Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in a small town called Mönchengladbach, in Germany, in 1880. As a child he was frail and sickly, having suffered a range of conditions including rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever. He was fascinated by the Greek ideal of a man balanced in body, mind and spirit and so began to develop his own exercise system based around this.
In 1912 he moved to England to work as a self-defence instructor but after WW1 broke out in 1914, he was interned along with other German nationals in a “camp for enemy aliens” in Lancaster. It was here that he began devising his system of original exercises that later became the very first form of Pilates known as “Contrology”.
In 1918 an influenza epidemic hit England which took thousands of lives but not one of Joe’s trainee’s died, it is said because of their good physical shape.
Upon Joe’s release he briefly returned to Germany where his method gathered interest within the dance community. Shortly thereafter, he emigrated to the United States where he would meet on his voyage, his wife to be, Clara Zeuner.
Joe and Clara arrived in New York City in 1926, where the couple founded a studio teaching “Contrology”. They shared an address with the New York City Ballet and soon word spread of Joe and Clara’s work, where they were invited into the New York City Ballet to instruct the young ballerina’s. Society women soon followed!
Joe continued his work until his passing at the age of 87 but Clara continued on and slowly Contrology became Pilates.