DARE to Dream
Billy Blanks was born in 1956. He was the fourth of fifteen children born to a hard working but poor African-American couple in Erie, Pennsylvania. Growing up, Billy overcame tremendous obstacles such as dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until he was 35 years old, and a defective hip joint that made his movements clumsy. His brothers and sisters teased him and his coaches thought he would never amount to much.
Billy wanted to be like his idol, martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Because his family was poor, he worked as a garbage man to pay for his karate lessons. Billy practiced hard, and was able to overcome the physical problems caused by his hip.
In 1975, after winning scores of local, state and national competitions, Billy became the first Amateur Athletic Union Champion, a title he would win five times. Billy is a seventh degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and holds black belts in five other forms of martial arts.
In 1980, Billy was named captain of the U.S. Olympic karate team. Unfortunately, the team didn’t compete because the United States boycotted the Summer Games in Moscow. But that didn’t stop Billy; he went on to win seven world karate titles, including 36 gold medals in international bouts.
While training in his home during the 1980s, Billy began to combine dance music with his Tae Kwon Do moves, which evolved into Tae-Bo. Tae-Bo is an exercise that combines ballet, karate, Tae Kwan Do, boxing, hip-hop dancing and weight training. Tae-Bo stands for “Total Awareness, Excellence, Body Obedience”.
In 1989, Billy opened his World Training Center in Sherman Oaks, California, and Tae Bo has become extremely popular with stars like Magic Johnson, Brandy, Brooke Shields, Jenny McCarthy, and Sinbad. Today, Billy also teaches martial arts to inner-city children so that it may inspire and strengthen their self-reliance to excel in life.
Billy’s Movie Career includes roles in the following movies:
Kiss the Girls (1997)
Balance of Power (1996)
Expect No Mercy (1995)
Tough and Deadly (1995) (V)
Back in Action (1994)
TC 2000 (1993)
Talons of the Eagle (1992)
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
The King of the Kickboxers (1991)
Driving Force (1989)
Low Blow (1986)
Notable TV Guest Appearances:
“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (1996)
“The Parkers” (1999)
“Martial Law” (1998)
“Melrose Place” (1992)
“The Parent ‘Hood” (1995)
D.A.R.E. America sponsored a “Gold Medal Evening of Champions.” DARE.com ace reporters, 10-year-old Drew and 11 year-old Saul, worked the room and interviewed many celebrities who have won Olympic Gold Medals. Billy Blanks is our first featured celebrity.
Drew: When you were my age, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Billy: When I was 10, I wanted to do martial arts like Bruce Lee and teach others how to do it too.
Saul: Who was your role model growing up?
Billy: Well, first I’d have to say my mom and dad, because they had to face a lot of adversity and they kept going. Then I’d have to say Bruce Lee.
Drew: What was school like for you?
Billy: It was hard. When I was 35, I found out I had dyslexia which is a learning disability. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a lot of trouble in school because of it.
Saul: What do I need to do if I want to be an Olympic Gold medal winner?
Billy: You’ve got to believe in yourself, work hard and not give up – always keep trying and always stay with the program.
Born: 1956 in Erie, Pennsylvania
Sibs: 4th of 15 children
Family: Wife — Gayle; 2 children — Shellie and Billy Jr.
1975: Became the first Amateur Athletic Union Champion (a title he would win five times)
1980: Captained the U.S. Karate Team
1982: Inducted into the Karate Hall of Fame
1984: Won the Massachusetts Golden Gloves Champion and Tri-State Golden Gloves Champion of Champions
1988: Moved his family to Los Angeles
1989: Opened his World Training Center in Sherman Oaks, CA
Official Web Site: www.taebo.com