FITNESS

Billy Blanks, 67, says Tevo ‘gave me the confidence’ to overcome learning disabilities

Billy Blanks, along with Tevo, created a global fitness phenomenon that’s still going strong nearly 40 years later. (Getty Images; designed by Caitlin Murray)

For Billy Blanks, true fitness isn’t just about building physical strength, it’s also about building mental strength.

“Life is not easy,” Tae Bo, creator of martial arts-based workouts, tells Yahoo Life. “It’s hard to fix a broken world when it’s broken on the inside. But when you start growing from the inside, suddenly that light you walk on starts to be blown out by others.

It’s a philosophy he’s carried on since childhood, and martial arts was an escape from the bullies who targeted him for being dyslexic. Karate, he says, gave him permission to dream big.

“At the time, no one knew what dyslexia was,” he says of his reading disability. “They thought I was mentally ill and put me through special education, but I wasn’t. I was a shy kid with a learning disability. I was able to fight on my own and realized that I could succeed.”

“Success” is an understatement for the 67-year-old Blanks. He created Tebo his workouts (a combination of all his passions in martial arts, boxing, and dance) while running a small karate studio in Quincy, Massachusetts. 1970s. At the time, he had no idea it would become a pop culture phenomenon.

The idea was simple. “Keep karate to the music,” and understand that every punch and kick “must be in your heart,” he says. “I wanted women to feel like warriors.”

Originally called “karobics,” Tae Bo’s name change meant it appealed to men as much as it did to women, with the word “tae” meaning “foot” in Korean and a shortening of “boxing.” It is a combination of bo which is a shape. His workout video series quickly became bestsellers, with an estimated 1.5 million sets sold by the end of the 1990s. Today, Blanks’ virtual workouts continue to attract new hordes of his fans online.

“It’s always been a vision and a dream to one day come up with an exercise that will change the world,” says Blanks. His Christian faith has always shaped his philosophy on health and fitness. He drew inspiration for his on-camera personality from watching televised sermons.

“I look and act like my heart and will” was (and still is) his mantra, he says. But that doesn’t mean his faith hasn’t been tested.

Blanks recalls an impressive business meeting in California in the 1990s. There, Tae Bo was very popular among women. An executive at “one of the world’s largest video companies” told him that because he was a black man, he wouldn’t be able to “appeal to white women” in Central America.

“They said, ‘Mr. Blanks, we like what you’re talking about, but you’re black, so I don’t think you’d work in the Midwest. Thank you very much,” he said, before he and his manager walked away. “My manager, his mouth is just [dropped]. He couldn’t believe it. ”

“I said go back to my studio and keep doing what I’m doing, because maybe one day I’ll end up making a video,” he remembers saying.

Never make things worse. Blanks says it’s all about “moving forward” when things get tough. It’s also important to “stay humble” when it seems like you have the world at your fingertips.

“Personally, I have to put myself out of the picture because if it wasn’t for God and it wasn’t for the people, what good was Billy Blanks? I didn’t let my ego enter that path,” he says of fame. “People tell me, ‘You should retire.’ I have to do it. No, no. I want to be out there. I want to be with people. I want to help people.”

True to his word, Blanks hasn’t slowed down. The fitness icon still makes Tae Bo videos for free on his YouTube channel today. his latest video series, billy boom boxing, available on iTunes, released in 2019 for the first time in 19 years. And he has some ideas about aging gracefully.

“I can still get up. I feel energized. I feel like I can do anything,” he says. “But if I woke up and started thinking about all these negative thoughts in my head, my day would be terrible. , you… change your mind, change your attitude.” Because if you want to have a good day, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a choice I have to make. ”

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