February 21, 2011 / 11:08 AM / 7 years ago

Tae Bo fitness workout enters second act

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Tae Bo, the lean, mean cardio workout with a martial arts kick that sparked a fitness craze in the late 1990's, is back: still lean, still mean, just shorter now, and with toys.

"I wanted to make Tae Bo even better," said fitness trainer Billy Blanks, who created Tae Bo, a heart-pumping workout chiseled from dance, karate, boxing, ballet, and yoga moves.

"In Korean the word Tae means leg, so I took that word and added Bo from boxing," said Blanks, an eighth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a modern martial art from Korea characterized by high, fast, spinning kicks.

His latest workout, dubbed PT 24/7, may sound less Eastern, but is also Tae Bo, Banks said. The difference is that along with the moves, PT (for Physical Training) 24/7 employs what Blanks calls "cardio bands," which are resistance bands that attach to boxing gloves and shoes.

"The idea is that you can work cardio and resistance at the same time to save time," Blanks explained. "So the workout time is shortened to 30 minutes."

Blanks said while other resistance bands keep the user stationary, his move with the exerciser.

"You can walk with them, run with them, bike with them," he said. "Senior citizens can put them on for power walking. It's a fun tool. Even if you just attach the bands to your shoes and walk around the block, you get the resistance training."

Blanks has sold over 100 million workout programs worldwide since Tae Bo was introduced, according to Ruben Sadorra, director of operations of Billy Blanks Enterprises, in Calabasas, California.

Today several thousand instructors worldwide have been taught to teach Tae Bo, Sadorra said.

The fourth of 15 children, Blanks was afflicted with undiagnosed dyslexia and hip-joint difficulties. At age 11, he took his first martial arts class. He became a seven-time world karate champion, captained the U.S. karate team, won 36 gold medals in international competition.

His training center in Sherman Oaks, California was a magnet for 1990's-era celebrities from Paula Abdul to Farah Fawcett.

Blanks recently returned to California from Japan, where lived for three years, "training with a lot of top masters and learning a lot about martial arts."

"Tae Bo is an exercise everybody can do. To me it's a family boot camp in your own living room," he said, adding age doesn't matter to reap the benefits.

"My oldest client was 102 yrs old," he said. "My youngest was five."

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