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Billy Blanks Tells His Story Of Humble Beginnings to Becoming a Globally Known Figure in Fitness

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Billy Blanks

No individual has revolutionized fitness like Billy Blanks, the creator of “Tae Bo®.” The total body fitness system promoting the mind and body working together, has sold over 500 million videos through infomercials and created a new breed of popular high intensity workouts we see today. But as he states, “Tae Bo didn’t come overnight it came through 20 years of me punching and kicking and doing my best to work with people and get something going.” This exclusive interview, is his story, in his words – “who would have ever thought that Tae Bo came out of the projects in the basement and now it’s in 103 countries in 30 different languages.” Read or listen to our interview with Billy Blanks as he takes us on his journey from childhood, to rising to global success, his current projects and his legacy.

BFT: We just want to start off by talking about your early journey – getting into your early life. One of the things that we discovered was that you have a unique story; being one of 15 children, dealing with dyslexia and having a hip impairment – did you ever imagine yourself becoming an influential figure in fitness and martial arts?

BB: No, I didn’t think that I would be where I am today I just know that I was blessed to have a mother that prayed all the time, and she believed and because of what she did it kind of led me into what I’m doing. Having the hip replacement and dealing with the learning disorder, it was pretty rough as a kid. Growing up in the neighborhood that I grew up in, that was pretty rough but what I did was got involved in a martial arts program. And because I got involved with the martial arts program at the youth center, it kind of gave me some incentive that even though I couldn’t read as well and do good in school, I could really do good with learning martial arts. That in turn helped me to read better and communicate with people so I’ll say karate was the first thing that really helped me out.

BFT: So what was it about martial arts that attracted you to it so much, and why did you decide this was something that you really wanted to pursue with your whole heart and how did it become a passion of yours?

BB: I first started off in boxing; because I grew up in the streets – you know…I grew up in a bad neighborhood and I seen people fight all the time and through that I didn’t really care too much about beating somebody up in the ring. One of the boxer trainers that I had he would say “it’s like when a shark sees blood you have to go for it;” and that was the way he was teaching. So at the time I said you know what, I don’t want to do that. And I saw Bruce Lee on TV in The Green Hornet and I saw him play Kato and I was just really mesmerized by his discipline that he had over his body.

So when they built this youth center in my neighborhood, I went down to the youth center and I saw this black gentleman who had just came back from the Vietnam War and he was there with his instructor, which was a Korean guy, and I walked in the room and he said “hey, what are you here for,” and I said “I’m here to sign up for the karate program.” Then when I signed up for the karate program he said “I bet you five dollars you don’t stick it out,” so that was really what caught me, you know, he wanted to see my discipline and focus so I got involved with the karate program and you know…because I had that learning disorder I needed for him to be able to stand there and actually do things with me and he told me that he didn’t have that time and he said “if you really want to learn, then you go in back of the classroom and kind of follow the class,” so that’s what I did – I got into the back of the classroom and for nine months I followed the class and I started to pick up things. From that point on, all of a sudden something clicked and the next thing you know my martial arts started to get to the point where I became good. Then I made the United States Karate Team and it started to open up doors for me and that success really helped me out.

When I saw movement it really helped me to educate myself as a person who is dyslexic. When I saw with my eyes that just body movement would really help me out mentally, it helped me be better in this world today. I mean who would ever think that I would create a word; I couldn’t even read a book! If you would’ve asked me to read 20 years ago I would’ve said “no!” But through learning martial arts and putting together Tae Bo it really taught me how to work with words and how to deal with people. So I just say learning body movement really taught me to become more disciplined and focused and showed that if I really worked on certain things – because you know… physical movement demonstrates peoples’ personalities; you can tell how a person feels by the way they move.

BFT: You talked about 20 years ago how if someone would have asked you to read – you would have said “no,” and you overcame those things, so where did you find that perseverance and dedication to overcome your obstacles early on in your life?

BB: My thing was, the first book I ever read was the Bible and I’m glad it was the Bible because I learned a lot and through that I overcome a lot of stuff because I stopped listening to what people would say…because 9 out of 10 times where I grew up you would hear people say “you’re going to be a bum, you’re not going to be any good, you’re going to be like your daddy.” You hear stuff like that…you know what I mean? So if you listen to what people say you don’t go as far. So then I start realizing who made man…God did! So I said you know what, let me see what God thinks of me. When I started looking at how God thought of me then that’s when my life changed.

I’ll tell you one story that you wouldn’t believe but it happened. One day I went to this church; and I always tell people…I always wanted to be a world champion because I wanted to be like Bruce Lee. And when I won the world championship I thought I was going to feel something, I thought something was going to change but nothing changed, so then I went back and did it again – I actually did it seven times trying to feel something, but I didn’t get what I thought I was going to get out of it.

I guess I was just looking to be happy with myself as a person and it didn’t happen, you know…then you say you want to get a car — I got that then two, three or four weeks later I got bored with it…everything. I thought that when you got the stuff, that it was going to make my life change. It was a blessing to be able to have it and going through whatever it was that you need to go through but still, I didn’t find what I needed to find. One day I walked into this church and I heard this guy (Frederick Casey Price) he said for 28 years God had been speaking to him and said that one day someone was going to walk in there and give him $1 million. I never seen $1 million in my life [laughs].  The biggest payday that ever made from a fight was $5000 and that I tithed to church but I said you know what, “I’m going to give that man $1 million dollars, you just watch,” I felt like God was talking to me – a year later I walked in the church and I said “pastor, remember when you said God had been speaking to you for 28 years and said somebody was going to come in here and give you $1 million? Well I liked to give you a check.” It came to pass but it was through hard work, having faith and believing and knowing that things were going to change.

I mean I would tell you some other stores you wouldn’t even believe; I know having faith is what did it especially when I came to California — 70% of people I would see were Jewish people coming in and I put this one saying on the wall it said “walk by faith and not by sight,” and they would say “you need to get rid of that faith stuff, that stuff don’t work.” That’s what people used to say to me every day and I would say “well you watch and see, I believe God has a place for me in life;” so people can say whatever they wanted to say but I kept putting things in action and next thing you know this big phenomenon came…and who would ever think Tae Bo would revolutionize the whole fitness world?!

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Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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Celebrity Interviews

Future NFL Hall-of-Famer Edgerrin James Talks Running 500 Miles in 365 Days

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edgerrin james, fitness

No matter what he does, Edgerrin James knows how to lead. During his time in the NFL, James averaged 4.2 yards per carry and is one of the all-time leaders in career rushing yards. Although retired, these days, the future Hall-of-Famer also rushes toward opportunities to give back. A beloved member of the University of Miami community, James contributed the largest-ever donation of any former athlete that has ever attended. He is also the founder of the Edgerrin James Foundation and the Edgerrin James Youth Football Skills Camp.

Black Fitness Today caught up with James to learn about his recent decision to embark on a 500-mile journey this past year, and what set him apart in his training as a professional athlete.

Why did you decide to embark on your 500-mile journey across the country? What has the journey taught you?

I always like to challenge myself. Running is something I’ve always hated doing, so that made it pretty interesting! This experience has really pushed me because there’s no reward at the end of the [500-mile journey] except the fact that I did it and I was consistent. There were many times I didn’t feel like running, but once I agreed to do it, I knew I had to accomplish it.

Tell us more about your partnership with Adidas.

The Adidas partnership was good for many reasons. They provided some nice uniforms for my youth football team from top to bottom. That’s more important than anything — to lace a team of inner-city kids with custom uniforms meant a lot to me and the kids. Another reason is the relationship with the University of Miami; that’s my school and I rep the gear faithfully. So it’s only right I locked in with Adidas. I’m glad the deal worked out and look forward to building on that relationship.

edgerrin james, fitness, black fitness today

You mentioned that you’ve always hated running. Did that have any impact on you while playing football in terms of how you approached your training?

Basketball was my go to sport. It is fun and exciting  and also gets you in shape. I used playing ball as my running to get in shape.

What was your favorite off-season training routine?

I’ve always liked the late-night sessions in the off-season. I would train before going to the club or after leaving the club — sounds unusual but it was the best for me. I didn’t drink and was well-rested before I would go out. My training was always very quiet with no distractions. During the day I would go to the University of Miami and get it in with the younger guys in the hot sun.

In addition to your 500-mile journey, how else do you stay in shape these days?

I always work out three to four times a week. Nothing hard, but I consistently get some type of work in.

What role does nutrition play in your everyday life? What are some of your favorite healthy foods and foods you can’t live without?

I don’t worry too much about what I eat. I just make sure I maintain a certain weight and follow up any heavy eating with a nice workout to make sure I’m back on track.

edgerrin james, black fitness today, edgerring james camp

Via Naples News Daily

Many people know you for your accomplishments on the football field, but many don’t know that you are also passionate about giving back. What are some of your initiatives? Why is philanthropy so important to you?

My purpose is to empower my people and all people that share stories similar to mine. Too many times, you see other cultures having success and wonder why not us. It’s up to us to look out for us and when you see examples, it makes it really real to the younger generation. It also gives them realistic goals to chase without making the excuses. I’m just trying to be an example that’s tried and true without any excuses. Just hard work and determination…

What advice do you have to young men who are looking to follow in your footsteps?

Learn as much as you can and just become a good example for the next generation, understand how this world works, and play the game of life to win!

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

The legacy I want to leave behind is that I did things the right way and never tried to be anyone else except myself, that I showed people you don’t have to conform or be something you’re not to be successful, and just put in the right work and let everything else work itself out.

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Carmelita Jeter Talks Personal Connection To Breast Cancer and Her Fight For a Cure

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carmelita jeter, carmelita "the jet" jeter, olympian, fastest woman alive

There’s still no faster woman alive than Carmelita Jeter. We will always remember her amazing achievements on the track as a world record holder with three Olympic medals. You may even remember her signature pink cleats she wore during some of her races. But the story behind them reveals an inspiring journey. In 2012, while training for the Olympic games, Jeter’s aunt — Brenda Washington — lost her battle with breast cancer. However, Jeter found new strength and turned tragedy into triumph. From partnering with NIKE to nonprofits, Jeter has become an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness and is dedicated to using her platform to fight for a cure!

In 2012 as you prepped for the London Olympics, your aunt, Brenda Washington, passed from breast cancer. And much like you did, people have to find the strength to pick themselves up, go to work and continue living after tragedy. How were you able to find that strength?

I was able to find the strength to keep going from my family, my coaches and my agent. At the time, I questioned my faith a lot. I just couldn’t understand why God would take her away from me. But I concluded that if my cousin Lachondra (her daughter) was able to be strong, I could not be weaker than her, for her sake.

What’s the best advice you can offer for supporting family members who are battling breast cancer?

The best advice I can give is to stay very close and experience moments with each other, even if it is just a small gathering at a relative’s house where everyone brings a dish. Also, never be afraid to speak about the person that is sick or has passed away. You have to keep their spirit alive.

You’ve partnered with various non-profit organizations to raise breast cancer awareness. Tell us a little bit about some of your partnerships including “The Pink Jet” with PINTRILL.

I partnered with Pintrill who made a Hot Pink Jet and a bracelet made from MyIntent with the words, “Mind over body,” inscribed. I’ve been the ambassador for Susan G. Komen’s Circle of PromiseInitiative that was based on African-American women getting tested more frequently.

In what ways did your aunt’s battle with breast cancer impact you on and off the track?

My aunt Brenda Washington’s battle made a huge impact on the track for me. Nike, my sponsor, made me my very own hot pink signature spikes in her honor. Every time I lined up to compete, I ran for her.

carmelita jeter, carmelita "the jet" jeter, olympian, fastest woman alive

What advice would you give to African-Americans in the fight against breast cancer?

The advice I would give African-Americans would be to not give up, and remember to stay a unit.

What are some tips that you can offer in helping with early detection and decreasing the rate of diagnoses?

My major tip would be to stop thinking African-Americans don’t get breast cancer. Also, stop thinking that you have to be over 45 to get diagnosed with the disease. We need to be more educated on the topic and we need to stop being afraid to go to the doctor. Go to the doctor and get checked up regularly!

Keep up with Jeter’s work in the community and dedication to fighting for a cure!

www.carmelitajeter.com
Instagram: jetg5
Twitter: carmelitajeter
Facebook: carmelitajeter

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WNBA Legend Lisa Leslie Talks Hall of Fame Inductions and Healthy Partnership with Boston Market

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Lisa Leslie, WNBA, women's basketball, boston market

Lisa Leslie became not only the most recognized player in the WNBA, but changed the face of women’s sports. As a two-time champion, three-time WNBA MVP, four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and eight-time all-star it should come as no surprise that Lisa is being inducted into both the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on June 13th and September 11, 2015 respectfully. As a wife, mother, Olympic athlete, model, author, speaker, and businesswoman, Leslie is a true leader and pioneer. But part of her success and ability to be Superwoman is through smart choices and taking care of her health. Recently, she teamed up with Boston Market in celebration of National Rotisserie Chicken Day, June 2nd – to celebrate the healthier cooking method. Read our interview with Lisa as she discusses her upcoming hall of fame inductions, teaming up with Boston Market, and a list of her favorite healthy rotisserie chicken recipes.

BFT: Things have changed since 1985 when Boston Market first opened its doors, the obesity epidemic being one. As a spokesperson for Boston Market why did you feel it was necessary to join in promoting healthier eating?

LL: Absolutely. I feel like we are in a time where we can no longer accept the bad food that is bombarding our community. Boston Market is definitely taking a stand with the new brand promise, All Good. The fact that you can find fresh, never frozen chicken with no added steroids or hormones makes Boston Market a frequent stop for me. As a working mom, I understand the importance of healthy food and trying to make healthy choices for my family. The Boston Market Rotisserie Chicken is not only yummy by itself but can also be used to make a variety of other meals, salads, tacos and enchiladas.

BFT: We were surprised to learn that Boston Market offers more than 150 meals 550 calories and under! When you’re on the go what is your favorite menu option at Boston Market?

LL: My favorite is breast of chicken with a wing, the green beans, sautéed spinach, which is only available at select stores, and yams. I try to load up on vegetables.

 BFT: What are some of your favorite Rotisserie Chicken dishes and recipes?

LL: I love to use Boston Market rotisserie chicken in many different kinds of recipes. First, it is great by itself with some healthy sides. Then I can use the leftovers for additional meals, like Chicken Wraps and a great Waldorf Salad.

BFT: As a pioneer of the WNBA, how does it feel to know that you are being formally inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in less than two weeks, June 13, 2015 in Knoxville, TN?

I am really humbled and excited to be a part of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It took a lot of hard work but I did not get here alone. I had so much support from teammates, coaches and family. It seems unfair that only I get an award.

BFT: This September you will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, “the highest honor in Basketball.” Many players dream to one day be in your position. What type of work, training, dedication, support etc., did it take to get you to this point?

It takes an abnormal amount of focus and dedication to your craft; it takes about 10,000 hours of repetition to become good at anything. I had a great support system as well, from my mother to my family to the coaches and teammates I played with throughout the years.

BFT: When you think back on your career and your many accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

LL: It is hard to choose one thing: I am proud of being a mom. I am proud of being a wife and businesswoman. I am proud of my basketball career and philanthropic work.

BFT: What do you want people to take away from what you were able to accomplish during your career?

LL: I would love to be known as a person who really gave her all in everything she did, as a wife, mom, athlete, captain, teammate, businesswoman. Along the way, I have met some wonderful people. I have helped people and received so much in return. I am just thankful for the journey.


 

Here are the recipes:

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

1 whole Boston Market Rotisserie Chicken, picked and diced in small pieces

2 tablespoons canola oil

8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup carrots, diced in small pieces

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup roasted peanuts chopped in half

1 head Greenleaf or Iceberg lettuce, separated into whole leaves

1 – 8 oz. pouch or 1 cup of your favorite Hoisin Sauce

Directions

Heat oil over high heat in large frying pan or wok

Add chicken, all vegetables and half of the peanuts, stir fry for two minutes

Add 3/4 pouch of Asian sauce, bring to a simmer, add green onions and remaining peanuts

Scoop the mixture into a lettuce leaf cup

Drizzle the remaining sauce on top

Waldorf Chicken Salad

Ingredients

1 Boston Market Rotisserie chicken, picked and diced

½ cup apples diced

½ cup celery diced

¼ cup grapes cut in thirds

¼ cup walnuts chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, chill and serve on bread, croissant or on a bed of lettuce. Serves five to six.

Tip

This recipe calls for one whole Boston Market Rotisserie chicken but if you want all white meat buy two whole chickens and use dark meat in another recipe.

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