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a History of the pilates method


Joseph H. Pilates

... was born born 9 December 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany.  As a child he suffered from many different ailments and dedicated his life to his physical wellness.  His father introduced him to gymnastics and body-building, and to martial arts like jiu-jitsu and boxing.  By the age of 14 he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. 


He immigrated to England in 1912 and worked as a circus performer, professional boxer, and a martial arts trainer for Scotland yard. At the start of World War I, he was placed in an internment camp where he continued to train others in wrestling and self-defense.  It was here that he began developing a system of mat exercises he called "Contrology."

Joseph continued to develop his system of "Contrology" by studying the movements of animals and human anatomy. Some of his exercises were even used to rehabilitate injured war veterans.

After a brief return to Germany, Joseph immigrated to New York City where he and his new wife Clara taught Contrology classes, focusing attention on core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. There they were introduced to Romana Kryzanowska, an injured ballerina who would become Pilates' protege, inherit the Pilates Studio in New York, and help build the teacher training program at the Pilates Center in Boulder, CO.

Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health.  The tradition of Contrology is preserved in the practice of the Classical Pilates method.


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