Joseph H. Pilates’s birthday was born on 9 December 1883 in Germany.
A sickly child he was introduced by his Greek father to gymnastics, body-building, and martial arts and boxing. He worked hard using these skills to improve his own body condition - based on good posture and lifestyle, combined with effective breathing.
He devised a series of exercises and training techniques and equipment to teach his methods.
He worked as a bodybuilder, boxer, even as a circus performer. He taught self-defence and helped injured soldiers with rehabilitation techniques.
In the mid 1920s he travelled to the USA. where he and his wife became popular trainers, focusing on flexibility, strength and stamina. They gained a reputation working with famous dancers, and injured ballet dancers who required rehabilitation techniques. Soon even the rich socialites joined in at the Pilates studio with regular classes.
Pilates wrote about his methods which he referred to as Contrology. He died in 1967 in New York of advanced emphysema, aged 83.
Pilates continues to be taught and is estimated that nearly 10 million people regularly study Pilates in the USA each year. Accurate figures in the UK seem hard to find but over 50 years after he died, Pilates classes continue in nearly every town and city in the UK.
9 December 2020