The words, "Not by sight but by faith" adorn the walls of Billy Blanks training center -- a testament to his faith in Christ to overcome many obstacles. "Faith without works is dead" -- is another scripture which adorns the training center walls. "I was the one who wasn’t going to be someone," Billy says. Billy is the fourth of 15 children born to Isaac & Mabelline Blanks. His father was a steel foundry worker by day and drove a garbage truck at night. His mother was a homemaker. They were a poor but hard-working couple from Erie, Pennsylvania.
Billy says his parents raised him with love and discipline. "Not a day goes by that I don’t recall my father telling me, ‘Billy, you have to work hard for everything.’" Billy had a hard time academically. He struggled with dyslexia, a condition not diagnosed until he was 37 years old. Additionally he was born with an anomaly in his hip joints that would impair his movement, and a clumsiness that earned him the taunts of his siblings and caused his coaches to believe he’d never accomplish much.
Billy found his answer to these challenges in karate. At age 12 he saw martial arts great Bruce Lee on TV and decided he wanted to be a world martial-arts champion. The discipline of the program began to transform his body. In 1975 he became the first Amateur Athletic Union champion, a title he won five times. By age 16, he had earned a black belt in karate and went on to earn a spot on the U.S. Karate team which won 36 gold medals in international competition -- becoming the captain in 1980. His hopes of Olympic glory were dashed when President Carter announced a U.S. boycott of the games in Moscow.
After teaching children for many years, in 1988 Billy moved his family to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He found a job in security, and soon landed a job as bodyguard to Catherine Bach who starred on "The Dukes of Hazzard." While guarding her on location in the Philippines in 1989, Billy was cast in his first movie role.
He went on to land parts in over 28 films. It was during this time in his life that Billy committed his life to the Lord.
As his competitive karate career slowed down, Billy stayed dedicated to physical fitness. It was while training in his basement gym that he began to combine his karate moves with dance music to create his innovative exercise technique, which he named Tae-bo. Billy is an active member of Crenshaw Christian Center. He normally goes to his fitness center every day except for Sunday when he attends church, and on Tuesday night when he’s at Bible study.
"You have it within your power to overcome almost any obstacle and achieve any dream," says Billy, who trains disabled people in addition to a long list of Hollywood celebrities. "All you need to do is believe in yourself and find the way to ‘Walk with faith and not sight.’"
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