Self-Defense and Tae Bo: A Blast from the Past
Several weeks ago, I attended a self-defense class. Our instructor stood in the middle of the room to demonstrate poses for cautious contact. We were shown how to position our torso, how to hold our hands. The stance was meant to help us easily switch into a squatting position where we could use the power of our legs to fight off perpetrators.
Where are women not very strong? Our upper bodies, one woman offered. And where does our strength lie? Our legs, we all answered unanimously. She then taught us a series of punches, kicks, and jabs.
The moves felt familiar. As a teenager at the turn of the millennium, I’d done Billy Blanks’s Tae Bo workouts religiously. At the time, I wasn’t that interested in self-defense. I was drawn to the video’s back jacket promise that I would burn 800 calories per hour. Turns out, though, Tae Bo had taught me something other than just how to keep myself small.
Tae Bo: A Fun Challenge and a Campy Relic
In adolescence, I completed the Advanced Tae Bo workout video at least a thousand times. Though I dabbled with other exercise tapes, there was just something about Blanks’s program that had a hold on me. The marketing promised that I’d become strong enough to kick a man’s ass—and look great while doing it.
In adulthood, I mostly abandoned Blanks’s workouts. I’d worn them out and had moved on to workouts that were outdoors or communal. It wasn’t until a recent rainy day that I tried the video out again with my two young, stir-crazy sons. They were always trying to kick and punch each other, anyway. I figured I should give them a context to channel that fury. They were intrigued, at first, and participatory. About 15 minutes into the program, they walked away. I, however, continued with the tape.
Despite the number of punches and jabs, the arms actually received very little attention in the workout; the focus was on lower body and core—right where, as my self-defense instructor had pointed out, women hold their power. Blanks stood in the center of a red-carpeted studio with his class behind him. Though there was some ethnic diversity, the bodies looked mostly the same: fit and on the more youthful end of middle-aged. The most conventionally attractive (or thin) women were placed closest to Blanks. If I squinted, I could just make out the vague figures of two men way off in the back.
Though Tae Bo is certainly a product of its time, the workout remains a fun challenge, and a campy relic. You just have to watch your own form and listen to your body to make sure you don’t get injured. Still, it’s a video I will certainly stream again on a rainy day whenever the kids just won’t stop fighting each other.
– Tae Bo is a workout that focuses on lower body and core strength, which is where women hold their power.
– The workout is a fun way to channel aggression and get a good sweat in.
– The video lacks guidance on proper form and alignment, so it’s important to listen to your body to avoid injury.
– Tae Bo is a product of its time, but it remains a fun challenge and a campy relic.