Tae Bo is a total body fitness system that incorporates Martial Arts techniques such as kicks and punches, which became quite popular in the 1990s. It was developed by American taekwondo practitioner Billy Blanks and was one of the first “cardio-boxing” programs to enjoy commercial success. Such programs use the motions of martial arts at a rapid pace designed to promote fitness. The name Tae Bo is a portmanteau of tae kwon do and boxing. Furthermore it is an acronym standing for:
Blanks developed the routine in 1976 by combining dance with elements from his martial arts and boxing training to form a workout regimen. During the 1990s, a series of videos were mass-marketed to the public; by 1999 an estimated 1.5 million sets of videos had been sold on the back of a frequently aired television infomercial. As a result, Tae Bo became somewhat of a pop culture phenomenon in the late 1990s. Gyms began offering kickboxing-based fitness classes similar to Tae Bo. Since Blanks had taken out a trademark on the name they were not allowed to use the term Tae Bo without paying a licensing fee. Tae Bo videos and DVDs continue to rank among the top sellers in the fitness genre and derivative classes are still offered at many gyms.
Tae Bo classes are taught worldwide. Tae Bo includes many of the same punches and kicks as karate, but is not intended for fighting—it was not meant for any combat or self-defense applications. There are no throws, grappling moves, or ground fighting techniques in Tae Bo. Its only intent is to increase fitness through movement. Tae Bo also includes aerobic exercises intended to strengthen all muscles of the body with basic choreography.
Tae Bo was designed as a different type of aerobic and cardio workout concept which is focused on the soul, mind and body and so the benefits of Tae Bo are both physical and mental. Tae Bo has been characterized as an excellent cardiovascular workout with very good distractions.
Because of the movements it involves, Tae Bo is effective in toning and defining the body’s musculature. It can also improve one’s balance, flexibility, coordination and has cardiovascular benefits. The benefit of a good cardiovascular workout was the first thing Blanks noticed when he inadvertently created Tae Bo in 1976 and it is still one of the top selling points of the program. According to Blanks, the cardiovascular benefits are a result of the dance moves added to the already high-energy workout.
The Tae Kwon Do aspect of Tae Bo provides self-awareness, self-confidence, and familiarity with martial arts. Martial arts combined with punch-boxing and dancing connects the mind and body by teaching mental acuity, physical strength, mental coordination and accuracy, and speed.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect about Tae Bo is its proven calorie burning effectiveness. An hour long Tae Bo workout will burn 500 to 800 calories, compared with the 300 to 400 calories burned with a more conventional aerobics class. If a healthy diet is followed, the burned calories should translate into, primarily, fat loss. As it is an aerobic and cardio workout, Tae Bo helps its practitioners work out more sweat and lose weight at a faster pace when working out constantly during a week.
Tae Bo is also thought to lead to a better grasp of self-defense methods by kicking and punching that are done during a workout program. While Blanks says he hopes Tae Bo users are never put in a spot where they will need the self-defense training, Tae Bo will give them the skills and confidence to deal with potential trouble.
Tae Bo can also help with developing a positive sense of self-esteem. As with any form of exercise, it can promote “positive mental health as indicated by relief in symptoms of depression and anxiety,” as stated in a study on the effects of exercise on mental health by Arizona State University researcher Daniel M. Landers.