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Canton business owner’s life journey coated in inspiration and ‘Pryde’

 Canton business owner’s life journey coated in inspiration and ‘Pryde’

Ivan Ankwatsa stands inside his 10,000-square-foot Pryde Athletics & Physical Therapy facility in south Canton.

Watching Ivan Ankwatsa walk through his 10,000-square-foot Canton business that is equipped with state-of-the-art physical-therapy and fitness equipment, it’s hard to fathom that not too long ago he was a resident of war-torn Uganda, living in an environment in which armed military personnel and rebels were prevalent in public places.

When he was 5 years old, Ankwatsa’s mother managed to secure visas and one-way airline tickets — to this day, he’s not sure how — so she and her two sons could board a plane and fly to the United States.

“My mom basically said, ‘This is not a safe place’, and somehow got us out of there,” Ankwatsa recalled. “My mom and dad were at odds over what to do. It was after Idi Amin’s reign, but there were still people killing people on the streets.

“I still remember getting loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck — she carried all of our possessions in one suitcase — and getting transported to the airport. My dad wanted to come, but he died a few months later before he could leave.”

Inspired by mom

Ankwatsa is still driven to succeed by his mom’s efforts when he was young.

Ankwatsa's paternal grandparents
Ankwatsas paternal grandparents
A photo of Ivan Ankwatsa and his mother during their time in Uganda
A photo of Ivan Ankwatsa and his mother during their time in Uganda

“She was a schoolteacher in Uganda; she was doing well,” he added. “She sacrificed so much so that her two sons could lead a better life.

“When we ultimately settled in southeast Michigan, she worked long hours cleaning homes.

“I’ve gotten so much inspiration from her. If my brother and  I did not work as hard as we have to realize the dreams she had for us, her sacrifice would have been a waste.”

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Determined to succeed

The epitome of determination in the face of daunting adversity, Ankwatsa, along with co-owner Jon Jeffrey, has worked to grow Pryde Athletics & Physical Therapy into a thriving destination for people recuperating from a wide range of ailments (from frozen shoulders to spinal-cord injuries) — and for those who are 100% healthy and simply looking to heighten their current level of fitness.

Pryde’s 17-member staff are trained to provide top-shelf one-on-one training and treatment; it also works with entire youth and high school athletic teams, including Canton High School’s boys basketball squad.

Pryde Athletics has grown from this small space in a Belleville warehouse to a 10,000 square foot facility in Canton
Pryde Athletics has grown from this small space in a Belleville warehouse to a 10000 square foot facility in Canton

And to think his business venture started 10 years ago in a tight 600-square-foot tunnel-shaped space he rented inside a Belleville warehouse.

Following successful stints as a strength-and-conditioning professional for the University of Michigan and Eastern Kentucky University (Ankwatsa earned an exercise science degree from Eastern Michigan University), he relocated from Richmond, Kentucky, to southeast Michigan after he learned his brother was expecting a child.

Pryde clientele receive treatment in the front section of the 10,000 square foot business
Pryde clientele receive treatment in the front section of the 10000 square foot business

“At the time, I needed something different in my life and I was excited to be an uncle, so I decided to move back closer to my family (his mom and aunt Ruth also reside in suburban Detroit),” he said. “Once I returned to Michigan in 2013, I worked some jobs in the fitness industry.

“One day I decided, ‘I have to make my own luck.’ So I rented a 600-square-foot space in a Belleville warehouse, bought some equipment at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and promoted it as a speed and agility business run by someone with collegiate athletics-level experience.

“Even though I started in a modest space, I really believed I could build it into something that served the entire community.”

Family ‘Pryde’

Ankwatsa named his business Pryde Athletics & Physical Therapy.

The name Pryde was inspired, in part, by his family crest, which includes a lion (a group of lions is referred to as a pride) — the majestic beasts his ancestors had to cope with while shepherding herds of cattle from town to town in Uganda.

“My great grandfather once killed a lion with a spear when the lion proved to be a threat to his cattle,” Ankwatsa proudly reflected. “My aunt still has the spear and it will ultimately be passed down to me.

“I decided on Pryde because prides of lions — both males and females — work collaboratively to help the group thrive. Everybody pitches in, which is what we do here.”

Fueled by nonstop hustle and his deep knowledge of physical therapy and fitness, Ankwatsa’s business steadily grew.

Pryde moved into its site at 5536 Research Drive in Canton in 2017. There is also a Pryde location at 133 W. Main St. in Northville; and 539 Main St. in Belleville.

A place for everyone

On a recent Friday afternoon, the range of clients who worked with Pryde staff members included a blind middle-aged man who regularly attends the Canton site for weight training, a wheelchair-bound senior citizen who suffered a spinal-cord injury 40-some years ago in a motorcycle accident, and several healthy athletes — young and old — who were investing sweat equity to reach their physical potential.

Pryde Athletics Owner Ivan Ankwatsa stands next to an image of a lion“My goal was to take physical therapy and marry it to physical fitness,” Ankwatsa said. “Once a person’s physical therapy is done, they can stay with us and continue to work on their fitness level, because as soon as you stop working out, your fitness declines.”

Ankwatsa said the community of people who routinely visit his business draw inspiration from one another.

Inspiration everywhere you look

“For instance, we have people who have suffered serious spinal-cord injuries mingling with high school athletes,” he said. “It’s cool because, let’s say, if there’s someone coming in rehabbing from a stroke, they’re not just surrounded by other stroke victims; they’re working out beside young athletes.

Pryde Athletics is located at 5536 Research Dr in Canton
Pryde Athletics is located at 5536 Research Dr in Canton

“And the young, 100% healthy athletes draw inspiration from watching how hard the people with serious injuries work. It’s powerful because they know that, no matter how much adversity someone faces, it’s possible to keep working toward your getting healthier.”

Ankwatsa’s ambition has remained in a robust gear. He said Pryde will be opening a 20,000-square-foot facility later this year designed for young softball players, who, is said are underrepresented in terms of training facilities.

To learn more about Pryde Athletics & Physical Therapy and how its staff can improve your fitness, visit its website by clicking here.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or

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