Joseph Pilates struggled through his childhood experiencing various illnesses and issues that had such an effect on his body, health, and movement. Joseph was inspired by his own strife and struggle that he pursued a life in fitness as a boxer, gymnast, and a trainer in self-defence. He was always looking to better himself and his knowledge of the body.
It was during the first world war when Joseph was detained by the army that he started to teach his exercise method of ‘contrology’ to the soldiers of the war. The authorities saw the positive impact Joseph and his method had on the soldiers so they transferred him to a different camp to try and rehabilitate the seriously wounded and bed ridden soldiers. Joseph was so confident in his method he wasn’t at all phased by the challenge, in fact he was motivated by it. Pilates had to work around the hospital beds and wheelchairs to get the injured bodies moving and decided to reconstruct everything to be more supportive and actually be involved in the exercises.
The war ended and Pilates was eager to travel straight to America to share the art of contrology with the world. It was during his journey to the US when he met his wife to be, Clara. They shared many things in common as Clara was a nurse and teacher, before and during the war. Clara was so interested and convinced by Joseph’s method they both decided to open up the first ‘Pilates’ studio in Manhattan.
Joseph had a stern nature which influences the precision aspect of Pilates, however Clara was very nurturing and will have definitely encouraged a mindfulness aspect. Due to their personality differences, Joe & Clara had such different styles of teaching. After all Joe’s experience was with soldiers who were used to receiving precise instruction and persistence. Clara understood that every body is deferent and that the Pilates techniques could be tailored to each individual’s body regardless of fitness level or health.
Joe passed away in 1967 and without hesitation Clara continued to teach and run the studio, until her death a 10 years later. The impact the Pilates’ duo had on the world was incredible, a much wider and dedicated following was derived and continues to grow!
Clara’s input had a resounding effect on Pilates and it’s fan base, making the method more approachable. Their joint effort in developing the Pilates repertoire and combining both of their knowledge of the body, helped create a timeless and forever beneficial form of exercise/rehabilitation.
Photographs, records, and students of Joe & Clara are so rare to find and be in touch with, it is such an honour to be one of the few true classical Pilates studios in the UK and the world. We thank the Pilates’ for their dedication to the method and for sharing it with us, we hope to stay as dedicated and inspire more generations to come.
to Joe & Clara!