Joseph Pilates developed his work from a strong personal experience in fitness. Unhealthy as a child, Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, a wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver.
After WWI, Joseph Pilates briefly returned to Germany where his reputation as a physical trainer/healer preceded him. In Germany, he worked briefly for the Hamburg Military Police in self-defense and physical training. In 1925, he was asked to train the German army. Instead, he packed his bags and took a boat to New York City. On the boat to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife. He went on to establish his studio in New York and Clara worked with him as he evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.
Joseph Pilates taught in New York from 1926 to 1966. He trained a number of students who not only applied his work to their own lives but became teachers of the Pilates method themselves. “Classical style” Pilates was born from his students who committed themselves to passing along Pilates’ work exactly as he taught it.
Many dancers and well-known persons of New York depended on Pilates method training for the strength and grace it developed in the practitioner, as well as for its rehabilitative effects. Until exercise science caught up with the Pilates exercise principles in the 1980s, and the surge of interest in Pilates that we have today got underway, it was chiefly dancers and elite athletes who kept Joseph Pilates’ work alive.
Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967 at age 87. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and many photos show that he was in remarkable physical condition in his older years.
Joseph Pilates called his work, contrology. He defined Contrology as “the comprehensive integration of body mind and spirit.”