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Joseph Pilates

Pilates, the man who started it

Joseph Pilates, a brief history.

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Dusseldorf in 1880. Unwell as a child with rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever he trained his body relentlessly until at age fourteen he was able to model for anatomical drawings. He continued to be very active and was later to take his ideas from the fields of gymnastics, skiing, diving, boxing, swimming, yoga, martial arts and circus training.

In 1912 he left Germany and taught self defence to detectives at Scotland Yard and when interned during WW1 on The Isle of Man he helped many of the injured back onto their feet by applying his techniques. Joe used bed springs as rudimentary equipment as he began to develop apparatus with which he later filled his studio in New York. These pieces of equipment can now be seen in any Pilates studio around the world.


After briefly returning to Germany he moved to New York where his Pilates studio attracted dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine.

Joseph Pilates died aged 83 after suffering from smoke inhalation after his famous New York studio caught fire. He left five protégés, now known as 'The Elders', the remainder of whom still teach today.

These days the method is taught internationally thanks to people like Alan Herdman who first introduced Pilates to the UK in the 1970's and Lynne Robinson who founded The Body Control Pilates Association with Gordon Thompson and Helge Fisher. 

Joseph Pilates
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