Old new team to redebut at Pan 2011

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At the 2011 Pan Kids, held end of February in California, an academy with an unfamiliar name stepped up to the winners’ stand, thanks to an eager group of youngsters.

Solid proof Clube Barra is a team with its sights set on the future. But is it really all that new a team? Well. . . Yes and no.

Clube Barra is the new team of our GMA Professor Claudio França and his black belts, but the story behind the team goes back a good twenty years.

The kids at Clube Barra / Photo: publcity

“Barra da Tijuca was Jiu-Jitsu’s capital in the 1990s, and in 1991 Marcus Vinicius, who now teaches in Beverly Hills, and I created Clube Barra, since we taught around there, at Riviera condominium, Atlântico Sul and at Fisilabor gym – all around the same area,” recounts the black belt, who also promoted Copa Atlântico Sul championship with Marcus Vinícius (and Joe Moreira at the start). “Up until 1995 the team was one of the most competitive in the Rio scene,” he adds.

Upon his 1996 arrival in California, Claudio stashed the name, as it made no sense in Santa Cruz and as he wanted to push his own name as a Jiu-Jitsu teacher. Now, having produced numerous black belts, Claudio wants a less personal name, one that can include other teachers.

Hence team Clube Barra, now comprised of Claudio, Vince Vanderlipe, Daniel Tomas and further bolstered by black belts like Carlos Melo, Mike Weaver, Gary Casey and Tyson Kamp, as well as brown belt Nathan Mandelsohn, who started out at França’s academy at seven years of age.

“We sat down and thought about it, but giving a team a name is harder than giving one to your son,” says França, half joking half serious. And thus the name Clube Barra came back strong. Really strong, as one can tell from the team’s results.

For the 2011 Pan, the team will be taking a sixty-man troop to Irvine and it dreams of a repeat of what it accomplished at the Pan Kids, when it took second overall and won the first-place trophy in the 7-to-9-year old division.

“It happened quicker than I’d thought, as we took at most 10% of our kids. The team was already really strong, but it was scattered. It’s further proof of how there are no miracles in Jiu-Jitsu, success comes with time,” he reflects, to then analyze where the team’s greatest chances lie. “Our juvenile team is really strong — we’re going to make it onto the podium in that division. We’ll take thirty athletes in the adult division, but we’re still strengthening it for the years to come. We’ll be stronger in the Master and Senior, with a shot at placing, too.”

Now stuck in the role of trainer and event promoter (his American Cup, a traditional California event, is coming up on April 30), Claudio França hasn’t competed since 2000. And he explains it with a phrase both simple and direct, like a swift punch:

“These days it’s more important for me to work as coach and promoter than to lie around in a room resting to compete the next day.”

What about your team, is it in good stead for Pan 2011? Comment below. And to find out more about Clube Barra, visit www.claudiofrancabjj.com.

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