Joseph Pilates, the originator of the Pilates Method, was born in Dusseldorf in 1880. He was a frail, sickly child, who suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. He was determined to overcome his fragility, but instead of following an established fitness regime, he experimented with many different approaches. Yoga, gymnastics, skiing, self-defence, dance, circus training and weight training all influenced him. By absorbing these methods and selecting the most effective aspects of each, Joseph Pilates was able to work out a system, which had the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.
Once their worth had been proven on his own body, he began to teach these techniques to others. He was in the process of training detectives in Scotland Yard when the First World War broke out and because of his nationality, was interned. With time on his hands, he helped out in the prison camp infirmary and further developed his techniques, training his fellow internees with amazing success. Much of his knowledge of rehabilitation came from this period.
After the war, he returned to Germany, but in 1926, decided to emigrate to the United States of America. On the boat, he met his future wife, Clara. When they realised they shared the same views on fitness, they decided to set up a studio in New York. This attracted top ballet dancers, actors, actresses, gymnasts and athletes, all anxious to learn the benefits of Pilates. The concept had now been born.