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TAE-BO  Still "HOT"
& taking the country by Storm 

    Fast-paced, deafening music plays as Billy Blanks shouts, "Knee! Knee! Kick! Punch!" as he demonstrates his moves before a class of 100 packed with sweat-drenched exercisers. The shaved headed, 44 year-old Blanks, with his perfectly sculpted body is the self-anointed leader of one of the hottest fitness movements in history. Tae-Bo, a hybrid of karate, boxing and aerobic dance is Blank's creation. He's charismatic, driving, with more energy than the Tazmanian devil and preaches self-improvement through hard work and determination. he revs up viewers of his exercise video's with chants of "Come on! Come on!" During a class here at his world Training Center, the 6-foot, 185-pound Blanks hops off a raised platform and moves among his followers, getting in their faces and encouraging them to push, push, be better, always better. His intense program, which includes lots of kicks, punches and jabs toward an imaginary opponent, has won celebrity converts such as Brooke Shields, Carmen Electra and Magic Johnson. 

    He has sold millions of Tae-Bo video's with his ubiquitous TV infomercials, he even won a fistful of Awards at the recent NRA awards for those 30-minute television programs. Though he has drawn critics concerned about the risk of injuries, Blanks insists his workout is unique and national fitness experts say it is very similar to workouts known as kickboxing, cardio-kickboxing or box aerobics, which are being taught at two-thirds of the U.S. fitness centers. Some of the biggest names in the fitness field, such as Kathy Smith, also have martial-arts-inspired exercise video's. Still, Blanks is the highest-profile personality in the movement. His career is now hotter than his one-hour workout. His book, The Tae-Bo Way, part autobiography, part motivational, part how-to, is in book stores. He has seven tape out currently and more than a dozen Tae-Bo video's are in the works, including one for kids and one for seniors. A Billy Blanks Tae-Bo Center opened in Houston, and he plans to open several other regional centers in the future. he's so busy that he has put off a national tour until next year. As he sits in a small office after a class, Blanks is often philosophical and occasionally defensive, especially when asked about the safety of his program. 

    The devout Christian has two Bibles on his desk, and quotations from the Bible including "Faith without works is dead" are painted on the wall of his largest exercise room. Blanks sees Tae-Bo as his mission in life, his way of reaching out and helping others. He says it increases people's aerobic and muscle endurance, balance, flexibility and body control. As they master the program, he says, it builds their self-image. "If you do something you never thought you could do, it gives you confidence." Where traditional aerobics appeals mainly to women, his workout also attracts men. "Every guy deep down wants to be a boxer. He can come in and pretend he's doing boxing or karate," he says. for women, "it is martial arts in a fun way." Born in Erie Pennsylvania, the fourth of 15 children, Blanks knows how accomplishing a challenging feat can change a life. He says his parents raised him with love and discipline. "Not a day goes by that I don't recall my father telling me, "Billy, you have to work hard for everything." His mother was a homemaker and his father worked in a steel foundry during the day and drove a garbage truck by night, he says. As a child, Blanks says he had undiagnosed dyslexia. He also had short, tight tendons and a limited range of motion and flexibility, he says. "I was so uncoordinated that I literally could not walk and chew at the same time." At the age of 12, Billy saw martial-arts legend Bruce Lee in the television series "The Green Hornet." and decided he wanted to be a world martial-arts champion. By the age of 16, he had earned a black belt in karate and earned a spot on the U.S. karate team, becoming the captain in 1980. He competed in numerous national and world championships and won several titles. In 1976, in the confines of the basement of his home, Billy states he began developing what he eventually named Tae-Bo. Gayle, his wife, gave him the "Rocky" soundtrack, and he started dancing, punching and kicking to the music. It was first in Erie then in Boston that he began offering classes. While working as a body guard in 1989 for actress Catherine Bach on the film "Bloodfist," which he also earned a part in, she told him, "I think you could do really well in California. "Since then he has had roles in 28 films. He moved to Los Angeles and opened a studio, then moved to his current location. Blanks is at his fitness center everyday except Sunday, when he goes to church, and Tuesday night, when he's at Bible study. In a typical day, Blanks teaches four intense Tae-Bo classes, two karate classes and conducts personal training sessions with four clients. Celebrities come and go, but no one fusses over them, in fact, Blanks remembers encouraging a woman in a class saying, "Common, girl! It looks like you have a good body. Next time I want to see you really work out!" It was later that he found out that it was actress Angela Bassett that he was speaking to. His clients are among the most devoted, despite the rigors of his program. Blanks agrees it's tough. "Anything that is easy is no good." Hollywood trainer Keli Roberts, who appears in a Kathy Smith kickboxing video, has attended Blanks' classes. She feels he is a motivating instructor, but also states, "It's very explosive, fast, and has many large-range-of-motion movements. There is a danger with people doing too much too soon because their ligaments and joints aren't prepared." Blanks responds, "Tae-Bo is not dangerous if you have an instructor teaching you proper technique." Blanks is accustomed to defending his workout and his reputation, Blanks says he won seven different world competitions and ten national competitions. Says the chairman of karate for the Amateur Athletic Union, "He won the national AAU karate championships many times, He was practically unbeatable. I think he's about the best athlete I've ever seen." For Billy Blanks, Tae-Bo is a family affair. His wife is his partner, his daughter Shellie is an instructor, stars in his video's and was photographed doing exercises for his books, and his son Billy Jr. also teaches Tae-Bo. Billy's success has earned him a 4,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style house in West Hills, California and a Hummer. He is a generous contributor to his church and has set up scholarships and a foundation for women and children. Blanks says he's not trying to impress anyone. "All I do is to help other people." Teaching Tae-Bo and showing people how to stay fit and healthy while having fun doing it is his way of helping others. "I'll do this 'till the day I die."

Billy Blanks' World Training Center
14708 Ventura Blvd. / Sherman Oaks / CA 91403
For info & prices: (818) 325-0335 fax: (818) 325-0368