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Billy Wayne Blanks (born September 1, 1955) is an American fitness guru, martial artist, actor, and the creator of the Tae Bo exercise program.[2][3][4][5]

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

(1955-09-01) September 1, 1955 (age 64)
Occupationfitness guru, martial artist, actor
Tomoko Sato (m. 2009)
  • Billy Blanks, Jr. (son)
  • Shellie Blanks Cimarosti (daughter)
Medal record
Men's karate
Representing the  United States
World Games
Bronze medal – third place 1981 Santa Clara Kumite open

Early life and educationEdit

Blanks was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, the fourth of fifteen children.[citation needed]

Blanks began his study of the martial arts at the age of eleven, attending Karate and Taekwondo classes.[2][6] 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.[7]


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.[8] 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.[9] The name is a portmanteau of "tae" (as in taekwondo) and "bo" (as in boxing).[10] 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,[11] and is reported to have grossed between $80 million and $130 million in sales.[11][12]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[13]

In 1974, Blanks married Gayle H. Godfrey, whom he met in karate class. Shortly after the marriage, he adopted Gayle's daughter, Shellie, who had been 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,[14] 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.[14][15][16][17][18]

Blanks and Godfrey divorced in 2008 after 33 years of marriage. Godfrey filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.[19]

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.[1] 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. He has also adopted Sato's two daughters, Marriett and Erika Peterson.[citation needed]



Blanks on board USS La Salle in January 2002
Blanks in US Military Base in Yokosuka, Japan in April 2006
Year Film Role Notes
2017 The Clapper himself
2011 Jack & Jill himself
2007 Dance Club: The Movie dance club dancer (short)
1997 Kiss the Girls kickboxing instructor
Assault on Devil's Island Creagan
1996 Balance of Power Niko aka Hidden Tiger
1995 Expect no Mercy Justin Vanier
Tough and Deadly John Portland
1994 A Dangerous Place Billy
1993 Showdown Billy Grant
TC 2000 Jason Storm
Back in Action Billy
1992 Zhan long zai ye Billy
Talons of the Eagle Tyler Wilson
The Master black thug (uncredited)
1991 The Last Boy Scout Billy Cole
Timebomb Mr. Brown
1990 The King of the Kickboxers Khan
China O'Brien II Baskin's fighter #1 (uncredited)
Lionheart African Legionnaire
1989 Tango & Cash prison thug (uncredited)
Bloodfist Black Rose
1988 Driving Force Pool
1986 Low Blow guard


Year Film Role Notes
1998 ER 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"


  1. ^ a b "Billy Blanks and his Japanese wife". Japan Probe. April 16, 2009. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Blanks' life not letter perfect". CNN. September 26, 2002. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  3. ^ Green, Penelope (March 21, 1999). "MIRROR, MIRROR; Punching and Kicking All the Way to the Bank". New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  4. ^ Doyle, Alicia (November 4, 1994). "A New Exercise Kick". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  5. ^ "On Top of the World". Inside Kung Fu. Archived from the original on December 16, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  6. ^ "Billy Blanks: From tough-town beginnings to "putting on the power"". GAIM. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  7. ^ "Billy Blanks: Get Fit the Tae Bo Way! - The 700 Club". The Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  8. ^ Marilyn Beck (October 17, 1988). "To Protect and Serve". Herald-Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  9. ^ Gardetta, Dave (August 15, 1999). "Elvis Has Just Entered the Building". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Vitucci, Claire (December 8, 1997). "Kick-Boxing Craze: A new form of aerobic exercise has..." The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  11. ^ a b 7 Black Body Trainers Capitalizing On The $17 Billion Fitness Market
  12. ^ Jack Dickey (2015)Tae Bo's creator Billy Blanks teaches to smaller audience with equal fervor Sports Illustrated, accessed 30 December 2016
  13. ^ "Billy Blanks". Trinity Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Cuneo, Kevin (January 12, 2012). "Fitness runs in the family for Blanks". Erie Times-News. Erie, Pennsylvania, USA. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Castagna, Cary. "Dancing your way to Keeping Fit". 24 Hours. Ontario, Canada: Sun Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  16. ^ Christian, Margena A. (January 28, 2008). Where is the cast of Good Times?. Jet Magazine. Johnson Publishing Company. p. 34. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Ortega, Courtney (December 16, 2011). "Reviews: 'Fat Burning Hip Hop Mix' and 'Dance Off the Inches' workout DVDs". Star-Telegram. Texas, U.S. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  18. ^ "Bluff The Listener". NPR. United States: National Public Radio. December 4, 2010. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  19. ^ Billy's Wife Files for Divorce

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit