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Creator, the Tae Bo fitness program
Latest videos, BILLY’S BOOTCAMP
Former member, President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports
Owner, Billy Blanks World Training Center, Sherman Oaks
Married to Gayle with 2 adult children
Has trained Paula Abdul, Shaquille O’Neal, Brooke Shields, Sugar Ray Leonard, Valerie Bertinelli, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Queen Latifah, Connie Selleca & others
Holds several karate champion titles
FITNESS IS THE WAY
Billy Blanks’s Tae Bo fitness system has helped millions of people around the world get in shape and feel great. He has also devoted a great deal of time toward helping people through his foundation and by traveling around the world to train the U.S. Armed Forces. Billy’s rise to success seems all the more astonishing when seen through the prism of his childhood.
Billy is the fourth of 15 children born to Isaac and Mabelline Blanks. Dad was a steel foundry worker by day and drove a garbage truck at night; Mom was a homemaker. They were a poor but hard-working couple from Erie, PA. He was raised in a Christian home and credits his parents with raising him with love and discipline. He often remembers his Dad telling him that he (Billy) had to work hard for everything. He was especially encouraged by the faith of his mother, saying that if she could still believe in God after the trials of her life, he could believe God, too.
Billy had a hard time academically. He struggled with dyslexia, a condition not diagnosed until he was 37 years old. Additionally he was born with an anomaly in his hip joints that impaired his movement, and a clumsiness that earned him the taunts of his siblings and caused his coaches to believe he’d never accomplish much. Billy found the answer to these challenges in karate. At age 12 he saw martial-arts great Bruce Lee on TV and decided he wanted to be a world martial-arts champion. The discipline of the program began to transform his body. In 1975 he became the first Amateur Athletic Union champion, a title he won five times. By age 16, he had earned a black belt in karate and went on to earn a spot on the U.S. Karate team which won 36 gold medals in international competition -- becoming the captain in 1980. His hopes of Olympic glory were dashed when President Carter announced a U.S. boycott of the games in Moscow. A seventh-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, the dominant Korean version of karate, Billy holds black belts in five other forms of martial arts. Billy also became the 1984 Massachusetts Golden Gloves Champion and the Tri-State Golden Gloves Champion of Champions.
In 1988 Billy moved his family to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He found a job in security and soon landed a job as bodyguard to Catherine Bach who played Daisy Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. While guarding her on location in the Philippines in 1989 Billy was cast in his first movie, Bloodfist, going on to get parts in over 28 films. It was during this time in his life that Billy committed his life to the Lord, because as he continued to become more successful, he felt that something was missing. “I was always searching,” he says.
One day several years ago Billy saw Fred Price on TV before going to the studio. A friend suddenly invited him to church. They went together and Billy was so impacted by the Lord that “I received Jesus the same day.” When Billy’s wife Gayle saw the change in him over a period of months, she gave her life to Christ, too. Their children soon followed.
THE TAE BO WAY
As his competitive karate career slowed down, Billy stayed dedicated to physical fitness. When people ask Billy his secret to success, Billy says that it was when he dedicated his life to the Lord that his career took off. He knew he was supposed to help people -- to teach people to be aware of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and we should take care of it.
It was while training in his basement gym that he began to combine his karate moves with dance music to create his innovative exercise technique which he named Tae Bo. He saw how much this program helped him and his children, Shellie and Billy, Jr. Word of mouth brought early clients to his center, but when singer-dancer Paula Abdul came and showed the benefits of the program, the business took off.
Whereas traditional aerobics appeal mainly to women, Tae Bo also attracts men. Today Tae Bo is a multi-million dollar enterprise that is helping millions. The program has been released in 100 countries and translated into 33 languages. No other martial arts program in history has achieved that kind of global attention and participation. Though some traditionalists say Billy has shifted away from teaching the true martial arts, Billy disagrees. “I still teach Tae Kwon Do. What Tae Bo is designed to do is to keep martial artists (and others) in good cardiovascular shape,” he says. Tae Bo has the potential to burn up to 800 calories per hour.
Billy says there are two key things that defeat people when trying to lose weight: the hearing and the seeing. Once a person “hears” about someone else’s success, they want to lose weight. But then when they don’t “see” the results they want, they quit. He asks, “Who is in control: you or your eyes? You should be in control of your flesh.” The five senses can condemn you because what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch we want. The spirit and the will can change the body. “Tae Bo has less to do with fitness and more to do with the will of man. The decisions you make and how you deal with stumbling blocks will determine if you are successful or not,” he says.
Billy is an active member of Crenshaw Christian Center, which is pastored by Fred Price. He normally goes to his fitness center each day except Sunday when he goes to church. For Billy, Tae Bo is a family affair. Gayle is his partner; daughter Shellie is an instructor and stars in his videos. Son Billy, Jr., also teaches Tae Bo.
Billy is known to give generously to his church and has set up scholarships and a foundation for women and children. He is not trying to impress people. “All I try to do is help people,” he says. After workouts Billy says he will have people sit down and share his faith with all who will listen; this is when he answers the question on how he became the fitness phenomenon he is. Many come to the Lord at these times. Always willing to give back to the community, Billy has set up the Billy Blanks Foundation in order to provide underprivileged students the opportunity to attend college.
“You have it within your power to overcome almost any obstacle and achieve any dream,” says Billy, who trains disabled people in addition to a long list of Hollywood celebrities. “All you need to do is believe in yourself and find the way to ‘walk with faith and not by sight.’” Billy also says we should “exercise by faith, and not by sight.”
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