the other kid was talking about because he was just playing.
I guess some things never change, only this time, after my son and his partner rolled while attempting to choke each other or make the other tap out, smiled, and shook hands every time they took a pause. I was relieved and amazed.
The other students were no different. Not one became heated, or disgruntled. No-one beat themselves up mentally because they were submitted. If the partner was more experienced, they would explain the process and show them the technique. The entire group moved like a wave in unison for the betterment of each other. The class ended with a cooldown, a few moments of silence, and the forming of a line where they each shook hands.
After class, my son and I sat with Professor Alberto at Acai Jungle Cafe (an establishment he owns and operates). As I munched on a delicious Portobello Panini and a Matcha Green Tea Shake we had a lengthy conversation. I probed at how the Black Belt extraordinaire got started, where he was from, what were his parents like, why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; what propelled him into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts? And what brought him to the Los Angeles area? (The last question caused Professor Alberto’s features to soften; he smiled and simply said, “My wife.”)
His accomplishments span from winning King of the Cage; Pan American Silver Medallist (2000 brown); World Bronze Medallist (2002 black) and quite frankly, too many accolades to include in this humble post (click on the link to read more about Alberto Crane).
His story is fascinating and worthy of a book, but I will mention a few key phrases that stayed with me.
At the age of eighteen, Professor Alberto was working as a runner at a restaurant in his hometown, Santa Fe, New Mexico when a co-worker (who lacked an athletic appearance) arm barred him repeatedly. That was the moment that spiked his interest and lured him to the sport. He then read Napoleon Hill’s legendary book, Think And Grow Rich which influenced his commitment to BJJ and ultimately led him to study under the best. With the support of his mother, he got on a plane and traveled to Rio De Janeiro to study at Gracie Barra Headquarters. Young Alberto Crane was just nineteen, and what he thought would be six months turned into three years. As Professor Alberto told the story, he took a pause and said, “I decided to go All In so I just stayed. I lived off of my credit cards. I got so good, so fast because I was training with the best, watching, learning and losing. Each person that I lost to made me better.”
The New Mexico native continued by telling me that he lost his first thirteen Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, however, he was never detoured from his practice. His family roots bear the same resilience; his father is a Vietnam War Veteran, his mother (his strong foundation) provided encouragement and sound advice; his late grandmother, (a teacher of ESL) left a Legacy of her own for hundreds of students. Professor Alberto continued, “That’s what I want to do, leave a Legacy not only for my children but my students. I love to teach. BJJ is more than a practice on the mat, I have seen it change a student’s life.”
I am a witness of how the practice impacted a twenty-one-year-old young man who found a flyer that was left on the windshield of his car offering free classes. After one class came two, then three, then daily sometimes two or three times a day. That was five years ago when my son first stepped up to the mat with a beginner’s white belt and most recently received his brown belt.
Had Professor Alberto not surrendered completely to his calling, his passion would have never converted into his practice; nor profession, nor income, nor business, nor franchise, nor Legacy, which is presently the name of his studio (Legacy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). The influence on the lives of those he inspires would cease to exist, including the influence on my son.
As a mother, I am grateful for his mentorship. As an observer, I am moved. As a writer, I am compelled to log the actions of a once eighteen-year-old kid who went “All In,” forsaking all others or as he says, “Got rid of everything that got in the way.”
What would happen if each one of us stopped dabbling? What changes would occur if we focused solely on one path, activity, study, career? What would transpire if we went All In?
I do believe that life is always working in our favor. I believe that every single situation is brought into our experience not only by our own creation but that of our Higher Being, the I AM within us guides every conversation, situation, experience, coincidence, every single one, every single time. We simply suppress the momentum. Haven’t you ever had a genius idea like Professor Alberto who at one moment thought, “I need to go to Rio De Janeiro…” but yet, became immobilized by the voice of reason? I know I have, many, many, many times!
What talent do you harbor that would change the lives of others. How many instruments of inspiration have you muted? What potential students are you not enrolling (because we are all students)? Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong answer. For me, I can bury my talent under the sand dunes or I can take the peace that I have been given, (which resides within) nurture my gifts, act on an idea and share them with the world.
“What I know for sure,” (as Oprah says) is that Professor Alberto inspires me to go All In.
How about you? Are you, All In? What Legacy will you leave behind? The choice my dear friend is yours.