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Billy Blanks
Billy Blanks by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Blanks in 2017
Born
Billy Wayne Blanks

September 1, 1955 (1955-09-01) (age 65)
Nationality American
Occupation fitness guru, martial artist, actor
Spouse(s)
Tomoko Sato (m. 2009)
Children
  • Billy Blanks, Jr. (son)
  • Shellie Blanks Cimarosti (daughter)
  • Marriett Blanks (daughter)
  • Elisabeth Erika Blanks (daughter)
  • Angelika Blanks (daughter)
Medal record
Men's karate
Competitor for the  United States
World Games
Bronze 1981 Santa Clara Kumite open

Billy Wayne Blanks (born September 1, 1955) is an American fitness guru, martial artist, actor, and the creator of the Tae Bo exercise program.

Early life and education

Blanks was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. He began his study of the martial arts at the age of eleven, attending Karate and Taekwondo classes. He was born with an anomaly in his hip joints that impaired his movement. The resulting clumsiness caused taunts from Blanks' siblings and led his instructors to believe that he would never accomplish much. Blanks found the answer to these challenges in karate. When he saw Bruce Lee on TV, he decided he wanted to be a world martial-arts champion.

Career

Blanks was hired as a bodyguard for lead actress Catherine Bach during the filming of 1988's Driving Force, which was filmed in Manila during a time of political unrest. Blanks impressed the producers and was written into the script in a supporting role. This led to Blanks' work in several martial arts films, including King of the Kickboxers and Bloodfist. Blanks also appeared in the opening scene of Tony Scott's The Last Boy Scout, where he plays a doomed pro-football player. Blanks played Ashley Judd's kickboxing instructor in Kiss the Girls (1997).

In the late 1980s, Blanks developed the Tae Bo workout, while running a karate studio in Quincy, Massachusetts. He used components of his martial arts and boxing training. The name is a portmanteau of tae (as in taekwondo) and bo (as in boxing). Blanks opened a fitness center in Los Angeles to teach his new workout. He later attracted celebrity clients such as Paula Abdul, and the popularity of the workout quickly grew, becoming a pop culture phenomenon after Blanks began releasing mass-marketed videos. He sold over 1.5 million VHS tapes in his first year, and is reported to have grossed between $80 million and $130 million in sales.

Personal life

Blanks is a Christian and released a special line of Tae Bo workouts called the "Believer's" series that includes motivational prayers and other Christian components. He has appeared on the Christian television network TBN.

In 1974, Blanks married Gayle H. Godfrey, whom he met in karate class. Shortly after the marriage, he adopted Gayle's daughter, Shellie, who was born in 1973. Shellie Blanks Cimarosti, a martial artist, is prominently featured in many Tae Bo videos. Shellie has also produced her own video called Tae Bo Postnatal Power, as well as hosted her father's new infomercial Tae Bo T3 (Total Transformation Training). Gayle and Blanks also have a son, Billy Blanks, Jr., who works as a dancer, singer and fitness instructor. Blanks Jr. produced several best-selling DVDs, including Cardioke and Fat Burning Hip Hop Mix. He has also starred in a touring production of the musical Fame, and has worked as a dancer in music videos with Madonna, Quincy Jones and Paula Abdul.

Blanks and Godfrey divorced in 2008 after 33 years of marriage. Godfrey filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

In November 2008, Blanks became the father of a new daughter, named Angelika. The mother is Tomoko Sato, whom Blanks met in 2007 when she worked as his Japanese interpreter. Blanks and Sato's marriage was formally registered in January 2009 and their wedding ceremony was held on June 20, 2009. He relocated to Japan in 2009.

Filmography

Film

020111-N-1523T-001 Fitness aboard Ship
Blanks on board USS La Salle in January 2002
US Navy 060407-N-5686B-002 Billy Blanks, creator of Tae Bo, instructs a class at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Japan's Fleet Recreation Center for active duty personnel stationed in the area
Blanks in US Military Base in Yokosuka, Japan in April 2006
Year Film Role Notes
1986 Low Blow guard
1988 Driving Force Pool
1989 Tango & Cash prison thug (uncredited)
Bloodfist Black Rose
1990 The King of the Kickboxers Khan
China O'Brien II Baskin's fighter #1 (uncredited)
Lionheart African Legionnaire
1991 The Last Boy Scout Billy Cole
Timebomb Mr. Brown
1992 Zhan long zai ye Billy
Talons of the Eagle Tyler Wilson
The Master black thug (uncredited)
1993 Showdown Billy Grant
TC 2000 Jason Storm
Back in Action Billy
1994 A Dangerous Place Billy
1995 Expect no Mercy Justin Vanier
Tough and Deadly John Portland
1996 Balance of Power Niko aka Hidden Tiger
1997 Kiss the Girls kickboxing instructor
Assault on Devil's Island Creagan
2007 Dance Club: The Movie dance club dancer (short)
2011 Jack and Jill himself Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Ensemble
2017 The Clapper himself

Television

Year Film Role Notes
1987 Spenser: For Hire Man Fighting on the Street Episode: "Heart of the Matter" (uncredited)
1989 Kids Incorporated Billy Episode: "Karate Kids"
1992 Street Justice Tsiet Na Champion Episode: "Circle of Death"
1994 Sister, Sister Driver Episode: "Love Strikes"
1996 Muppets Tonight Dancing Muppet Episode: "Paula Abdul"
1998 ER Kickboxing Instructor Episode: "The Storm Part 1"
1999 The Parkers Himself Episode: "Taking Tae-bo with my Beau"
Special guest star
2003 The Fairly OddParents Special guest star
Episode: "Kung Timmy"
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