Joseph Pilates 1883 to 1967
The founder and name behind the method, Joseph Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany. He was a sickly child who suffered from many health issues including rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. His parents had been warned that his life expectancy could be short, however with Joseph's determination and courage this would not be the case.
Instead of following a conventional fitness regime to improve his health, he experimented with various different methods. Boxing, yoga, martial arts, skiing, gymnastics, dance, weight training and circus training have all influenced him and can be recognised in his teaching. By choosing the key aspects of these methods and using them to develop his own body, he worked out a system that transformed and healed him, resulting in a perfectly balanced body with true flexibility and strength. He named his approach "Contrology".
Around 1912 Joseph travelled to England teaching his techniques to others. Whilst training detectives at Scotland Yard World War One broke out. As a result of his nationality he was interned. He used this time to help other camp member who were injured through his matwork repertoire, he also focused on rehabilitation programs experimenting with bed springs to create resistance for camp member that were bed bound. Through this early experimentation equipment such as the Cadillac and Reformer were born.
'By choosing the key aspects of these methods and using them to develop his own body, he worked out a system that transformed and healed him'
After the war he returned to Germany where he worked with Rudolph Laban and so the connection between the dance world and Pilates starts. However Pilates believed in training to heal and not harm, so when he was asked to work with the Germany Army he left on the boat for America in 1926.
On this boat his path in life changed as he met his wife Clara. With their shared views on fitness they later opened a studio in New York where they taught Joseph's "Contrology" method. The studio's original clients were mainly boxers, however the studio soon attracted top ballet dancers, actors and actresses, gymnasts and athletes all focused on learning from Pilates.
The New York studio was the home of Contrology and it was here that his early apprentices, many of whom where professional dancers, where taught directly by Joseph himself. After his death in 1967, Clara continued to run the studio along with one of his apprentices and close friends Romana Krysanowski.
It was Joseph's influence and his apprentice's commitment that has continued to evolve and pass on the original matwork method, which after his death would become know as Pilates.