The Pilates system is the vision of Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany in 1880 he was a sickly child. Rather than giving in to his various debilitating conditions, he resolved to build up his strength and overcome them. As he grew up he took up many different sports including skiing, diving, gymnastics and body building.
He maintained his exercise system and when he moved to England in 1912 he was able to earn a living as a boxer and circus performer. In 1914, at the start of World War I, he was interned on the Isle of Man and spent his time there nursing other inmates and training them in his own form of physical fitness. During his time as a medical aid he starting using improvised fitness equipment with bed springs attached to the walls above the patients’ beds.
After the war Pilates returned to Germany but then left for the United States in 1926. When he set up a studio in New York there was a tremendous interest in his technique and he took the dance world by storm. Pilates died in 1967 leaving his wife Clara to run the New York studio. Clara Pilates gave tuition to a number of aspiring teachers who then went on to open their own studios and this is how the technique has been passed down.