Joseph Pilates was a sickly child, suffering from asthma, rickets
and rheumatic fever, yet he longed to play sports and to be
physically active. He read all the books he could on the subjects
of body building, boxing, yoga and martial arts. For the most part he taught himself physical conditioning and by the age of 14 Joe was modeling for anatomical drawings. He became accomplished in many sports, including skiing, diving and gymnastics.
In 1912 Joe went to England where he worked as a self defense instructor for detectives at Scotland Yard. At the outbreak of World War I he was interned as an 'enemy alien' with other German nationals.
During he's 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 but when German officials asked him to teach his fitness system to their army Joe decided to leave Germany for good.
In 1926 Joe emigrated to the US. 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. Joe continued to train clients at his studio until his death in 1967 at the age of 87.
In the 1970's Hollywood celebrities discovered Pilates - and where the stars go, media follows. In the late 1980's 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, and he was right. No longer the workout of the elite, Pilates has entered the fitness mainstream.
"The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power."
~ Joe Pilates
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