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The Entrepreneur Factor

These days you can’t channel surf too far without hitting an infomercial of some sort, especially late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. At least half of these infomercials are for fitness equipment or workout DVDs. Billy Blanks can be thanked, at least in part, for the prevalence of these half-hour infomercials promising weight loss and muscle definition in just minutes a day. Blanks, creator of the Tae Bo program, created his unique exercise program after studying martial arts for years. He combined martial arts moves with boxing and dancing to create a high-impact cardio workout praised by a wide range of celebrities.

Born in Eerie, Pennsylvania, Blanks was the fourth of 15 children. He suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia as well as a hip abnormality that affected his movement and made him a target for ridicule among his siblings. Blanks began studying martial arts at the age of 11. He won countless gold medals at competitions and became an eighth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, as well as earning black belts in five other martial arts.

It wasn’t until Blanks moved to Boston to open his own karate studio that the idea for Tae Bo was born. Shortly after developing the idea, Blanks relocated to Los Angeles and taught Tae Bo classes in his garage. In the early 1990s, he opened the Billy Blanks World Training Center in Sherman Oaks, California. His early students discovered his incredible workouts by word of mouth, but once Paula Abdul gave the workout her seal of approval, Tae Bo took off. As the success of his training studio took off, Blanks recorded and marketed a line of Tae Bo videos and DVDs using infomercials to advertise the program.

Although Tae Bo has been replaced in popularity by programs like P90x and Insanity, Blanks is still one of the pioneers of the fitness infomercial and his Tae Bo programs are still a popular and effective form of exercise nearly 30 years after its inception.

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