Joseph Del Toro is the owner and manager of Matador Performance Center. His family immigrated to Lincoln Heights, California, in the 1970s from Mexico when Joseph was a baby.
When he was 14 years old, his mother passed away due to an autoimmune disease. Because of that significant event in Joseph’s life, he eventually dropped out of High School when he did not have football to engage him anymore.
After attending therapy due to a mental breakdown from drugs and losing his mother, Joseph went to Pasadena City College and studied sound design.
Before he finished his degree, Joseph got a job working in the vaults of film studios. Later, he worked as a trainer at LA Fitness, Equinox, and a charter school for at-risk youth. In 2007, Joseph opened his gym in Pasadena, Matador Performance Center.
Matador Performance Center
2620 E. Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91107
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In 2004, Joseph transitioned from Valley Fitness to Equinox and became a tier 3 trainer. Joseph became involved with schools through a long-time client who worked with at-risk charter schools.
Joseph was living in the SGV and working in Pasadena at the time. Joseph’s friend and a client asked him to do a pilot in Monrovia.
The whole school loved that this pilot was more than just a typical gym class, so Joseph was asked in 2007-2008 to start developing these youth centers.
The students Joseph worked with were from last-chance schools. Students who needed something extra.
There was a shift in attitude in the students and how to interact with their school and teachers. It gave them confidence and helped develop their relationship with their teachers.
In Monrovia, Joseph launched the first center for the school. Joseph’s idea was to make these pilots more of a team-building experience between teachers and students. A way to engage the teacher and students.
This stronger connection would encourage all aspects of learning and participation from the students, everything from better communication with teachers, better attendance in school, and even a fond outlook at school.
Joseph would be extended contracts all over southern California because of his success with these centers. It got so big that Joseph had to hire independent contractors to help, two percenter. At one point, he had up to thirty trainers.
Joseph did not have any formal training or other experience in this work. However, Joseph did have something else to help him.
He could relate to the students because he was also an at-risk youth. All he had when growing up was The Boys Club and football. Joseph used that as his escape.
Joseph grew up close; he grew up in Lincoln Heights. It was a rough area when Joseph was growing up. His family immigrated from Mexico when he was a baby. They had six kids.
The family of 8 originally moved into a one-bedroom apartment in a complex in El Sereno.
When Joseph was four, they moved because of gang violence. The family moved into a two-bedroom home that his uncle owned.
Things were going very well for a number of years until Joseph’s mother became ill. It was noticeable to the family that his mother was sick when he was around 10.
It was scary for them because they were not legally in the U.S.A., so they couldn’t take advantage of certain services to help his mother. The family had a family in Mexico who were medical professionals, so they sent her back to Mexico.
She had an autoimmune disease of the blood that is devastating to the body. She passed when Joseph was 14.
Joseph’s brother Charlie developed a close relationship with his professor and offered to take in Joseph in Glendale.
That professor moved to Texas a few years later, so after this and Joseph’s mother passing, he moved in with his brother during his 9th-grade year and played for Lincoln Heights High School.
After Joseph’s mother passed, he admitted to being rebellious. He said he was passive-aggressive and wouldn’t listen to rules. He would stay out late, and he would even run away. From 14 to 19, he had a lack of stability. This internal rage and angst led him to not being able to finish high school.
The only reason Joseph attested high school at all was football. Once football was over for the season, he just left.
Joseph said that he was “pretty good.” The professor who took Joseph and his brother in advocated for him to go to Glendale High School, but he was recruited to attend Lincoln High School instead.
Joseph was a running back and safety. He said he was suitable for high school but not quite college level. He had been playing since he was 5 years old.
Joseph never got involved with gangs. He said he “couldn’t stand them” and avoided them by getting into fights. He said the only way to be in that neighborhood was to fight when called.
At 19, Joseph would sell nutritional powders and products to bodybuilders. He said he would steal the products, sell them, and make a profit.
Joseph was not a bodybuilder, but he always loved working out.
As a teenager, Joseph would work out at The Old Jail. It was an old prison that was converted into a gym.
At a young age, Joseph had an emotional breakdown. At this phase, he was contemplating suicide. He was in a dark place.
The cause was this slow self-destructive path from the death of his mother to experimenting with drugs and the abuse of one in particular. It was a mind-altering drug that made him have a chemical imbalance.
Joseph went through a government-run therapist. He thankfully got the help he needed from someone who had just started therapy.
Joseph’s sister Maria took time from work to help her brother through his situation. He started smoking, a habit Joseph had never done before. He was a mess.
He detached from all his friends and his life. Then, he decided to go back to college.
He also cut his long hair, almost symbolically.
World philosophy also grabbed Joseph’s attention, and he became interested in learning all he could about different spirituality. It helped him organize his mind and straighten out his ego.
Joseph got into sound design through college and studied it for a year and a half.
While in school, Joseph worked as a vault and delivery person for a Hollywood studio in post-production sound engineering. This made him drop out again.
Joseph left one good company and found another; there were transgressions, and he was no longer at that company.
In need of a job, Joseph was working out at a gym, and the staff recruited him. And that is how Joseph started his career as a trainer.
Joseph’s brother told him that Equinox would open soon, and he moved.
Joseph brought in his mother’s rosary. This object is significant because it’s symbolic to him. Joseph grew up Catholic, but he is not in practice anymore.
It’s easy for him to see how faith brought her strength, especially with her struggles. It’s something Joseph keeps as an anchor in his life.
Joseph’s private facility is called the Matador Performance Center. It’s based out of east Pasadena.
They have a physical space, and it is geared toward personal trainers. The trainers come in with clients and use this space. Joseph was at Equinox until 2007, when his client brought him into the charter schools.
In 2008, after the economic crisis, Joseph lost the charter school as a client because his program was a luxury. With prompting from a friend in 2009, he went full steam into starting his gym. This was a scary time for Joseph. It just felt like such a significant risk.
Russell himself was one of the first trainers to bring clients to Joseph’s gym.
Thankfully, Joseph has been able to get help from people around him, and those people pulled him up and helped him become a strange businessman and a competent owner.
Joseph’s gym has grown five times since he originally opened in 2009.
1. The Rose Bowl
2. Pasadena Dog Parks
3. Maestro Restaurant