Hubertus Joseph (Joe) Pilates was born in Monchengladbach, Germany in 1883. Joe had various ailments as a child. In a bid to help his Father introduced him to gymnastics, body-building and to martial arts such as jiu jitsu and boxing. His study of different exercise systems continued all his life.
Joe Pilates was married twice and had a daughter and son and 2 step-children. His first wife, Maria, died in 1913. Joe married Elfreide in 1919. She died in Hamburg in 1931.
Over time Joe came to believe that life-style, bad posture and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. The classical Greek idea of a man balanced in body, mind, and spirit, intrigued him so he began developing his own system based on this concept, the study of eastern philosophies and the movements of animals which he called ‘Contrology’.
In 1914 Joe went to England, where he was at the outbreak of World War I. Joe was interned, aong with all other German nationals, as an “enemy alien”. During this time he refined his ideas, attempting to train others in his early system of exercise.
After his release, Joe returned to Germany. In 1926, Joe emmigrated to America. During the voyage he met his future partner Clara Zeuner. Joe and Clara opened a gym in New York, in the same building as the New York City Ballet.
Joe wrote several books, including 'Return to Life through Contrology' and 'Your Health', and he was also a prolific inventor. With over 26 patents to his name,
Joe continued to train clients at his gym until his death of advanced emphysema on October 7, 1967 at the age of 83. Clara continued to teach until the early seventies before handing over control to Romana Kryzanowska.
Today, ‘Contrology’ or ‘Pilates’ as we all know it, is no longer the workout of the elite or very wealthy, Pilates has entered the fitness mainstream. It is not only featured in dedicated studios and fitness centres, but has become an important training and rehabilitation tool for athletes all over the world.
“I’m fifty years ahead of my time,” Joe once claimed.
He was probably right!