Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born on December 9, 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. A puny and asthmatic child, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Joseph began to train at a very young age. At around 14 he was an accomplished athlete. He practices sports such as skiing, diving, yoga, gymnastics, dance, boxing, and martial arts. Being a kid, he understood that mental and physical health are intimately linked and he completed his training with the in-depth study of anatomy and physiology.
In 1912, boxer and gymnast, Joseph Pilates moved to England to teach self-defense in police academies in Scotland Yard. When World War I started in 1914, he was interned as a German resident in a camp on the Isle of Man.
That forced stay allowed him not only to consolidate the foundations of his method but also to develop it into a unique technique as it is known today. He showed his exercises to his fellow prisoners, allowing them to keep their shape. It was also during this internment that he invented his first machines to train bedridden people. This is how he dismantles a bunk bed, attaches the springs of the box spring to it, and begins to use it for rehabilitation purposes.
At the end of the war he was released and returned to Germany, but when the new German army wanted to force him to work as a trainer, he decided to leave his country and emigrated to the United States in 1926.
According to legend, it was while crossing the Atlantic that he met his future wife and work partner on the boat Clara. The couple set up a training studio in New York in the building where several dance companies are located.
"Contrology" quickly met with great success among ballet dancers, because of the method's aim to find harmony between the mind and the physical statements. It also demonstrated the importance of breathing. Reputable dance companies called on Joseph Pilates because they won over by this method, which allowed their dancers to regain shape more quickly after injuries inherent in their activity. Celebrities such as Martha Graham and Georges Balanchine become followers of the method.
Joseph Pilates taught his method for over 40 years. He passed away in 1967. Since then, the method originally called "contrology" has been taken worldwide under the name of its founder.