Van Sanders’ Story
Rick: Van, tell me a little bit about your life, where you have been, what steps you have taken to get into boxing, and how it has enhanced your life. Also tell me how your life in fitness and boxing has been able to enhance other people’s life?
Van: Ok Cool.
All right my name is Van Sanders, I have been in fitness ever since I have been 9 years old. I started off doing taekwondo when I was nine years old and I weight lifted since I was 11 or 12 years old. Then later, I started boxing when I turned 17. It is actually funny how I had gotten in weight lifting. I was trying to strengthen my body because I was scared that I was going to get my ass whipped by my Dad, and I figured that if I lifted weights maybe it would make my body parts strong enough to take the ass whipping. And ever since then I never stopped lifting.
So from there when I was 18, I joined the Army and started boxing during my time as a soldier. And I have been boxing ever since. So from 18 and on, I have been boxing.
Shortly after I got out of the Army at the age of 21, I moved back to Chicago and kind of got back into the street life. And while I lived in Chicago, my old ways resurfaced. So stuff like fitness, I fell away from it. I was still lifting weights with my friends and stuff like that. I never totally never stopped lifting weights, however I did stop the combative type stuff and moved more into getting into a familiar scene, the street life of Chicago.
Shortly after leaving Chicago, I moved to Arizona, which saved my life. If I would of stayed in Chicago, I probably would be friggin in jail or probably be dead. So coming here to Arizona actually got me back to combative sports, back into boxing, back into kick boxing which then got me into submission grabbling. Arizona is like a very, very huge fight state where a lot of people out here do a lot of wrestling and combative type of sports. So when I moved out here to Arizona in 2004, I got back into boxing and also into kickboxing. From there I started doing submission grabbling and I became a full time mixed martial arts fighter in the process.
Becoming a mixed martial arts fighter I started teaching classes and doing personal training, which developed into being a fulltime position as an instructor and fighter. This really helped my life out for the better because if it weren’t for fitness, I would always be into the street life. And fitness has literally saved my life.
So when I first moved here to Arizona in 2004, there was this guy named Chris Valdez, at Old School boxing, a trainer of mine. When his schedule changed up and I wasn't able to trained with him, I realized I needed another place to train, so I went back to Boxing Inc. where I am now, and I looked to see what they had to offer. The sales person there went over their services. Now I never trusted sales people before because I don’t trust people like that period. But when I went back into Boxing Inc. and I had ran into the dude that I first saw there, Charles, and he gave me this banging ass deal. He was like Dude, if you come here we will get you a fight.. (whoopee, whoopee do) and I will hook you up with a couple of free months. It was like cool.
I started training at Boxing Inc. first from 2004 up until 2006. And during this time I started falling back into my old ways (stuff). I just had a lot of personal stuff going on. I never stopped fighting, or I never stopped training for fighting and stuff like that. In fact I never stopped competing in boxing or competing in submission grappling even though I was getting back to my old ways.
During this time I had a fallout with some of the people that were managing the gym so I ended up leaving and started doing my old thing. So I pretty much from there like I said, I started falling in back in my old stuff and I ran back in some old trainers of mine and we all started training again.
We were a tight group and we trained together for about a year a year and a half until I ended up going to another gym; Apex Mixed Martial Arts. I was with Apex up until 2012. I was fighting full time and I ended up blowing my knee out while I was training for a fight in 2012 which turned out to be my last fight for a while. Once again I blew my knee out, it kind of messed up my mind. And I started noticing that I was seeing things differently.
I was on the side lines because of my injury, and it looked like everybody else was just like going on with their lives surpassing me. It felt like I was being left behind, so I ended leaving fitness and I ended up getting back into the street life which meant I started getting back into my old ways. I ended up getting back into stuff like I should never been doing in the first place. It was like I was a kid again back in Chicago and I ended up getting into some trouble. And because of the trouble I got into I went to prison for two years. When I was in prison, funny enough, I was still lifting weights more then before I went in.
When I Went To Prison
During this time in prison I pretty much was training people, so it almost felt like even though I was trying to leave fitness prior to prison, I ended up falling right back into fitness. I found myself starting to train some of the prisoners there and a lot of the other prisoners saw what I was doing. They were asking me to train them and then they were asking me to teach classes. What I mean is the guards at the prison were asking me to teach classes so I started teaching classes in prison. It was almost like God was putting me back into teaching people, training people again so I knew that fitness was my life, even though I was trying to escape from it prior to my time there.
I knew that it pretty much this was my calling in my life and that I was never going to escape, no matter how much I wanted to. So when I got out of prison I was looking for a job. I wasn’t out of prison for not even a month and I was in a half way house at that time, and one of the guys that I was locked up with and who I use to train while in prision, he had a friend that worked at Boxing Inc. where I had worked at before.
Ironically they were looking for a trainer and they didn’t know that I knew the owner and that I use to train at Boxing Inc. So when the owner found out that I was back in town he got in contact with that person, and that person got in contact with me to get in contact with them.
The owner called me in and he was like, “Yo Dude, I heard you are back, you know how you been?” and then we chopped it up. He told me what he was offering and I have been rolling with Boxing Inc. ever since. It is a great place to be, Boxing Inc., and it is very family oriented.
Boxing Inc., is into fighting however we are more for everybody, like we are about changing people’ lives physically, and mentally. If you want to fight you can fight. If you are just trying to get in better shape for your health we doing that. We are changing people aspects of their lives; we change peoples’ confidence about themselves, how they view themselves, and how other people view them. You know because when people come in here and you have somebody that is over weight and they look down on themselves.
Because we live in a varied type of society, where you know the way that people look at other people, they are going to judge you the way that you look. And so some of the people that first come here are down on themselves for various reason like they are over weight, or they do not feel confident in about themselves. Then after three or four months and with consistency in their training they literally change their whole way at the way they look at themselves. Like, they may drop 50 or 60 pounds and now they have this huge confidence about themselves. Andother people start to see that change.
And they will say, “Dam Dude, something has changed about you or you look so much better now, what have you been doing?” Just knowing that I am here helping these people change their whole life style about themselves, it is a great feeling. Just being able to help people change is so great of a feeling. And this is one of the main reasons I am still here today at Boxing Inc.
Ending this last part of the Interview:
Rick: I learned a lot about you.
Van: It seemed like I was writing a friggin memoir or something (LOL).
Rick: Tell me about one of your most memorial experiences helping someone
Van: One of the best experiences that I have in training people, and I still talk to him to this day, this friggin great kids’ name is Carlos (Since he is still a minor I have changed his name to Carlos until I can receive written permission to post his name). I remember when I first met this kid, he was around 7 or 8 years old and he was a little Gordo, you know a little over weight kid, you know what I am saying, and he pretty much just had a lot of stuff going on his personal life.
You know, in school he was being picked on and he was just trying to find a way to build his confidence, being able to get self defense and stuff like that. He came to the gym one day and he started to take my classes. At that time I was teaching the youth MMA classes. And I like Dude, I got you hooked up, no problem you know, so he would take my classes. I am always hard on everybody you know, like if you train with me I am going to train you like you are getting ready for a professional fight.
And he pretty much came everyday, busting his ass, busting his ass. Ironically, one of the kids that was bulling him started coming to the gym, and I remember when this kid started to train. He was taking the same classes that Carlos was taking. Carlos came up to me one day and said this is one of the kids that is messing with me and stuff like that. And I like you know, don’t even worry about it Dude, just keeping coming Dude, you know you are going to get right.
And I would even talk to that kid that was bullying Carlos. I would always talk to kids about not to be a bully and stuff like that because when I was a kid I was a bully. You know, so when I see kids getting bullied it kind of makes me ashamed like dam Dude like it sucks being a bully or being bullied. What I would do is when we would have our sparring sessions, I would make then both go up against each other. And this kid (bully) would always get the better of Carlos, because this kid would was just like a natural freak athlete you know.
But what happened was one day the kid (bully) ended up disappearing, and I did not see him for months. However Carlos kept coming every day, every day, and his grabbling kept on getting better and better. His boxing was getting better; his kickboxing kept getting better. Every facet of his game was getting better. And I remember maybe six months went by and this kid (bully) comes back into the gym. And I said “You Dude whats’ been up with you? And he is telling me about how his home life has been, and you know he hesitated at first but he told me he has been having a lot of stuff going on. And when he started talking about more about his home life, I started to see why he was a bully, why he had this anger, why he had this aggression, and stuff like that. It was because he had a rough home life.
So this guy that was bullying Carlos started coming back to the gym and I had him spar again with Carlos.
I remember little Carlos, friggin beat the friggin brakes off this friggin kid. This kid use to be the bully on him and was now being bullied. He was getting his friggin ass kicked. I had to step in and say, ok Carlos, stop, stop. And this little dude, Carlos, he amazed me in so many ways, not just in the confidence he built up for himself but he lost weight, he had this confidence about himself. He was getting great grades in school. Not only was he doing all of this, the kids that were being the bullies in school, Carlos became that guy that stuck up to the guys that were being the bullies for other kids.
And it was just amazing to see the transformation in this kid, how he would go from this kid that didn’t have this confidence to be able to build the confidence which was the number one thing he had wanted to change. Carlos had that belief in himself that he could change. And he came in to this gym to change that.
Van: “If you don’t want to change or you don’t believe in yourself that you can change, you are not going to be able to change.”
So he came in, changed it, built up the confidence for himself to be able to get the self defense, to get the discipline, to be able to get the technique to be able to change himself, and not only did, not only did he change himself but now he is out there and like I said he was like 7 or 8 year old, now like he is 13, 14 years old.
He is getting straight A’s in school, wrestling in school, and he is a fantastic athletic right now. And just seeing what he become, is friggin, its’ just amazing just to see, how much he has grown.
Not only has he changed, himself but everybody that is in his life he is changing his or her life too. So that is one of my best experience that I can remember..