Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Germany in 1880 a frail child with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever.
Determined to have physical health and a conditioned body, Pilates studied boxing, yoga, skiing, gymnastics, body building and other physical practices. By age 14 he was modeling for anatomy charts.
In 1912 Pilates moved to England to pursue boxing and found work training the Scotland Yard in self-defense and as a circus performer. When World War I began he was deemed an “enemy alien” and sent to the Isle of Man where he became a nurse and where his body conditioning methods took on a new dynamic. It was here that Pilates became an inventor. He attached springs to hospital beds abetting the recovery of bedridden patients and the idea of the Cadillac, his long table with a canopy from which springs are attached, came into existence. It was also here that his healthy stamina drew him attention. During an influenza epidemic in which thousands of people in England died, Pilates and his trainees were resilient to the disease. After being released from the camp, Joe Pilates briefly returned to Hamburg and then immigrated to New York City where the political landscape was more amenable. On the ship over he met Clara, his second wife and co-teacher of his body conditioning method, which he called “Art of Contrology”. In New York City he gained the attention of celebrities and the notable choreographers Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Along with dancers and stars, Pilates trained working men and women, circus performers, boxers and health enthusiasts.
Today the Pilates Method is practiced by people all over the world and at every level of fitness.