How Pilates Began
Joe went to England in 1912, where
he worked as a self-defense instructor for detectives at Scotland Yard. At the outbreak of World War I, Joe was interned as
an "enemy alien" with other German nationals. During his internment, Joe refined his ideas and trained other internees
in his system of exercise. He rigged springs
to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment
designs. An influenza epidemic struck England in 1918, killing thousands of people, but not a single one of Joe's trainees
died. This, he claimed, testified to the effectiveness of his system.
After his release,
Joe returned to Germany. His exercise method gained favor in the dance community, primarily through Rudolf von Laban, who
created the form of dance notation most widely used today. Hanya Holm adopted many of Joe's exercises for her modern dance
curriculum, and they are still part of the "Holm Technique." When German officials asked Joe to teach his fitness
system to the army, he decided to leave Germany for good.
The Pilates movement gains in popularity – from Europe to the U.S.
In 1926, Joe immigrated to the United States. During the voyage he met Clara,
whom he later married. Joe and Clara opened a fitness studio in New York, sharing an address with the New York City Ballet.
By the early 1960s, Joe and Clara could count among their clients many
New York dancers. George Balanchine studied "at Joe's," as he called it, and also invited Pilates to instruct his
young ballerinas at the New York City Ballet. "Pilates" was becoming popular outside of New York as well.
As the New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964, "in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students
limber up daily with an exercise they know as a pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing
students begin to teach
While Joe was still alive, only two of his students, Carola Trier and Bob Seed, are known to have opened
their own studios. Trier, who had an extensive dance background, found her way to the United States by becoming a performing
contortionist, after fleeing a Nazi holding camp in France. She found Joe Pilates in 1940, when a non-stage injury pre-empted
her performing career. Joe Pilates assisted Trier in opening her own studio in the late 1950s. Joe and Clara remained close
friends with Trier until their deaths. Bob Seed was another story. A former hockey player turned "Pilates"
enthusiast, Seed opened a studio across town from Joe and tried to take away some of Joe's clients by opening very early in
the morning. According to John Steel, one day Joe visited Seed with a gun and warned Seed to get out of town. Seed went.
The second generation of Pilates teachers
When Joe passed away in 1967, he
left no will and had designated no line of succession for the "Pilates" work to carry on. Nevertheless, his work
would remain. Clara continued to operate what was known as the "Pilates" Studio on Eighth Avenue in New York, where
Romana Kryzanowska became the director around 1970. Kryzanowska had studied with Joe and Clara in the early 1940s and then,
after a 15-year hiatus spent in Peru, returned to renew her studies.
of Joe and Clara went on to open their own studios. Ron Fletcher was a Martha Graham dancer who studied and consulted with
Joe from the 1940s on, in connection with a chronic knee ailment. Fletcher opened his studio in Los Angeles in 1970 and attracted
many Hollywood stars. Clara was particularly enamored with Ron and she gave her blessing to him to carry on the "Pilates"
work and name. Like Carola Trier, Fletcher brought some innovations and advancements to the "Pilates" work. His
on "Pilates" were inspired both by his years as a Martha Graham dancer and by another mentor, Yeichi Imura.
Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel were also students of Joe and Clara who became teachers. Grant took over the direction at
the Bendel's studio in 1972, while San Miguel went on to teach Pilates at Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto
Rico. In 1967, just before Joe's death, both Grant and San Miguel were awarded degrees by the State University of New York
to teach "Pilates." These two are believed to be the only "Pilates" practitioners ever certified officially
by Joe. Other students of Joe and Clara who opened their own studios include Eve Gentry, Bruce King, Mary Bowen and
Robert Fitzgerald. Eve Gentry, a dancer who taught at the Pilates Studio in New York from 1938 through 1968, also taught "Pilates"
in the early 1960s at New York University's Theater Department. After leaving New York, she opened her own studio in Santa
Fe, New Mexico. A charter faculty member of the High School for the Performing Arts, Gentry was also a co-founder of the Dance
Notation Bureau. In 1979, she was given the "Pioneer of Modern Dance Award" by Bennington College.
Bruce King trained for many years with Joseph and Clara Pilates and was a member of
the Merce Cunningham Company, Alwyn Nikolais Company, and his own Bruce King Dance Company. In the mid-1970s King opened his
own studio at 160 W. 73rd Street in New York City. Mary Bowen, a Jungian analyst who studied with Joe in the mid-1960s,
began teaching Pilates in 1975 and founded "Your Own Gym" in Northampton, Massachusetts. Robert Fitzgerald
opened his studio on West 56th Street in the 1960s, where he had a large clientele from the dance community.
Joe continued to train clients at his studio until his death in 1967, at the age of
87. In the 1970s, Hollywood celebrities discovered Pilates via Ron Fletcher's studio in Beverly Hills. Where the stars
go, the media follows. In the late 1980s, the media began to cover Pilates extensively. The public took note, and the Pilates
business boomed. "I'm fifty years ahead of my time," Joe once claimed. He was right. No longer the workout of the
elite, Pilates has entered the fitness mainstream. Today, over 10 million Americans practice Pilates, and the numbers continue
Pilates Method: "my work is 50 years ahead of its time".
definition of physical fitness: "the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully
capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure
- Everything should be smooth, like a cat. [The exercises are done lying, sitting, kneeling, etc]... to avoid excess strain
on the heart and lungs... natural movements ... with the emphasis on doing and being".
"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in
a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy callisthenics or forced contortion."
Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment
of any worthwhile endeavor."
goal of Controlology (Pilates Method) ..... "the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound
mind and the ability to perform life's daily activities with zest and ease."
"I invented all these machines. Began back in Germany, was there until 1925
used to exercise rheumatic patients. I thought, why use My strength? So I made a machine to do it for me. Look, you see it
resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate
on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it."
In explaining Controlology's guiding principle, Pilates liked to quote Schiller: 'lt
is the mind itself which builds the body'.
must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises.
They'd be happier."
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment
and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing
our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."x
"Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology
you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually
and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."
"Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises designed to produce only bulging muscles. ... Nor does
Contrology err either by over-developed a few muscles at the expense of all others with resulting loss of grace and suppleness,
or a sacrifice of the heart or lungs. Rather, it was conceived to limber and stretch muscles and ligaments so that your body
will be as supple as that of a cat and not muscular like that of the body of a brewery-truck horse, or the muscle-bound body
of the professional weight lifter you so much admire at the circus."
"Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates
the mind, and elevates the spirit."
"Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily
"The art of contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK
you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life."
"This is the equivalent of an "internal shower". As the spring freshets (freshet - the occurrence of a water flow resulting from sudden rain
or melting snow) born
of the heavy rains and vast masses of melting snows on mountains in the hinterlands cause rivers to swell and rush turbulently
onward to the sea, so too will your
blood flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology exercises. Moreover, such
a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind
that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all of the complex problems of modern living".
body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind
that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living. Joseph Pilates