Juan Sanchez grew up in The Bronx, New York. He began his training in martial arts in 1996. He attended Manhattanville College from 2003 to 2007 and received his BA in finance and financial services. During school and briefly after, Sanchez worked in the sales, retail and financial fields. This, along with his years of training, provided the background he needed to open his own martial arts school, USA Martial Arts Academy, in 2008.
USA Martial Arts Fitness Academy has been serving the South Bronx community for over 10 years. They determine their success by the positive impact their training has on the lives of their students. Whether you are looking to get in shape, learn self-defense, gain discipline, or participate in competitions, they are the school for you. They offer a well-rounded program starting with striking basics in Taekwondo/Karate classes. This is followed up with the kickboxing and grappling programs.
Sanchez returned to school in 2016 and completed his MA in business administration and management in 2018. Also, in 2018, he won gold in the WKC World Championships in Ireland.
In addition to his academy, Sanchez teaches entrepreneurship at Borough of Manhattan Community College and continues to compete in competitions actively.
In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?
In 2016, I broke my leg in a competition, and for about two months, I was forced to sit out from doing any types of physical activity. Then I had to recover after that. During that process, I started thinking about the way that I was training and competing, and I came up with a game plan for how to succeed going forward. Since then, I’ve been more methodical about my training, about setting goals, physical achievements, competitive achievements, and even the mindset of a competitor going into these competitions. I’ve been competing at a higher level and winning many tournaments. It changed the way I approached the game. In the long run, breaking my leg was something beneficial. It also prompted me to go back to school and finish my Master’s degree.
When you feel unfocused, what do you do?
Whenever I feel unfocused or frustrated, my default is going to the dojo. I like to work out, and I like being able to spend some time with myself and my thoughts. It’s my place of comfort.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
I’m a big advocate for pursuing your dreams. I know it sounds corny, but I do believe you can achieve them. I’ve certainly tried to do that with my own life. When I started my business, I was only 23. I think that you should follow your passions, but in doing so, you should commit to them 100% and devote yourself to doing whatever it is that needs to be done for you to achieve your goal. You need to be participating in whatever that career demands as much as possible.
I think that when you have ambitious dreams, you have to ignore the naysayers. You’re going to hear that your dreams are ridiculous or that they can’t be done. You have to ignore that. You need to be able to push forward and believe in yourself.
What is one lifestyle trend that excites you? (could be something like Hot Yoga, Healthy Eating, Wearable Exercise Technology)
My fiancé does a lot of yoga. It’s appealing to me because of the meditative aspect of it, the balance that is achieved through it. I haven’t had any time to pursue it myself, but I find it cool. I think that it comes down to what appeals to you the most, and you should pursue whatever makes you happy.
With or without naming names (whatever you’d prefer), who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
I’ve had several influences in my life. I’m fortunate to come from a great family. My mom and dad were both adamant about my education from the start. I’ve had great professors and great coaches in martial arts. My first master, Master Espinal, got me to my black belt in Taekwondo. For Karate, it was Sensei Tention who got me to my black belt in Karate. They’ve both been tremendous influences in my life.
My older brother has always helped to keep me on the right track, especially when I was younger. He helped me stay focused on my goals. Growing up, I was a little bit all over the place. He was the good kid who grew up and became a doctor. He helped keep me focused.
So, I don’t think success happens in a vacuum. I believe a successful person has many people to thank. I’m just fortunate to have a lot of good people in my life. I’ve probably forgotten half of the people that I should have mentioned.
What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned (can be personal or business-related).
I think one of the biggest life lessons that I’ve learned is the importance of goal setting. In martial arts, it’s the way that you become successful. For example, you’ve made it to 50 pushups; let’s try doing 75 now. Setting goals forces you to push your boundaries and limitations. It’s something that I think has helped me to become successful.
What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?
I think success is a mentality. In life, we have our ups and downs because it’s not always a linear path. You can be successful and then have to take a couple of steps back. Your overall outlook in life and your mindset are what truly determine your success. To me, a successful person is growth-minded, is always looking for ways to improve, and is ambitious. They are someone who sets goals and will always push their limitations. I think that success is not necessarily a monetary thing; I believe it’s more of a mindset.
How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated through goals. I’ve always been fairly consistent with setting goals for myself throughout my life. When I opened up my business, which was probably one of the main goals that I had for myself growing up, I came up with a number of different goals that I wanted to achieve. I wanted to become a world champion, and I wanted to go back to school eventually. I believe having goals keeps you focused, keeps you motivated, and as you achieve those goals, it’s important to reset and come up with new goals to achieve. That’s the way that I’ve always done it. If you always have a goal to aspire to, you’ll never be too comfortable, and you will keep pushing your limitations.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I know what kind of impact martial arts has had on my life. Now, I’m having that same impact on my students. I’ve had students go from being kids in karate school to college students. I have students that are all over the world studying and getting their education. So my impact is to develop athletes, but more importantly, to develop a successful mindset for them to achieve once they’re in the real world and applying the martial arts mentality to everyday life. It’s rewarding to see people from the South Bronx be able to overcome their environment and succeed in life. That’s the impact I hope to have, and the legacy I hope to leave behind.