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Billy Blanks: From tough-town beginnings to "putting on the power"
“You have the ability to achieve and do anything you want to do,” says Tae Bo® creator and fitness megastar Billy Blanks.“But you have to put on the power!”
Few people have demonstrated such power — in business, in life, and in the ability to motivate others — like Billy Blanks. Since his first Tae Bo fitness program release in 1998, more than 8 million workout DVDs, videos, motivational CDs, kits and Tae Bo accessories. It’s the number-one-selling fitness program in America, and Billy's celebrity clients include American Idol’s Paula Abdul, actresses Neve Campbell and Brooke Shields, and athletes Wayne Gretzky, Bruce Jenner, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
But this guy is the real deal. A self-made man, Billy was born into a family of 15 in the tough town of Erie, Penn., and suffered undiagnosed dyslexia and a problem in his hip joints that made him a noticeably clumsy little boy. But at age 11, he was inspired by a martial arts class that ignited a passion in him. Driven and disciplined, Blanks went on to earn a seventh-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, as well as black belts in five other forms of martial arts. He became a seven-time world karate champion and captain of the U.S. karate team, won 36 gold medals in international competition, and earned a spot in the Karate Hall of Fame in 1982.
Inspired to share his sport and its rewards with others, Billy opened his own karate studio in Boston where he unintentionally created Tae Bo while combining dance moves with Tae Kwon Do. He created the Tae Bo name as a quasi-acronym for Total Awareness Excellent Body Obedience, and combines the techniques of Tae Kwon Do with karate, ballet, hip-hop and boxing in a method with a spirit as energizing as its creator’s.
Billy moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 1989 and opened the Billy Blanks World Training Center. His L.A. following soon steamrolled into national buzz, and his first video release in 1998 marked the beginning of nearly a decade of inspiration based on Tae Bo and Billy Blanks' high-energy, undeniably engaging personality. It's a persona that connect across demographics — with men, women, urban, rural, older, younger.
Billy's spirit is irrepressible and contagious, and he works hard to bring it to the people. He and his daughter, Shellie, have traveled the world on their Spirit and Body Tour, visiting war-torn countries like Iraq, Kuwait and Bosnia to lead fitness classes for American troops. They’ve been commended by the military for their morale-boosting visits.
Billy's remarkable ability to motivate people has driven tens of thousands to "enlist" — in the Tae Bo method and in online access to Billy and fellow Tae Bo fanatics via the Billy Blanks Club. Members receive online coaching, daily motivation, travelogues, and support from Billy and his Tae Bo team, plus access to live chats with Billy. It adds up to a brand that builds a personal, customized connection to all things Billy Blanks and to the man himself. Club members number in the tens of thousands, and membership has proven quite “sticky” — thousands of original enrollees have maintained their memberships since the club’s launch. They inspire and connect with each other, sharing ideas and success stories.
Billy has also made giving back a top priority in his life through projects including The Billy Blanks Foundation — funding programs that empower disadvantaged and at-risk youths and adults with life skills to help them achieve their potential.
Billy Blanks' latest offerings have continued to sell like wildfire, making Blanks the number-one fitness brand in the country. His "Boot Camp" series is built around thematics that evoke enough of the energy of military boot camp to create new motivation and draw new fans — paired with what Billy likes to call “funky” music.