History of Joe

Rolates Pilates is proud to be apart of this history by operating out of Joe and Clara’s Original Studio space.

Who was Joe?
Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany, in 1883. A sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, Joe dedicated his entire life to becoming physically stronger. He studied bodybuilding and gymnastics and by the age of 14 was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. In 1914 Joe moved to England earning a living as a boxer, circus performer and self-defense trainer. During World War I, he interned with other German citizens in a camp near Lancaster. There Joe taught fellow camp members the concepts and exercises developed over 20 years of self-study and apprenticeship in yoga, Zen, ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. It was here that the beginnings of the True Pilates Method began to take shape with original exercises known today as "mat work." He called this regimen "Contrology", meaning 'the science of control'. A few years later, Joe was transferred to another camp on the Isle of Man, where he became a nurse/caretaker to the many internees struck with wartime disease and physical injury. Here, he began devising equipment to rehabilitate his patients - taking springs from the beds and rigging them to create spring resistance and "movement" for the bedridden. Pilates equipment today is not much different than that of yesteryear. Spring tension, straps to hold feet or hands, supports for back, neck and shoulder are as important now as they were then. The inimitably designed pieces truly act as a complement to the challenging "mat work" exercise because of the remarkable nature of the equipment to both strengthen and support the body as it learns to move more efficiently.
After the War, Pilates emigrated to the United States. On the ship to America he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960’s. Pilates and his method, which he and Clara called "Contrology", soon established a following in the dance and the performing arts community. From their point of view, "Contrology" is the complete coordination of the body, mind and spirit. Well known choreographer/teacher George Balanchine and dancer/choreographer Ruth St. Dennis became devotees and sent their students to them for training. Pilates practiced what he preached and lived a long healthy life. He died in 1967 at the age of 84. Today, Pilates is practiced around the world by athletes, dancers, fitness professionals, and the general public.

Clara Pilates
While Joe was the outspoken force behind his method, his wife Clara quietly incorporated his concepts and exercises in ways that benefited more seriously ill or injured clients. Her approachable style and special techniques spawned a dedicated lineage of teachers whose work flows through and uniquely colors the landscape of the Pilates method today. It is perhaps because of Clara that Pilates is clearly recognized as a positive form of movement-based exercise that truly can be tailored to any level of not just fitness, but also of health.
Pilates has proven itself for more than 80 years as an effective and safe method of exercise, when taught and applied correctly. It has been the workout of choice for dancers, gymnasts and fitness enthusiasts for decades. Joe was a genius well beyond his time, he didn’t just develop a brilliant approach to fitness that includes over 500 exercises; he also engineered all the equipment, specifications and tuning required to teach them properly. There is no debate that his original approach can work wonders when applied by a qualified instructor who understands how to develop and tailor a Pilates workout specific to your body and capabilities. When applied correctly, it will make you look, feel and move better!
(link to PMA history of Joe Pilates http://www.pilatesmethodalliance.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3277 )