Tae Bo may have peaked in the 1990s, but
isn't about to let it go the way of step aerobics. The father of cardio-kickboxing is still working it like the old days, making special appearances at fitness centers around the world and trying to breathe new life into his high-energy, martial-arts inspired classes.
An Olympian, martial arts and boxing champion — as well as an actor and celebrity fitness guru — Blanks has been living in
for the last three years, developing a program called PT 24/7. The workout, which can be found on video, is an intense 30-minute routine for the time crunched that combines the power of Tae Bo with resistance training.
Now based in California, Blanks spreads the gospel of Tae Bo with his daughter, Shellie Blanks Cimarosti, an accomplished martial artist who has been teaching with her dad since day one. Still, Blanks faces more competition than he did in the 1990s, including from his son, Billy Blanks Jr., who has created his own line of cardio dance workout videos.
The elder Blanks, 56, still looks as ripped and robust as ever and sounds as passionate as he did in his famous infomercials. He recently took a break from whipping people into shape to talk about why fitness is more than just training your body and getting in shape.
Q: Refresh our collective memory. What is Tae Bo?
A: It's the combination of self-awareness and control of martial arts, the focus and strength of boxing, and the grace and rhythm of dance. In Korean, 'tae' means 'foot and leg.' 'Bo' is a shortened version of 'box.' So it's a little kick, a little punch and a lot of everything to get an all-body workout. But it also teaches the person to communicate with their own body. And it's about preservation. Tae Bo gives you a chance to unlock the unknown warrior you have inside and to develop more confidence.
A: In America, people work out so they can eat. In Japan, they eat so they can work out. My thing is helping people learn how to make (fitness) a lifestyle. You don't necessarily have to do it every day; it can be two or three times a week — but do it! Weight loss is a byproduct of being happy and taking care of yourself. When people do Tae Bo they get that feeling. It changes you from the inside out.
A: It trains you to respond mentally and physically with speed and accuracy so you can use your body to defend yourself. A key to self-awareness is knowing that anything can happen and one should always be prepared for the unexpected.
Q: Can't we just do Zumba?
A: People like to dance and have fun but pretty soon they get tired of having fun; then you want your body to change. Your body won't change if you don't work hard. A workout is supposed to be fun, but you also have to get work done. If you don't do the work, you can't expect to progress. (With Tae Bo), I'm going to test and push you and make you see you have the power to push through.
Q: Who is in the best shape: You, Shellie or Billy Jr.?
A: (Chuckles) Shellie is in awesome shape. B.J. is in good shape. But I've been training for a long time. I always tell them, I'm still the master.