Pilates is a whole body exercise system that was created by Joseph H Pilates (1883 – 1967) that he famously wrote was 50 years ahead of its time.
Originally called “Contrology”, Pilates is now used around the world in a variety of ways: for general exercise; rehabilitation; sporting skills cross training, specific condition training such as for pre and post natal exercise, increasing bone density, exercise to reduce pain in chronic low back pain sufferers, to develop core control and therefore increase balance for conditions such as Parkinson’s, MS, stroke sufferers.
Here is a bit of history (taken from archives from Balanced Body: http://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/origins-of-pilates.html and Pont.,J, Romero,E.”Joseph Hubertus Pilates The Biography”2013 HakaBooks.com .
Joe was born in Monchengladbach in Germany in 1883, and today there are regular Pilates events that return to his home town. As a child he was sickly and his mother encouraged him to strengthen his body through various forms of physical exercise.
This led him to become a very strong adult who was supposedly intrigued by the Greek notion of being strong in body, mind and spirit – which underpins much of the Pilates Method instruction today. The “Turner” method of calisthenics or movement
In 1912 Joe travelled to England where it has been reported that he instructed circus performers and was employed to instruct self defence to the detectives of Scotland Yard. At the outbreak of WW1 he was interned, as were all German and “Alien” nationals on the Isle of Man, and here he refined and consolidated much of his strengthening techniques using whatever was available to strengthen fellow detainees during this time. So bed springs were used as the primary form of resistance, and the hospital bed look of the Trapeze Table reflects this time. When a major influenza outbreak swept across England in 1918 and killing thousands it is said that that none of Joe’s interns died (or so Joe said) which to him validated his method of physical strengthening.
After his release he returned to his native Germany, where he shared his methods with the emerging influential dance community notably Rudolf von Laban and Hanya Holm. When German officials invited Pilates to instruct the German police force, he sensibly made the decision to leave Germany and in 1926 sailed to the United States of America. Up until this time, Joe had married twice and probably had children.
However, during the voyage he met Clara Zeuner who became his life partner and other half of the business partnership that enabled the Pilates Method to be what it is today. That same year they landed and opened a fitness studio in the same building complex as the fore-runners of the New York City Ballet in New York.
George Balanchine was an early convert and soon ballet dancers began attending his studio for strengthening classes. As these dancers gradually came and then resettled throughout the USA , they took some of Joe’s work with them as was reported in the New York Herald Tribune in 1964:
“…in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as ‘a pilates’, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.”
The instructors who continued to teach after Joe’s death and before his death but in studios of their own, undertook no qualification course to gain knowledge or to instruct, they were simply asked by Joe to come in at specific times to help. These teachers of future generations of instructors are known as “the Elders” or “first generation teachers”. These include names such as: Carola Trier and Bob Seed (who both established Pilates studios in New York during Joe’s life), Romana Kryzanowska, Ron Fletcher, Eve Gentry, Bruce King, Mary Bowen, and Robert Fitzgerald.
Also, Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel were elders who were awarded degrees from the State University of New York in 1967 to teach Pilates as part of a re-skilling program being offered by the university. Both were students of Carola Trier and were required to spend a certain amount of time at Joe’s studio to gain the degree which were the only two certifications by Joe. Today, Lolita San Miguel and Mary Bowen are the last remaining Elders.
The year 1992 marked the beginning of the landmark lawsuit that eventually led to the US Supreme court throwing out the action in 2000 to trademark the use of the term “Pilates” to describe the system of exercise that was being taught and the major pieces of Pilates equipment such as the Reformer. This lawsuit saw a gaping disparity of beliefs between two major factions in Pilates – those groups who were lead by Sean Gallagher and Romana Kryzanowska and their graduates of teaching programs, and the rest of the Pilates community. During the early 1990’s Gallagher had issued “cease and desist” summons to studios in the US who were teaching and advertising “Pilates” instruction, asking for specified sums of money to not sue for the breech of his “trademark” on the term “Pilates”.
Unfortunately, even though the trademark lawsuit was thrown out, and the term “Pilates” was judged to be a generic descriptor like the term Yoga, the animosity between the two sides has remained in many quarters. Some relationships between the groups have been established; however far from all groups are friendly or see eye-to-eye.
In Australia, there are two Pilates Industry bodies: the Pilates Alliance Australasia (PAA) and the Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA). The PAA is the only non-training Pilates industry body and requires all full members to have a minimum of a Diploma level of qualification, that is a Pilates specialist qualification (not a fitness Pilates qualification) as well as one that achieves the educational standards set out by the PAA.
Internationally, The Pilates Method Alliance is the largest non-certifying Pilates body in the United States and acts as the major international Pilates body that annually brings together many styles and schools of Pilates from across the globe.