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History of Joseph H Pilates

History of Joseph H Pilates

  • Information provided by Herman and Baker (2003-9) and A History of Joseph Hubertus Pilates (2001) inform us that Joseph Pilates was born in a small town outside Dusseldorf, Germany in 1883 and died in 1967 at age 83.

joseph pilates

As a child Joseph suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever.  His father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother a naturopath.

Joseph was given an old anatomy book which he studied and memorised and in his words.

“I learned every page, every part of the body; I would move each part as I memorised it.  As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young”.

Joseph was modelling for anatomy charts at the age of 14 years.

Joseph travelled from Germany to England for work in 1914, WW1 started.  Joseph was interned as an enemy alien.  He taught wrestling and self defence and developed a series of mat exercises which he encouraged his fellow camp members to practise everyday, this was later known as ‘Contrology’

He was transferred to The Isle of Man where he rehabilitated injured soldiers with the equipment he designed. Joseph attached springs to beds for the bedridden to exercise.  This is now known as the Cadillac.

After the war Joseph travelled from England to the United States of America. On the boat he met his future wife Clara, a nurse.  She worked closely with Joseph in their Pilates studio on 8th Avenue, New York.

In the early years they taught dancers who enjoyed his method in developing strength while maintaining and increasing range of movement.  They handed down his method through apprenticeships and these people have moved around the world and passed his work on.  Way ahead of his time, he viewed fitness as a holistic exercise regime emphasising the body working as a whole unit.

 

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