Joseph H. Pilates: The Legendary Trainer
A Brief History of Classical Pilates Instruction
- Joseph Pilates
Nearly a century ago, German born Joseph Hubertus Pilates developed a revolutionary method of body conditioning called Contrology. Growing up in Monchengladbach, near Dusseldorf, young Joe studied body building and gymnastics to strengthen his frail constitution. By the age of fourteen, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. This early foray into fitness laid the foundation for the authentic Pilates system of physical conditioning.
In 1912, Joe emigrated to England, working as a boxer and a circus performer. During World War I, he was interned in an enemy alien camp on the Isle of Mann, where he introduced his fitness regime to other prisoners. While many internees succumbed to depression, malnutrition, and suicide, Joseph Pilates created a method of movement using the mind to control the muscles.
Once the war ended, he returned to Germany, training the Hamburg police in self defense. Disenchanted with the political tenor of the country, he once again left his homeland, this time setting out for America. During the voyage, he met a nanny named Clara Zeuner, who later became Clara Pilates. Arriving in the United States, the two settled in New York City, opening a studio near Madison Square Garden, close to the boxers whom they trained. By the 1940s, word of Joe?s remarkable system had spread. George Ballanchine and Martha Graham began to send injured dancers to him. The actors and the socialites followed.
For over thirty years, Joe taught at the studio at 939 8th Avenue. In 1967, at the age of 84, he succumbed to a blood clot after slipping on the ice and puncturing his lung. Clara carried on his work until her retirement in 1977 at the age of 90.
Joseph Pilates' genius encompasses more than the development of his method. To facilitate this movement, he designed and developed apparatus. In July of 1926, he filed a patent in New York for his reformer, a gymnastic apparatus designed to address foot problems, as well as work the body without stress on the organs or back. Many other patents followed, including the bednasium for sleeping, the guillotine, and the wunda chair. The essence of his work is codified in his writing, Return to Life Through Contrology and Your Health. They are the written legacy left by a remarkable man who has had a lasting and profound effect on the world of fitness.
The Pilates method of body conditioning reawakens and stimulates brain cells, stimulating further the functioning of the mind. - Joseph Pilates
The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is practiced by people all over the world who are at every level of fitness. Pilates Classes and Instruction are becoming more popular than ever before, as The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is used by professional athletes, actors, sports teams, dancers, performing arts school students, and members of health clubs and gyms.
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