Billy Blanks

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

(1955-09-01) September 1, 1955 (age 67)
Occupation(s)fitness guru, martial artist, actor
Years active1981–present
Gayle H. Godfrey
(m. 1974; div. 2008)
Tomoko Sato
(m. 2009)
Children5; including Billy Jr.
Medal record
Men's karate
Representing the  United States
World Games
Bronze medal – third place 1981 Santa Clara Kumite open

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

Early life and education[edit]

Blanks was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. He began his study of the martial arts at the age of eleven, attending Karate and Taekwondo classes.[1][5] He was born with an anomaly in his hip joints that impaired his movement. The resulting clumsiness aroused 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.[6]


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.[7] 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.[8] The name is a portmanteau of tae (as in taekwondo) and bo (as in boxing).[9] 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,[10] and is reported to have grossed between $80 million and $130 million in sales.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

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.[12] He attended Crenshaw Christian Center.

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 fitness instructor. Blanks Jr. produced several best-selling DVDs,[13] 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.[13][14][15][16][17]

Blanks and Godfrey divorced in 2008 after 33 years of marriage. Godfrey filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.[18]

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.[19] 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.



Blanks on board USS La Salle in January 2002
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 Agent 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


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 I)"
1999 Sunset Beach Billy Episode : "605, 606" (uncredited)
The Parkers Himself Episode: "Taking Tae-Bo with My Beau"
Special guest star
Sabrina the Teenage Witch Episode: "Prelude to a Kiss"
Special guest star
2003 The Fairly OddParents Himself Episode: "Kung Timmy"
Special guest voice

Music Video[edit]

Year Title Artist Role Ref.
2022 Light Switch Charlie Puth Tae Bo Instructor


  1. ^ a b "Blanks' life not letter perfect". CNN. September 26, 2002. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Green, Penelope (March 21, 1999). "MIRROR, MIRROR; Punching and Kicking All the Way to the Bank". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  3. ^ Doyle, Alicia (November 4, 1994). "A New Exercise Kick". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "On Top of the World". Inside Kung Fu. Archived from the original on December 16, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  5. ^ "Billy Blanks: From tough-town beginnings to "putting on the power"". GAIM. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  6. ^ "Billy Blanks: Get Fit the Tae Bo Way! - The 700 Club". The Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Beck, Marilyn (October 17, 1988). "To Protect and Serve". Herald-Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  8. ^ Gardetta, Dave (August 15, 1999). "Elvis Has Just Entered the Building". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  9. ^ Vitucci, Claire (December 8, 1997). "Kick-Boxing Craze: A new form of aerobic exercise has..." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  10. ^ a b 7 Black Body Trainers Capitalizing On The $17 Billion Fitness Market
  11. ^ Jack Dickey (2015)Tae Bo's creator Billy Blanks teaches to smaller audience with equal fervor Sports Illustrated, accessed December 30, 2016
  12. ^ "Billy Blanks". Trinity Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Cuneo, Kevin (January 12, 2012). "Fitness runs in the family for Blanks". Erie Times-News. Erie, Pennsylvania, USA. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  14. ^ Castagna, Cary. "Dancing your way to Keeping Fit". 24 Hours. Ontario, Canada: Sun Media Corporation. Archived from the original on July 22, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Christian, Margena A. (January 28, 2008). Where is the cast of Good Times?. Jet Magazine. Johnson Publishing Company. p. 34. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  16. ^ Ortega, Courtney (December 16, 2011). "Reviews: 'Fat Burning Hip Hop Mix' and 'Dance Off the Inches' workout DVDs". Star-Telegram. Texas. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Bluff The Listener. Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. United States: National Public Radio. December 4, 2010. Retrieved January 19, 2012 – via
  18. ^ "Billy Blanks' Wife Kickboxes Him to the Curb". April 23, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  19. ^ "Billy Blanks and his Japanese wife". April 16, 2009. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved April 16, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

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