News: Billy Blanks visits Camp Bondsteel
Story by Pfc. Sarah Cummings
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – “Tae Bo” creator and fitness guru Billy Blanks visited Camp Bondsteel and Camp Film City, Jan. 17 and 18, for a two-day “Spirit and Body Tour” of Kosovo, where he met with members of Multinational Battle Group East and conducted Tae Bo classes for the troops.
For the past 11 years Blanks has visited U.S. troops deployed overseas to perform his fitness program with them.
“It is a way to show them our appreciation,” said Blanks.
Blanks is one of 15 children born to Isaac and Mabeline Blanks. Two of his brothers are in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“A lot of people think I was a Marine,” said Blanks, an eighth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It was while incorporating some dance moves into his Tae Kwon Do routine that Blanks came upon the idea of what would become “Tae Bo.”
Blanks grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia and joint problems. It was because of these problems that his coaches and teachers thought he would never amount to much. One of Blanks' main philosophies is that “you have the power to be a loser” and that everything is dependent on a person's will.
“Mr. Blanks' theory opened my eyes. It's true,” said Sgt. Zaneta Wagner, Bossier City, La., custodian of postal effects, 328th Postal Services Detachment, Multinational Battle Group East, U.S. Army Reserve.
“No one can take my goals from me. As long as I have the will and the power, I can achieve all things I set out to do,” said Wagner.
“I agree with the 'will' theory of Mr. Blanks,” said Capt. Felicia Anderson, Benton, Ark., personnel officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-114th Security and Support Aviation Battalion, MNBG E, Arkansas National Guard.
“It allows us to do what we do professionally and personally as soldiers,” said Anderson.
“I was also a shy kid,” said Blanks. “Martial arts was a way to learn to communicate and learn more about myself. Working out is a good mental tool. It is a way to teach a person how to communicate with their body and learn how to release stress.”
In a deployed environment, it is important to find a way to release the stress, said Eli Johnson, Tae Bo certified fitness instructor and owner of Trinity Fitness Center, Coral Springs, Fla.
Johnson retired from the active duty Army after 20 years of service. While stationed in Germany he attended Tae Bo classes and became a certified instructor of the fitness program. He now works and tours with Blanks.
It is the motivation that Blanks and his associates have that help soldiers.
“Billy's class was fun and he was extremely motivated in keeping us energized,” said Wagner.
In addition to meeting with soldiers and conducting classes during his visit to Kosovo, Blanks was able to use the simulation weapons training center, tour the hospital and also the aviation facilities at Camp Bondsteel. Blanks and Johnson also visited Film City in Prishtine/Pristina, Kosovo.
While at film city, Blanks and Johnson met with soldiers there and were given a demonstration of Filipino Kali, a martial arts discipline, by Marine Sgt. Victor Arroyo, Bronx, N.Y., service desk deputy chief, communications, KFOR Headquarters.
Arroyo gave a brief demonstration on the fighting style and techniques of Filipino Kali both with and without weapons.
Arroyo explained a brief history of the fighting style, and that unlike other martial arts, fighting is taught with weapons before bare hand to hand combat.