Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880.
Suffering from rheumatic fever, rickets and chronic asthma as a young child, he had a great desire to overcome his ailments. He exposed himself to many different sports such as self-defence, dance, acrobatics, resistance training, gymnastics, skiing, diving and boxing; and he developed from a fragile teenager to having a strong and well functioning body and started training and inspiring others.
He studied Eastern and Western philosophies and was greatly influenced by ancient Greek and Roman regimens.
In 1912, Joseph Pilates travelled to England. He was 32 years old and worked as a circus performer. He became a professional boxer and a self-defence teacher.
During World War 1, he was interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. It was there that he taught and practised his fitness regime and during that time he began using different apparatus, such as hospital beds and springs. This idea later developed into the reformer bed which is practised all around the world today.
After the War he returned to Germany. He attracted attention with his work and was working with Hamburg police and with people from the dance community.
In the mid 1920’s the German Army insisted that he should work with them. Instead, he emigrated to New York in 1923. A year later, he set up his first Pilates studio on Eighth Avenue.
It was during this period that he properly developed ‘The Reformer’ which is a sliding horizontal bed that can alter resistance with the help of four springs to match the individual’s strength.
Joseph Pilates died in 1967.
The first Pilates studio in Britain was set up by Alan Herdman in 1971.